How are your negotiation skills? I’d expect most of us, if answering truthfully, would say either “subpar” or “seriously lacking.” And this is completely understandable: Negotiation is tough and often uncomfortable, but (almost) always pivotal. It bleeds into seemingly every element of our lives — and is an imperative life hack if we want to improve the outcome of… just about anything.
Most people are poor negotiators simply because that skill has not been modeled for them well, if at all. The good news is that it’s both an art and skill that can be learned, just like public speaking, creative thinking or even a pretty golf swing…especially if you have a good teacher.
Recently, I sat down with a good friend, Chris Voss. As the former lead international kidnapping negotiator for the FBI and its hostage negotiation representative for the National Security Council’s Hostage Working Group, he has honed this ability to a fine edge. Perhaps you’ve seen his MasterClass, “The Art of Negotiating,” or heard of his business The Black Swan Group, which teaches the art of negotiation in business. You might have even seen the recently released film, Tactical Empathy, a documentary biopic on Voss that highlights the importance of understanding any individuals you’re negotiating with.
“First, we fail to gather information,” he says. “We go in firing, ready to talk, convince and present, [when] we really should go in and ask questions, gather important information and set proper expectations.”
Voss also mentioned the importance of “high anchoring.” The term refers to “…drawing our attention to the positive qualities of the item or individual being discussed, as in the case of a salary negotiation,” he says, adding that we tend to provide high anchors before understanding terms or conditions. This can be detrimental to the shape of a negotiation moving forward.
Voss and I also talked about how to become a better negotiator on the back end, and in exploring that he outlined three major personality categories: “Aggressive,” “Analyst” and “Ambassador,” and why it’s critical to identify which type you are.