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5 Steps for Negotiation

Updated: Nov 9, 2022

How does an FBI hostage negotiator get a person to change their mind? It’s a good question and one I think we can all learn from.

In his book Never Split the Difference, Chris Voss explains how after many years of real world experience, the FBI’s hostage negotiation unit developed a five step approach called the Behavioral Change Stairway Model.

What’s neat about these steps is this tool can be applied to any form of negotiation. Chris outlines these five steps that any successful negotiation must pass through:

1. Listen Actively: Listen to their side and make them aware that you’re listening. Let them do the talking.

2. Be Empathetic: Get an understanding of where they’re coming from and how they feel. What are the emotional needs that lie behind their words?

3. Build Rapport: Empathy is what you feel. Rapport is when they feel it back. They will start to trust you.

4. Begin Influencing: Now that they trust you, you’ve earned the right to work on problem solving with them and recommending a course of action.

5. Affect Behavioral Change: They act. And, if you are in the hostage negotiation business, they come out with their hands up.

Ineffective negotiators tend to stumble on points 1 and 2 or they try to skip them to speed up the process. They approach with a clear idea of what they want to get out of the situation but they don’t attempt to understand what the underlying factors are that are motivating the other side.

Chris goes on to say that without empathy (seeing things from the other person’s point of view) it is impossible to build trust which is a prerequisite for being able to influence their behavior, namely, getting them to do what you would like them to do.

Next time you find yourself in a negotiation, resist the urge to be right. Clear your mind of your cognitive bias and focus on truly listening to the other person. Build up a clear picture of where exactly they are coming from. In doing so, you set a solid foundation for effective negotiation and give yourself the best chance of achieving the desired outcome.

Until next time…I’m Marty, make every minute count.


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