The Gallup Organization tells us we don’t remember things the way they happen, we remember how it ends and the most intense moment. Our brothers and sisters in show business have lived by this forever with the maxim “Give them a big finish and they will forgive you for anything”.
What does this mean for us in terms of negotiation and relationship success? Control how interactions end. Make sure they always end positively. Finish all emails and all interactions on a positive note.
In 1993 when I took over as the primary negotiator at the Chase Manhattan Bank Robbery/Hostage-taking, NYPD Lt. Hugh McGowan (a great negotiator and negotiation team leader) gave me several very clear instructions. One of them was to make sure I ended every call. Up to that point in time, the lead bank robber had been confounding us by continually putting our negotiator on hold or claiming he was putting him on speaker. It was one of the many things the bad guy was doing to keep control of the conversations.
As we made tactical communication choices to slowly take the dynamic back, controlling the end of each call became a part of that. Hugh instructed me that no matter what, make sure I ended each call. I followed his instructions and based on a phenomenal team effort between the FBI & NYPD negotiation teams we got everyone out safely. Joe Pisano and Dominick Misino from the NYPD and Charlie Beaudoin from the FBI, were the other primary negotiators that day and all of those guys were, and are, stars.
During the 2003 “Tractor-Man” siege in Washington DC, the subject (Dwight) continually hung up on the negotiators without saying good-bye. These sudden hang-ups were problematic because he often did it just as the Park Police negotiators were really getting into him. As we slowly gained control of that siege (with the US Park Police negotiators in the lead), Vince Dalfonzo, a fellow FBI negotiator, came up with the key suggestion to make Dwight promise to never hang up without saying good-bye. That was one of the key turning points that not only got Dwight out of there without getting killed, he came out 24 hours sooner than he originally said he would.
We counsel all our clients to make sure they end all interactions on a positive note. This paves the way for the next interaction to begin on a positive note. At the very least, if you don’t leave your counterpart with a bad feeling about you, he or she is more likely to pick up the phone when you call again. This is a key to charming successful long-term relationships.
Please also don’t confuse this with a strategy that some people refer to as the sandwich. That’s when you “sandwich” bad news, or something negative, between two positive things. This lazy substitute for actual good communication is often translated/implemented by “Hey, I really like you. Your proposal/performance stinks. Have a nice day!”
Please don’t do that. As a matter of fact, we counsel people to not be afraid to lead with a warning that bad news is coming and then deliver it, as long as you have a legitimate positive note to end on.
This strategy of positively managing the conclusion of an interaction might just also pull victory out of the jaws of defeat. More than one of our clients has said in a respectful, soothing (almost seductive tone) as they were bringing a fruitless negotiation to a positive close – “It sounds like there is nothing I can say to get you to change your mind” and had the counterpart respond “No, as a matter of fact, here is exactly what I want” and the deal was made.
Control the close. End on a positive note and you will provoke and seduce success.
Make some rain!