We all have experienced the challenge of trying to figure out if our counterpart is serious, or is just taking a position to try to maneuver us. Do they mean what they’ve said and do we need to be careful about protecting the relationship? Are they bluffing to simply try to better their outcome at our expense?
In any case, we probably still want to be conscious of protecting both our relationship with them and how we are perceived professionally.
One of our colleagues tells us he mirrors the counterpart every time he’s in this situation. Their response tells him how solid their position is or if they are simply bluffing.
The Black Swan Group’s definition of this skill is different from what you’ll see outside of hostage negotiation. The mirror is one of our Negotiation 9 (N9) skills. (If you’d like to learn about all 9, please take a look at our virtual lessons section on our website.) The N9 is derived from the FBI 8 hostage negotiation skills and we’ve spent over 20 years actively adapting these skills from hostage negotiation into the business negotiation world. Our clients and MBA students at Georgetown University and the University of Southern California have applied these skills in their real world negotiations and literally made millions.
A mirror is repeating the last 1-3 words the counterpart has just said or 1-3 critical words from some portion of what they have said as a question. This means your voice needs to inflect up at the end of the mirror as if you’re asking a genuine question.
This is not mirroring the counterpart’s affect or demeanor. It is not mirroring their tone of voice. It is also not restating their meaning in your own words. Restating their meaning in your own words is paraphrasing and is another one of the N9 skills. It has its own use and purpose.
It is repeating the exact 1-3 selected words, with a genuine questioning tone of voice.
The Jedi mind trick here is that people nearly always reword what they’ve just said. You’ve just encouraged them to go on and you’ve done it in a way that begins to subtly shift their approach favorably to you.
In their rewording and how it is delivered will give you what you need to know. When they are just bluffing, they will soften their stance with the rewording. If their position is solid, their response will tell you that also.
The first few times you do this it’s going to feel awkward! You’re going to imagine your counterpart is going to shout at you “Aha! That’s a hostage negotiation skill! How dare you!”
I can promise you two things: #1 – that’s not going to happen; and #2 – the mirror will work. They will continue to talk giving you a lot more great information and they will be even more cooperative.
Try the mirror skill. Make some rain!