How Social and Emotional Intelligence Leads to Strong Negotiation Skills

    

The best negotiators are all focused on the same thing: using Tactical Empathy™ to understand what is making their counterpart tick and influencing their decision-making.

To get there, it’s critical to sharpen your social and emotional intelligence skills.

After all, you always want to be in a position where you can tell your counterpart that you understand exactly what they’re thinking. Ideally, you should be able to vocalize their thoughts from their perspective so perfectly that they have no choice but to respond with the two magic words: that’s right.

Once you’ve reached that point, the deal closes itself. 

How Social and Emotional Intelligence Leads to Strong Negotiation Skills

The Difference Between ‘I Understand’ and Actually Understanding

Telling your counterpart “I understand” isn’t a good way to build Tactical Empathy or trust-based influence. That’s because talk is cheap—and you know that when you have strong social and emotional intelligence. 

When you tell someone “I understand,” they start wondering whether you actually understand or whether you’re just saying you do.

On the flip side, when you show your counterpart that you understand by taking what they said, putting it in your own words, and saying it back to them, doubt is removed from the equation, and they will feel understood.

This is when social and emotional intelligence save the day. When you’re empathetic to your counterpart and practice active listening and active communication, you can connect with them on a personal level. They will feel understood, and the floodgates of truth talk will open.

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Social and Emotional Intelligence: It All Starts with Listening

We live in a fast-paced world. During far too many conversations, people listen at the surface until they find an opportunity for a rebuttal. They don’t care what the other person has to say. Instead, they will cut them off as soon as they can to get their point across.

Simply put, this is an injustice to the counterpart. 

People want to be heard. By listening with intent—to the point that you’re able to summarize the other side’s perspective and make them feel understood—you will set yourself apart from the pack.

And that’s important. Because when it comes down to it, humans all want to be understood. If you genuinely understand your counterpart, they will think that you’re an interesting individual because—unlike people who don’t use these skills—you “get” them. 

In most cases, you won’t even have to reveal anything to arrive at this point. You will make them feel good just by understanding them. And because people like to do business with people they like, this should translate into more opportunities and deals.

How to Use Social and Emotional Intelligence to Build Empathy

Fear is one of the driving forces in all that we do. When you give people the tools they need to conquer their fears, you can begin to develop strong relationships that lead to trust-based influence.

Helping people conquer their fears starts with first understanding what those fears are—which requires staying curious. By asking your counterpart a series of Calibrated Questions™, you can determine what they are most afraid of. For example, maybe it’s looking bad to their boss or losing the contract. Whatever the case may be, by proactively addressing these negatives using Labels™ (e.g., It seems like you’re afraid of losing this contract) and Mirrors™ (e.g., Looking bad to your boss?), you can build Tactical Empathy much faster.

Once you find out what motivates the other side’s behaviors, you can begin working together to solve the problem at hand. Because they trust you, they will want to hear what you have to say, and you’ll be able to guide them to the golden pasture.

For more information on how to use social and emotional intelligence to improve your negotiation skills and enjoy better business outcomes, check out our Never Split the Difference Study Guide.

never split the difference study guide

Milton “Troy” Smith

About The Author

Milton “Troy” Smith is a Negotiation Instructor and Coach at The Black Swan Group who joined the team in July 2020. Troy is a retired San Antonio Police Department officer who spent 23 years with the department, including 22 years in specialized units—such as the SWAT/Crisis Negotiators team and the U.S. Marshals’ Fugitive Task Force. During his career, Troy was involved in more than 300 hostage negotiations, including 270 as a lead negotiator, and never lost one of them.