I will be blunt: This is a total sh*t show. Here’s how to negotiate with your vendors, clients, counterparts, and colleagues so we all survive and put ourselves in a position to pick up the pieces after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are 3 steps to fixing your deals during this time:
- Deactivate the fears
- Dynamic silence
- Shape new thinking with a “How?”
1. Deactivate their fears using Tactical Empathy™
“This is a total shit show.”
This comes straight from a colleague’s description and then you add in some more de-activating labels to clear the mind as much as possible.
“This is a total shit show. You guys are desperate. You’re scared this whole thing is going to get out-of-control and it’s going to destroy you and your company.”
This is exactly what people are thinking. You don’t get rid of the elephant in the room by a) pretending it isn’t there or b) ignoring it.
You also don’t get rid of the elephant in the room by explaining it away. As Ronald Reagan said, “If you’re explaining, you’re losing.”
Calling out their fears in a fearless, deferential way is the best way to clear out someone’s thinking. This is the best chance of success and the key approach hostage negotiators have used for decades to return people to their Normal Functioning Level (or NFL).
You may have also noticed we’ve removed the “seems” “sounds” “looks” “feels” portions of the labels and are going in much more directly. In times of higher emotions, it is effective to go straight in and remove any tentativeness.
2. Use Dynamic Silence
This is the point you go dead silent. Count “one-thousands” (one-one thousand, two-one thousand, etc.) in your head. You cannot go onto the next step while their thinking is still clouded with fear.
Wait until they signal that they are ready for you to proceed. If you do get to ten-one thousand say “It seems like you feel it’s even worse than I’ve said.”
This is the wash-rinse-repeat cycle. They will give you the green light to go ahead if you repeat it enough.
Moving on to the “how” too soon is building a house on a foundation that will collapse.
3. Shape New Thinking With “How?”
Calibrated, targeted use of the word “How?” is a Thought-Shaping Question™. In a deferential tone of voice, we want to shape their thinking around collaboration. And not just surviving, but thriving in the future.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs taught us many years ago before people can consider thriving, they have to get over being worried about surviving.
Deference is the key. You don’t want your tone of voice to trigger their defenses and destroy the groundwork you’ve laid when you deactivated their fears.
“How do we work our way through this so that we don’t destroy each other and we put ourselves in a position to pick up the pieces and work together when this is over?”
A deferential “How?” triggers what Daniel Kahneman would call “Slow thinking”, or in-depth stop you in your tracks thinking. It is designed to activate deep contemplation.
And again, a deferential tone of voice is critical to this.
Vision drives decision. You specifically present them with the choice between the mutual assured destruction of the moment and uncertainty of what’s coming, or picking up the pieces together on the other side.
Every time you sense the fear returning in the conversation you have to go back to simply stating it out loud. Nothing drives a stake through the heart of fear better than calling it out.
“You’re scared there is no upside.”
“It sounds like you’re scared this is no upside.”
“Its scary to not know how long this is going to take to play out.”
No denials and no using “but.” “But” is an erasing word and you don’t want it to erase the effectiveness of the Tactical Empathy™ you’ve implemented thus far. Tactical Empathy™ is a powerful 2-way street, and to get it running 2-ways you’ve got to give it out in heavy doses first.
No “we” as in “we’re all scared”. Statements like, “We’re all scared” is not the way to deactivate their fears. The harsh reality is, its self-centered and implies “Can’t you see I’m scared too?” The best activation of empathy is to give it first and let it sink in.
Now is the time for Tactical Empathy™. Its your best chance of success and leaves you in the best position to accelerate, not just after this time-period is over, to accelerate during it.