How to Practice Negotiation Skills by Yourself


How can you practice negotiation skills by yourself? 

Read on to learn how to build yourself into an elite negotiator using a technique great athletes use: visualization.negotiation skills

What Is Visualization?

In a recent article, Elizabeth Quinn wonderfully describes visualization as follows:

“Visualization is the process of creating a mental image or intention of what you want to happen or feel in reality.”

“Many elite athletes routinely use visualization techniques.”

“There are many stories of athletes who have used these techniques to cultivate not only a competitive edge, but also to create renewed mental awareness, a heightened sense of well-being, and confidence.”

“Use this technique to "intend" an outcome ... or simply to rest in a relaxed feeling of calm and well-being.”

“By imagining a scene ... a previous best performance or a future desired outcome ... imagine the detail and the way it feels to perform in the desired way.”

Here’s the best part: You already do this.

In point of fact, you’re already doing this—though probably the wrong way and to your own detriment. 

Anytime you’re getting ready for an interaction and can just “see” yourself getting mad, you're rehearsing for a poor performance.

You don’t rise to the occasion; you fall to your highest level of preparation.  

Every mental image is a rep (repetition). The Black Swan Method™ emphasizes the necessity of getting your reps in, with small-stakes practice yielding high-stakes results. Believe it or not, it takes 63-67 reps of firing the mental wiring (synaptic neural connections) required to build every skill. The neurons that fire together wire together.

Would it hurt to increase your influence? Read this guide to become a more  effective salesperson »

How Should You Think About Visualization?

Step No. 1: The critical first reaction: being calm.

Go back to an incident in which you reacted angrily and simply reimagine yourself reacting calmly. 

Feel yourself being calm. Take just a moment and feel it.

Step No. 2: Imagine yourself articulating the following Label™ slowly—with a calm, downward-inflecting voice (the late-night FM DJ voice): 

Sounds like you have a reason for saying that.

Feel yourself saying it. Take the supercomputer that is your mind and really feel yourself reacting, and speaking, with a downward inflection in your voice (calm).

That’s a rep ... Nice!

Now, let’s kick it up a notch.

Step No. 3: Reimagine again.

Imagine calm. Feel calm. Start your Label (“...” equals an effective pause—about one second each). Each gentle effective pause will have them hanging on your words.

“It sounds like ... you’re ... trying ... to have a negative impact? (Finish this with a gentle, upward inflection of genuine curiosity.)

This one will take some practice! But it’s awesome and well worth it when you execute it!

Without hearing yourself say it properly (gently) in your head, you will never execute it properly.

Reaching Your Full Potential with Labels

Create your list of “go-to” Labels. Handwrite them. (Side note: Handwriting is also an elite performance accelerator. Handwriting engages the brain in a different, more focused, and more creative way than typing does.)

Try it for yourself to collect your own data to see how it works for you.

Create your go-to list, with each Label ending in a period, and then a question mark. Both of those deliveries hit the brain differently and will have a different effect. You can even experiment with a few well-placed effective pauses.

Your list will likely include:

It sounds like you have a reason for saying that.

It sounds like you have a reason for saying that?

It seems like you’ve given this a lot of thought.

It seems like you’ve given this a lot of thought?

It looks like this means a lot to you.

It looks like this means a lot to you?

It feels like your guard is up.

It feels like your guard is up?

Every great athlete imagines themselves executing the performance properly in their head before they do it in real life. They feel it.

It’s not practice that makes perfect, It’s perfect practice that makes perfect.

If you don’t control the rehearsals in your head, they will control you.

Intend the outcome, rehearse the outcome, and create the future.

Check out one of my favorite inspirational videos, Nike’s “Write the Future,” to continue thinking in the right direction.

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Chris Voss

About The Author

Christopher Voss is the CEO of The Black Swan Group, a firm that solves business negotiation problems with hostage negotiation strategies. Chris founded the Black Swan Group, in 2008 upon his retirement from the FBI where he was the FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator. Chris is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Southern California (USC) Marshall School of Business and Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business where he teaches business negotiation in both M.B.A. programs.