How Your Perception Is Hurting Your Deals


Before you go into any negotiation you probably address some form of the below:

  • Time spent planning
  • Purpose of interaction
  • How do we move the negotiations forward?


Now ask yourself, how much of that is self-centered? Be aware of how you focus on the areas above in an effort to push your own agenda. We would be more effective in if we could get out of our own way. We get too attached to our goals, and it blinds us. Now, of course, goals are somewhat necessary for the process, you simply need to be aware of why those goals are even relevant to you. Hostage negotiators have a goal in mind. Note though, even the goal of getting everyone out safely, including the criminals, is a fuzzy implementation term in the future. They know there are many bridges to cross before they negotiate terms of release, most of which is information gathering and rapport building. If hostage negotiators operated like most people in business, they would have never gotten the perps in the Chase Manhattan Bank robbery from #NSTD to indict their own wheelman. Who not only wasn’t in the bank at all, but had gotten away cleanly from the scene. The negotiators on scene didn’t even know another perp existed! A “Business-minded” approach would have you too caught up in bargaining over letting the hostages go and threatening them with force and jail sentences. The barricaded suspect on the phone told the negotiators on scene everything about the wheelman, without even realizing that’s what they did. The law enforcement team tracked the wheelman down and locked him up before the siege was even over! What a heck of a job. Due to their process and strategy, they got information revealed to them they would have never had otherwise. Despite the perceived value research holds in business, the counterpart will tell you more than you could ever research on your own, whether in hostage or private sector business. When it comes to a hostage negotiation teams’ foundational approach; they know there is a problem to be solved and they show up to negotiate, coming to terms using the communication skills they are so fluent in. They don’t show up with intent to kill (threaten/sue/ make ultimatums/deadlines), set on an acceptable number of lives lost (compromising their own position), or shouting out strict terms of resolution. They know they need to come to an agreement and their tactical empathy process will take them there.


In business, we want to have the entire yellow brick road laid out ahead of time and then we want to make the other side walk our line. We forget firstly that you close yourself off to better possibilities when you do that. Second, we think that there is fairy dust we can sprinkle on others and they will agree. No matter how slick you think you are, people feel when you are leading them somewhere. For those of you that have kids, when you start leading your 3yr old with questions or intent they call you on your BS. What makes you think someone who is a professional adult with a degree and years of experience is going to fall for the same basic line of communication? It just isn’t proper in normal society for that person to call BS.


When you aren't being called out, 1 of 4 things happened:

  1. They were already sold despite your best efforts.
  2. They got tired of dealing with you and said something they hoped would quiet you.
  3. In being slick, you actually gave them what they wanted, and they did a better job hiding their emotion than you did.
  4. You were in a bit of an interview, and maybe, just maybe you managed to pass through the skin on your teeth.


Your mindset in negotiation should focus on using your tactical empathy skills to gather information. You've got so many tools in your toolbox: labels, accusation audits, that's right summary, calibrated questions, no-oriented questions and more. After using a skill, are you taking the time to be silent and hear the response? Are you then, responding by following-up with the use of another tactical empathy skill?


This mental change to not push your own agenda is not an easy one by any means. It is easier said than done. People like Chris Voss and Derek Gaunt make it look easy. They’ve been doing it for 30 yrs, as long as I have been alive. They had years of training and then became the teachers. They have shadowed experts, volunteered on suicide hotlines, and led teams of negotiators. I love this business, but people think “oh let’s do 3 hours of training and this will fix everything”. We have brain science, actual measurable data, telling us it takes 18-21 days to build a habit, 63 reps to build a new neural pathway, and even from a societal standard -we know that “we learn by doing” and “there is only so much you can get from a book.”


The key is continued training and practice. Join us May 18th in New York City for Influencing with Tactical Empathy. In this one day training, Chris, Derek and I will be sharing information that we only teach to corporate clients. This event is limited to only 60 people. You'll get to ask your questions. As part of this event, you'll submit a negotiation situation you want assistance with and get 1-hour of coaching included in your ticket price.

How driven and willing to put in the time and effort to be a better negotiator? Get your ticket today.


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About The Author

Brandon Voss is the Director of Operations and an Instructor/Consultant with The Black Swan Group. Brandon has been instrumental in adapting the FBI’s hostage negotiation techniques to the business world. In addition to training clients, Brandon has guest lectured at USC Marshall School of Business and Georgetown McDonough School of Business.