The 3 Habits of Ineffective Negotiators

By Chris Voss | September 17, 2017

Negotiation advice will tell you these "tactics" are lead to success. We've found that these 3 common habits are completely ineffective. Avoid these and increase your chances of negotiation success. 

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How To Continue to Maintain and Build Your Negotiation Competency

By Brandon Voss | September 11, 2017

The standard answer is practice, practice, practice. Repetition; however, is the mother of skill, but what you are practicing is just as important. If you want to be better at basketball, you aren't doing yourself many favors on the golf course. If you want to be better at negotiation, you aren't doing yourself much good reverting to bad communication habits like "tell me more" and trying to convince the other side by exposing them to your logic.

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The True Power of “Yes”

By Chris Voss | August 28, 2017

A flat-out “yes” is a scary thing to say.

“Yes” is commitment. People are constantly trying to use it to trap you. That’s why when someone asks you the set-up “yes” question, your gut tightens and you ask yourself, “Where is this going? If I say ‘yes’, then what have I let myself in for?”

So let’s recognize that and use it.

I was coaching a film-maker here in LA. She’s got a deal-killing attorney on the other side who is trying to insert terms to “protect” her client. What’s she’s really trying to do is kill the deal. (Unfortunately, all too common with attorneys advising on any negotiation they weren’t involved in crafting.)

So when in doubt, they ask for a term that will kill the deal. It’s a way to kill the deal without taking responsibility for doing so.

What’s your countermove? Pretty simple actually, a little tactical empathy, followed by a question they would love to say “yes” to, but never will.

 Here’s what we did here (and PS: there’s been some name-calling by the attorney at my client that had come unexpectedly during a phone call):

In the email:

“Just so I am clear, you feel that I am being dishonest with you.
… you're absolutely determined to kill this deal.”

Another great thing about this in an email is your counterpart attorney will NEVER put a “yes” to this in writing. And since the answer is going to be a “no” – and “no” tends to trigger, clarity and feelings of safety – you increase the chances to a ridiculously high level that you will break the logjam productively.

The answer:

“I have no desire to “kill the deal” but I am keen on protecting my client.
Nor do I think that you were dishonest with me – to the contrary, you honestly told me…”

The attorney then went on to propose a solution (which was do-able) and actually solved the problem.

Empathy precedes assertion. You want to be more effective? Use it.

I know some people might say to themselves, “But wait, I can see how this could go wrong. What if she’d said ‘yes’?”

Don’t do that to yourself, because that’s not the comparison for decision, though we do this to ourselves all the time.

The comparison is not “What if this goes wrong?”, the comparison is “What happens if I don’t smoke this out? What happens if I do nothing?”

The answer to that is “Look at what’s happening now.”

Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting things to change.

Great negotiation calls for great emotional intelligence. Lasting deals and lasting business relationships call for tactical empathy. Empathy gives you the ability to assert. Quite often in very direct ways.

As the iconic insurance company advertisement once said: “Don’t leave home without it.”

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Like Seeing A Unicorn

By Derek Gaunt | August 21, 2017

Sebastian had spent most of the late morning into the early afternoon, one day in July, being exposed to the Black Swan method of labels and mirrors. Having already read “Never Split the Difference,” he was anxious to see and hear the practical application of the skills. Turns out, Sebastian was a quick study. As soon as the class concluded, he was chomping at the bit to see if the skills would bear fruit. That afternoon, he scheduled a phone call to negotiate the acquisition of a domain name. The seller anchored high with a five figure number. Rather than balk and counter, Sebastian used labels and mirrors to discover that it was most important to the seller for the domain to be used for a purpose in which he believed. Unbeknownst to the seller, this was Sebastian’s plan all along. Sebastian’s use of labels and mirrors uncovered other Black Swans as well:

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How To Negotiate Your Way to 3 Billion Dollars Like Jimmy Iovine

By Chris Voss | August 14, 2017

Jimmy Iovine is the business partner of Dr. Dre (American rapper, record producer, and entrepreneur). Iovine cut the deal that sold Beats to Apple for 3 billion dollars. The story of how they got there is the subject of the phenomenal HBO documentary special “The Defiant Ones.” I had to watch it 3 times to begin to catch the nuances of a Iovine’s brilliant style.

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3 Guidelines For Negotiating Like a Pro

By Brandon Voss | August 07, 2017

Traditionally speaking negotiation is seen as a focused comparison of ideas/results, in some circles, this can easily be construed into an argument over points.  

Typically a negotiation begins with one side stating what their issues are and what they want. Next, the other side does the same thing. In the end, if a deal is made both sides feel like they could have gotten more or they stuck it to the other side. Here are 3 guidelines for negotiating better outcomes. 

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How To Confront And Win A New Friend

By Chris Voss | July 31, 2017

I moved into a new apartment.  The parking spaces are tiny. Not only is my neighbor parked right on the line, I need them to actually move to the other side as far as possible to make extra room for me because I drive a salsa red pearl Toyota 4-runner and there is no way I want anything to happen to that sexy paint-job

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Do You Get It?

By Derek Gaunt | July 24, 2017

At the Black Swan Group, our instructors have been spreading the gospel of empathy and the techniques used to demonstrate it for years. We have trained thousands of people all over the globe on how to apply techniques developed in the world of hostage negotiations to business and other personal interactions. Of those thousands, as an instructor, I wonder at times how many don’t get it? 

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The #1 Key To Giving Yourself Negotiation Superpowers

By Chris Voss | July 17, 2017
To quote legendary extreme skier/BASE jumper, Shane McConkey “What I do on the hill is find an interesting way to do something fun.”


Near perfect calm, precise perception and incredible decision making. Focus. Read More >

3 Ways To Uncover Black Swans That Will Boost Your Deals

By Brandon Voss | July 02, 2017

However you get into an interaction, whether you have had ample time to prepare or you have been thrown into the fires of Mount Doom, it is always good to have basic guidelines to abide by. Here are three we tend to lean on because of their influence on human nature reaction.

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