Unwilling to Make Concessions in Negotiation?: Do This Instead


You’ve got a logjam. The other side has dug in. Your boss may want you to make this deal or maybe there’s something else motivating you to work it out. The thought of giving in leaves you with a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach.

What should you do in this scenario? It’s easy: Unleash a tactical empathy nuke—a “that’s right” summary. 

concessions in negotiation

Every that’s right you obtain in a negotiation is solid gold. Each one puts you on track for that monster that’s right that comes from pulling everything you’ve learned together into an all-encompassing summary—a grand-slam summary that creates a tactical empathy moment so huge that it’s effectively a tactical empathy nuke. 

Epiphany moments are hits of dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin. A great tactical empathy negotiator is effectively a drug dealer—just one that uses their powers for good rather than evil.

3 Brain Hacks for Appearing Brilliant

In a recent article on Inc.com, Brady Wilson outlines three brain hacks that can help you come across as brilliant on demand.

  1. Dopamine, the motivation molecule. “When you active dopamine in your brain, your ‘seeking drive’ surges, your motivation revs up, and the resources you need to achieve the rewards that matter are immediately accessible: creativity, intuition, and goal orientation,” Wilson writes.
  2. Oxytocin, the connection chemical. “Active oxytocin and strong social skills are uploaded. Your ability to connect with people amps up and you get what you need to be adept and appropriate in relationships: rapport-building, trust-creation, and bonding skills.”
  3. Serotonin, the confidence chemical. “Without serotonin, the effect of dopamine and oxytocin in your brain would be muted and numb. Activating serotonin turns up the signal strength of its two allies, giving you a super-charged blend of motivation and connection.”

We use empathy because we want it in return. We want as many deals to make themselves as possible because it saves time. The chance of a deal making itself after a monster that’s right is good enough for us to make the effort to get there. 

How to Get the Monster That’s Right

Getting to the monster that’s right requires what we call the LMP progression (i.e., label, mirror, paraphrase). 

1. Label

You start banging away at the logjam with selections from these labels:

  • “Seems like you’d prefer not to make this deal?”
  • “Seems like you think I’m being unreasonable?”
  • “Seems like there’s more here than meets the eye?”
  • “Seems like you’re under some pressure?”

Each label should end with an upward inflection of genuine curiosity so that it lands gently and digs in. (You can even add a few of your own, but you’re going to have actually use several—at least three.)

Go silent so they can respond.

2. Mirror

You have got to mirror key words from their answers to dig deeper and uncover more information.

You’re building information and fodder here for your tactical nuke. Keep Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes line in mind: Data, data, data. I cannot make bricks without clay!

3. Paraphrase

The paraphrase (putting the actual meaning of their words into your own words) is the real bridge here. It makes your responses a little bit longer. String together responses from paraphrases of what they’ve said and go silent. It will keep them talking.

Paraphrases are longer than mirrors. It’s more of a back-and-forth. When you paraphrase, the other side is encouraged to continue the conversation right back.

The paraphrases are the bridge to a good summary.

The Grand-Slam “That’s Right” Summary

Many people struggle to get from the short format of labels and mirrors into the long-response format of a grand-slam summary. 

This type of summary is a long response. You’re going to have to disengage your dynamic silence gear for a bit here to get it all out.

When our negotiator did it in the Philippines, he went on for a while. It seemed like forever.  

The only time you may want to stop before you get to the end of it is if your counterpart interrupts you to correct you—which is actually an amazingly good sign that means that they are completely focused on you.

A great summary is built on two types of pillars: labels and paraphrases.  

It makes your counterpart feel completely understood and gives them a good hard hit of dopamine (the motivation molecule), oxytocin (the connection chemical), and serotonin (the confidence chemical). 

It’s at this point that you maximize the possibility that they will break the logjam for you. This moment is worth it! You’re about to get a monster that’s right out of them.

And if the deal doesn’t make itself right here, you can fall back on the following.

  • “How would you like to proceed?” (This is awesome and leaves them feeling safe and in control.)

Nothing favorable in the response?

  • “It seems like there is nothing I can say to get you to change your mind.”

Still nothing?

  • “It seems like you’re powerless here.”

(Both of these have to be said gently; you don’t want to damage their pride.)

No one is willing to say yes to being powerless after you have deployed a summary that knocks it out of the park. They will find some way to make things better if it is in any way at all within their power.

If it isn’t? Now you know. You’ve done your job, and done it well. 

If you find yourself here, it’s time to move on to a new deal—one that you can make—and no longer waste energy spinning your wheels.

There will be a better opportunity waiting for you just around the corner. Go get it and make it rain!

never split the difference study guide

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.