The Defiance of Negotiation

My apologies for not posting last Friday. My husband and I took a mini-vacation to visit my family in the NC mountains. On the way 5+ hour drive down, we listened to a kick ass book — “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It” by Chris Voss. If you haven’t read it, go get it, NOW! Except if you know me, in which case I’m going to need you to wait on that so you don’t realize when I Jedi Mind-fuck you.

Voss was an international hostage negotiator for the FBI, otherwise known as a BAMF (use your imagination). And he claims the tactics he used to secure the release of hostages throughout his career can be used just as successfully in business and relationships. He’s right.

Enter my nephew. There is no one more terrifying to negotiate with than a two-year old.

My nephew is blond-haired, blue-eyed, cute as a button and a little shit. Just like all two-year olds. And he masterfully plays all adults in his presence to acquire whatever he wants. Think of him as Putin, with hair. Who better to exercise the art of negotiation on?!?

Over the weekend, my husband and I practiced labeling, calling out my nephew’s emotions and giving credence to the frustration of not getting a “bah” on demand or having to sit in a chair at dinner (Oh, the injustice!). We asked “How” or “What” questions to illicit more than Yes or No responses (this required an entirely different skill of toddler translation, but that’s not in the book). And we heard each “No” as the start of the negotiation rather than the end.

At the end of the weekend, we were exhausted. We had said “Get. In. My. Belly!” a solid 512 times to make eating a game rather than a chore. We ran through the full breadth of his vocabulary with our open-ended questions, and we exhausted our own knowledge of age-appropriate synonyms for “pissed”. The crazy part was…it worked.

After that encouraging start, we’ve been employing some of the strategies we learned this week in our business world and, slyly, with each other.

Lessons learned from this experiment:

  1. You have no idea what someone is actually telling you unless you put down your phone. Active listening requires eye contact and your full attention. It’s like the opposite of ADD.
  2. Taylor Pearson wrote an an amazing post about the importance of listening to what’s being whispered, not said. If you have any interest in successful negotiation, you MUST hear the whisper even if the words say something entirely opposite.
  3. Aggression almost never works. Empathy almost always does.
  4. You can’t hear your own self in your own head. Mirror back exactly what someone says, without judgment. Be silent, and watch their words go to work. It’s like watching someone get a lobotomy in real time!
  5. “Yes” is the red-headed stepchild of agreement. It’s too easy to utter without intent. If ALL you get is “yes”, you probably lost.
  6. Play games with 2-year olds. They’re cute, after all, and it’s the only time Austin Powers is appropriate at the dinner table.

If you’re feeling defiant too, click on that little green heart below and spread the love. Thanks for reading!