Mirroring

“The language of negotiation is primarily a language of conversation and rapport: a way of quickly establishing relationships and getting people to talk and think together. Which is why when you think of the greatest negotiators of all time, I’ve got a surprise for you—think Oprah Winfrey.

Her daily television show was a case study of a master practitioner at work: on a stage face-to-face with someone she has never met, in front of a crowded studio of hundreds, with millions more watching from home, and a task to persuade that person in front of her, sometimes against his or her own best interests, to talk and talk and keep talking, ultimately sharing with the world deep, dark secrets that they had held hostage in their own minds for a lifetime.

Look closely at such an interaction and suddenly you’ll see a refined set of powerful skills: a conscious smile to ease the tension, use of subtle verbal and nonverbal language to signal empathy (and thus security), a certain downward inflection in the voice, embrace of specific kinds of questions and avoidance of others—a whole array of previously hidden skills that will prove invaluable to you, once you’ve learned to use them.

Here are some of the key lessons on mirroring:

■A good negotiator prepares, going in, to be ready for possible surprises; a great negotiator aims to use her skills to reveal the surprises she is certain to find.

■Don’t commit to assumptions; instead, view them as hypotheses and use the negotiation to test them rigorously.

■People who view negotiation as a battle of arguments become overwhelmed by the voices in their head. Negotiation is not an act of battle; it’s a process of discovery. The goal is to uncover as much information as possible.

■To quiet the voices in your head, make your sole and all-encompassing focus the other person and what they have to say.

■Slow. It. Down. Going too fast is one of the mistakes all negotiators are prone to making. If we’re too much in a hurry, people can feel as if they’re not being heard. You risk undermining the rapport and trust you’ve built.

■Put a smile on your face. When people are in a positive frame of mind, they think more quickly, and are more likely to collaborate and problem-solve (instead of fight “and resist). Positivity creates mental agility in both you and your counterpart.

There are three voice tones available to negotiators:

1.The late-night FM DJ voice: Use selectively to make a point. Inflect your voice downward, keeping it calm and slow. When done properly, you create an aura of authority and trustworthiness without triggering defensiveness.

2.The positive/playful voice: Should be your default voice. It’s the voice of an easygoing, good-natured person. Your attitude is light and encouraging. The key here is to relax and smile while you’re talking.

3.The direct or assertive voice: Used rarely. Will cause problems and create pushback.

Mirrors work magic. Repeat the last three words (or the critical one to three words) of what someone has just said. We fear what’s different and are drawn to what’s similar. Mirroring is the art of insinuating similarity, which facilitates bonding. Use mirrors to encourage the other side to empathize and bond with you, keep people talking, buy your side time to regroup, and encourage your counterparts to reveal their strategy.”

Excerpt From: Chris Voss & Tahl Raz. “Never Split the Difference.

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