311. How To Negotiate

311. How To Negotiate

A few years ago, I read a book, “Never Split The Difference” written by Chris Voss. What is unique about him is that he was the Top FBI Hostage negotiator.

Negotiation is not just for businessman. In every situation where there is potential difference in “needs”, we need to negotiate. We negotiate prices when buying a home or a car. We negotiate our salary and promotions. Parents have to negotiate with their kids. Kids have to negotiate with their parents.

But according to the author, the biggest error we commit when we negotiate is to think of negotiation as gaining the control. We humans are born with the desire to be autonomous. That is why our greatest fear is losing control, and we would do anything to regain the control. That is why often times many negotiations look like a showdown rather than a true negotiation. So, being tired of arguing, often people split the difference: I get half of what I want, and you get half of what you want. The result? Nobody won because nobody got what they really wanted.

The author defines negotiation as an “art of letting someone else have your way.” In other words, it is to “help them collaborate with you to find your solution on their own”. Instead of demanding “your solution”, you let the other party come to your solution voluntarily. To achieve that, the author suggests asking “calibrated” questions. For example, when kidnappers ask unrealistic ransom, he would simply ask “How am I supposed to do that?” and stayed silent. To kidnappers, that didn’t sound like a “no”, which would sound like a threat to their sense of control. Instead, they would think about the question and voluntarily lower the ransom to a very reasonable level without any pushback because they still felt they were in control.

When people don’t feel threatened to give up control, and we show them we are interested in listening, they tend to “unconsciously” volunteer to come up with solutions to answer our question. Maybe this is why Jesus answered so many questions with other questions, not answers. He knew that even with his credential and authority, people will only change when “they” are convinced of the need for change. And the only way to do that is to help people come to that conclusion “themselves”, by asking good questions and being ready to listen.