Do you find yourself wishing for better people skills? Maybe even contemplating how to become a master negotiator?
Well, today’s episode is a special one as we hear two experts in their field share some of their best tips to understand people better and build rapport.
As human beings, we are social creatures, which means understanding how we communicate is one of the most important parts of our lives. That’s why this week I’m bringing together two extraordinary moments from interviews I’ve done with former FBI negotiator, Chris Voss, and former Secret Service Agent, Evy Poumpouras.
In the first section, you’ll hear from Chris Voss as we discussed the formula to get people to do things for you because they feel like it, a role-playing exercise that you can do with a friend to practice negotiation, the importance of intention before beginning a negotiation, how not to burn bridges when a negotiation goes south, and which hostage negotiation tactics Chris uses on a daily basis. Not only that, but Evy will share tips on how to spot whether someone is telling the truth or a lie. Let’s go!
During Chris’s 24-year tenure in the FBI, he was trained in the art of negotiation by not only the FBI but also Scotland Yard and Harvard Law School. He has used his many years of experience in international crises and high-stakes negotiations to develop a unique program and team that applies these globally proven techniques to the business world.
Chris has a book called, Never Split The Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It.
A Wall Street Journal best-seller, the book takes you inside the world of high-stakes negotiations and into Voss’s head, revealing the skills that helped him and his colleagues succeed where it mattered most: saving lives. In this practical guide, he shares the nine effective principles you too can use to become more persuasive in both your professional and personal life.
Let’s jump right in!
Chris believes the number one thing you can learn to do and practice with friends to become a better negotiator is always getting the other person to say two magic words: “That’s right.”
“[Getting someone to say those two words] means you must summarize where they’re coming from. So if you have a point you want to make, you’re not allowed to make your point [but rather summarize what they’ve just said and get them to say ‘that’s right’].” – Chris Voss
Chris says you can use this technique with critics too. When someone criticizes you, understand that it’s an attack, but know that they’ve been hurt and are struggling themselves. Our typical defense mechanism means that the normal way we’d respond would most likely just make them feel worse with our response. It’s hard being under attack and responding with kindness, which is why Chris says we need to practice.
“[Always] summarize their point of view [first] and the other person’s wound [no matter the situation] — whether any type of business deal, relationship, buying coffee, [getting an] upgrade, whatever it is. [It makes them feel seen,] and then after that, you can make your point.” – Chris Voss
Using the upgrade at a hotel is a great way to understand what a natural response to asking for something for free would be. Instead of hiding from it, Chris suggests diving straight into how they would feel.
“Walk up and go, ‘Hey, I know I seem like just another jerk trying to get something for free, somebody who treats you like you’re their servant, somebody who doesn’t care about you.’ [Think about] how you articulate what they’re thinking — especially the negative stuff about you — and when you say that, they’re going to say, ‘No, no, no, no, no, no.’ What you did was you woke them up and snapped them out of the negative loop in their head.” – Chris Voss
Being able to recognize how most other people treat the person you’re dealing with enables you to build empathy and demonstrate an understanding of how tiresome it must be. Remember though: Your tone, body language, and how you speak will alert them to whether what you say is genuine or not. Mastering this technique will take practice.
What about when you’ve been doing all of this perfectly, but a negotiation starts to turn bad? Chris advises us on how to exit a negotiation that no longer serves our best interests.
Sometimes a business negotiation starts off with two excited parties, but as it progresses things aren’t working out the way you hoped they would. Nobody wants to walk away in a manner that burns bridges, but if you feel like you’ve taken advantage of, how can you walk away and leave the other person feeling good? Chris walks us through what we can say in this instance.
“‘This isn’t working for me and I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I can’t do it anymore. My problem here has been that I like you, I’ve always liked you, and the stuff we’ve done together successfully has been phenomenal. I would like nothing better than, at some time in the future, for us to be able to get back to that. But right now, in order to preserve the memories of the positive things we’ve done, I’m out now.’” – Chris Voss
It’s a sequence where first you explain that it’s time to stop what you’re doing right now, but you do it in a way that sets the stage for future dealings. Chris emphasizes here that it’s important to finish positively.
“The last two sentences [will] ring in [their] ears over and over because your brain always goes back to the last impression. ‘How did that make you feel at the end?’ I make you feel valued, and you appreciate the fact that I walked away without calling you names — but I walked away.” – Chris Voss
Most of the time, people create a situation at the end that becomes a battle for the last word — and the last word is a cheap shot.
When your goal is to resolve things and have a great relationship, remember what you said at the beginning of your interaction, but it’s even more important to reiterate it at the end. The goal is always to have a great relationship, so if the current dynamic isn’t great, walk away now. Make sure that the other party understands that at any point in time if the relationship becomes collaborative again, you can go back to working together. It changes the dynamic and leaves the door open.
Now it’s time for part two where we hear from Evy Poumpouras.
In this section, we discuss knowing the difference between someone who is lying or telling the truth and how Evy’s able to get people to trust her during an interrogation.
Evy was a member of the most prestigious protection force in the world for over 12 years, serving on the Secret Presidential Protective Division for President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. Evy also protected President George Bush, Junior and Senior, as well as Bill Clinton. Evy worked complex criminal investigations, operated undercover, and was an interrogator for the agency’s elite polygraph unit specially trained in the art of lie detection, human behavior, and cognitive influence.
Evy’s book, Becoming Bulletproof: Lessons in Fearlessness from a Former Secret Service Agent demonstrates how we can overcome our everyday fears, have difficult conversations, know who to trust and who might not have our best interests at heart, influence situations, and prepare for the unexpected. When you have become “bulletproof,” you are your best, most courageous, and most powerful version of yourself. Poumpouras shows us that, ultimately, true strength is found in the mind, not the body.
Let’s jump in and hear what she says!
If you’re trying to figure out if someone’s lying to you, there are three questions to start the process of uncovering the truth.
“T.E.D. — Tell me, explain, describe, and then I would fill in the rest. ‘Tell me what you did last night,’ rather than, ‘Who did you go out with last night,’ or, ‘Were you with Sam?’ Explain to me how important this relationship is to you. Describe to me what you want in this business partnership. Those questions allow people to tell a story. If you really want to read somebody, you want them to tell you a story. The more I get you to tell me a story, I hear you, I’m watching you, I’m getting your mannerisms down, but you’re also telling me what is important to you. What is of value to you? When you do that, I don’t have to sit there and guess and figure out, ‘Oh, how should I start my business pitch with Lewis.’” – Evy Poumpouras
Gathering information this way enables you to speak with others in an intelligent way, rather than trying to guess what to say. Asking better questions isn’t just about trying to catch someone out in a lie though — it can be for any situation.
T.E.D. enables you to start big and get people to talk freely with you, which means even if you’re interested in something very specific, you can start by being vague and eventually narrow it down where you become more accurate by getting to your direct question.
“So for example, if you had a case where somebody was murdered or killed, and you had a suspect, you wouldn’t say, ‘Did you kill her?’ You’d never say that. You get there over time because it’s a serious thing. You get the person to give you admissions like, ‘Yes I was there. I was at the house,’ or ‘Yes, I did this.’ You want them to give you a little bit and then eventually get more admissions to paint a picture. You never actually have to ask them, ‘Did you kill [them]?’ They eventually tell you.” – Evy Poumpouras
Connecting with people requires loads of work, and society makes it seem like there are tricks to have people eating out of your hand, but real life doesn’t work like that. People struggle because they’re looking for the easy way when understanding human behavior of the person across from you takes being curious. Using the three T.E.D. questions allows you to get more information rather than immediately trying to get exactly what you want.
Evy suggests the number one best approach to embrace these three questions is something called adaptability. Adaptability requires patience because if you’re building rapport with someone and you break the flow, you’re not allowing a person to take you where they want to go. Being adaptable means that if you and the other person are on different journeys, you allow them the space to talk out what they want to share and ask questions that steer the conversation toward your desired outcome.
Even if you master these techniques, there’s no guarantee that you will be confident every day in every aspect of your life, so what else can we do to build our confidence muscle?
We all go through slumps in our life when we feel a lack of confidence in one area of life. Evy gives us great advice on how to overcome self-doubt and build confidence.
“Stop doing things you’re only comfortable with. Take risks, make decisions. I’ve noticed that people who lack confidence are quite indecisive. Indecisiveness is a big thing. They will survey everybody around them, ‘What do you think I should do?’ but you’re asking someone with no expertise about something.” – Evy Poumpouras
Think about how many times you’ve asked a family member with no experience in a topic for their advice. Not only does our own indecisiveness create uncertainty, but asking people with no real experience can lead to feeling even more confused. So the question is: How do you build decisiveness?
“Stop asking people what to do and just do it. Then when you make a mistake, own it. The more you fail, the more confident you become. You can’t fear failure. I have failed, [and afterward] I look at it. Once the worst thing that could happen to you happens, and you are still standing. [I realized I’m] still here. [I’m] still breathing, and that builds resilience.” – Evy Poumpouras
Indecisiveness is crippling your growth, no matter what you’re working on in your life. As Evy suggests, the minute you think, “Let me ask people.” Stop! Simply make a decision and don’t worry about whether you’re right or wrong — just do it.
Guys, there is such a tremendous amount of information from both podcasts that I just couldn’t fit it all in here. I highly recommend listening to each full episode. Here’s the link to my interview with Chris Voss, and here’s the link for the interview with Evy Poumpouras.
Both Chris and Evy have given us amazing tools to take control of the steering wheel for our lives by building our capabilities for understanding and dealing with others. No matter our circumstances, we now have tools to practice and become masters at creating positive interactions in any facet of our lives.
I hope you enjoyed today’s episode and it inspired you on your journey toward greatness. If no one’s told you lately, I wanna remind you that you are loved, you are worthy, and you matter.
Now it’s time to go out there and do something great.