Here’s how to negotiate
with your vendors, clients,
counterparts, and colleagues
so we all survive and put
ourselves in a position to
pick up the pieces after the COVID-19
Here are three steps to fixing your deals
during this time:
1. Deactivate the fears
2. Dynamic silence
3. Shape new thinking with a “How?”
1. DEACTIVATE THEIR FEARS USING
“This is total chaos.”
This comes straight from a colleague’s
description and then you add in some
more deactivating labels to clear the mind
as much as possible.
“You guys are desperate. You’re scared this
whole thing is going to get out of control and
it’s going to destroy you and your company.”
This is exactly what people are thinking.
You don’t get rid of the elephant in the
room by a) pretending it isn’t there or b)
You also don’t get rid of the elephant in
the room by explaining it away. As Ronald
Reagan said, “If you’re explaining, you’re
Calling out their fears in a fearless,
deferential way is the best way to clear
out someone’s thinking. This is the best
chance of success and the key approach
hostage negotiators have used for
decades to return people to their Normal
Functioning Level (or NFL).
You may have also noticed we’ve removed
the “seems” “sounds” “looks” “feels”
portions of the labels and are going in
much more directly. In times of higher
emotions, it is effective to go straight in
and remove any tentativeness.
2. USE DYNAMIC SILENCE
This is the point you go dead silent. Count
“one-thousands” (one-one thousand, twoone
thousand, etc.) in your head. You
cannot go onto the next step while their
thinking is still clouded with fear.
Wait until they signal that they are ready
for you to proceed. If you do get to 10-one
thousand say “It seems like you feel it’s
even worse than I’ve said.”
This is the wash-rinse-repeat cycle. They
will give you the green light to go ahead if
you repeat it enough.
Moving on to the “how” too soon is
building a house on a foundation that
3. SHAPE NEW THINKING
Calibrated, targeted use of the word
“How?” is a Thought-Shaping Question™.
In a deferential tone of voice, we want to
shape their thinking around collaboration.
And not just surviving but thriving in the
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs taught us
many years ago before people can consider
thriving, they have to get over being
worried about surviving.
Deference is the key. You don’t want your
tone of voice to trigger their defenses and
destroy the groundwork you’ve laid when
you deactivated their fears.
“How do we work our way through this
so that we don’t destroy each other, and
we put ourselves in a position to pick up
the pieces and work together when this
A deferential “How?” triggers what Daniel
Kahneman would call “Slow thinking,”
or in-depth stop you in your tracks
thinking. It is designed to activate deep
And again, a deferential tone of voice is
critical to this.
Vision drives decision. You specifically
present them with the choice between
the mutual assured destruction of the
moment and uncertainty of what’s
coming or picking up the pieces together
on the other side.
Every time you sense the fear returning
in the conversation you have to go back to
simply stating it out loud. Nothing drives
a stake through the heart of fear better
than calling it out.
“You’re scared there is no upside.”
“It sounds like you’re scared this is
“It's scary to not know how long this is going
to take to play out.”
No denials and no using “but.” “But” is
an erasing word and you don’t want it
to erase the effectiveness of the Tactical
Empathy™ you’ve implemented thus far.
Tactical Empathy™ is a powerful two-way
street, and to get it running two ways
you’ve got to give it out in heavy doses first.
No “we” as in “we’re all scared.”
Statements like, “We’re all scared” is not
the way to deactivate their fears. The
harsh reality is, it's self-centered and
implies “Can’t you see I’m scared too?”
The best activation of empathy is to give it
first and let it sink in.
Now is the time for Tactical Empathy™.
It's your best chance of success and leaves
you in the best position to accelerate,
not just after this time-period is over, to
accelerate during it. +
Chris Voss is CEO of the Black Swan Group and author of the national best seller "Never Split The
Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It," which was named one of the seven best books on
negotiation. A 24-year veteran of the FBI, Chris retired as the lead international kidnapping negotiator.
Drawing on his experience in high-stakes negotiations, his company specializes in solving business
communication problems using hostage negotiation solutions. BlackSwanltd.com
For those who are ready for a deeper dive into Never Split the Difference, Black Swan Group offers an online course with chapter videos
delivered monthly that can be viewed at your convenience. With more than seven hours of content split across 12 chapters, this course offers
updated concepts from the book, exercises for practicing the skills, and a dynamic final simulation to test your knowledge. This course is
perfect for anyone who wants to develop the skills they need to get the best deal possible—on their schedule. blackswanltd.com/services/