Tactical Empathy

relationships, business, achievement, perseverence, success, negotiation

Chris Voss is a world renowned FBI hostage negotiator.  In his book “Never Split the Difference”, he teaches the principles that helped him work through some of the most intense, dangerous and life threatening situations imaginable.  One of the first principles is rooted in an understanding that humans are emotional beings that oftentimes suffer from Cognitive Bias.  Cognitive Bias is a systematic pattern of deviation from rationality in judgement.  This leads to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgement and irrationality.  Here are few thoughts around this principle: 

  1. One of the most powerful negotiating tactics is Tactical Empathy.  Tactical Empathy is a form of listening that is like a martial art, rooted in the fact that people want to be understood and connected with above all else.  When a person feels listened to and understood, they hear themselves more, which gets them to a calm and logical place.  Once they feel your empathy, they slowly migrate from an emotional irrational state to a calm and logical place.  Only from a logical place can any progress be made.
  2. “Smart People” are often horrible negotiators because they think they know everything, making them poor listeners.  Chris says you can either “Win” or “Be Right”, but you can’t be both.  This explains why unsolicited advice is so ineffective.  People want you to listen to them, not solve their problems.  They don’t want your advice, they want your understanding.
  3. Most negotiations or debates consist of each party stating their position, followed by a merry-go-round of repeating their position over and over.  As the merry-go-round continues each side usually gets louder and louder until the situation escalates into one party leaving or a physical altercation.  The lesson here is to never approach a negotiation with your position, rather make your all encompassing focus the other person and what they have to say. 

Whether you are negotiating a business deal or bed time with one of your kids, I encourage you to try tactical empathy.  And remember that you can either “Win” or “Be Right”, but you can’t be both.

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