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Using negotiating skills to get what you want, according to an ex FBI negotiator

Some people are natural hagglers and because of that they are successful at getting what they want.

Others on the other hand, almost always come off second best.

Wouldn’t you like to discover the secret to negotiating successfully?

After all, great negotiating skills can bring down the price of the car you’re buying or take up your salary a notch.

Closer to home, it can help you to get your way when discussing the guest list for your wedding, where to go on holiday or what to do in your free time.

Chris Voss, the former lead international kidnapping negotiator for the FBI and author of the book, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On Itrecently shared some of his negotiating strategies with CNBC.

There’s power in patience

The number one strategy according to Voss is to let the other side talk first.


“You’ve got to let the other side talk first, and you’ve got to make them feel in control,” Voss told CNBC.

Letting the other side start the negotiations, make them feel that they are in control of the situation, and you are more likely to get what you want if the party you are negotiating with feels like the solution was their idea, Voss told CNBC.

“Negotiation is often described as the art of letting the other side have your way,” says Voss. “You have to give the other side a chance to put stuff on the table voluntarily.”

So when you enter into a negotiation, whether it’s with your spouse, your kid or a salesman, be prepared to listen. Think of it as a fact-finding mission.

The more the party you are negotiating with says, the better for you, says Voss.

But there’s more.

It’s not enough to get them to talk, there is a trick to getting them to talk more and it’s this: you can use this phrase, suggested Voss:  “It seems like you’ve thought about this a lot”.

Because the person has indeed most likely spent time mulling the issue, recognizing their effort helps to open them up, says Voss.

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“We see over and over again … it actually makes a connection in somebody’s head and they will go like, ‘Yeah, and I thought about this, and I thought about this, and I thought about that.'” Voss said.

Once people open up, they may give you a piece of information you can use, without realizing that they are doing it.

Get more information by “mirroring”

The next tactic Voss uses is a trick many people use unconsciously and it always gets them what they want: more information.

It’s called “mirroring”.  It’s simply this: when the person you’re negotiating with stops talking, you repeat the last few words they have said. You can frame it as a question.


Your wife: “I can’t pick the kids up from school because I’ve got an appointment.”

You: “You can’t because you’ve got an appointment?”

She’ll feel obliged to give a more complete explanation and might just divulge something you can use to your advantage and get her to pick up the kids after all.

Voss points out that mirroring is also a good tactic to use when you need to buy time. He related an actual bank robbery incident where mirroring helped the negotiators to find out about a third conspirator they had not known about previously.

Voss used the technique because he was caught off guard by something the other side had said and he needed time to gather his thoughts.

There is more:


Don’t expect to be done in one sitting.

“Very few negotiations are begun and concluded in the same sitting. It’s really rare.

“Take your time and gather information. I had a client once tell me the other person is going to tell you way more about themselves than you could ever research and find out on your own, which speaks to taking your time a little bit, going through more than one sitting and getting a much better deal,” said Voss.

So next time you have to negotiate for something you want, plan the process — plan to not get your way straight away. Be more strategic – bide your time.

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Written by Coert Engels

I'm a South African based writer and am passionate about exploring the latest ideas in artificial intelligence, robotics and nanotechnology. I also focus on the human condition, with a particular interest human intuition and creativity. To share some feedback about my articles, email me at [email protected]

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