Chris Voss has been a part of some tense negotiations. Unlike most negotiations however, when Chris was involved it was a matter of life and death. Currently the founder and CEO of The Black Swan Group, Chris spent 24 years in the FBI. During his time there Chris acted as the FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator working over 150 kidnappings worldwide in some of the less forgiving areas of the world such as the Middle East and Haiti.
Recently, Chris appeared on The Science of Success Podcast with Matt Bodnar and shared his number one negotiation “Jedi Mind Trick” and how hostage negotiation tactics can be used in everyday life and business to make you successful and more likable. “It’s a little tactic called mirroring” Explains Voss. Most people, when they think of mirroring they think of mimicking the other person’s body language for instance “Let me stand like they stand...If they're leaning against a wall, let me lean against a wall… but that’s not it.” According to Voss “It’s simpler and much more powerful.”
“The mirroring a hostage negotiator does… is just the repetition of the last one to three words that someone has said.” Sounds simple, right? It is! “It’s a great simple tool that feels enormously awkward when you do it… the biggest barrier to these tools is not their complexity...The barrier here is feeling awkward because it’s different” So while you might be feeling awkward practicing mirroring, remember on the surface it’s not about you it’s about making them like you and trust you explains Voss, “You feel awkward, the other person however, feels listened to.”
By repeating the words back to your boss, coworker, or the other side of the table in a negotiation you make them feel listened to. Not only that but you also invite them to go on and further clarify their points, potentially revealing their root motivation or issue. Oftentimes when we are speaking to someone and trying to explain a problem, desire, or issue we use the words that make the most sense in our minds. Which can cause unintentional miscommunication since we don’t all think alike. “There’s a pretty good chance actually, that the other person doesn’t think the same way we do and your perfect words are kind of missing the mark.” Mirroring, unlike asking someone “What do you mean?” causes others to rephrase their words as opposed to just repeating their point over and over.
“What a mirror does is it flips that switch so the person will repeat what they’ve said using different words.” Voss explains to Bodnar. “It’s how you get someone to paraphrase themselves so you don’t have to paraphrase for them, thus increasing your understanding of their meaning.” By repeating the last three of four meaningful words in the other person’s sentence you cause them to unknowingly explain their point of view or desires from a different angle. Thus increasing the amount of knowledge you have regarding their stance as well as clarifying their intentions. Not only that, but the other person will begin to favor you because they feel welcomed to do all the talking and can tell you are actively listening and interested in their points.
Voss closes by explaining “Every hostage negotiation team whether in Japan, whether they are in China, if they are in Nigeria, Latin America, they all use these skills and they have been road tested in every culture… and they work because we are human beings.” So next time you're gearing up for a negotiation, asking the boss for a raise, or entering an emotional or tense conversation remember the universal power of mirroring. “A lot of the people I have trained begin using this tactic and they come back to me and say WOW! This is a Jedi Mind Trick!... and it works everytime.”