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The Seduction of “You’re Right” in Negotiations

By |March 24, 2015

We probably love hearing “you’re right” more than we love hearing “yes” and “yes” has been described as the most beautiful word in any language. Yet every time we hear “you’re right” alarm bells should be going off in our mind because we are shortly getting ready to hit an impasse.

Please ask yourself this:

“The last time someone was annoying me with an incessant argument about how what they wanted was right and how what I wanted wasn’t, what did I finally say to them to get them to leave me alone?”

You told them “You’re right” and I’ll bet they got a happy look on their face, got up from your desk and trotted happily away.

No one would do that to you though, would they?

As a matter of fact, I am willing to bet you that if you’ve gotten to the point with a client or colleague who is no longer responding to your emails, one of the last things they did tell you was “you’re right”. When someone in your world has gone dead silent on you, it’s most likely because they feel they haven’t gotten any empathy from you. They may like you but are just worn out.

What response is the key to unlocking this impasse or even avoiding it in the first place?

“That’s right.”

This is a lesson The Black Swan Group learned from hostage negotiation. The original idea comes from the great American psychologist Carl Rogers. In Rogers writings and teachings about empathy he guided people to summarize their counterpart’s thoughts and feelings so fully and completely for them that there is only one possible response – “That’s right”.

Our clients who take the time to employ this approach are breaking through impasses from problems in their personal lives, to salespeople making pharmaceutical sales with reluctant doctors, to corporate employees making breakthroughs with their bosses, to ex-girlfriends setting ex-boyfriends straight.

I recently had a corporate security client that wanted to learn communication skills that applied to all levels of crisis and that could also be used in everyday internal negotiations within the company. I taught them “That’s right”. A few months later I saw one of the attendees from that training and he told me the following story:

“Right after the training I was in a conversation with an ex-girlfriend and she got a “that’s right” out of me! When she did it, I realized what she did and you know what? I was ok with it. I still am.”

When your counterpart says “that’s right” they feel like a mutual understanding has been reached and it allows you both to move forward. Instead of focusing on hearing “you’re right”, strive to get a “that’s right” from your counterpart.

Make some rain!


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