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3 Keys to Negotiation

By |October 09, 2017

negotiation keys

No matter who you talk to there is an agenda. Even if that agenda is on a personal level and it happens to be catching up or shooting the breeze. 

Human nature even tells us, if someone on the street were to strike up a conversation with us it feels awkward. Some of us wouldn’t engage at all. As a side note, that's ok there are some weirdos out there! However; let's say this person is normal and you do engage, you will still get to the point of awkward silence or looking for the opportunity to disengage and go about your day. If you were to have the same agenda driven, “talking to pass the time” conversation with a good friend, the conversation would not only be seamless but enjoyable. That's why that person is who they are to you. You already trust that person and have buy-in to address a simple agenda of casual conversation. Another side note, silence is uncomfortable unless we are in the presence of this same person. It's human nature! That is why The Black Swan Group bases so much of its approach on human nature response.

Where the process of negotiation comes into play is using strategic communication to confront issues or terms. Whether it be fear, hate, selfishness, logic, passion, etc. These are all predictable explanations for someone’s position, finding the words to articulate these things and move in a positive direction is not always easy. The terms or agenda tend to look different depending on what side of the table you sit. Which is why the 3 categories below need to be addressed when taking a Tactical Empathy approach.


Unknown information

It is safe to say that all of us go into negotiations playing certain pieces of information close to the vest. It would be unwise of you to assume the other side isn't doing the same thing. Essentially this explains that not only is there information we don't know, but there is also information being held back in some fashion. A phrase from “Never Split the Difference” is “never be so sure of what you want that you wouldn't accept something better.” How can you decide on the outcome in a negotiation if you don't have all the information?

A big part of what plays into this data dump is a level of trust. We always say that no matter what industry you are in we are all in the trust business. Part of negotiation is discovering Black Swans, those pieces of information that change everything. With the use of Tactical Empathy, you can put your counterpart in a mental state where they are thinking out loud in front of you. These are the moments people express genuine concerns.



The baseline purpose for all negotiation, to create buy-in. This is the purpose of all interactions where we have skin in the game. The Black Swan Group says “yes is nothing without how.” We can technically get a “yes” for confirmation or commitment, but if you can't execute a plan or list of terms, agreement stands for nothing. 

The best way to create buy-in is to use the counterpart as a problem solver. In the book, we say, “the key to negotiation is giving the other side the illusion of control.” When we look at fundamental human nature, we know when people feel in control they are highly likely to be confident. We talk about a few different ways to do that, such as Calibrated Questions. Either way without buy-in from the counterpart(s) implementation at a high level is an impossibility.



A significant portion of the deals anyone makes hinge on the ability to continue to work together productively moving forward. Whether the cooperation of the other side after a merger or partnership agreement, to the best way to deal with your local mechanic and your car. In human nature, trust and motivation are often linked together. Based on this notion, you know you can make good deals with someone who feels like they can have a good relationship with you. Tactical Empathy is a great communication approach to develop these types of interactions.

Business relationships are not always in the best condition. When you are faced with this issue, gone unaddressed, it can cause all types of issues. In business, we are not always faced with someone that wants something from us. You often have conversations where the other side is someone or group of people you are trying to convince of an idea, create buy-in. If rapport is developed quickly, it makes these conversations that much easier.



The 3 ideas listed above are how we focus on all aspects of any given interaction. Whether training or consulting a primary purpose of our preparation and approach is developing specific phrases aimed at heading these off. Cold Reads and Accusations Audit are two skills we would execute. Knowing that a certain idea or dynamic will cause a specific reaction gives us something to plan for and direct our navigation of data and context.