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Becoming a Master Negotiator: Trigger Kindness Moments Everyday

By |February 21, 2022

Want to become a master negotiator? Do these two things: 

  1. Have a list of go-to phrases.  
  2. Never be mean to someone who can hurt you by doing nothing. 

Read on to develop your list and see how I dodged a bullet at a TSA screening point. 

Becoming a Master Negotiator: Trigger Kindness Moments Everyday

Saved by a Go-To Phrase

As many of you know, one of my go-to phrases is this: Bless me father, for I have sinned.

That phrase kept me from getting kicked out of Canada by an offended FBI official (one of the stories in Never Split The Difference). It also kept me from getting kicked out of the TSA line at the Newark airport. 

And yes … I had broken the rules both times.

Recently, I was in the TSA line in another U.S. airport, and yes, I had forgotten to empty the water out of my Voss water bottle again.  

So, as they pulled my shoulder bag , I said in a voice loud enough for the female TSA officer to hear me: “I have sinned!”

Now, at this moment, I was not at the top of my game. I was not in a good mood, feeling tired and not sharp. My delivery wasn’t great.

She pulled the bottle and said the standard, “I can throw this out, or you can go all the way back and start over.”

I said, “How far back do I have to go?” And I’m more than willing to admit my tone was more horrified than the Late-Night FM DJ.

She said, “I’ll go back there with you.” Then she added, “Do you really need this bottle?”

I said, “Yes, it’s glass and I need it to mix medicine.” (And I do.) “Plastic degrades.” (And it does.)

“You use it for medicine?”


I saw her taking extra time with the bottle, scanning it and rescanning it in some machine. I was thinking, “Great, this is going to take even longer.” But my physical response was cooperative and resigned to starting over.

She finally handed me the bottle and my bag and said, “Have a nice day.” I was clear and a little stunned. And I got out of there.

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The Power of Being Nice

The flip side to “Never be mean to someone who could hurt you by doing nothing” is “Everyone you deal with could help you if they felt like it.”

There’s always something they can do. It might not be what you were after in the first place, but there is something. (Never be so sure of what you want that you wouldn’t take something better.)

Tactical Empathy™ is your best chance of making them feel like helping you in the shortest amount of time.

Becoming a Master Negotiator is a journey, and negotiation skills are perishable. I fall out of my highest levels of capability all the time. You do too.

I claw my way back with small-stakes practice and some go-to lines that are always with me.

Here are a couple more:

  • “It sounds like you have a reason for saying that?”
  • “It seems like you have a reason for asking that?”
  • “What makes you ask?”
  • “It sounds like there is nothing I can say to make you change your mind.”

Check these resources out as well:

What are your go-to phrases?

Enjoy the journey.

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