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Heal Strained Relationships: 4 Tactical Empathy™ Techniques for Negotiation Success

By |March 18, 2024

You may believe you deal with many different personality types in your personal and professional life. What steps do you take to make yourself more likable to each person you negotiate with? Do you communicate differently with an overly analytical co-worker, a highly agreeable friend, or an argumentative family member? Does your communication style sometimes cause relationship stress?

At the Black Swan Group, our work with high-stakes negotiations shows consistent patterns in how three core Negotiator Conflict Personality Types (NCPT) process decisions and resolve conflict. We call them Analysts, Accommodators, and Assertives. Each has ingrained traits, values, and reactions, making them unique.

By understanding NCPT drivers more deeply, you can gain surprising insight into how Tactical Empathy™ can heal strained relationships that hold you back personally and professionally.

When we fail to understand motivations we are creating an environment for tension. The Black Swan Group has built a framework to shed light on building rapport. The foundation is always genuine curiosity coupled with demonstrating Tactical Empathy™.

But what if we start from a point where there existing relationship strain? It happens; we get it wrong and find ourselves mired in a negative sludge that has all but stopped our ability to move toward trust-based influence. In these situations, resist the urge to fall back on what you are comfortable with -  direct questions and explanations. Remember, it is not about you; it is about them. You need to open the throttle on your curiosity. One of the first pieces of information you should seek is the personality type you are dealing with.

Want to find out your negotiator type? Take the quiz now!

Tactical Empathy™ Techniques to Use with Assertives 

When you recognize that your negotiation is in trouble and your counterpart is an Assertive, you can often repair the damage with a few simple steps.

Assertives want to feel respected. For them, time is money. To help an Assertive feel better about you, listen for the internal logic and the emotion(s) they attach to their argument. Summarize what you have talked about and then Label the end of the summary with "as a result you feel…." A Summary allows the Assertive to feel heard and respected. The Label at the end can be an emotion or a dynamic. Add some of these to your written list of go-to labels so that you can find them in your mind easier when it counts. Some examples might be: "as a result, you feel that we have gotten off track" or, "as a result, you feel that I have failed to respect your work on this." Assertives like to feel in control of the conversation; listening to an Assertive gives them the illusion that they are in control as they make their points and provide you with a wealth of information.

Tactical Empathy™ Techniques to Use with Accommodators

Accommodators are far different. When you notice that you need to repair your relationship with an Accommodator, you should probably clear your schedule for the rest of the day. The nature of an Accommodator is forgiving and generous. They have their limits like everyone else. When you have breached those limits, you have your work cut out for you. The obstacle created by an aggrieved Accommodator is the hardest to work through. Stay in the moment and trust the process. Labels, Mirrors, and Dynamic Silence will work to get your relationship back. Temper all of your communication with deference, and that begins with a sincere apology that has you accepting the blame, no matter who you think is at fault. The relationship is more important than any agreement or deal. Now is not the time to try a shortcut. If you have been practicing, you probably have a few good Labels for dressing the wounds of your Accommodator counterpart. "It feels like I have failed to be sensitive to some important things" might demonstrate that you accept responsibility for the turbulence. "It seems like you hate feeling cheated" is a very powerful Label to address a negative emotion that could be holding the Accommodator back from developing trust in you again. It takes a lot to ruin a relationship with an Accommodator. It takes a lot more to repair it; don't give up.

Knowing what is important to each NCPT gives you a head start on removing obstacles and fixing an ailing relationship.

Tactical Empathy™ Techniques to Use with Analysts

Analysts value information. Investigating and studying take effort that Analysts feel needs to be respected. If your counterpart is an Analyst and is about to leave the table, or worse, has left the table, you must demonstrate your interest in their work. Beware! Asking an Analyst direct questions can be perceived as a new challenge to their conclusions. Analysts are usually prepared and have answers, so I suppose it is a little ironic that they do not like to be asked questions. Labels will pay big dividends on your investment of effort to get your relationship back in the right place. Analysts are comfortable in silence because it gives them time to think.  Dynamic Silence is a gift you can give to an anguished Analyst. Something easy to overlook with an Analyst is the judgment they might level at you if you have come to the table unprepared or uninformed.

The three negotiator personality types have different needs. If you treat them all the same, you will not be as successful as someone who treats others as they need to be treated. Your personality type can be successful with any of the three personality types on the other side, but you need to modify your style to incorporate the things that are important to your counterpart.

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