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How Simply Listening Better Will Lead You to Better Negotiation Outcomes

By |May 20, 2024

If I were to poll our readership right now to determine how many of you think you're good listeners, more than half would raise their hand, which means more than half are mistaken. Because even the best listeners aren't living up to their full capability when it comes to actually understanding the point of view from the other side. We are underperforming by at least 60% due to our failure to understand the different levels of listening. Most of us are lazy, spending most of our existence at levels one or two. 

Level one is where we're listening intermittently, just long enough to get the general perspective of the other side, then immediately refocus on our own thoughts and internal monologue. A step above that is listening to rebut, where you listen just long enough for the other person to say something with which you can argue.  Now you are just waiting for them to shut up so you can jump in, tell them how wrong they are, and show off your brilliance.

These two levels are where we spend most of our time because we're so focused on our perspective, agenda, and goals; where we hope to end up in the conversation. When you're listening to rebut or listening intermittently, part of your brain is offline, focused on yourself.  ,

Listening to yourself depletes the amount of attention you can give to the other side. While you're internally jabbering, there's still data coming in from your counterpart that you're missing.

Starting to listen

Now we're starting to get a little better at level three, where you listen for their internal logic, using a lot of inference. Ask yourself, 'Why does their view make sense to them?' It may not make sense to you, but we're focused on their perspective, not our own. If this is their story, what data do they have to back it up? While you are doing much better than at levels one and two, you're not where you need to be. 

At level four you are taking their logic from level three and begin listening for the emotions they have attached to their argument. If this is indeed their judgment or position, what is the anger, frustration, betrayal, embarrassment, or disappointment they have attached to it? How do they feel about it? Now you're starting to get a complete picture of what is important to them. You not only know what they think, but you're also demonstrating an understanding of how they feel.

We all have an innate drive to have someone else understand us beneath the surface. When you start to combine emotion with logic, you are going beneath that surface, attempting to understand the totality of what the other side is trying to express. Levels three and four take energy and effort. Most of us are lazy and refuse to put in the necessary energy and effort.

Now it gets difficult

Then there's level five, empathetic or empathic listening, where you're trying to determine their life's narrative. What is their worldview? What is truly motivating them to take the stance they're taking, make the statement they're making, or ask the question they're asking? What is their perspective, their circumstances, what does their environment look like, what does what they're saying represent or symbolize for them?

In every sensitive conversation, there are two layers.  The surface layer is a presenting dynamic or emotion, and then there are latent, subsurface dynamics and emotions. Empathetic listening is the only way for you to get to those latent dynamics and emotions. When you get good at your interpersonal communication skills, you're going to focus on what they are not saying with the words they're using. There is no better way for you to convince me that you are dialed into our engagement, than when you can point out what I'm not saying. Ultimately, if you don't understand my worldview, you don't understand what motivates me, you do not understand me. And if you don't understand me, meaningful dialogue is not going to take place.

Listening at level five is appropriate whenever the conversation is sensitive. When does the conversation become sensitive? The conversation becomes sensitive if "I want" or "I need" is in either party's head. What is at risk is that both of you may walk away from that conversation with less than what you walked in with. And so both of you, whether you admit it or not, are already in a defensive mindset.  We get into defensive mindsets when we are threatened.  We listen at level five goes a long way in removing you as a threat.   

What’s their prism? 

Many of the people who I coach think they're listening and using the Black Swan Method well. However, when they talk about their conversations, many times I hear from them surface-level stuff. 

When you are dealing with someone whose logic is outside the realities of the environment, it almost always comes from an emotional space. Almost always. If their logic doesn't line up with the realities of the environment, it's because, emotionally, they're viewing the environment through a negative prism. And, ladies and gentlemen, that conversation is going nowhere until you identify the emotion that's driving the behavior.

As long as they're viewing their situation through that negative prism, you're just going to be bumping heads with this person the entire time. What do you hear your client saying to you, "Cut your price or I'm going to a competitor," "I need it Thursday or the deal is off," or "Give me what I want or I'm going to work for someone else," "Take this out of the contract or we're not going to sign." Most of us hear that surface-level pushback, and we start to panic, thinking, "Oh my god. If we don't change the contract, we're going to lose the business." When the reality is, the person who uttered that phrase is telling you something else. Be courageous enough to stay in the moment to dig a little deeper, and you will uncover that other things are motivating them to say it. Empathetic listening, level five, gets you off of the surface.

Happier counterparts equals better deals.

When you're showing genuine interest and curiosity about the other person, you're starting to release chemicals in the brain that are making them feel a lot better than when they walked in, and the people you're engaging are getting high. And just like a regular drug addict, they are looking for the next hit. And the next hit comes with your response leading to more and more data. The more you respond to that data with one of the N9 skills, the more dopamine and oxytocin you release in your brain.  The better they feel. They want to keep feeling that way. The more they feel heard and understood, the more the negatives associated with the conversation, the negatives associated with the environment, start to dissipate. And as the negative emotions start to decrease, the rational thinking starts to increase.

One of the biggest benefits of this type of listening is that it encourages reciprocity. This is why we go overboard with empathetic listening throughout most of the conversation because, at some point, I will make my ask; and I want my counterpart to feel as good and be as clear-headed as possible before I do that. 

Thirty-one percent...that's how much more effective everyone's brain is when it's in a positive state, You want them 31% smarter when you pitch or make your ask. That, coupled with reciprocal empathy will increase the chances that you will both walk out of there with a deal you're satisfied with. Level five listening is the fastest way to get there.

The Black Swan Group is slowing you down to speed you up.