A Label™ is a negotiation skill that enables us to bring thoughts and sentiments left unsaid by our counterpart to the surface.
When we use Labels effectively, we can gather information, build Tactical Empathy® by ensuring the other side feels like they’re being heard, and allow our counterparts to express their thoughts, interests, and needs.
Quite simply, Labels allow us to get a feel for what the other person has in mind, which helps us get closer to gathering Black Swans that might make all the difference during the negotiation.
An effective use of Labels can help us close more deals. Even so, many negotiators hesitate to use this negotiation skills because they’re afraid to get it wrong.
Should you worry about Mislabeling?
In our experience, some Black Swan clients don’t lean on Labels as much as they should because they worry about what might happen if they get something wrong. If you aim to close more deals, that’s not the smartest approach.
Imagine you’re in a negotiation, and your counterpart keeps returning to the price. It might appear that money is the only thing standing between you and a deal. You might say something like: It seems like budgetary concerns are preventing us from making a deal.
Let’s say you’re wrong, and your counterpart is more worried about implementation. As the Laws of Negotiation Gravity™ tell us, the desire to correct someone is irresistible. In this scenario, you’ve used a Mislabel, and your counterpart will respond accordingly: Actually, I think the price is great. What I’m most worried about is whether your team can meet our timeline.
As you can see, Mislabeling isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Like Labels, Mislabels can help you gather more information about your counterpart.
Want to close more deals? Stop asking questions and use Labels™ instead.
From an early age, most of us learn to dislike questions. When you were a kid, after you did something wrong, you might’ve heard your parents ask: Why did you do this? The word why makes us feel like someone is pointing a finger at us, making us button up our defenses and hold our cards closer to our chests.
On top of this, one of the negotiator types—the Analyst—hates being asked questions. They’ve spent so much time preparing for the conversation and have left no stones unturned, yet you still want to rattle them with a question.
If you want to close more deals, try this simple trick: Instead of asking a question, flip it into a Label.
For example, if your counterpart seems frustrated, the last thing you want to ask is: Why are you frustrated? Luckily, you can flip this question into a Label: It seems like you are annoyed about some aspect of this deal.
Because you’re not stating a fact, Labels provide a more neutral way of identifying unexpressed sentiments. They land soft—especially when you use the right tone of voice.
Follow your Labels with Dynamic Silence™.
After you use a Label, you need to shut your mouth and let the other person gather their thoughts. To do this, we recommend using Dynamic Silence™, which gives your counterpart space to think and respond.
At the same time, you also need to practice active listening to truly hear what the other side is saying and see things from their perspective. When Black Swan CEO Chris Voss talks about his experiences with FBI hostage negotiations, he tells us that the FBI would have five or six people in the room whose jobs were only to listen. That should tell us something about how important listening is.
When you can listen quietly with no distractions, you uncover the deeper meaning of their words, along with what’s been left unsaid.
During your next negotiation, follow your intuition. Whenever your gut makes you suspect something, Label it. The worst that you can happen is your Mislabel it and get the information you’re looking for anyway.
To learn more about what you can do to close more deals in less time, check out our free e-book: Never Split the Difference: Negotiating Contracts.