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The #1 Reverse Psychology Skill For When You're Attacked in a Negotiation

By |April 21, 2017

One hand preventing punch attack of another hand.jpegWhat's the best way to handle being attacked in a negotiation?

Call it reverse psychology. Call it a Jedi Mind Trick. Call it Emotional Intelligence on steroids. We call it Tactical Empathy. And it’s the stealth weapon of effective negotiation.

It’s counter-intuitive. It takes guts. It takes grit. And it works.

Label the complete opposite. Label the “like” that’s the opposite of what your counterpart is hating on.

All you have to do is finish this sentence: “It sounds like you like… (and insert the opposite of what they are protesting and howling about here).

Prepare to watch a charging bull stop in his or her tracks with a confused look on their face.

How is this done & what is going on here?

(As a quick reminder, the label skill the Black Swan Group teaches is a sentence/verbal observation that starts with “It looks like…,” “It seems like…," “It sounds like…," or “It feels like…”)


Every Like has  Dislike

There is an opposite to every “like” – and to every “dislike.” Whatever they’re attacking you for, it has an opposite they value.

Dishonesty – Integrity.

Cheating – Fairness.

Deception – Openness.

Unpredictability – Stability.

Labeling it does a nice job of punching the “button” in the amygdala that when stimulated release those wonder drugs dopamine and serotonin.

Landlords who don’t allow sub-letters value stability. Landlords who don’t renegotiate value stability.

Most objections in negotiation are underpinned by feelings (fears) of uncertainty. You can choose to calm the storm by labeling the fear directly or when you really feel like showing off – label the inverse positive.

The insanely easy thing about this is really just to force yourself to finish this sentence (label):

“It sounds like you like…(fill in the blank here).


In all the training we conduct, we’ll run the “hot-button” exercise. We have your counterpart attack something you're passionate about. Hence the term “hot-button.” It will go something like this – if you happen to like cooking – “Cooking is stupid and self-centered. You’re just trying to show you’re smarter than I am by cooking better than me”.

(I didn’t say this made sense or was fair. What contentious negotiation is?)

The flip-side label? “It sounds like you like being around people who you feel on equal footing with.”

A business example? The attack: “None of the other contractors are fulfilling the work on time!”

The response: “It sounds like you value predictability.” Or “It sounds like the late performance is a big pet peeve.”

At all times – a good label must be followed by an effective pause, i.e., go silent. Let it sink in & have its full effect. Please don’t step on your label by breaking the silence first.

When we do this exercise, we often focus on those who are having the most trouble labeling to prove that we’ve all got the wiring in our heads to do this. It’s only matter of you activating your circuits. We tell them to repeat these 4 words and then finish the sentence:

“It sounds like you like…” (repeat the words & then finish the sentence). Every time we sit then and wait, and don’t turn away until the person says the words and finishes the sentence, they nail it.

Practice this. Do it 6 times today.
Do it 6 times a day for 3 straight days.

I remember reading in a book about motorcycle riding a long time ago “learn to do the counterintuitive things that will save your life.”

Learn to do the counter-intuitive things that will give you the upper hand in a negotiation. Labeling is one of them.

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