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What Is The Black Swan Group's Negotiation 9™ (N9™)?

By |February 08, 2021

The Black Swan Group’s Negotiation 9™ (N9™) are the nine skills that make it easy to achieve Tactical Empathy™ (TE™) —the best way to accomplish trust-based influence, which should be your primary goal every time you step to the table. 

In addition to TE, the N9 also enables you to accomplish the secondary goals of demonstrating an authentic connection with your counterpart and showing that you are negotiating in good faith. 

Keep reading for a summary of these skills so you can get a better understanding of each of them and begin incorporating them into your day-to-day negotiation tool belt. Though all of these skills appear in Never Split the Difference™, the first time they have been packaged together in an easy to understand format is in The Introduction to the Black Swan Method: The Negotiation 9. 

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1. Labels™ 

Labeling™ is a communication skill by which you make a verbal observation of  the dynamics, emotions, and circumstances that are implied by your counterpart. For example, if the other side keeps getting held up over a certain point, you could say something like: It seems like there’s something preventing you from making a deal. 

Notice the use  of the phrase It seems like. It gives you wiggle room in the event  the other side disagrees. I never said there definitely was something preventing you from making a deal, I just said it seemed like it.

When used effectively, labels help you reinforce positive emotions and diffuse  negative ones in the process of extracting more information.

2. Mirrors™ 

Mirroring™ is a simple communication technique in which you’re  repeating the last 1-3  words the other side says. This creates space and pushes the conversation back to the other side, which can help you uncover additional information without having to ask an actual question.

To illustrate, imagine the other side says: I’m sorry, but at this point, there’s really nothing we can do. Using a Mirror with an inquisitive inflection, you’d reply: Nothing you can do? 

3. Dynamic Silence™ 

Silence makes us all uncomfortable. You can use that to your advantage by intentionally creating it after you have used a mirror or a label. You simply shut your mouth for a few seconds and give the other side some time to process what you’ve said. 


4. Paraphrase

Paraphrasing is the process of taking what the person is giving you, unwrapping the proverbial gift, putting it in your own words, and giving it back to them. 

You can use this skill at any time during a negotiation.  It’s a great way to make sure your counterpart knows that you’re actually listening to what they have to say.

5. Summary™ 

A Summary is periodically covering the main points in the negotiation. It’s the world according to them, in your words, while also labeling their emotions. The goal is to summarize your counterpart’s situation so effectively they can only respond in one way: “that’s right.” 

6. Calibrated Questions™ 

Calibrated Questions are those that cannot be answered with a yes or a no and begin with “what” or “how”. They are used to shape the thoughts of the other side by having them think more deeply to form their answer.

If, for example, you’re at an impasse and the other side is asking for something that you can’t reasonably deliver, you might say something like: How am I supposed to do that? Similarly, you can use Calibrated Questions to make sure implementation goes smoothly: How will we know if we are on track?

7. I Messages

I Messages are used to address persistent counterproductive behavior that is thwarting your negotiation. This is an assertive move that should be used sparingly.  With the right approach, it’s a great tool for confronting problematic behavior in a non-accusatory way.

I Messages follow this simple three-step formula:

  • When you (insert behavior)
  • I feel (target of the emotion)
  • Because (effect of the interaction)

Here’s what it looks like in action: When you take two weeks to get back to me over a simple term, I feel like we’re not making any progress  because there are so many details to iron out.

8. Encouragers

Encouragers are active listening techniques that are so simple it’s almost ridiculous. Think of them as small forms of acknowledgement when the other side is speaking—like nodding your head, saying mm-hmm, and just otherwise letting the other person know you’re still there.

It’s an easy way to make sure you’re never the person on the other end of the line who is asked: Are you still there?

At the end of the day, we all want to be heard and understood. Encouragers can help make that happen.

9. Tonality

Last but not least, we come to Tonality. Tone is 5 times more important than your words, because it sets the emotional mood for the rest of the conversation. 

There are 3 main tones to be aware of: the Assertive Tone, the Analyst Tone, and the Accommodator Tone. The Assertive Tone is blunt, direct, and almost always counterproductive. Instead, you should strive to stay in the Accommodator Tone 80% of the time--this is friendly, amicable, and receptive. When you need to deliver bad news, use the Analyst Tone--that low and slow, Late-Night FM DJ voice. It's soothing, calm, and will put your counterpart at ease, especially if you're attacked. Responding with an Analyst Tone will deescalate the situation.

Tonality is a skill, as much as we want to believe that our tone is stagnant. It's important to practice your tone in low-stakes situations and understand how your tone affects your counterpart. 

To learn more about the N9 and how to use these skills to get better outcomes in your personal and professional life, sign up for our new online course: Introduction to the Black Swan Method: The Negotiation 9.

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