Six Workplace Negotiation Tips From A Former FBI Hostage Negotiator

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Whether it's with clients, suppliers or employers, most people will be required to do some form of negotiating in a work context. But if you want to get the best outcome from these negotiations, you need to be smart about them. A former FBI hostage negotiator turned business advisor Chris Voss shared some tactics on how to do this.

With 24 years' experience with the FBI and numerous hostage negotiations under his belt, Voss now helps companies, government agencies and individuals with developing useful negotiation skills. Speaking with James Altucher for LinkedIn's Pulse blog, Voss divulged his top techniques for getting what you what in a transaction or agreement. We've highlighted the best ones below.

These tactics could be applied to discussing the terms of a deal with an external party or when you're negotiating for a pay rise:

#1 Ask a lot of open-ended questions

This is about getting more information without committing to anything. If the other person you're negotiating with pushes you to commit to a decision, ask them a lot questions that lead with "how" or "what".

Here's an example from the blog post:

"If one side says, 'We can only go as low as $36,000 on this car' you say, 'I can't go higher than $30,000. How am I supposed to come up with the $36,000?' And just see what they say.

… They will keep talking. Outsource the hard things they are asking right back at them."

#2 List the negatives

You can get somebody on your side by listing out negative points that they can agree on. For example, you can say: "I know you might not trust me. I know you've had bad dealings in the past." The other person will likely agree and be more inclined to hear you out.

#3 Make them feel powerless

We don't mean do this in a forceful way. According to Voss:

“Nobody wants to feel powerless. If the negotiation is not going your way you can say to them, ‘Sounds like there’s nothing you can do’.   “This will make them feel powerless. They will say no to that and now they will try to do something for you to prove they are not powerless.”

#4 Mirror their words then follow up with silence

Repeat the last three words of whatever the other person says as much as possible. This will spur them to say more. When you follow that up by going silent, you'll encourage the other person to give you more information.

"Your goal is you want to get them talking as much as possible. The more information you have, the better. And the more likely they will negotiate against themselves."

#5 Feel free to ignore deadlines

It's common that when you negotiate with somebody, they'll give you a deadline on making a decision. It could be an "I'll give the product to you at a lower price" or "If you don't agree on this deal now we'll take it off the table."

You need to remember that they need you as much as you need them, that's why they're negotiating with you, according to Voss. So don't feel obliged to meet any deadline that is given because the conversation won't end and they still need you.

#6 Speak slower and in a deeper voice

When you use this speech technique to negotiate, you're showing the other party that you're solid and serious. It commands attention and shows authority as well.

#7 For salary negotiations, don't be the first to offer a number and always discuss terms and conditions

When you're asking for a pay rise or when you're applying for a new job, there will always be the inevitable question of how much you think you're worth.

Just remember that there's no happy ending for you if you willingly answer. Ask for too much and your manager or interviewer may think you're deluded and stop trusting you. Ask for too little and you're letting them know they can get away with paying you peanuts.

Voss recommends always letting them throw out a number first. If the amount they offer is too low, you can always go back with open-ended "how" questions such as, "If everybody else in my industry is getting paid 'X', how can I go with the number you suggested?"


It goes without saying that preparation is key in negotiations. The more information you have the more power you have to bargain in these discussions.

You can read more tips of how to become a better negotiator over at LinkedIn Pulse.

[Via LinkedIn Pulse]


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