- Surprising Science
- Personal Growth
- Mind & Brain
- Sex & Relationships
- Technology & Innovation
- Culture & Religion
- Politics & Current Affairs
- Big Think LIVE
- Alchemist City
- Future of Learning
- Thought Fix
- Think Again Podcasts
- Sponsored by Stand Together
- Sponsored by Pfizer
- Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
- Sponsored by Skoll Foundation
- Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies
- Sponsored by Lumina Foundation
- Sponsored by Northwell Health
- Sponsored by John Templeton Foundation
- Sponsored by yes. every kid.
- Sponsored by Intel The Nantucket Project
- Sponsored by Sofia Gray
- Sponsored by Creation Crate
- Sponsored by Kenzie Academy
- digital transformation
Once a week.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
“Forced empathy” is a powerful negotiation tool. Here’s how to do it.
Master negotiator Chris Voss breaks down how to get what you want during negotiations.
DEREK BERES15 July, 2020
Credit: Paul Craft / Shutterstock
- Former FBI negotiator Chris Voss explains how forced empathy is a powerful negotiating tactic.
- The key is starting a sentence with “What” or “How,” causing the other person to look at the situation through your eyes.
- What appears to signal weakness is turned into a strength when using this tactic.
How am I supposed to do that?
There’s a lot wrapped up in that seemingly simple question. First off, it’s an admission of ignorance—it invites further explanation. Questions often hold more power than declarations.
More importantly, it provokes what Chris Voss calls “forced empathy.” Voss’s resume includes a stint as the lead international kidnapping negotiator for the FB1 and 14 years in the New York City Joint Terrorist Task Force. He knows how to have a conversation in difficult situations.
Voss now teaches negotiation skills to business leaders as the CEO and founder of the Black Swan Group. Whether chatting with terrorists or corporate heads, his main tactic is similar: Make the other person empathize with you.
His seven-word question accomplishes this. What seems to be an admission of uncertainty or weakness is actually a show of strength. In jujitsu, sometimes being on your back is an advantage; in business, the same rule applies. Chris Voss explains in an interview with Big Think:
“You conveyed to them you have a problem. It’s something that we also referred to as forced empathy. One of the reasons why we exercise tactical empathy is because we want the other side to see us fairly. We want them to see our position; we want them to see the issues we have; we want them to see the constraints that we have.”
This question forces a response, and—this is the key—the other person has to consider your side of the argument. They have to look at the situation from your perspective if they hope to offer a solution.
Offering a real-world example, Voss mentions coaching a high-end real estate agent. They were leasing an expensive home in the Hollywood Hills. The first time the negotiators asked the “how” question, the leasing agent relented on a number of terms. A little while later, they asked again. This time, the agent said, “If you want the house you’re going to have to do it,” signaling that the end of negotiations had been reached. That kind of response tells you something useful: You’ve gotten as much as you can from the deal.
Voss says that “how” is not the only word that works. “What” is also a powerful entry into negotiations, such as “What am I supposed to do?” Again, you’re forcing the other person to empathize.
This is a particularly tricky skill during a time when most conversations are online. Nuance is impossible without the immediacy of pantomimes and vocal fluctuations. Whataboutism is too easy an escape. This particular forced empathy tactic might be one that’s best employed face-to-face or on the phone.
Choose your battles
Aikido Morihei Ueshiba (1883 – 1969, standing, centre left), founder of the Japanese martial art of aikido, demonstrating his art with a follower, at the opening ceremony of the newly-opened aikido headquarters, Hombu Dojo, in Shinjuku, Tokyo, 1967.Credit: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Online debates often amount to little more than frustrated individuals pulling out their hair. In his book, “Against Empathy,” Yale psychology professor Paul Bloom writes that effective altruists are able to focus on what really matters in everyday life.
For example, he compares politics to sports. Rooting for your favorite team isn’t based in rationality. If you’re a Red Sox fan, Yankees stats don’t matter. You just want to destroy them. This, he believes, is how most people treat politics. “They don’t care about truth because, for them, it’s not really about truth.”
Bloom writes that if his son believed our ancestors rode dinosaurs, it would horrify him, but “I can’t think of a view that matters less for everyday life.” We have to strive for rationality when the stakes are high. When involved in real decision-making processes that will affect their life, people are better able to express ideas and make arguments, and are more receptive to opposing ideas.
Because we “become inured to problems that seem unrelenting,” it’s imperative to make the problem seem immediate. As Voss says, giving the other side “the illusion of control” is one way of accomplishing this, as it forces them to take action. When people feel out of control, negotiations are impossible. People dig their heels in and refuse to budge.
What seems to be weakness is actually a strength. To borrow another martial arts metaphor, negotiations are like aikido: using your opponent’s force against them while also protecting them from injury. Forcing empathy is one way to accomplish this task. You may get more than you ask for without the other side ever realizing they surrendered anything.
3 Tips on Negotiations, with FBI Negotiator Chris Voss
FROM YOUR SITE ARTICLES
- How to get better at empathy despite practicing social distancing ›
- FBI Negotiator Chris Voss: Win a Negotiation with One Magic … ›
RELATED ARTICLES AROUND THE WEB
What is human dignity? Here’s a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
- Brendan Fraser
- Semicolon Tattoo
- Drew Brees Scar
- Dermatologist Salary
- Why are you Interested in this Position
- Career Quotes
A new study finds surprising evidence of the self-evolution of urban foxes.
Paul Ratner 14 June, 2020
A fox at the door of 10 Downing Street on Janurary 13, 2015.Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images
- A study from the University of Glasgow finds urban foxes evolved differently compared to rural foxes.
- The skulls of the urban foxes are adapted to scavenging for food rather than hunting it.
- The evolutionary changes correspond to Charles Darwin’s “domestication syndrome.”
How much can living in the city change you? If you were an urban fox, you could be evolving yourself to a whole new stage and becoming more like a dog, according to a fascinating new study.
Researchers compared skulls from rural foxes around London with foxes who lived inside the city and found important variations. Rural foxes showed adaptation for speed and hunting after quick, small prey, while urban fox skulls exhibited changes that made it easier for them to scavenge, looking through human refuse for food, rather than chasing it. Their snouts were shorter and stronger, making it easier to open packages and chew up leftovers. They also have smaller brains, not meant for hunting but for interacting with stationary food sources, reports Science magazine.
Interestingly, there was much similarity found between the male and female skulls of the urban foxes.
The observed changes correspond to what Charles Darwin called the “domestication syndrome,” comprised of traits that go along with an animal’s transition from being wild, to tamed, to domesticated.
The study was led by Kevin Parsons, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Glasgow.
“What’s really fascinating here is that the foxes are doing this to themselves,” Parsons told the BBC. “This is the result of foxes that have decided to live near people, showing these traits that make them look more like domesticated animals.”
The researchers are not suggesting you should go out and get a fox as a house-pet just yet. But they are seeing the evolutionary process taking place that’s moving the urban foxes along the path towards becoming more like dogs and cats, explained the study’s co-author Dr. Andrew Kitchener from National Museums Scotland.
A fox beneath a tree in Greenwich park, south east London on May 14, 2020.Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP
“Some of the basic environmental aspects that may have occurred during the initial phases of domestication for our current pets, like dogs and cats, were probably similar to the conditions in which our urban foxes and other urban animals are living today,” said Kitchener. “So, adapting to life around humans actually primes some animals for domestication.”
The specimen came from the National Museum Scotland’s collection of around 1,500 fox skulls.
You can read the study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
A fox at the LV County Championship, Division two match between Surrey and Derbyshire at The Brit Oval on April 9, 2010 in London, England.Photo by Clive Rose/Getty ImagesbiologyevolutionanimalsUrbancity planningsociety
The rush to clean up outer space has begun.
Derek Beres 07 December, 2020Photo: ClearSpaceThe European Space Agency finalized a contract to begin removing space debris in 2025.ClearSpace was awarded a $105 million contract to use its space claw to extract space junk.There are currently 129 million pieces of debris orbiting Earth. Keep readingspace collisionsstart-uptechnologybig problemsglobal issuesspace
Monogamy is often considered a key component of traditional marriages, but it’s only half the story.
Big Think 07 December, 2020
- Depending on who you ask, monogamy is either essential to a successful marriage or it is unrealistic and sets couples up for failure.
- In this video, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, psychologist Chris Ryan, former Ashley Madison CEO Noel Biderman, and psychotherapist Esther Perel discuss the science and culture of monogamy, the role it plays in making or breaking relationships, and whether or not humans evolved to have one partner at a time.
- “The bottom line is, for millions of years, there were some reproductive payoffs not only to forming a pair bond but also to adultery,” says Fisher, “leaving each one of us with a tremendous drive to fall in love and pair up, but also some susceptibility to cheating on the side.”
Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray (Completely Revised and Updated with a New Introduction)List Price: $13.17New From: $9.17 in StockUsed From: $6.25 in Stockevolutionevolutionary psychologylovemarriagemenpsychologyrelationshipsreproductionsciencesexsocietywomenCORONAVIRUS
New research spotlights how low-income Black households face greater financial distress and vulnerability as a result of the pandemic economic crisis.
Scroll down to load more…