It’s not something that only works with barricaded criminals wielding assault rifles — it applies to most any form of disagreement.
There are five steps:
- Active Listening: Listen to their side and make them aware you’re listening.
- Empathy: You get an understanding of where they’re coming from and how they feel.
- Rapport: Empathy is what you feel. Rapport is when they feel it back. They start to trust you.
- Influence: Now that they trust you, you’ve earned the right to work on problem solving with them and recommend a course of action.
- Behavioral Change: They act. (And maybe come out with their hands up.)
What you’re doing wrong In all likelihood you usually skip the first three steps. You start at 4 (Influence) and expect the other person to immediately go to 5 (Behavioral Change).
And that never works.
Saying “Here’s why I’m right and you’re wrong” might be effective if people were fundamentally rational.
But they’re not.
From my interview with former head of FBI international hostage negotiation, Chris Voss:
…business negotiations try to pretend that emotions don’t exist. What’s your best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or ‘BATNA’? That’s to try to be completely unemotional and rational, which is a fiction about negotiation. Human beings are incapable of being rational, regardless… So instead of pretending emotions don’t exist in negotiations, hostage negotiators have actually designed an approach that takes emotions fully into account and uses them to influence situations, which is the reality of the way all negotiations go…
The most critical step in the Behavioral Change Staircase is actually the first part: Active listening.
The other steps all follow from it. But most people are terrible at listening.
Here’s Chris again:
If while you’re making your argument, the only time the other side is silent is because they’re thinking about their own argument, they’ve got a voice in their head that’s talking to them. They’re not listening to you. When they’re making their argument to you, you’re thinking about your argument, that’s the voice in your head that’s talking to you. So it’s very much like dealing with a schizophrenic.
If your first objective in the negotiation, instead of making your argument, is to hear the other side out, that’s the only way you can quiet the voice in the other guy’s mind. But most people don’t do that. They don’t walk into a negotiation wanting to hear what the other side has to say. They walk into a negotiation wanting to make an argument. They don’t pay attention to emotions and they don’t listen.
The basics of active listening are pretty straightforward:
- Listen to what they say. Don’t interrupt, disagree or “evaluate.”
- Nod your head, and make brief acknowledging comments like “yes” and “uh-huh.”
- Without being awkward, repeat back the gist of what they just said, from their frame of reference.
- Inquire. Ask questions that show you’ve been paying attention and that move the discussion forward.
Eric, "Barking Up the Wrong Tree"