Business Negotiations | Best Skills for Getting What You Want (Without Haggling!)

The information summarized throughout this business negotiation guide is based¬†on¬†the book “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss who is a former FBI hostage negotiator and founder of the Black Swan Group. Chris Voss has over thirty years of experience in¬†negotiations,¬†and he has successfully negotiated hundreds of hostage and kidnappings cases.¬†¬†


Life is a perpetual negotiation, and the concrete negotiation strategies Chris Voss teaches in his book have the potential to transform your job and life. Every business and personal relationship relies on negotiation skills. Let us look at some effective negotiation strategies that can benefit you in a variety of scenarios, including salary negotiations, getting a better deal in sales, and resolving workplace conflicts! 


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Emotional Intelligence and Empathy in Negotiations

What is Emotional Intelligence? 

Emotional Intelligence is an umbrella term used to describe how we “read” other people and use emotions to understand and influence them.¬†

Emotional intelligence does not mean you are more emotional than those around you!  

When negotiating in business it is important to actively listen to the counter party and apply the principals of emotional intelligence. Because emotional intelligence is an overly broad and extensive topic, we will only focus on the most effective methods in business negotiation. 

Preparing for Business Negotiations 

Before entering a negotiation if you want the best results, then you should prepare. As with most things in life the more you prepare the better the odds of success. Create a hypothesis of what the other person might be thinking going into the negotiation and go through all the what if scenarios. Then when it comes to having the negotiation, you can test your hypothesis by asking calibrated questions and gathering information. 

When preparing It is best to look at what the goal is for the opposite party weather it is emotional, about money, etc. 

The 5 Principals of Emotional Intelligence in Business Negotiations 


1.      Mirroring 

To mirror someone is to reflect their body language, tone, and words back at them. This lets the other person know you are listening to them. It does not take much as you only need to repeat the last three words or the most critical words during the conversation. After you mirror them wait 4 seconds to let the mirror kick in and then repeat again later. 


Reflecting someone’s body language, tone and words can often create a psychological bond. This technique will make the other person feel “heard”, which¬†is the first step in¬†establishing¬†rapport with that person.¬†


The power of mirroring can be used in many different situations, not just negotiation or business contexts.  


For example, you may find it useful to mirror a partner when your partner has opened to you about something personal, or when your child is telling you about their day at school. 


The Steps Expert Negotiator Chris Voss Employs with Mirroring: 

  1. Late Night FM DJ Voice (A deepened, slower voice)
  2. Start Sentence With “I’m Sorry.” (Grabs Their Attention)
  3. Mirror (Last 3 words or critical words)
  4. Silence (4 Seconds to Let Mirror Do Its Work.)
  5. Repeat…


Mirroring can be as simple as changing the way you regularly respond in a conversation. 

Person 1: “I cannot believe¬†it’s¬†going to be so cold on Friday.”¬†

You: “Yeah Friday is going to be unbelievably cold…”¬†


2.      Calibrated Questions 

The point of calibrated questions is to save mental energy by making the other individual do the difficult thinking and problem solving. The questions should be open ended and should avoid words like “can”, “is”, “are”, “do,” or “does.” Using any of these words can be answered with a simple yes or no, which is not desirable.¬†


Your questions should begin with “How”, or “What” and be calibrated in a way that allows you to gather information. Examples include:¬†

“What about this doesn’t work for you?”¬†

“How am I supposed to do that?”¬†

“How should I proceed?”¬†

“How can we solve this problem?”¬†

‚ÄúWhat kind of results would you like to see 6 months from now?‚Ä̬†


3.      Labelling 

Labelling can be used in business negotiations to¬†validate¬†someone’s emotions by simply acknowledging them through:¬†

– “It seems like”¬†

– “It sounds like”¬†

– “It looks like”¬†

– “Then pausing to let the label sink in…”¬†


Examples of labels: 

– “It seems like¬†you’re¬†upset about something?”¬†

– “It sounds like you’re not willing to budge, how can we make this work?”¬†

– “It looks like the sales are worse this month,”¬†

– “It sounds like you don’t like that idea, how else can we do this?”¬†

– “It seems like you are not happy with the pay?”¬†

– “It seems like you’re not very happy with my progress?”¬†

– “It sounds like you’d prefer this to be done faster?”¬†

– “It looks like you’re not up for that idea today, why don’t we give it a few more weeks?”¬†

– “It seems like you’ve changed your mind again, how can we make this work better for you?”¬†


Recognize Emotions in Negotiations 

In negotiations, you must first recognize emotions in others. You can do this by: 

РNoticing hand gestures and facial expressions 

РListening to tone and pitch of voice 

РWhat is your gut telling you?  


If you notice an emotion, then just acknowledge it. If it is a positive emotion, then reinforce it through a positive statement or questions. 


Labelling in the Workplace 

In the workplace, labelling can be a fantastic way to use simple language to clarify a problem to build rapport with your colleagues. It can also be used as a technique during performance reviews.  


Labelling is one of the most persuasive techniques in negotiation because it:  

РMakes a person feel understood  

РEngages that person in conversation 

– Builds up that person’s self-esteem¬†


4.      Tactical Empathy 

Tactical empathy is one of the best tools for negotiators to use when trying to come to an agreement. In negotiation, empathy is the ability to understand and feel what others are experiencing. It is not a feeling or emotion that you experience but one you exhibit by interacting with another person in a way that makes them feel understood, heard, and respected. 


The key points to tactical empathy in business negotiations include: 

– Imagining yourself in the other’s situation.¬†

РRecognizing their perspective and vocalizing it through labelling. 

– Understanding the counterpart’s feelings and¬†hearing¬†what is behind those feelings.¬†

РBringing the emotional obstacles to light to get an agreement done. 

РWords, tone, body language, and spot changes. 


5.      Neutralizing the Negative 

If you are caught in a negotiation with someone who will not let you speak or show your point of view because they keep arguing or disagreeing. Building rapport and reaching an agreement can be accomplished by neutralizing the negatives. 


When neutralizing the negatives in a business negotiation you are effectively focusing on clearing any barriers to an agreement. 


The most effective way to remove barriers to an agreement is by labelling those fears or negative feelings and replacing them with something positive. 


The Process: 

  1. Observe without reaction or judgment
  2. Label each negative feeling you sense.
  3. Replace with a positive.


An example, 

Let us¬†imagine¬†you are¬†late for work because of a major traffic accident, and your boss is extremely tough and demanding. When you go into the office, you can see your boss’s anger.¬†¬†

How would you handle this situation? 


You finally arrive at the office…¬†

You: “Hey ‘boss,’ Is now¬†a bad time¬†to talk?” (Start with a no orientated question)¬†

Boss: “No, what is it?”¬†

You: “Look I’m an asshole, (Grabs their attention), the traffic was horrible, it seems like your upset that I am late to work.”¬†


You might think of it as counter intuitive to call yourself an asshole, but if you can reflect the emotions that your boss might be feeling about you in that moment it will make his reaction to the situation much more reasonable. 


In your response you are labelling the emotion (anger / hate) and then labelling the cause of that emotion (being late for work). If he responds by saying he¬†is not¬†upset about you being late you can always fall back on the “it seems like” statement. You are only¬†stating¬†“it seems like”¬†you are¬†not directly accusing them of anything.¬†¬†


If that situation occurred, you could make the ‚Äúit seems like‚ÄĚ statement even more broad.¬†

Ex, “It seems like¬†you’re¬†upset about something?”¬†¬†


The Accusation Audit 


To do an accusation audit you will want to think through and plan out at least 3 things that your negotiating partner might be upset about. Then when the negotiations begin look for those negative emotions and label and neutralize them.  


The important thing about an accusation audit is if you are trying to sell something to a client you are directly addressing the concerns the potential client might be having. Doing this will make the client feel like they are understood and that you are the best person to have their vision come true. We consistently apply these tactics during consultation calls with any potential clients that are potentially interested in our services at AG Global Designs. 


Key points to an accusation audit: 

РList the worst things my counterpart could say about me first. 

РLabels to reinforce and encourage positive perceptions 

– Never use “I understand.”¬†


Why you should never use “I understand” in any negotiation:¬†


You¬†do not¬†want to use the phrase “I understand” because it can come off as passive aggressive. The person you are talking to might interpret the statement as saying that¬†you are¬†emotionally detached from what¬†they are¬†saying. The best thing for you to do is offer empathy instead of sympathy. Connect with the other person through active listening, mirroring, calibrated questions, neutralization of the negative, and labelling.¬†


Your Main Goals in Business Negotiations 

When negotiating in business you should always enter negotiations with two goals in mind constantly. 

Goal #1: ‚ÄúEnsure the person feels safe & secure.‚Ä̬†

Goal #2: ‚ÄúEnsure the client feels in control.‚Ä̬†


When someone does not feel safe, secure, and in control they enter fight or flight mode. When someone is thinking in this mode it is a part of their brain that is not logical but emotional. I like to call it cave man brain. Your goal as a great negotiator is to avoid this part of the brain from becoming activated. You can do this by applying all the business negotiation skills explained in this blog post.  


Tone and Body Language in Negotiations 

The tone and body language that one presents can¬†affect¬†how others perceive them. This is especially true when having to present oneself in a formal setting such as an interview, job presentation, or court¬†proceeding¬†where one’s words are not only perceived but the tone and body language one has is also.¬†


Your tone of voice can make you come off as 
















When first meeting with the other party, it is important to be direct and clear when speaking. Avoid being aggressive and keeping an even pace when speaking as well as having a calm deep tone of voice so the other party does not feel threatened.


Remember the main goal of having the opposite party feel safe, secure, and in control. 


Key takeaways: 

  • Make sure you smile
  • Slow down your voice
  • Deepen and talk with assurance


The Three Types of Voice: 

  1. Late Night DJ Voice (Should be used when trying to make a selective point.)
  2. Direct and Assertive (Rarely use as it can have negative connotations.)
  3. Positive and Playful


Start with No 

Earlier in the article we discussed the main goal of keeping the opposite party in a feeling of control. That is why we start our negotiations with a ‚ÄúNO‚ÄĚ orientated question.¬†


The purpose of having a no orientated question is that when a yes orientated question is asked it raises the guard of the person making them defensive. 


Have you ever had someone come up to you asking ‚ÄúHey, _____ could you do me a favor?‚ÄĚ Immediately your heart rate rises in anticipation of not knowing what commitment¬†you are¬†about to make.


People do not like making commitments. So, do not put them in situations where you are forcing them into saying yes as it just activates that fight or flight response we talked about earlier. 


When you ask a ‚ÄúNO‚ÄĚ orientated question you allow for clarification and with that clarification you get the result you were initially looking for.


For instance, 


Try it out next time you want to start up a conversation, start with ‚ÄúIs now¬†a bad time¬†to talk.‚ÄĚ You will notice they will instantly relax as they say ‚ÄúNo, now is¬†a great time¬†to talk!‚ÄĚ


Also, when you ask no orientated questions, it gives you the opportunity to respond as you would not be given the opportunity to do if the person said yes. 


For example, you could respond to a NO with: 

  • ‚ÄúWhat about this doesn‚Äôt work for you?‚ÄĚ
  • ‚ÄúWhat would you need to make this work?‚ÄĚ
  • ‚ÄúIt seems there‚Äôs something here that bothers you?‚ÄĚ


The No-Orientated Questions Process: 

  1. Ask ‚ÄúNO‚ÄĚ question
  2. Go silent
  3. Follow up with a calibrated what or how question
  4. Repeat, as necessary.


  1. Is now a bad time to talk?
  2. Silence‚Ķ (Response: ‚ÄúNo, what can I do for you?‚ÄĚ)
  3. How do you want to proceed with the project?
  4. Continue with negotiation and information gathering.

The 3 Types of ‚ÄúYes‚Ä̬†

  1. Counterfeit (A response to fight or flee response.)
  2. Commitment (A true agreement)
  3. Confirmation (An innocent affirmation)


Email Ghosted 

Have you ever sent an email to be ignored and never hear a response ever again? If you have ever experienced email ghosting, do not feel alone


What is email ghosting? 


Email ghosting is when someone intentionally ignores or abandons an email. They may not respond to it at all, or they may do so after an extended period. 


This phenomenon is becoming increasingly common in the workplace as well as social media where people are choosing to be silent. 


You were working on a project for a client and asked for the next portion of payment and you have not heard back from them. 


These¬†no¬†orientated questions will ensure you get a response quickly. As the terms ‚Äúgiving up and quitting‚ÄĚ are effective as our psychology hates the idea of ‚Äúlosing something‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúgiving up.‚Ä̬†

  • ‚ÄúHave you given up on this project?‚ÄĚ
  • ‚ÄúAre you walking away¬†from¬†our project?‚ÄĚ


When I apply this method after being ghosted, I usually receive a response from my clients in the next 10 minutes. It shows the effectiveness of using emotion and loss aversion to your advantage. 


Other email examples could include: 

  • ‚ÄúI‚Äôm sorry if this issue doesn‚Äôt get fixed, it could lead to other problems.‚ÄĚ


By also implementing ‚ÄúI‚Äôm sorry,‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúI‚Äôm afraid‚ÄĚ at the beginning of the sentence you catch the person‚Äôs immediate attention.¬†


Remember it is important that after you receive a reply that you respond in a positive way that rewards them through some form of affirmation. It could be thanking them for their great work, or a simple thank you. 

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