Become a Top Negotiator

Release date: January 19, 2022
Duration: 50min
Guest(s): Chris Voss
Chris Voss
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On today’s show, Chris Voss joins Robert and Kim Kiyosaki to discuss entrepreneurship, negotiation and communication. Chris Voss is the author of “Never Split the Difference” and known for being an FBI negotiator. As Roberts notes, “If you want to be an entrepreneur, you’ve got to study with Chris Voss.”

Before 2008, Chris was the lead international kidnapping negotiator for the FBI, as well as the FBI’s hostage negotiation representative for the National Security Council’s hostage working group. Chris was also a 14 year member of the joint terrorist task force.

Chris says, "I was an FBI agent, I was actually on the SWAT team, and then because the injuries to my knee, I wanted to be a hostage negotiator. I figured, how hard could it be? My son and I joked that there's two unofficial mottoes from our family. One is how hard can it be, which is really close to, you know what they say, redneck's famous last words are, hey, watch this, how hard can it be is along those lines."

The toughest negotiation is sometimes with the people you love; would you say that’s true?

“Well yeah, they are. And it requires kind of a higher level than the basics. We're talking a concept these days, Shu-Ha-Ri, Shu is just the basics, Ha is you got the basics down and you're beginning to develop your own skills, and Ri is when you're still within the discipline, but you're making up your own rules. And dealing with relatives, people very close to you, definitely you're in the Ha or Ri area. You have to get the fundamentals down and you get much higher into it.”

“The great fringe benefit of applying this understanding to other people, it does a lot for them, but it does more for you. I mean it settles you out in so many ways. I got in a middle of, a few months ago on Clubhouse, when Israel was shelling Gaza, trying to take out Hamas, and Hamas puts their ammunition in schools. They put it in the AP office, they're daring Israel to blow up their ammunition and their weapons caches, and finally Israel complies. So there's arguments about it, and in this forum that I hosted, I said, I want people supporting Palestine here and I want people supporting Israel, I don't care which side you're on. But before you tell the other side what you think of them, you have to say, all right, here's what you interview is, before I disagree with you, here's how you feel.”

How did you go from being a kidnapping negotiator to teaching?

“Well, it was a combination of a couple things. Initially, from day one on, I started applying this stuff in my personal life. I'm just like, this stuff just is too powerful not to be applicable to everyday stuff. And then actually a big trigger was, I worked a kidnapping in the Philippines, it went bad, it was ugly, it was a train wreck, people got killed, it was bad. I talk about it in the book. And we did an after action and we said, look, we did everything we knew how to do, and my response was okay, well then we don't know enough.”

“And that's when I started talking to people at Harvard, I got them to let me come through their class and I began to learn with them and alongside them. And they said, you're doing the same stuff exactly, all the human nature dynamics are the same. The stakes are different, but the dynamics are the same. And that's when really I started to slide into, okay, these guys have given me the green light, we got to apply this across the board, business and personal life. The universe lined up, I got a chance to teach at Georgetown, and the students, I was teaching there alongside Brandon, and actually Brandon guest lectured a lot and so did Derek Gaunt, one of our other coaches.”

If I smile more, everything changes. Explain that?

“Yeah, there's a hard word connection actually, between the muscles in your face and the neurons in your brain. And smiling, if you start studying what happens, like I'm my own laboratory, and I know I get a hit of whatever neurochemicals that improve my thinking and my positive mindset, it's a direct connect. Now, it's not a huge connect, but every little bit helps. And there are neuroscience experiments were people's ability to frown was taken away through Botox, and they were instantly in a better mood.”

“But simultaneously, it also sort of stopped them from smiling. So frowning hurt you brain, and smiling helps your brain. And you pick up every edge you can, I'm always for, I want every edge I can get. And then you take that attitude, like kidnapping negotiation were long shots, slim to none, where you get used to dealing with slim to none and you're successful enough. You're like, all right, I'll take slim. Give me every edge I can, I'm going to take a shot, it beats zero. And smiling is one of those little things that begin to push you slowly into the plus column.”

I am successful, but that doesn’t always make me happier.

“Yeah. Well, then you get into a routine where this is how I've succeeded up to now. And a lot of people lift themselves up off the ground to start with by getting after it. If you're down and depressed, anger can lift you out of that, and you remember, focused, attacking, this is how I've succeeded, and you don't realize that what got you here, won't get you there. To get to the next level, you got to pivot out of that, and it's very hard to do, because the people that are largely positive are not as visible, because the reinforcement in our media, not just social media, not just today, but the attacking, the drama, that's what's reinforced in our social media.”

“People brag about negotiations, they're going to break, I had them over a barrel. The people that are really taking their lives to the next level, like you don't hear Warren Buffet doing an interview where he is bragging about slaughtering somebody, because he knows that interferes with his success. Oprah, like Oprah is highly positive, and her success credentials are extremely high, but you don't see it because it's so quiet. So it's also harder, we don't get that much feedback in our environment of how the positive launches more people forward to the upper levels than the negative ever will.”

What do you do to combat the negative barrage from social media, press and media?

“Well, I intentionally curate, I do look at the media some and I make it a point to, they're going to feed me more of what I look at. So I am consciously curating the positive, and the more positive gets fed my direction. They want to know what I like and what I click on, so I'm like, all right, what do I need for my mental health? I'm focusing on and I'm always looking for new sources, data and information on human behavior. Andrew Huberman is the smartest dude out there right now, on hard data, on what works in human behavior. And because I listen to him enough, then Amazon's listening, however they're connected, I'm getting fed more and more positive uplifting stuff because I intentionally curate that.”

“I do limit my media exposure. When I'm in there, I'm intentionally clicking on the stuff that's going to feed me the stuff that makes me feel good. And I'm careful not to get drawn down a rabbit hole, because they're trying to suck you down that negative rabbit hole every chance they get.”

Smiling while negotiating is a small change, but what are other small changes we can make?

“Well, a small one, but it's hard because it's against our wiring, is getting out of the yes business, like stop getting people to say yes and substitute a question, go from do you agree to, do you disagree? Go from, does this look like something that would work for you, to saying, is this a bad idea? Are you against? Have you given up on? That tiny shift from yes into no is monstrous, it's monstrous. And that's the single simplest shift, but also the hardest because it's against your wiring, like people love to hear the yes. When you hear yes, you feel the heavens part, the angels sing, the birds are chirping. But the difference is what does it feel like to say it versus hear it, and people feel safe when they say no.”

What is the Black Swan Group and what services and products do you offer?

“We coach and train negotiations, I mean higher output, we coach corporate teams. But we really cater to the top 1%, somebody like you, who believes that learning is a lifelong process and reach, you got to pick it up from the outside. It's people that say, well experience is the best teacher and the only way that they learn is to experience, those are the slow learners. So the top 1% of people that are drawn to us, they believe in investing and learning in themselves, and they want to collaborate with people. They want to take their life to a higher level, they want to put their kids in a better house and their kids to a better school, and they're willing to invest in themselves to go after it.”

“Everybody out there calls themselves a coach these days. A real coach stands on the sidelines with you and sends you into the game and watches how you perform, and then you come off the field and you make adjustments with that coach. And we are actively involved in coaching people through top level negotiations and staying with you while you work through it. And everybody's got enough at stake, but you got to realize that and how much you're going to lose by screwing it up. And a lot of people don't really understand how much they're leaving on the table, so we coach and we train.”

Donald Trump is tough, but not everybody can take it.

“I've been watching Donald Trump for a long time, I was in New York in the '80s and the '90s when he was there. Actually, one of the very last things I did in New York when I was volunteering on a suicide hotline, he agreed to host a fundraiser for our hotline at his apartment in Trump Tower and he showed up. He wouldn't recognize me if I walked through the door, but I got a history of watching him and I think he's done some spectacular things, and simultaneously people get tired of getting beat over the head.”

How do you get someone to say ‘no’ instead of ‘yes’, like we hard wired to do?

“Well, it's really what comes after the word no. First of all, are you against? Its context, and when somebody says no, typically they start kicking in additional ideas. Like no, I'm not against it, you might shift into what stands in a way. I mean, really focusing on barriers and the other person's comfort level, because we're just so wired that it's if I say yes, there's a hook here someplace, and understanding what the other person's motivation is. But getting somebody to say no is really to trigger the follow on conversation, and that's what a lot of it is really about.”

“We know from experience that people feel safe and protected when they say no, that's why people say no to everything. Their default answer is no. And I started looking back on, like when my son was 17 and the words, dad can I, came out of his mouth, I would immediately say no. But I reflected back on that and then I would always say, now that I said no, what was it that you wanted? And I look back and I realized that I was always more open to the conversation after I said no."

"So the specific neuroscience behind it, that's one of my conversations with Huberman, because I was lucky enough to meet him, for my birthday a couple months ago, my girlfriend Wendy convinced him to come down and have lunch with me as a birthday present, and he is an interesting cat. We talked for hours about the neuroscience. His name is Andrew Huberman, he does a podcast out of Stanford, and he's like what you want in a PhD, because a lot of PhDs, they want to be Jesus. Because I said so, it's true because I said so. Huberman is a PhD, but he says here's the data, here's the study, peer reviewed, solid data, don't listen to me because I said so, go to the sources that I've come to. So his info is very solid, and plus he's an interesting cat. And so we talked about that, I threw some things at him. I know this to be true, let's figure out what the neuroscience is behind it, and I stumped him a couple of times. But you originally asked me about what's the neuroscience behind no, we just anecdotally how it opens people up. We got enough experience team wise that we got everybody that we coach in a Black Swan method to get comfortable with it and they accelerate their lives."

Using the word ‘I’…

"Well, that's a little context driven also, but I is a very self centering thing, and you want to be conscious in the moment. Most of the time, you don't want to self-center. A lot of psychologists will say, psychiatrist therapists, what I'm hearing is. Well, then that takes a conversation away from the other person, it self-centers on you and you should be focusing on them. So you sound versus I'm hearing changes the subtle dynamic, against it's a tiny two millimeter shift, and 99% of the time, the word I is going to work against you and you want to focus on the other person. Let them know that you're attentive to them as opposed to, you're more fascinated with your own reaction."

Go from using the word ‘why’ to using the word ‘how’.

"You may not be accusing the other person of having made a mistake, but when you are accusing them of having made a mistake, you are going to say, why did you do that? And again, my son's observation, everybody on earth, when they were two years old and they broke something, the nearest adult in a room pointed at him and said, why did you do that? And we get it beat into our head enough that if I'm being asked why, the other person is accusing me of making a mistake, that it causes people to pull back, what did I do wrong? I don't know. And the business advice to find the other person's why, finding motivation is good advice, it just ignores the fact that we all feel like we were getting hit with an electric shock when somebody says, why are you thinking that? Why did you do that? Why do you want that? You're just switching out of why is another huge, huge change."

How to access the Black Swan Group.

"The gateway to everything, the gateway to the website, the gateway to our offerings, is to sign up for the newsletter. And I'm guessing this is largely an international audience or significantly, so the best way is to go to the website, In the upper right hand side is a tab for the blog, sign up for the newsletter. Comes out every Tuesday morning, wherever you are in the world, you're going to get it Tuesday morning, first thing in the morning. Concise, actionable, free, but free stuff doesn't mean it's valuable, if it's concise and actionable, that's what makes it valuable. That's the gateway, and we got a lot of free stuff on our website and our offerings, whatever you need, wherever you are, we will meet you where you are. If you sign up for the newsletter, use it to supplement all your knowledge, and take your negotiation skills forward."