Creating the Illusion of Control

Chris Voss

Lesson time 11:21 min

Who has more control in a negotiation: the person who’s talking or the person who’s listening? Chris lets you in on the secret to gaining the upper hand in a negotiation and explains how you can shift the power dynamic to your advantage.

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Topics include: Ask “How” and “What” Questions • Ask Questions to Force Empathy • Use Calibrated Questions to Shape Thinking • Avoid Triggering Reciprocity • Ask Legitimate Questions


- Who do you think has more control in a negotiation, the person doing the talking or the person doing the listening? And how important is control, anyway, versus the upper hand and creating the outcome that's best for you? In this chapter, we'll talk about the secret to gaining the upper hand in a negotiation is to give the other side the illusion of control. How do you do that, and how is it best for you in creating the best possible outcome? Calibrated question is what we used to refer to as an open ended question, and it's calibrated for a fact. And we calibrate it to make the other side feel in charge. The secret to gaining the upper hand in a negotiation is giving the other side the illusion of control. And we're going to calibrate our questions mostly with the words what and how because people love to be asked what to do. People love to be asked how to do something. Why, as a question, triggers defensiveness universally. Why makes you feel accused. There's been some speculation that the reason why triggers a universal defensive reaction is that every human being when they were two years old-- no matter how many people were around them, no matter where they grew up on the planet, no matter what culture they were in, when they were two, they knocked something off a table, and they broke it. And the nearest adult pointed at them and said, why did you do that? And we had it drilled into our minds from about age two on that, when somebody said why to us, they were accusing us of doing something wrong. This is an interesting aspect, because in business today, we're constantly told to find out their why. Get their why. And so when we ask them why do they want something, it interferes with our relationship. It interferes with rapport, creates defensiveness. So how do we drive at some of the same information? We change our whys to whats. Instead of why do you need delivery in three weeks on the product-- they're going to be worried about what's wrong with the fact that I need delivery. Change your why to a what, and you say, what makes it necessary to get it delivered in three weeks? It takes the sting of accusation off of it. It takes the defensiveness out of it, and it gets us back to a nice calibrated what question. People like to be asked what so they can answer what. They feel in charge. They feel in control. We've got to say it with deference, but, again, we're giving the other side the illusion of control, and it's principally through the how and what questions. Forced empathy is when you force the other side to have empathy with you, and the idea behind empathy-- we're trying to trigger reciprocity. We're looking to demonstrate empathy because it's good for us, but we want empathy in return. And reciprocity may not always kick in. So we may have to say something at some point in time that forces the other side to take a hard look at our situation before they move forward. And our classic phrase to force empathy i...

About the Instructor

As an FBI hostage negotiator, Chris Voss persuaded terrorists, bank robbers, and kidnappers to see things his way. Now he’s teaching you his field-tested strategies to help you in everyday negotiations, whether you’re aiming to improve your salary, the service you receive, or your relationships. Get stronger communication skills, game-changing insights into human nature, and more of what you want out of life.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Chris Voss

Former FBI lead hostage negotiator Chris Voss teaches you communication skills and strategies to help you get more of what you want every day.

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