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The Two Most Important Words in Negotiation From a Former FBI Negotiator

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Chris Voss has been a part of some tense negotiations. Unlike most negotiations however, when Chris was involved it was a matter of life and death. Currently the founder and CEO of The Black Swan Group, Chris spent 24 years in the FBI.

During his time there Chris acted as the FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator working over 150 kidnappings worldwide in some of the less forgiving areas of the world such as the Middle East and Haiti.

Recently, Chris appeared on The Science of Success Podcast with Matt Bodnar and shared the two most important words in negotiation. “The two greatest questions begin with what or how. It begins by inviting the other side to talk, encouraging them even. Allowing them to tell you exactly what it is they want, then ask them how to get that done or “what about this works for you?”. Voss has seen the magic of this tactic, “people love to be asked how to do something…what and how are the most powerful words because they make the other side feel good.”

“Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.” – Dale Carnegie

Not only do these two words draw out more information and begin to expose the other actual desired outcome, but they also cause the other side to step back and examine the situation. “One of my favorite ways of saying no is by asking, “How am I supposed to do that?”” reveals Voss.

There’s two things about saying that. First of all, it’s those words but secondly and even more importantly is your tone of voice.” As with most statements it really depends on how you say it. People can either feel like you are asking for help or making an accusation.

The exact sames words but completely different meaning… with an accusation I’m signaling that I don’t like what you want and maybe even that I don’t like you, which is bad for the communication

Another benefit of open ended questions with “how” or “what” is that it can reveal holes in the other side’s tactics not only to you, but to them as well. By asking the right questions and allowing the other side to step back and reevaluate and articulate their ask. “Look, I can’t do that, and I need you to take a look at the whole context here and I need you to look at me when I say how am I supposed to do that?” demonstrates Voss.

Often times combining this question with the right tone of voice can throw the other side off guard. “It let’s you know that I want to cooperate with you but what you just put on the table just doesn’t work.” The last piece of the puzzle is once you’ve invited the other side to talk with an open ended “how” or “what” question, utilized proper tone of voice, you have to then listen. “You’ve got to show them that you are paying attention and that you just didn’t have a preset list of things that you want to say regardless of what their response is.”

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw

So the next time you’re in an intense negotiation remember what Chris and the experts at the FBI do. Invite the other side to lay their cards down by asking open ended “how” or “what” questions and use proper tone of voice to convey your intended meaning. By starting off the negotiation utilizing this road tested FBI strategy you’ll find yourself holding all the cards while the other side scratches their head wondering where their strategy went wrong.

Here, you can listen to Chris’s full hour long interview.

What negotiation tactics do you use in your business? Leave your thoughts below!

Matt Bodnar, named a “Rising Restaurateur Star” by the National Restaurant Association and a “Strategy Pro” by Restaurant Hospitality Magazine, is a partner at an early stage investment firm Fresh Hospitality where he focuses on deal making and strategy. Bodnar is also the creator and host of "The Science of Success" a #1 New & Noteworthy podcast, with more than 1 Million+ downloads, focused on improving decision-making, understanding psychology, and sharing insights from experts. Bodnar previously worked as an import/export consultant in Nanjing, China and spent several years at Goldman Sachs before returning to his family roots in the hospitality space.

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Success Advice

How Your Beliefs Can Supercharge or Sabotage Your Success

Your life is dictated by beliefs and biases that drive your thinking, behaviors, and decisions

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Your Beliefs Can Supercharge or Sabotage Your Success (1)
Image Credit: Midjourney

Pause for a moment and ponder two pandemic-era beliefs: First, closing schools will control the spread of a serious virus. Second, the consequences of such school closures—particularly social interruption and the prevention of immunity—are worse than becoming sick with the virus. (more…)

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How to Break the Cycles of Mediocrity and Manifest Your Greatness

There is no greatness without becoming and there is no becoming with authenticity

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Image Credit: Midjourney

In just a few weeks, we will be wrapping up 2023. Can you believe it? This year has been absolutely incredible for me.

I have seen amazing doors opened, new relationships formed and I am seeing dreams realized in my life. While this seems like the hallmarks of a great year, this has also been the most challenging year of my life. With all of the change happening in my life, I have been forced out of my comfort zone and challenged to grow in every area of my life.

I can truly say that I have made the most of my moments this year and I have used everything as a catalyst for maximizing my greatest potential.

As a revolutionary leader, I have the pleasure of consulting and advising leaders around the world to fulfill purpose, realize their greatest potential and make an impact.

I want to share some insights with you that will help you to break cycles of mediocrity and manifest your greatness

Everything legal must come through the matrix

I am sure that some of you are wondering why I am using the term matrix. However, what you have to understand is that I am trying to make a highly complex spiritual principle practical to understand.

Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, every life has an origin and I believe that origin is divine and begins with eternity. You are birthed from eternity and into time to fulfill a unique purpose and assignment in your lifetime and generation.

The matrix is simply the portal or vehicle that brings something out of the invisible realm and into tangible form. The problem with much of the teaching today is that it excludes the matrix. We are told to believe that success is instantaneous and overnight.

Nobody talks about how a dream progresses through stages beginning with visualization and ultimately culminating in manifestation. Without a matrix or portal then everything that you attempt to birth and build will be illegal.

The matrix not only makes you legal but it gives you the authority and power to function as the greatest expression of who you were created to be. 

Every matrix has an incubation process

While many people admire and respect me today, I remember a time when nobody knew who I was or the significance of my message. How did I get to where I am today? I got here through an incubation process.

In other words, everything that has been destined for your life is incubating and awaiting a set time of manifestation. The problem is that most people live their entire lives idle and never initiate the incubation process.

What do I meany by that? Most people are living reckless and very few people are living intentionally. I am amazed at the number of people I have conversations with that have no vision, goals or strategies for their lives. They show great promise and they have undeniable potential.

However, without development they will die with their dreams still in them.

Everything that has been destined for your life must be incubated and converted to become realities born to time. 

“Visualize this thing that you want, see it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blueprint and begin to build.” – Robert Collier

You must give expression to that which is not yet born to time

When you think about a matrix or a prophetic incubation process, you have to understand that potential is often unrealized and untapped. In other words, your potential is in raw form and your potential cannot serve you as long as it is untapped.

The thing that makes me valuable is that I have the ability to convert potential into power. I have done it in my own life and I have empowered leaders around the world to do the same. How do you convert potential into power?

First, it is important to note that you have to perceive potential. If you cannot perceive your potential then you can never cultivate your potential. In addition, you must take the time to cultivate your potential. We often get excited about our capabilities; however, we never expand our capacity in order to realize our greatest potential.

In other words, the strength of your potential is only discovered through your willingness to stretch. The more we are challenged the more we are empowered to expand our capacity for greatness. Most of all, you must begin to express your potential. The expression of potential is different for every person.

For example, the expression of my potential is best demonstrated through the thoughts, ideas, products, services, books, etc.

For another person the expression of potential may look like a screenplay, artwork, sports, scientific discoveries, medical breakthroughs, etc.

Regardless of the form of expression, I know that you will live empty and unfulfilled until you make the decision to express your potential. The expression of your potential gives voice to your dreams, life to your vision, significance to your moments and activates your true power.

You must manifest your greatness

As a revolutionary thinker and leader, my work has impacted people around the world. I am grateful that my life is a source of empowerment to so many people. However, before anyone could ever benefit from my life, I had to make a non-negotiable decision to become who I was born to be.

I wish I could tell you that this journey is easy and that you will get there overnight. However, in a world that celebrates us for doing we are often criticized for being. As a result, I wasted a lot of time trying to be who other people wanted me to be instead of being who I was born to be.

There is no greatness without becoming and there is no becoming with authenticity. It is through our bravery to be vulnerable that we ultimately manifest our greatness. We do not bless the world by being a duplicate. We bless the world when we honor our difference. When you honor your difference you honor your potential.

Ultimately, your difference is how you manifest your greatness.

When you present anything but your authentic self to the world, you are playing small and you are robbing the world of your significance. Manifesting your greatness requires you to master your gifts.

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Success Advice

Here’s a Young Man’s Antidote for the Uncertainty of the Modern World

Why do a lot of young guys lack confidence in today’s world? 

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How to boost your confidence
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Toxic Leadership: 5 Ways to Identify a Bad Leader

if you have a leader who displays any of the toxic traits, it’s time to move on to greener pastures.

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Let’s be honest, we’ve all crossed paths with a toxic leader in our careers at some point. Unfortunately, while some toxic leaders don’t even bother to hide their behaviour, some know very well how to conceal their true selves behind a strong-built facade. The latter is the most dangerous of the two. (more…)

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