Win With Charisma
I recently read two books. Never Split the Difference by former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss, and The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane. Never Split the Difference is frequently recommended on Twitter, and it did not disappoint. I found myself taking pages of notes throughout, and I highly suggest you read it if not to improve your negotiating, then to understand how people work.
As for The Charisma Myth, I often speak very dryly, despite thinking in very enthusiastic and energetic tones. I want to be able to convey these thoughts better and become somebody that people feel warmly towards.
I really didn’t think they’d have much in common, and was shocked to discover that the same principles of negotiation are the ones that make leaders like Bill Clinton (no matter your opinion of him, he had a way of drawing people in) and Steve Jobs so magnetic.
Basically, if you’re able to make these simple actions habit, not only will people be drawn to you, but you’ll find yourself getting the best deal possible.
You’re never going to get on somebody’s good side when your mind is elsewhere. When talking with another person, give them your attention — people will subconsciously notice body language and facial expressions, and will have a gut feeling that you’re not there. Have you ever been talking to someone that’s texting, and when you tell them a story, there’s a half-second delay before they respond? It doesn’t feel great! This happens on the microlevel with movements in your eyes and mouth as well.
One thing you can do to practice being in the moment is focusing on the feeling in your toes for 3 seconds. If you find yourself getting distracted in a meeting, just take a few seconds to concentrate on what your toes are feeling, and I’m sure you’ll be right back into the conversation.
Come From a Place of Warmth:
This was explicitly stated in The Charisma Myth, but it was an underlying message in Chris Voss’ book as well (FBI agents aren’t usually who I first think when I think of “warmth”). He called it “learning their religion.”
When you’re speaking with somebody, try to put yourself in their shoes. Do your best to understand them — you by no means have to agree — just try to imagine why they’re feeling what they are. Allow them to feel welcoming towards you by withholding judgement and encouraging them to explain what they feel.
Olivia Fox Cabane laid out an exercise to get into this place of warmth and gratitude so that you can genuinely feel connected to your counterpart. Take a moment to think about everything in your life that you are appreciative for. Be it your family, the nice weather, your health, whatever it is, just really imagine it, and how much you appreciate having it in your life. If you are able to do this, you might find yourself feeling happier and more patient when talking to people, and they will notice!
In conversation, it may be difficult to take your mind away to think of these things, so instead, Voss has a more methodical way of getting the counterpart to open up and bring you closer to them. The two techniques are as follows:
Labeling is a way of guessing the other person’s feelings without having them turn on you. You know how when you’re mad, and somebody points that out by saying “Why are you so mad?” all it does it piss you off more? Labeling allows you to figure out the why without shutting down all productive conversation.
Continuing the example from above, you’re in negotiations for a raise, and you’ve just laid out the reasons you believe you rightfully deserve more money.
Boss (her tone is hesitant): You do seem to have made a huge impact at the company this year.
You, Master Negotiator: It seems like you’re hesitant.
This opens the door for your boss to either tell you that yes, she is indeed hesitant, and to explain what is causing that, or B, she is not hesitant, and for her to explain what she actually is feeling.
It is important to note that when labeling, you should keep it as objective as possible. Notice that I did not say “I think you’re hesitant.” Rather, I said “It seems like you’re hesitant.” By saying “it seems like” or something similar, you are stating just the facts. If you were to say “I feel like…” it may turn your counterpart against you; they might think you’re telling them how they’re feeling, and nobody likes that.
I’m sure you’ve seen this concept somewhere, be it a book, podcast, maybe you’ve just picked up on it in life. People tend to be more receptive when you mirror their speaking and body language. Chris Voss says that mirroring is most effective when you repeat 1–3 words from the last words your counterpart said. Continuing from the example above, you labeled how you think your boss is feeling, and she explains her hesitation.
Boss: We just can’t afford to give raises with the amount of budget cuts and strain we’ve been under.
You, Master Negotiator: Budget cuts?
Simple, right? What this does is make the other person feel like you’re listening to them. That you care about their problems and want to hear more, giving them the opportunity to keep talking — and you to keep finding ways to win.
Win With Charisma:
When I first thought of negotiating, I thought of cold, calloused businessmen. Then I read Never Split the Difference and The Charisma Myth, and my perception changed (throw Kirk Kerkorian’s biography The Gambler in there for good measure, he always made sure that his counterpart got a good deal as well).
Now, I understand that negotiating is a delicate mix of logic and emotion. It turns out, the same things that make charismatic people so magnetic is the same thing that can make you a better negotiator — presence, warmth, and listening. Take time to think before speaking; don’t feel rushed to respond, or you may end up saying something to turn off your counterpart. Speak carefully, yet openly. Make sure that you come across as human, not some scripted robot.
After all, life is all about relationships, and you should aim to make them as strong as possible.