Successful Negotiation Starts with Tactical Empathy
Emotion is typically not discussed in business, especially the negative and “woo-woo” ones. This is unfortunate because all human beings feel emotions and most decisions are made based on those emotions. Right now, there are so many big changes happening in the world that many of the people you work with are overwhelmed by worry, anxiety, and anger. And, many project professionals are working from home, where emotions are “allowed”. When overwhelmed by these emotions, they can’t think or act professionally.
As the person responsible for delivering the project, you need a sure-fire way to get the team reengaged and refocused on the work. The old way of requesting status just won’t work anymore. You need to lead with empathy and concern, but you can’t stop there or you will become overwhelmed by the same emotions. What you need is tactical empathy.
Coined by Chris Voss in his book “Never Split the Difference”, tactical empathy is simply understanding the other person’s mindset and feelings and then identifying what is driving those feelings so you can move them. Tactical empathy is not agreeing with them, not feeling compassion for them, but recognizing who they are and what they are feeling so you can communicate your message AND get agreement.
The premise behind tactical empathy is this. No meaningful dialogue takes place until trust is built and that can’t happen until the old brain no longer perceives a threat. Your discovery of their motivating emotion is critical to reaching agreement.
When you master Tactical Empathy, it will become the go-to tool in your Project management toolbox. It will allow you to build trust and cooperation because,
- When people are feeling threat — real or imagined — they can’t think logically and rationally. Remember the Amygdala?
- No meaningful dialogue takes place until trust is built and that can’t happen until the old brain no longer perceives a threat. Our discovery of their motivating emotion is critical to reaching agreement.
Tactical Empathy requires the following:
- Knowing specifically what you want – the outcome you expect from the communication.
- Managing your own emotional state. See The Truth about Workplace Stress.
- Discovering the emotional state of the other person without getting hooked.
- Building trust and coming to agreement.
The way you employ your voice, labels, and mirrors all contribute to tactical empathy.
Learning Tactical Empathy
When you use tactical empathy you identify the other person’s emotions, label them, and then discuss them calmly without judgement. It is paying attention, getting them to talk about how they feel, and validating them.
Here is how Labeling is done, step by step:
- Detect their emotional state. Ask questions and pay attention to their body language and other cues to figure out how they are feeling.
- Label it out loud. When you identify what they are feeling, label it. Say it out loud and do it without the using the word “I”. Start with a neutral statement like “It seems like…” “It sounds like…” “It looks like….” This usually gets them to respond with more than a “yes” or “no” and provide reasons why they feel this way. If they disagree with your label, respond with something like, “I didn’t say that was what it was. I just said it seems like that.”
When the negative emotions are labeled, it softens the emotional state because it loosens the amygdala’s grip on the perceived threat. When you identify the driving emotions, it has a major shift on mindset and behavior.