Create the illusion of control

Don’t try to negotiate in a firefight

The moment I arrived in Manila on the Burnham-Sober case I was sent down to the Mindanao region, where the Philippine military was lobbing bullets and rockets into a hospital complex where the Abu Soya and the hostages were holed up.

This was no place for a negotiator, because it’s impossible to have a dialogue in the middle of a firefight. Then things got worse: when I woke up the next morning, I learned that during the night the kidnappers had taken their hostages and escaped.

There is always a team on the other side

The FBI sent me back in. Now I was sent in to make sure a deal got made. It was all very high profile, too. Some of my contacts reported that FBI director Robert Mueller was personally briefing President George W. Bush every morning on what we were doing. When Director Mueller showed up in the U.S. Embassy in Manila and I was introduced to him, a look of recognition came over his face. That was a very heady moment.

Avoid a showdown

No two ways about it, my return to the United States was a time of reckoning. I questioned—I even doubted—some of what we were doing at the FBI. If what we knew wasn’t enough, we had to get better.

The real kick in the pants came after my return, when I was reviewing information about the case, a lot of which we hadn’t had in the field. Among the piles of information was one fact that totally blew my mind.

Suspend unbelief

While I was racking my brains over how this sleazy politician managed to get Martin Burnham on the phone while we never could, FBI Pittsburgh had a kidnapping case.

My partner Chuck brought me the tapes from the case because he thought it was funny. You see, one Pittsburgh drug dealer had kidnapped the girlfriend of another Pittsburgh drug dealer, and for whatever reason the victim drug dealer came to the FBI for help. Coming to the FBI seemed kind of contrary to his best interests, being a drug dealer and all, but he did it because no matter who you are, when you need help you go to the FBI. Right?

Calibrate your questions

A few years ago, I was consulting with a client who had a small firm that did public relations for a large corporation. The folks at the big company were not paying their bills, and as time went on, they owed my client more and more money. They kept her on the hook by promising lots of repeat business, implying that she would get a pile of revenue if she just kept working. She felt trapped.

How not to get paid

Let’s pause for a minute here, because there’s one vitally important thing you have to remember when you enter a negotiation armed with your list of calibrated questions. That is, all of this is great, but there’s a rub: without self-control and emotional regulation, it doesn’t work.

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Lastly Comment

That’s because the talker is revealing information while the listener, if he’s trained well, is directing the conversation toward his own goals. He’s harnessing the talker’s energy for his own ends. When you try to work the skills from this chapter into your daily life, remember that these are listener’s tools. They are not about strong-arming your opponent into submission. Rather, they’re about using the counterpart’s power to get to your objective. They’re listener’s judo.

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