What is tactical empathy and how can it help in negotiations at work?
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Negotiations entail trust and teamwork more than pinning an opponent to the ground.
Tactical empathy - “intentionally using concepts from neuroscience to influence emotions” - can be used as a core stratagem in navigating any type of friction.
Mirroring your counterpart, negotiating across cultures, and building relationships are all essential.
Negotiation is typically portrayed as a winner-take-all skirmish. Be it haggling for a higher salary, asking for a promotion, or closing a deal, the process might summon tactics, for example, from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Countless MBA courses and textbooks have taught us that business is a battlefield. A former hostage negotiator with the FBI has a different take on this.
Tactical empathy—intentionally using concepts from neuroscience to influence emotions—is a core stratagem in navigating any type of friction.
Tactical empathy requires demonstrating to your counterpart how deeply you’re listening to their words and, in effect, how thoughtfully you’re considering their position. One key tactic, called “mirroring,” entails echoing back one to three words the other person uttered, which Voss says can help build rapport from the outset.
Mirroring can also be a survival tactic for awkward networking events. Faced with a roomful of strangers, one can simply echo words and phrases to get them to open up. This simple practice can even turn idle chit-chat into meaningful conversations.
In a heated confrontation, mirroring can help you regain balance when you’ve been challenged or buy you time when you’re really flummoxed by what somebody said. Framing the other person’s words in the form of a question also gets them to try different terms, which helps clarify what’s at stake and gives you time to gather your thoughts.
For instance, your boss might say: “I need you to pull your weight better around here if we want this operation to survive.” Repeating the word, “survive” will likely lead your supervisor to elaborate on the pressure he or she is faced with.
And what if both parties are skilled at mirroring each other? Will it produce a stalemate?
Mirroring ultimately reveals the most important factors at stake, and the character of each party. At some point, one of us is going to come out of this dynamic and just flat out say, ‘Look, here’s here’s what I’d really like to do.’
Someone is going to step forward and offer something up because you’ve earned each other’s trust.
Will this tactic work when parties come from different cultures? What about someone who uses silence as a power manoeuvre?
Everybody on earth wants to know that they’re being understood and will open up when they feel they are listened to.
The desire to connect and be understood is the basic layer that underpins everything.
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