If you're having difficulty getting what you want at work -- perhaps a promotion or a big project -- it's time to rethink your negotiating skills and learn from the best.
Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator, says one of the best strategies is learning from those who have made a living by making others feel comfortable, such as Oprah Winfrey.
Winfrey’s strategy of using a smile to ease tensions, employing subtle verbal and nonverbal language to signal empathy, slowing her speech pattern and focusing solely on the other person shows a “master practitioner at work,” who gets people to reveal their deepest thoughts and secrets, says Voss, author of “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It.”
Once you’ve slowed down the conversation and established a rapport, then your boss will be more open to hearing you and less likely to balk at your request, Voss says.
Next, don't try to force the boss into saying “you’re right” and instead work on getting him or her to say “that’s right.”
“What you want is the boss to confirm what you’re saying is accurate,” Voss explains. ‘You don’t want the boss to say, ‘you’re right.’ You watch any conversation, and someone says, ‘you’re right’ usually because they just want the other person to shut up.”
When asked how they would get the boss to do what they want in certain situations, here’s what negotiation professionals recommend when the boss says:
- · “I can’t give you the raise you want.” Voss says the mistake many people make is being only focused on how much money they’re paid in a specific job. “If you’re only thinking about your salary, then you’re setting yourself up to fail,” he says. “You’re not really negotiating what success looks like.” In other words, your salary pays your bills, but doesn’t build your career. Negotiating for a better title or inclusion on a big project can be more beneficial to your career – and your salary – in the long run. “Once you get to sit in on strategic projects, then you raise your visibility with key people,” he says.
- · “I don’t think you have the experience to take on this project.” Instead of responding with an “I do so!” or retreating in humiliation, get the boss to reveal what you need to do in order to get a coveted project or assignment. By asking “How do I get the required experience? “you steer the boss away from simply saying “no,” and instead start to learn critical information about necessary skills. “If the boss only sees you in a limited role, then you need to know that,” Voss says. “This can help you understand what you need to do to get ahead.”
- · “You screwed up.” When you’re in trouble with the boss, “rake yourself over the coals before the boss has a chance to do it,” Voss says. “Overdo it a bit, and then the boss will say, ‘Now, don’t be so hard on yourself,’ and then the conversation will move into how things can get better. Most bosses find it refreshing to have an employee admit a mistake so they don’t have to yell at them,” he says.
- · “No.” When this answer arrives via email – or you get no response at all – you are stuck and have no room to negotiate. But Voss says there’s one “ridiculously easy” way to get bosses to respond to your email: Ask a provocative question such as “Have you given up on this project?” This is the parental version of “I’m leaving now” and walking away from a recalcitrant child. The boss can’t help but respond, and the strategy is “as close to 1,000% successful as I’ve seen,” Voss says.