Most of us are under a lot more stress and the tension is just going to keep ratcheting up. The place we are most likely to find stress is in our personal relationships, especially when we have conflicting goals. We all need to negotiate with other people on a daily basis.
I would like to share three Jedi mind tips. They’ve helped me become a better listener, so I can understand what the other person wants and resolve potential conflicts more quickly. These techniques have completely shifted the communication dynamic in my relationships and they can change your life too. These tools are the calibrating questions, labeling and mirroring.
First of all, let’s start out with a scenario. A husband and wife are trying to get out of the house to visit the relatives. The husband really wants to get out of the house by 11, but the wife still has some things she needs to do around the house. How can they work things out so everybody gets what they want with less stress.
The first tool is mirroring. It is when you take the last three words the person just said, and echo them back in a respectful and questioning tone of voice. The husband says “I want to leave at 11”. The wife could mirror that by saying, “leave at 11?” That invites the husband to give more information “yeah, if we don’t leave at 11, so we don’t hit traffic. You know how much I hate sitting in traffic.” This a new piece of information that will be useful momentarily.
Our second tool is labeling. It is when you call out a pain point and start a sentence with the words “it sounds like”. The wife might use labeling to say “It sounds like you’re stressed about wasting time in traffic”. Then the husband might say “Yeah cause when I drive, I can’t get any work done.” By identifying his pain point, she draws out what his real concern and shows that she’s listening to what he said. Now the wife has another piece of the puzzle she can use to move the negotiation forward.
The next tool is the calibrating question. First off, everybody in the world hates being asked “why” questions as in “why’d you do that?” Never ask why in a negotiation unless you want make the other side angry. Instead, use a question that begins with “what” or “how”. “What” and “how” questions are non judgmental. They make the other person like they are in charge, even if the negotiator is really driving the show. So the wife might ask “What if I were to drive down, so you could work on your laptop?” That’s a great question.
Or she might say “I still have a lot of housework to do. How am I going to do it, and get out of here on time?” This puts the responsibility for solving the problem on the husband’s shoulders. So he might say, “Okay you drive down so I can get some work done. I’ll drive home on the way back. We can put off the housework until tomorrow. How does that work for you?”
The wife agrees and the conflict is successfully resolved and the couple lives happily ever after.
Let’s recap the three techniques. Mirroring is when you use three words from the other person’s sentence to ask a question. Labeling is when you start a sentence with “it sounds like” and then you identify the other person’s pain without passing judgment. Finally, the calibrating question begins with what or how. It puts the other person in charge of coming up with a solution that meets everybody’s needs. Believe it or not, it may be one of the most powerful techniques in the negotiator’s toolbox.
These three techniques are simple in theory, but you need to practice them. When you have that urge to reply, take a moment to instead ask these questions. If you do they will help cut conflict off at the pass, and help keep everybody keep their stress levels down.