I love sharing quality intel. For decades now I have been asking “What is the one thing I can do that would have the greatest positive impact on my life?”
The answer to that question would hit three birds with one stone, and holistically affect my health, personal relationships, and career. It would shift the system dynamic of my life for the better, be easy to learn, and be so beneficial that I couldn’t help but do it.
For almost a decade my answer was “watch more TED talks”. The smartest, most successful people pay $6,000 to go to the annual Global TED conference for a reason. Their short, concise speech format is the industry gold standard. TED talks are free, which is awesome. Listening to the best teachers share their wisdom has had a positive impact on my life. That seemed hard to beat. Their biggest weakness was that their format is to short to get any real depth. Then I MasterClass started popping up on my YouTube sidebar. Little did I know how it would change my life, and I’m only getting started.
The word Guru literally means “dispeller of darkness”, with the connotation being “the darkness that comes with ignorance”. Masterclasses are taught by gurus who are the best at what they do. In addition to being financially successful, their life’s work has shaped the lives of tens of millions. Many of them are people I’ve admired for a long time, so I was excited to be a padawan and learn at the master’s feet.
My favorite teachers have included Neil Gaiman, one of the best writers of our time. He teaches storytelling. Ron Howard, whose movies mesmerize me, teaches directing. David Mamet tells you how to tell a better joke, and hold people’s attention with dramatic storytelling. Hans Zimmer shares how he uses music to narrate emotion in the biggest movies. Penn and Teller show you how to bring wonder to others with magic. The list goes on and on.
As cool as all these classes have been, the most useful one I’ve taken so far is on negotiation. It’s taught by Chris Voss, author of “Never Split the Difference”. Chris was a hostage negotiator for the FBI for 24 years. He learned his craft negotiating with terrorists and killers under the most stressful circumstances possible. Hostage negotiators have to win everything, every time. You can’t split the difference, and losing isn’t an option when people’s lives are on the line.
I like Chris because I feel he’s a genuinely nice/good guy who wants to work things out for the best. He quickly builds trust through active listening, then collaborates with his partners to get the best end result. His methods are something we can all use in the many negotiations we have every day.
Everybody wants something from our spouses, friends, kids or business partners. Maybe we want our kids to do their homework, or spouses to treat us with more respect. Maybe we want business partners to make decisions that get us both more money so we can build more successful businesses.
Either way, good negotiations help others cooperate with us to get what we want. But it’s critical that the person you are negotiating feel good about their decisions, or they will aren’t going to carry through with their end of the bargain.
The way we get other people to cooperate with us, to work towards a win-win situation, is by establishing trust. We do this by demonstrating that we are actively listening to what they are saying.
A wise proverb says “when you teach, you learn twice.” That’s one reason I want to share some things I’ve learned from Chris’s Masterclass. Each one is something I am practicing in my daily life:
The 7-38-55 Rule – Scientific experiments show that 7% of your communication is the content or words, you use. 38% is your tone of voice, and 55% is your body language. In other words, how the tone of voice is five times more important than what you are saying. This is profound. It means that our precious “logic”, isn’t nearly as persuasive as we think it is, especially if our tone of voice is disrespectful and our body language says we don’t care.
Use your late-night “FM DJ” voice – I tend to use my “get shit done” tone of voice. It stresses my wife out and sparks defensiveness because it’s triggering primal fight or flight responses, which is completely counterproductive. When I speak in a calm voice, it soothes others and demonstrates respect. The only question I have to ask is “Why did it take me fifty years to finally learn this?” I guess that when the student is ready, the teacher will come.
Everybody wants to be heard – “The most interesting person is the person who is interested.” Help others feel heard by taking three words out of what they just said, and repeating it with a questioning tone. This is known as mirroring and you shouldn’t let it’s simplicity deceive you. It really opens up the tap, because everybody wants to be listened to. This technique also clarifies what other people are saying and helps you collect more information so you can conduct a successful negotiation.
Labeling – The labeling sentence starts with “it sounds like.” It then states when you are hearing, without passing judgment. For example, “it sounds like you want to do this differently” or “it sounds like you might know a better way to do this”. When Chris first learned this technique, he thought it sounded pretty wimpy, but it turned out to be one of the most powerful tools in his repertoire. I’m certainly finding it useful. Rather than just snapping at what I think I heard, I’m getting clarification and that’s invaluable.
Ask “what” or “how” questions. Never ask “why” – “Why” is universally annoying. In every country and culture around the world, the first thing our parents asked us when we did something dumb was “why did you do that?” Why questions are filled with judgment. Questions that begin with what or how to let the other person feel in control. They invite sharing. For example, “how do you think I should do that?” invites the other person to tell you how they think you can meet their demands. As they do this, they talk things out and will soon see whether their demands are reasonable or not.
Let other people feel like they are running the show – We all want to feel like we are in control. It takes a lot of confidence to put your ego aside and do this, but when you do, the other side will open up and then you’ll be able to make progress.
Everybody negotiates every day. We can all reap the benefits of good negotiations. They bring greater harmony to our personal relationships and can get us paid what we are worth. It’s the most important thing you can do to make your world, or “the world”, a better place.
If you want to check out Chris Voss for free, his TED talk on YouTube is a good starting point. His book, “Never Split the Difference” has 4.8 stars on 4,788 reviews. I’m only a couple of chapters in, but so far it’s amazing.
If you can make the investment and are disciplined enough to use it consistently, I would spend $180 to sign up for the all-access Masterclass.com. Masterclasses are, in my opinion, a phenomenal value. An all-access pass to Masterclass costs $180 a year. When you make that investment, it gives you access to all their courses. It’s incredible. These people are total badasses in their field, and now I get to learn from them for a pittance. They are the best way you can spend the most valuable thing you own, your free time.
For now, that’s the best intel I have to offer.