1. Mirror words selectively. One of the quickest ways to establish rapport and make your counterpart feel safe enough to reveal themselves is with a focus on what the other party has to say. Use tactics like slowing the conversation down, repeating their words back to them, allowing for silence, and changing your tone of voice.
  2. Practice Tactical Empathy. Demonstrate to your counterpart that you see the nuances of their emotions. Proactively label their fears. Phrases like, “it sounds like you’re afraid of…” and “it looks like you’re concerned about…” go a long way in disarming them. Also, list the worst things that the other party could say about you and say them before they can.
  3. Get to “NO.” Being pushed for “yes” makes people defensive, but saying “no” makes the speaker feel safe, secure, and in control. Trigger the “no.” Ask no-oriented questions like, “Is now a bad time to talk?” and “Have you given up on this project?”
  4. Trigger “That’s right.” The moment you’ve convinced someone that you understand their dreams and feelings is the moment a negotiation breakthrough can happen. Trigger a “that’s right” response by summarizing and reaffirming how they feel and what they want.
  5. Resist compromise. Frame the conversation in such a way that your counterpart will unconsciously accept the limits you place on the discussion. Navigate deadlines to create a sense of urgency and anchor your counterpart’s emotions so that not accepting your offer feels like a loss.
  6. Create the illusion of control. Don’t try to force your opponent to admit that you are right. Ask questions that begin with “how” or “what,” so your opponent uses their mental energy to figure out the answer.
  7. Guarantee execution. Don’t let your work fall apart when you’re close to securing a deal. Identify the motivations of the players behind the table and spot liars by paying attention to body language. Test if your counterpart’s “yes” is real by getting them to reaffirm their agreement at least three times. Use your name and humor to break the tension and show your human side.
  8. Bargain hard. Identify your counterpart’s negotiating style, prepare, prepare, prepare, and steel yourself to take a figurative punch. These practices will give you the confidence you need for a tough conversation.
  9. Find Black Swans. Black swans are events that come as a surprise, have a significant effect, and are often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. To uncover these “unknown unknowns” work to understand the other side’s position and worldview. Find common ground with them, and get some face time. These tactics will help you dig deeper and uncover the hidden variables of the situation.