Thoughts on Leadership: The Power of Negotiation

By Gino Blefari


This week my travels first found me in Las Vegas for ICSC, the world’s largest global gathering of retail real estate professionals. More than 37,000 industry professionals and 1,200 exhibitors packed the Las Vegas Convention Center, including our own commercial real estate team.

It was an engaging conference filled with insights about where the commercial real estate industry is today and where it’s going.

From Las Vegas I traveled to Irvine for meetings at our HSF Affiliates headquarters and the travel time allowed me to reflect on a book I just finished, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Christopher Voss and Tahl Raz.

Christopher Voss is a former international hostage negotiator for the FBI, who offers field-tested techniques to win any kind of negotiation … whether it’s in the boardroom or your office.

It’s funny because as I read the book, I realized some of the advice he outlines is so practical, we already put it to use without really knowing we’re employing critical negotiation techniques. One real-life example that comes to mind happened on a flight to Hawaii. I watched as an irritated traveler berated an airline attendee.

I turned to the attendee, commiserating with the frustrated attendee, and said, “Wow this kind of thing probably doesn’t even surprise you.”

She smiled and the next thing I knew, I had an upgraded ticket.

As Voss would say in his book, this is “tactical empathy,” which is the ability to recognize the perspective of a counterpart and vocalize that recognition effectively. This kind of tactical empathy allows you to influence the next moments to come.

Here are five other key takeaways that I think you’ll find useful while negotiating in your own leadership roles:

  1. Give someone permission to say “no” to your ideas. Saying yes is meaningless; surface agreement can often hide deeper objections. “No,” however, is a powerful answer when negotiating because by giving someone permission to reject your idea, you can then ask solution-based questions to understand what it is that they want. “No” is not a rejection, it is the start to an open, honest conversation.
  2. The job of a negotiator isn’t to put on a great, winning performance. It’s to guide your counterpart into believing that your idea is his or her own.
  3. Internalize the idea that “no deal is better than a bad deal.” This takes the deadline out of the equation and creates a situation where you can be patient, which is a powerful negotiation weapon.
  4. The best kind of negotiation ends in a deal that is not just an end to an argument but also something that can be implemented and executed to completion. Remember my post a few weeks ago about accountability partners? The reason they’re so effective is because they allow you to execute on your objectives and goals.
  5. Remember the 7-38-55 rule: 7 percent of a message is based on words, 38 percent is derived from tone of voice and 55 percent from body language and facial expressions.

So, what’s the message? In business, in leadership and in life if you can learn how to negotiate a difficult situation, you’ll be that much closer to achieving your goals and creating an environment conducive to collaboration and growth. Negotiation isn’t a negative aspect of any deal. It’s actually a forward-moving concept and one that promotes sustainable prosperity. As Voss wrote in his book: “Conflict brings out truth, creativity and resolution.”

One response to Thoughts on Leadership: The Power of Negotiation

  1. Maty

    Great video! I just finished this book as my book club decided to read it. Loved your key points.


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