“The Family Man” and the Art of Negotiation
My learning from the web series and a book I read recently.
Everything is constantly being negotiated. Discussing your salary appraisal with your manager, negotiating a deadline for your project or bargaining while you buy something or rent a house are all examples of how to negotiate. Negotiation is fundamentally about communicating with results in mind. Getting what you want from others is your key to getting what you want from life.
I have just finished watching two seasons of “The Family Man”, an Indian web series on Amazon Prime. It was brilliantly performed by all the actors.
I also recently read a book titled “Never Split the Difference”. In the book, written by a former FBI Negotiator, the author discusses how to use various negotiation techniques in our daily lives. Chris Voss demonstrates what he is teaching with stories from his long career. Voss aims to teach you how to take control of the conversations that will influence your life and career.
With regard to The Family Man, the protagonist, Srikanth Tiwari, who works at a National Security Agency — TASC, experiences multiple hostage negotiation situations throughout the series. A few of the web series’ themes are reflected in the above-mentioned book. Srikanth Tiwari uses few tactics from the book to get to the desired results in the crisis situation.
Few of the negotiation scenes are
- Chasing Moosa and capturing him alive after a chase
- The scenes of Moosa in hospital and his Mom on TV
- Capturing Subbu who takes hostage of a couple in their bedroom
- Interrogating Raji
- Talking with Kalyan/Salman on the phone during the kidnapping scenes
As a negotiator, Srikanth Tiwari
- Attempts to calm down everyone in his team and avoid any harm to the Hostage taker. Contrary to the way the police beat the convict and get to the truth during interrogations, Srikanth believes in listening to the counterpart.
- Creates empathy through sharing his personal experiences and stories and allowing the hostage-taker to make his or her voice heard. Eg. Moosa’s mother story.
- Listen attentively, no matter how cruel the other party is.
- Builds trust by avoiding confrontation and by convincing the counterpart that both of them will benefit from doing so.
- Ensures that the counterparts are understood and that their requirements will be met on certain conditions.
- Over time, be alert to all the stories presented by the other party and glean the helpful hints you need for the case.
- It is important to understand that sometimes, no matter what you do, you will never be able to get the desired result from the situation. Eg. Raji’s interrogation.
The only person that Srikanth couldn’t negotiate well with was his son Atharv 😂
Beyond Srikanth’s scenes, there are numerous other scenes where the negotiation technique can be observed through the series. I was able to draw parallels between Srikanth's style and the tactics mentioned in the book. Here are a few of my learnings from both places.
- Master Raptor –– In a negotiation situation, what you say isn’t as important as how you say it. A person’s voice is their greatest asset. A tone makes all the difference. You should adopt a positive, playful voice that makes you sound relaxed and good-natured in order to be effective. People become more open to collaboration and problem-solving when they are put into a more positive frame of mind.
- Show Empathy –– You need to hone the skill of tactical empathy. In this way, you can not only comprehend the feelings of your counterpart but also what lies behind those feelings. When you identify the feelings of your counterpart, label them, and describe them back to them, you validate those emotions. Your relationship with them improves when you do this.
- Resist Compromise –– During the conversation, frame it in a way so that your counterpart accepts the boundaries you place on the debate unconsciously. Navigate deadlines for creating a sense of urgency and anchoring the emotions of your counterpart so that they feel a loss if they refuse.
- Create the Illusion of Control –– Don’t force your opponent to admit that you are right. Ask questions that begin with “How?” or “What?” so your opponent uses mental energy to figure out the answer.
- Bargain Hard –– The act of bargaining makes most people feel uncomfortable, so it is often the part of a negotiation that is most frequently mishandled. It is best to wait until your opponent names a price before you begin bargaining. In the event they try to anchor their price high, you should manage your emotions and respond with an open-ended question such as, “How am I supposed to accept that?” You can also derail the conversation by pivoting to non-monetary terms. Besides money, this allows you to establish what a good deal is for you.
- Find the black swans — Voss defines a “Black Swan” as a hidden, unexpected piece of information that can completely alter a negotiation. The best way to avoid being blind-sided by a Black Swan is to not let what you know cloud what you don’t know. Never overvalue your experience and ignore the informational and emotional reality of the current negotiation environment.’ To identify a Black Swan, you must develop a specific mindset. The most important thing is to ask many questions, listen intuitively, and express your observations with your counterpart.
Humans are emotional beings, despite our best efforts in logic and reasoning, we can end up biased towards a variety of things that prevent us from arriving at the proper solution. Learning and practising these negotiation techniques will help us to get what we want without losing or compromising.
In contrast to artificial intelligence, emotional intelligence is the next increasingly important skill everyone needs to develop.
You can buy Never Split the Difference on Amazon.