Two agents were working undercover as they discussed an update with their informant. They were seated in a recessed area in an attempt to keep their conversation private and to avoid danger. They wanted to control the environment as much as possible. Suddenly, a panhandler walked over and aggressively began to ask for money. One agent said pleasantly, no. But the person persisted by asking, why not? The agent said, no, again. Still, the person continued their plea for money. Finally, the agent growled as he said in a loud voice, I said no! Stunned, the beggar turned and quickly walked away.
Potential danger always surrounds you, even during negotiations (you’re always negotiating). In some cases, you avoid it by staying outside of its bounds. At other times, you prevent it by the way you control conversations in an environment.
When the agents turned their attention back to their update, the informant asked, did you think that person was dangerous? The agent said, no. That beggar didn’t accept my answer the first few times. So, I had to alter the delivery of my words. By changing the tone of my reply and sounding more hostile, the panhandler sensed my, no, response as being more definitive. That’s why he walked away at that point.
Consider the following techniques to increase your control as you negotiate with those that might attempt to be defiant or with those that you’d like to control better.
- Block and Bridge
Block and bridge is one way to alter the flow of a conversation. You’d implement its use as a conversation began to head in an unwanted direction – one that you feared would cause you to lose control of the discussion or interaction. You might also consider employing it when you wanted to enhance the flow of a conversation.
To invoke its use, when someone began making statements that you disagreed with, or citing accounts not aligned with where you wanted to take the conversation, block their comments. As an example, you can say, you have a point (block), and the outcome was less than expected (bridge). I suggest we take the following approach. It’s known to have better results.
The manner you block someone’s comments depends on the severity of the situation. If it’s one that might escalate to a high degree of irritation, you might consider blocking the other person’s statements with a harsh tone and words. If that’s not required, consider being milder in your intonation and demeanor.
- Answering Questions With Questions
Answering questions with questions is an excellent way to gather more information than you give. It also allows you to control a conversation. Because the person asking questions is controlling the flow of the discussion. And that occurs as long as the other party is answering questions.
To implement this strategy, ask a question in response to one that’s asked of you. Do this instead of answering the initial query. Thus, instead of providing an answer to that question, you’d respond with one of your own.
As an example, if someone says, do I have to take this course of action? Your response might be, what do you think will happen if you don’t take this course of action? You’ve not answered the question. And if you get a response, you’ve gained more insight into the individual’s thoughts. Along with a possible solution to a situation if you choose to implement that person’s response.
- Listening To What’s Not Said
Many people consider themselves good communicators because they pay attention to what someone says. In reality, you can be a better communicator and control conversations better by observing what’s someone doesn’t say.
As an example, if someone said, I didn’t do what you said I did. You might consider a person’s answer to mean, I didn’t do what you said I did. Yes, I did it, but not the way you stated it.
By listening for what’s not said, and the response of how something’s said, you’ll gain better insight and control of someone’s statements. You’ll also know more about how that person is communicating. And that will be worth its weight in gold.
In every environment, and every negotiation you’re in, think about how you’ll control that environment. In particular, consider how you’ll avoid dangerous situations, what form of control you’ll use, and where that might take you in your encounter. Because the better you control conversations, the more power and control you’ll have in every negotiation and situation that you’re in… and everything will be right with the world.