- Mirroring is the repetition of keywords the other person uses in conversation
- A label is a verbal acknowledgment of the other side’s feelings or positions
- Both techniques help build rapport with the person you are negotiating with
In his third article in the series, investor, founder, author and media commentator Bushy Martin discusses the science and art behind property negotiation.
Mirroring is the repetition of keywords the other person uses in conversation. It’s designed to show the person that you’re listening and that you understand them.
According to Retired FBI Lead Hostage Negotiator Chris Voss, this is most effective when you repeat up to three words from the last words your counterpart has spoken.
It is especially effective in defusing anger or hostility.
For example, if the other negotiating partner says: “I’ve had a really difficult year, and it seems like you’re discounting all the financial and personal stress I’ve been under”.
You simply respond: “Financial and personal stress?”
This approach puts people at ease, reduces tension when it’s a stressful situation, and makes the other person feel like you are listening. And as we all know, people love to talk to someone who is paying attention to them.
This simple approach helps quickly build rapport, reveals more of what is important to them in a negotiation, and buys you time to think and reflect on the best solutions and options to negotiate a mutually agreeable outcome.
A label is a verbal acknowledgment of the other side’s feelings or positions. Labels are used to neutralize negative emotions or reinforce positive ones. Labels start with you responding with:
“It seems like…”
“It looks like…”
“You appear to…”
These two techniques – mirroring and labelling – work beautifully in tandem.
Voss demonstrates the technique in a fascinating exchange. Voss describes sitting across from a woman that we’re going to call Stella. Voss asks just two brief questions to kick off the conversation. The rest is about mirroring and labelling, so listen out for it.
This is how it goes:
Voss: “Tell me what you’re passionate about?”
Stella: “Well, I love escape room games.”
Voss: “What is it about escape room games that makes you passionate?”
Stella: “They’re fun to do with your friends, and they’re immersive, and it challenges your mind.”
Voss: “It challenges your mind?” [note the use of mirroring Stella’s last 3 words]
Stella: “Yeah, you only have 60 minutes to get out. There are a series of puzzles you have to solve to get out.”
Voss: “It sounds like you love mental challenges.” [Now he’s used labelling]
Stella: “I do. It’s an immersive experience, like being part of a play…You also try to make it the best experience for others, so they enjoy it too.”
Voss: “It also sounds like you really like to help people.” [again, labelling]
Stella: “I guess I do. I never really thought about it like that.”
Voss: “You sound like a really loyal person, too.” [more labelling]
Stella: “Ah, that’s nice to say. My friends do say that about me!”
In this brief exchange, Stella never asked Voss a question about himself. She didn’t learn much about Voss because she did almost all the talking.
But here’s the amazing part – when she was asked how she felt about the exchange, she said “It made me feel like he was really listening to me and I connected with him”.
This simple conversation demonstrates how to build an instant rapport with another person by simply using mirroring and labelling to encourage the other person to talk about themselves.
In researching this, I’ve realised that this is a subliminal approach I take in my podcast interviews to get the guests opening up about subjects of interest.
It’s amazing how I’ve built great relationships and friendships with our podcast guests after just one interview, as the guests often comment on how connected they feel with me after the interview.
Voss calls this approach “trust-based influence.” If you want another person to say ‘yes’ to your idea, you must first gain their trust. Once they trust you, you’ll be far more influential and more likely to strike a deal that makes both of you happy.