How To Diffuse Conflict Like An FBI Negotiator

Two-decade FBI veteran Chris Voss shares the two critical pillars to high-stakes negotiations.

"Your calendar shows what’s most important to you."

Noah Kagan, CEO & Co-founder of AppSumo

Welcome to the Elite Team Talks newsletter, where we reveal the strategies and blueprints of the world's most successful teams 🏆

In this edition of Elite Team Talks:

  • One quick win: A more effective way to complete your daily to-do list

  • One proven system: Conflict management methods from inside the FBI

  • One to watch: Lebron James needed this before he was able to win any championships

  • One for you: Dan Go’s 8-8-8 method for productivity

  • One million-dollar question: what Lady Gaga & Tyson Fury have in common

  • Ones we recommend: Team GB cycling’s evolution to Olympic gold

1. ENERGY CALENDAR > TO DO LIST

As Noah highlights in the quote, your calendar can make or break you.

If you are leading a team and in back-to-back meetings, we feel you!

Here is what it does to our brain:

As a first-time leader or founder, it is tempting to say ”yes” to everyone and every meeting.

At Social Chain, Alex and the team did this, and it left them feeling exhausted at the end of each day, with a massive to-do list still ahead.

Try this instead 👇

An adapted version of the “energy framework” from Sahil Bloom.

At the end of every day, colour-code your calendar based on the energy/productivity of each meeting:

  • Green: Energy creating

  • Yellow: Neutral

  • Red: Energy draining

  • Grey: Dead time (usually commuting or waiting)

Take a peek at one of ours…

At the end of each week, zoom out and ask yourself:

  1. What are the regular activities that are giving me energy, and how can I build more of them into my day?

  2. Can I delegate or outsource any of the energy-draining activities?

  3. What activities could I add to the dead zones that would make them feel more Green? (e.g. listening to music or a podcast on the commute)

The goal is to have a high percentage of green across the week.

This visual will help task prioritisation to become second nature after a couple of weeks.

Bonus points for anyone who can use this method to achieve their daily “3x Big Outcomes”👇

Try it out and let us know how you get on 🤝

2. A SIMPLE SYSTEM TO MANAGE CONFLICT LIKE AN FBI NEGOTIATOR

Expert FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss argues that there are two critical pillars to effective negotiation;

  1. Make people feel safe

  2. Make them feel in control

The Accusation Audit is a powerful, 5-step system to create this for any challenging conversation.

Below are the 5 steps;

  1. Prepare: Before a challenging conversation, reflect on all the potential negative thoughts, feelings, and perceptions the other person may have about you or the situation at hand.

  2. List the Negatives: Make a comprehensive list of all these negative perceptions, no matter how minor or significant they may seem.

  3. Start with Acknowledgment: Begin the conversation by acknowledging these negatives upfront. Phrase them in a way that shows you understand and respect the other person's possible point of view.

  4. Use Empathy: Express empathy and understanding towards their feelings and concerns, demonstrating that you are not just aware but also care about how they feel.

  5. Shift to Positive Engagement: Once the air is cleared, move the conversation forward by focusing on finding solutions, common ground, or discussing the main points at hand without the overshadowing presence of unaddressed concerns.

Why does this work?

The effectiveness of the Accusation Audit stems from its ability to directly engage with and diffuse negative emotions.

This technique is rooted in the concept of "affective labelling," a psychological principle suggesting that identifying and verbalising emotions can actually reduce their intensity.

Neuroscience supports this by showing that when people name their emotions, it decreases activity in the amygdala (the brain's fear centre) and engages the prefrontal cortex, leading to a calming effect and enabling more rational thinking.

This process helps to lower defences, making individuals more open to dialogue and reducing the likelihood of conflict escalation.

Remember, the goal of the Accusation Audit is not to agree with every negative perception but to acknowledge them and show understanding. This paves the way for a more open and productive conversation.

Chris also has a phenomenal TED talk on how to use tactical empathy 👇

3. WHY THE GREATEST BASKETBALL PLAYER OF ALL TIME COULDN’T WIN WITHOUT THIS

Lebron James has recently broken the NBA all-time scoring record.

He now has over 40,000 points and 4 NBA championships 🏆

But before he won any, both him and Dwayne Wade needed to learn how to work together as a team 👇

@user3801073849173

#dwyanewade #basketball #tiktok #fyp

Dwayne Wade already had an NBA title at the time so a lot of the attention was centred around why he would give up his role as the team’s talisman.

He understood, the same way that Michael Jordan did in the 90s, that talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships.

4. DAN GO’S 8-8-8 METHOD FOR PRODUCTIVITY

Dan Go is one of the leading performance coaches to entrepreneurs and business leaders.

He has a simple method to time management that might change how you spend your time:

  • 8 hours of sleep

  • 8 hours of honest work

  • 8 hours of recreation

In the final recreation bucket, he splits that time out into 3Fs, 3Hs and 3Ss:

  • 3Fs: Family, friends and faith

  • 3Hs: Health, hygiene and hobbies

  • 3Ss: Soul, service and smiles

You may not be able to split your hours like this immediately, but reflect on what you want your splits to be.

Work towards that over the next few weeks, months and years.

5. WHAT DO LADY GAGA, THE GYPSY KING AND JAMIE FOXX HAVE IN COMMON?

They aren’t their actual names.

Using a stage name, or an alter ego, has been known to improve your performance when you have to context switch quickly.

The same is applicable in daily life.

We all wear a lot of hats. You may need to show up as;

1) an inspirational leader 2) a loving partner 3) an intelligent speaker 4) a support system for your friends/family 5) a valuable player for your netball team.

It is hard for any human to switch between any of these varied hats.

So a great question to ask yourself throughout your day is:

How would the best version of myself show up in this situation?

For example: if you are heading to your daily team meeting, the best version of yourself would show up prepared, energetic and focused.

By identifying those traits beforehand, you will be much more likely to perform at your best in the many different environments throughout your day.

6. LINKS OF THE WEEK 🔗

  • 🤝 3x simple strategies for deepening your relationships at work and home (LINK)

  • 🎙️ How Scott Drawer innovated Team GB cycling over 5 Olympic Cycles (LINK)

  • 💡 3x challenges introverts face when becoming a leader and how to overcome each (LINK)

  • 🤷‍♂️ People with low emotional intelligence are known to use these 4 phrases (LINK)

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  • Listen to our latest podcast episodes: with guests who have built world-class teams from a variety of industries across business, sport, military, the arts and more to come 🎙️

  • Check out some of our previous articles: Amazon’s unique meeting culture, how to onboard new hires like Salesforce and the no.1 leadership principle that former US president Obama uses daily.

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