Veiled Responses

Patrick’s Weekly Leadership Tip

Forget getting people to say ‘yes’ to your requests. Get them to say ‘that’s right.’ The former might be a response intended to avoid a situation. The latter is a sign of true commitment.

Imagine that you are the lead negotiator handling an international hostage situation.

After hours of negotiation, the kidnapper says “yes” to your request for him to surrender and release his hostages.

You are pleased by his response and believe that things are turning out well.

Unfortunately, your enthusiasm is misplaced as the kidnapper is not likely to surrender or release the hostages anytime soon.

Surprised? I was too.

This week on the Leadership Lab podcast, I talk to Chris Voss. Chris is a former FBI lead international hostage negotiator, speaker, trainer, and author of the bestselling book, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as If Your Life Depended On It.

Chris told me on the podcast that when negotiating, especially in a hostage situation, you aren’t looking for the kidnapper to say “yes”. He explains that when a negotiation counterpart says “yes”, they don’t often mean “yes”. They mean something like, “Leave me alone” or “I don’t want to talk about it anymore”.

The conversation caused me to think about some of the things leaders, customers, and employees say when they are trying to say something completely different. For example:

  • A team member asks a leader for funding to attend a workshop. The leader says, “let me think about it.” In reality, the leader doesn’t want to deal with it and hopes you will forget about it.
  • A customer is asked how they liked the service. The customer responds, “Oh, it was good.” That’s not a glowing endorsement. It may very well mean, “I’m not thrilled and don’t intend to come back. I don’t want to get into it with you.”
  • An employee puts in her letter of resignation. Her boss asks why she is leaving, and the employee responds, “It’s an opportunity I simply can’t pass up.” The honest answer is, “I’m leaving because I’m tired of working for you. I want to get out of here and avoid another conversation with you.”

These are all veiled responses. There’s something behind each of them that you must dig deeper to discover. This week’s video and tool help you to explore what’s behind the veil. Use it to reflect on your words and those of your customers and team members. See if you can’t uncover the real meaning behind the veil.

I strongly encourage you to listen to my podcast conversation with Chris Voss. The episode is called Negotiate as If Your Life Depended on It. Listen and learn what you want people to say instead of “yes” and how you can work to make it happen.

This Week’s Questions

  1. What things do you routinely say that are veiled responses as opposed to accurate statements?
  2. What situation or commitment are your trying to avoid with your veiled response?
  3. How can you handle a situation differently in the future and express your true thoughts while strengthening the relationship in the process?

This Week’s Challenge

The next time you request someone to do something, phrase it in a way that leads them to say “that’s right”.


Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

Episode 151: Negotiate as if Your Life Depended on it With International Hostage Negotiator and Author Chris Voss

Worksheet: Getting Past a Veiled Response