5 Military Negotiation Tactics That Apply to Business

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5 Military Negotiation Tactics That Apply to Business

By Roy Dekel | Inc Magazine | Feb 9, 2024

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The disciplined world of military service and the business world are very different, yet surprisingly parallel.  Seven key negotiation lessons from the author’s military experience that have been pivotal in shaping his approach as an entrepreneur.

  1. The power of mirroring: Encouraging open dialogue.  This simple yet effective method involves repeating the last few words your counterpart says, encouraging them to continue talking and reveal more information.  In business, for instance, this technique is essential for understanding clients’ real needs and concerns. For instance, when a client expresses hesitation about a product’s scalability, echoing their concern as a question prompts them to elaborate, allowing us to address their specific issues more effectively.
  2. Strategic use of open-ended questions.  In the military, extracting crucial information often depends on the right questions. Questions beginning with “what,” “how,” and “when” can elicit detailed responses and offer insights into the other party’s thought process.  As an entrepreneur, you can use these questions to delve deeper into clients’ needs and challenges. 
  3. Value a genuine “no” over an inauthentic “yes”.  A genuine “no.” provides clarity and a basis for further negotiation, whereas an insincere “yes” often leads to dead ends.  In business, understanding the difference has been crucial. It’s better to uncover the real reasons behind a “no” than to chase a false “yes.” This approach could save time and resources and helped foster honest and productive relationships with your clients and partners.
  4. Effective leverage: Balance power with empathy.  Leverage in the military is about understanding and utilizing opponents’ motivations and fears.  In business, it’s similar, but with a focus on creating win-win scenarios. Understanding what a client or partner values allows you to tailor solutions that meet their needs while also advancing your company’s interests.  The key is to use leverage empathetically and ethically, ensuring that all parties feel respected and valued.
  5. The art of active listening: More than just hearing words.  Perhaps the most profound lesson from his military experience is the importance of active listening. In high-pressure situations, understanding every nuance, tone, and undercurrent in conversations can be life-saving.  This skill has been equally essential in business. Active listening involves fully focusing on the speaker, understanding their message, and responding thoughtfully.  In negotiations, it means reading between the lines, noticing what is not said, and responding to both the emotional and logical aspects of the conversation.  In board meetings, client discussions, or team briefings,  make a conscious effort to listen more than you speak.  This approach can not only help you grasp complex situations better, but also built stronger relationships. People feel valued and understood when they are truly heard, which is crucial in any business setting.

And two more tactics offered by the author are:

  1. Tactical empathy: Understand before being understood.  Tactical empathy goes beyond just understanding the other person’s viewpoint; it’s about acknowledging their emotions and perspective in the moment.  In business, this tactic could be a game-changer for you. By demonstrating that you understand and respect where the other party is coming from, you could build trust and open up more honest dialogues.  It’s not about agreeing, but about showing you comprehend their stance, fears, and aspirations. This depth of understanding can transform negotiations from adversarial standoffs to collaborative problem-solving sessions.
  2. Calculated patience: The strategic pause.  One of the less talked about but highly effective techniques is the power of patience–or the strategic pause.  In high-tension situations, the ability to remain calm and composed, taking a moment before responding, can give you an upper hand. It allows you to process information, consider your options, and respond more effectively.  This approach could often give you the clarity to make more calculated decisions during negotiations, preventing rushed judgments and fostering more thoughtful, mutually beneficial outcomes.

3 key takeaways from the article

  1. The disciplined world of military service and the business world are very different, yet surprisingly parallel.  
  2. Seven key negotiation lessons from themilitary that have been pivotal in shaping his approach as an entrepreneur are: repeate the last few words your counterpart says, encouraging them to continue talking and reveal more information; strategic use of open-ended questions; value a genuine “no” over an inauthentic “yes”; balance power with empathy; listen actively; understand before being understood; and take a strategic pause in negotiations
  3. As entrepreneurs, we often find ourselves in high-stakes negotiations, much like in the military. At the heart of every business deal, just like in every military operation, are people–with their own needs, fears, and aspirations. Understanding and respecting these human elements is key to successful negotiation.

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Topics:  Decision-making, Negotiations, Communication

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