Bush Bite Live: Negotiating property Part 2 – Mirroring, Labelling & Perceived Power

On this week’s live Bush Bite, how mirroring and labelling can help you negotiate your way to a successful property deal.


Hi and welcome! In this week’s Bush Bite we continue our special series on the art and science of negotiation, given the critical importance of your ability to negotiate, especially in the current high demand property market.

Last week, we started with the need to change your outlook and to build good rapport. This week, we’ll be building a negotiation toolkit by helping you with mirroring and labelling along with perceived power. So let’s kick off with mirroring…

Mirroring is the repetition of key words that the other person uses in conversation. It Is designed to show the other person that you’re listening and that you understand them. According to retired FBI lead hostage negotiator Chris Voss, this is the most effective way when you repeat up to three words from the last words that your counterpart has spoken. It’s especially effective in diffusing 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’re listening. As we all know, people love to talk to someone who’s paying attention to them. This simple approach helps quickly build rapport, reveals more of what’s important to them in the negotiation and builds you time to think and reflect on the best solutions and options in order to negotiate a mutually agreeable outcome.

Now, let’s look at labelling. A label as a verbal acknowledgement of the other side’s feelings or positions. Labels are used to neutralise negative emotions or to reinforce positive ones. Labels start with you responding with things like “it seems like”, “it looks like” and “you appear to”. These two techniques, both mirroring and labelling, work beautifully together, let’s demonstrate these techniques with a verbal exchange. Let’s imagine that I’m interviewing Emma and I’ll ask just two brief questions to kick off the conversation. Then the rest is about mirroring and labelling. So listen out for it.

This is how goes. I start by asking Emma “tell me what you’re passionate about.” Emma responds, “I love escape room games” and I say, “what is it about escape room games that makes you passionate?” Emma says, “they’re fun to do with your friends, they’re immersive and it challenges your mind.” I then respond, “it challenges your mind?” Note here that I’m mirroring Emma’s last three words. Emma then says, “yeah, you only have 60 minutes to get out, there’s a series of puzzles you have to solve in order to get out.” I then say “it sounds like you love mental challenges.” Now, listen, because I’m actually using labelling. Emma answers. “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 that they can enjoy it, too.” I then say “it also sounds like you really like to help people,” again I’m labelling here. Emma then responds, “I guess I do. I never really thought about it like that.” I then comment, “you sound like a really loyal person to me.” Again, this is more labelling. Emma concludes, “oh, that’s nice of you to say. My friends do say that about me.” In this brief exchange, Emma never asked me a question about myself. She didn’t learn much about me because she did almost all of the talking. But here is the amazing part…

When Emma was asked how she felt about the exchange, she said, It made me feel like you really listen to me and I really connected with you. 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.

Now, in researching this, I’ve actually realised that this is the subliminal approach that I take in my podcast and I use it to get my guest to open up about subjects of interest. And it’s amazing how I built really great relationships and friendships with our podcast guests after just one interview as the guest often comment on how connected they feel with me after the interview.

Voss calls this approach ‘trust based influence’. If you want the other person to say yes to your idea, you must first gain their trust and once they trust you, you will be far more influential and more likely to strike a deal that makes both of you happy. In summary, mirroring is the repetition of keywords the other person uses in conversation. A label is a verbal acknowledgement of the other side’s feelings or positions, and both of these techniques help build rapport with the person that you’re negotiating with.

In summarising the art and science of property negotiation, so far, I’ve argued that it’s important to shift your attitude and outlook away from looking for a zero sum game or win approach where if I win, you lose, and what I take, you give. Rather look to understand whoever you’re dealing with and figure out what they want, what motivates them and how to work this into a solution. Look at negotiation as problem solving collaboratively. Work together to get an end result, such as purchasing a successful property purchase.

While you’re doing this, build rapport, be open, friendly, likeable, smile and listen, building trust. Do this with various techniques such as mirroring and labelling, where you gel with the person that you’re negotiating with. Now, assuming you’ve done all of this, the final step is to examine before actually negotiating the property sale itself is to look at the power relationship or perceived power. Now perceived power can have a big impact on the negotiation stance of the parties involved. Where does the perceived power lie between the parties in the negotiation based on the circumstances and the environment? To illustrate this, let me share an example of something that happened some years ago. It’s late at night in a big city, and Ted, the businessman, is walking through a dimly lit, deserted park land on his way home. All of a sudden, a would-be robber and a black balaclava wielding a gun sneaks out from the shadows, points the gun at Ted’s head, and demands that Ted give him his wallet and his Rolex watch or he’s going to shoot him. How would you feel at that moment? Would you be scared? The attacker feels that he holds the power on the negotiation because he’s holding a loaded gun and he’s threatening to take Ted’s life, or at least impart serious injury by shooting him if he doesn’t cough it up. An uneasy silence ensues and then Ted responds, thanks mate, please shoot me, because you’re going to be doing me a big favour. I’ve got terminal cancer and I’ve only got a few months to live. So go ahead and please put me out of my misery. In an instant, the perceived power and that negotiation has completely shifted, the robber’s been completely disempowered. The result, the would-be robber turned and just ran off into the night.

So, I have to think about the power and the negotiation. Who really wields it. If you’re a genuine buyer, you probably have more than you actually think. The real estate agent wants to get a deal over the line. That’s their job. But there are more properties on the market. You can walk away. No one’s putting a gun to your head, nor should they think you are. So I imagine that the gun is just disappearing in a puff of dust.

So in conclusion, so far, the best negotiations fulfil all parties, hopes and dreams, they eliminate uncertainty and build trust and balance the perceived power playing field to set the scene to arrive at win win outcomes. Mirroring is a repetition of keywords the other person uses in conversation. A label is a verbal acknowledgement of the other side’s feelings or positions, and both techniques help build rapport with the person that you are negotiating with. And, you may have more power in negotiation than you think. And no one is holding a gun to your head. So imagine any gun disappearing.

In next week’s negotiation special Bush Bite we will get into the actual nuts and bolts of negotiating the purchase of a home.

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