066 – Jedi Mind Tricks with FBI Hostage Negotiator Chris Voss


066 – Jedi Mind Tricks with FBI Hostage Negotiator Chris Voss

I treat a lot of veterans in my job as a surgeon, and many of them have PTSD. What I’ve learned over the years is that anger is really fear disguised, and I try to never take it personally. I  had a patient whose face hurt so badly that he couldn’t even touch his skin. And no one seemed to be able to tell him what was going on, and he was afraid that I’d be just another doctor to brush him off, and the longer he had to wait, the angrier he got. By the time I walked into the room, he was ready to pick a fight.

This tense situation could have ended up in several negative ways, but by the time the patient and I completed our visit- an hour later- the last thing this grizzled veteran said to me was, “Doc, I’m sorry about how I acted. Thank you. I love you.” I’m not trying to brag about my amazing people skills, it took me 25 years of medical practice to finally get it. A game changer for me was the day my brilliant plastic surgery colleague, Dr. James Rough, came into my office, and said ”Hey you gotta check out this book called, “Never Split The Difference” written by an FBI Hostage Negotiator.

This best selling book really is a practical manual on how to have meaningful interactions with other human beings- be it your boss, your client, your loved one , your child- or in my case, my patient. On this episode of the Hollow Tube, Chris Voss will tell us about the sentinel event that took him from the New York City SWAT team to the FBI Hostage Negotiation Team. Then, he’ll teach about the neuroscience of becoming a master negotiator and how the same principles apply to any field.

Have you ever lost your temper or had a heated exchange with someone that you wished had gone better? We all have. Chris will take us through some of the mental exercises we can do to keep our cool under any circumstance. And finally Chris will teach us some of the Jedi mind tricks like mirroring, labeling, tactical empathy and the Late Night FM Radio DJ voice- that we can use to connect better with others, have a greater influence, and achieve more.

Topics Discussed Today:

[11:08] Chris has always been proactive. When he started having knee problems, he knew it was time to make a switch in his career.

[13:48] If a transition is easy, you’re not learning. Awkwardness is the barrier to learning.

[15:31] If you feel uncomfortable, you are immersed in what you are doing. Even in surgery, you feel like a laser beam.

[16:23] We talk about how to carry this focus and self-awareness into everyday life. Practice your skills in everyday life and keep in mind that reliving them is practice.

[19:02] Mental practice will build repetition with your brain and prepare you for situations.

[20:33] Chris volunteered on a suicide hotline to get some experience with crisis negotiation. Accepting advice from someone, gives them a stake in the game as a mentor.

[24:18] Find who’s doing what you want to do or is in charge of who’s doing what you want to do.

[28:09] Michael really liked the deep respect that Brandon had for his father Chris.

[28:55] Hostage negotiation was invented in the 1970s. Neuroscience is backing up emotional intelligence and the way that the brain works.

[30:31] We remember the most intense moment.

[34:57] Most negotiations are backed up by neuroscience. We need to focus on how the message is received.

[35:59] You have to have the self-awareness to get your message across.

[36:37] The late-night FM radio DJ voice. Mirror neurons react automatically. This immediately calms the brain.

[38:09] You can change the conversation by changing the tone of your voice. We pick up velocity with negative emotions. We need to slow things down and kick the positive emotions back into gear.

[41:08] Mirroring is like a Jedi mind trick. Mirror the other side’s position every single time by repeating the last two or three words that they said.

[42:40] Mirroring someone’s exact words means that you heard their words.

[43:15] Labeling has a tendency to bypass defense actions.

[44:19] Tactical empathy is the purposeful application of empathy. Negative thoughts need to be drawn out and diffused.

[46:53] The closer we are to people the more their perspective is going to change.

[48:47] Go after the negatives, diffuse them, and never deny them.

[50:01] Chris and his team train high performance individuals.

[52:19] Learning by doing is a slow learners method. Teachers are the best teachers.

[53:43] It’s not practice that makes perfect it’s perfect practice that makes perfect. Chris’s classes are instant immersion.

[56:22] They’re usually about 50 students in his classes.

[01:00:11] Chris and his team are building out certifications this year. They’re also going to have some boot camps. They also have a video instruction course. They have a lot of products that they want to put out there, because people learn differently.

[01:03:53] Nobody is taking the concepts of hostage negotiation and dropping them into business school the way Chris is. He and his team also spent a lot of time learning how to teach.

Pat and Michael’s Action Steps:

  • Pick one of the concepts Chris mentioned, like mirroring, labeling or using your Late Night FM Radio DJ voice and work on it for a week or even forty days, until you’ve mastered the skill.
  • Read or listen to Chris’ book:  Never Split the Difference. As Dr. Rough said, “Trust Me.” I started with the audiobook, which sounds like a John Grisham novel, and went through that a few times before I bought the hardcopy.
  • Sign up for Chris’ newsletter by texting- FBIEMPATHY … one word… to 228-28
  • Check out Chris’ website at blackswanltd.com
  • Reach out to Chris on twitter @vossnegotiation, on instagram @thefbinegotiator, or on facebook @Chris Voss and tell him what you learned from him on the podcast- that way he’ll come back.

Links and Resources:

Uncle Michael @TheHollowTube on Twitter

Uncle Michael @TheHollowTube on Instagram

Michael Bays on Facebook

The Hollow Tube Facebook Page

Dr. James Rough

Never Split The Difference

Episode 65 – Bringing Harmony Into Our Lives With Diane Halfman

Never Split The Difference | Chris Voss | TEDxUniversityofNevada

Episode 57 – The Black Swan: with Brandon Voss

The Black Swan Group

@VossNegotiation on Twitter

The Black Swan Group Facebook Page

The Negotiation Edge

Pure Encapsulations

The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How.

Tahl Raz

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)


“Hurting my knee is one of the best things that ever happened, because negotiation is so much more enjoyable.” Chris Voss

“We focus on accelerating learning when we teach negotiations. I’m going to intentionally make you feel awkward, because that’s when I know you’re picking up the pace.” Chris Voss

“Never take advice from somebody who you wouldn’t trade places with.” Chris Voss

If you enjoyed this podcast please tell a friend. You can download our 40 Day Affirmation Challenge at The Hollow Tube. You can also look us up on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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