What Science Says about Disagreeing like an FBI-Agent

What Science Says about Disagreeing like an FBI-Agent

I can’t be certain of course, I don’t know you (yet). As a general rule, the way most of us disagree and negotiate is fundamentally flawed. It runs counter to what we now know about how the brain processes disagreement from the last decade of Cognitive Science research.

The way you disagree is probably wrong. But you can fix it.

I can’t be certain of course, I don’t know you (yet). As a general rule, the way most of us disagree and negotiate is fundamentally flawed. It runs counter to what we now know about how the brain processes disagreement from the last decade of Cognitive Science research.

How do I know?

Simple. Because I was guiltier than anyone else. I was in sales, failing miserably. And now I’m trying to change that.

From FBI negotiators to Presidents-club salespeople, the best disagreers (yes, I made this word up, so what) make a point of avoiding these common pitfalls.

You’re Wrong — and here’s why

If you’ve ever stated something like this (I’m guilty as charged), congratulations. You’ve just switched off the other sides brain.

Or at least, the part responsible for judging how confident they are in what you have to say. See.

Image for post

Photo credit: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41593-019-0549-2?proof=true1

Research from Dr Andres Kappa and colleagues at the University College London found that during a negotiation, when one side openly disagrees with the other, the posterior Medial Prefrontal Cortex shuts off. This part of your brain is responsible for scoring how confident you are about the other sides point of view.

So you can imagine if this shuts off, it’s not good. It’s a bit like you’re flicking off a light switch in their brain. Suddenly, they can’t see your point in the darkness.

Professional Negotiators in the FBI know this: they avoid open disagreement.

I’ve felt this too. When you openly disagree with someone, usually 1 of 3 things happen:

  • they look at you funny and shake their head
  • they tell you why you’re wrong and they are right
  • they say “huh” and ignore you entirely.

So, what do you do?

Simple; get to common ground.

  • We both believe that…
  • We both want…

Research says try starting in a commonly held belief or position of agreement. If you can’t find one yet, then maybe you need to do more of this next thing.

negotiation brain neuroscience startup data science

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