Former FBI agent shares 3 things people with high emotional intelligence always do when talking to others


JULY 6, 2023

For six years, I studied the habits and mindsets of some of the world’s most influential and successful people. I wanted to learn how they think.

In my new book, “Hidden Genius,” one person I highlight is Chris Voss. A key skill he mastered during his 24 years as one of the FBI’s lead international negotiators was emotional intelligence. The secret, according to Voss, is knowing how to listen and read people.

In 1993, for example, two men held three employees hostage at a Chase Manhattan Bank in Brooklyn, New York. Voss was the second negotiator on the phone with one of the bank robbers.

To resolve the conflict, he did three things that he says people with high emotional intelligence do when communicating with others, especially during sensitive conversations:

1. Speak soothingly

In that 1993 negotiation, Voss used a technique that he calls “The Late Night FM DJ” voice: a declarative, soothing and downward-inflecting voice that is applicable in nearly every situation.

This tone of voice triggers a neurochemical reaction that calms your counterpart’s brain down. It then creates an involuntary response of clear-headedness in both parties.

“Genuine curiosity is a hack for emotional control,” he said in a 2018 podcast interview. “If you talk out loud in a smooth, calming voice, you can actually calm yourself down, too.”

2. Repeat statements as questions

Mirroring is an effective technique for building goodwill and gathering information. You mirror someone by repeating several key words they used in their last communication.

For example, if the bank robber says, “I had a really hard day because of all the stress I’m under,” respond with, “The stress you’re under?”

This keeps you present and emotionally sober while allowing the bank robber to continue talking.

3. Label the other person’s emotions

Voss then told the second bank robber, “It wasn’t your fault, was it?” and “You regret that this happened, right?” Both of these questions insinuated that the robber simply got roped into a bad situation.

Labeling is used to verbally identify and name your counterpart’s emotions. A good label would be responding with one of the following: “It seems like you’re in a stressful situation,” or “It looks like you’re unhappy with how things turned out.”

High emotional intelligence requires strategic listening

Voss was able to get the bank robbers to surrender and free the hostages because he did something that most of us probably wouldn’t do in the midst of a high-pressure conflict: he listened.

But his negotiating tools can be used across any situation in life. If you’re able to master the art of listening, you can use your emotional intelligence to successfully defuse conflict with your coworker, your spouse, or even your teenager.

Polina Marinova Pompliano is the founder of The Profile, a media organization that profiles successful people and companies. She has interviewed influential figures such as Melinda Gates, Steve Case, Chamath Palihapitiya and Stephen Schwarzman. Follow her on Instagram.

*This is an adapted excerpt from “Hidden Genius: The Secret Ways of Thinking That Power the World’s Most Successful People” by Polina Marinova Pompliano. Published by Harriman House. Copyright © 2023 by Polina Marinova Pompliano.

Courtesy/Source: CNBC