How to Talk to Your Soul Crushing Boss... and other FBI approved communication tips

Top 3 Post Insights

  1. Address the negative

  2. Ask 'HOW' instead of 'Why'

  3. Learn to play emotional chess

Because if they’ve worked against terrorists, they’ll work against your soul crushing boss or pyscho girlfriend.

We’re always told ‘communication is key,’ but who actually teaches this to you?

Some people are born with high emotional intelligence, others are not. For the bulk of us, it’s a skill you learn on the fly… usually through getting out of palm sweaty/ gut wrenching situations alive.  

Whether you’re the newbie the office, a freelancer looking to get paid quicker or the overprotective boyfriend, negotiation skills can help you get a better outcome.

Former FBI Hostage Negotiator, Chris Voss, is the author of ‘Never Split the Difference.’  A book about negotiation skills improving your game at work and in life. I’ve listened to this listened to this interview about 5 times now, each time learning something new! For now, here’s my top 3 take-outs:


1.    Acknowledge the Negative

Addressing the negative diminishes it. The more you bring it up, the more it sounds ridiculous. When you begin with the ‘bad news’, anything said after that will (almost) sound like sweet candy.




·       “I know I’m the least experienced person here, but what if tried…”

·       “I know it sounds intrusive, but how many other people have you interviewed today?”

·      “At the risk of sounding pushy, what are the chances of getting this invoice paid tonight?”


·      “I don’t want you to think I don’t trust you, I’d just be able to sleep better knowing you’re safe with the people you’re out with.”

·      “I know it might sound greedy, but what are the chances of getting some extra sauce” (my personal favourite at Oportos)

A predictable negative shows a level of empathy. Follow it up with a question, and the person is more likely to respond positively because you’ve showed how they might feel.


2.    Stop Asking ‘Why’ –ask ‘How’

People get defensive when you ask them ‘why’. When someone questions our decisions or actions, we tend to second guess ourselves.  On the contrary, when you ask someone a ‘how’ question it makes them feel in control as they’ve provided the solution.



·      Instead of “Why are you such a cock sucker to work with?” ask “How can I support you and the team better so we can get the best outcome from this project?”


·      Instead of “Why do you always leave the dirty dishes overnight ya filthy animal?” ask “How are we supposed to avoid rats if they’re attracted to dirty dishes?”

The trick is to frame a positive outcome that’s unachievable because of the current situation.  


3.    Emotional Chess

Ego stroking isn’t new. But there’s a fine line between being a pathetic suck up and playing smart emotional chess. The key is to use the other person’s ego as the catalyst for your agenda, in the most discreet manner. Additionally, never underestimate the desire for someone to correct you. People love feeling like they’re smarter than you.



·       “Wow, that's an incredible idea...What if we built on that and (INSERT YOUR BETTER IDEA)”

·       “Your (INSERT THEIR SKILL) is something I really admire, I’d love your opinion on (bla bla)”

·       “I assume the reason you’re hiring is because of a recent resignation?” (aka. Why should/ shouldn’t I work here?)


·      “We love coming here because your service makes us feel at home. I hope your boss knows how amazing you are!... Hey so what are the chances of moving to that table over there?

·      “Babe everyone can’t stop talking about how amazing your lamb roast is. They said that its better than any other restaurant! Maybe we should bring it to my parents’ house this weekend?” (aka. I’m too lazy to cook)

Communication is an emotional battlefield. The key is to identify what emotions are at play before opening your mouth.


Everyday we’re having conversations that impact what we get out of life. By improving our communication with negotiation skills, you’ll get better at guiding conversations your way. So try these FBI approved tips next time you want a better outcome… because if they’ve worked against terrorists I’m sure they’ll work against your soul crushing boss or pyscho girlfriend.

Liz Pal