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Ex-FBI negotiator: This one phrase can help you win any argument

Christopher Voss, Founder and CEO of Black Swan Group speaking at Iconic L.A. on Sept. 27th, 2017.
David A. Grogan | CNBC

When you are trying to get your way at the office, you may think you want to hear "you're right" from whomever you are speaking with. You may see it is a sign you are winning your argument.

But you don't. And it isn't. That's according to former FBI negotiator Chris Voss.

Instead, you should hope to hear "that's right."

The difference between "you're right" and "that's right" is only one word, but the meaning and impact for your negotiations are very different, says Voss.

Former FBI negotiator: This one phrase can help you win any argument

What hearing 'you're right' really means

Voss is the founder and CEO of strategy consultancy Black Swan Group, and prior to working in the private sector, he was the lead international kidnapping negotiator for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the lead crisis negotiator for the New York City Division of the FBI and a member of the New York City Joint Terrorist Task Force for 14 years.

Based on his years working as a professional negotiator, Voss learned to pick up clues from whomever he was negotiating with.

"When somebody says, 'You're right,' what they're really saying to you is, 'Please, shut up. Stop talking. I can't take it anymore. Go away,'" Voss tells CNBC Make It. "Either they like you — or they have to act like they like you," so they are being polite by wrapping up the conversation in a way that indicates agreement, says Voss.

When somebody says 'that's right,' they're telling you they felt completely understood.
Chris Voss
Former FBI negotiator

"That's why our coworkers say that — 'you're right' — to us, to get us to go away, because they have to see you the next day, so 'you're right' is designed to get you to shut up and preserve the relationship instead of just telling somebody to 'shut up.'"

What hearing 'that's right' really means

What you want to hear is "that's right," says Voss.

If you can get a person you are arguing with to the point of saying "that's right," they are signaling, subconsciously, that they actually believe you understand their perspective.

"That's right" is what we say "when we feel completely heard, and there's a chemical change that takes place in our brain — it is a subtle epiphany. And when you feel an epiphany, you feel better, you just don't know where it came from.

Former FBI negotiator: Here's the secret to getting what you want

"Well, it came from me. Because I got you to say 'that's right' and without knowing it now you're willing to listen to me and you don't know that I did that," says Voss.

"Now you have the 'go signal' because now their brain is willing to listen," he says.

Whoever you are speaking with may not be aware they are releasing their resistance to you, "that's just the way the brain works," he says.

If you can get your boss or colleague to trust that you understand where they are coming from, to trust that they are being heard and respected, then you have a much greater chance of getting what you want.

See also:

Asking this one question is the secret to getting a raise, says former FBI negotiator

Former top FBI negotiator: This is the No. 1 secret to getting what you want

Former FBI hostage negotiator: This surprising technique makes you look fearless in any negotiation

This former FBI negotiator's strategy can make you look fearless in any negotiation

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