Chris Voss spent 24 years in the FBI as a lead hostage negotiator, successfully winning the release of hostages who were kidnapped by criminals like bank robbers and terrorists. In a new 18-episode program for MasterClass, Voss applies the art and science of negotiating to everyday situations like sales meetings or cocktail parties.

Voss introduces two simple, proven, and powerful tactics you can use in tandem to build trust with almost anyone you meet.

Remember, you're negotiating every day, especially in business. Any time you want someone to say "yes," you're entering a negotiation: yes to a raise, yes to buying your product, yes to granting a deadline extension.

A great negotiation is actually a great collaboration, according to Voss. And collaboration requires trust between two people. Get people to trust you by applying these two FBI tactics--Mirroring and Labeling.


Mirroring is the repetition of key words the other person uses in conversation. It's designed to show the person that you're listening and that you understand them.

According to Voss, mirroring is most effective when you repeat one, two, or three words from the last words your counterpart has spoken. It's especially effective in defusing anger or hostility.

For example,

Your negotiating partner: "I've had a really difficult year, and it seems like you're discounting all the financial and personal stress I've been under."

You: "Financial and personal stress?"

The method puts people at ease, reduces tension (if it's a stressful situation) and makes the other person feel like someone is listening. "People love to talk to someone who is paying attention to them," says Voss.


A label is a verbal acknowledgment of the other side's feelings or positions. Labels are used to neutralize negative emotions or reinforce positive ones. Labels start with:

"It seems like..."

"It looks like..."

"You look like..."

The two techniques--mirroring and labeling--work in tandem.

Voss demonstrates the technique in a fascinating exchange. A three-minute video shows him sitting across from a woman. Voss asks just two brief questions to kick off the conversation. The rest is modeling and labeling.

Voss: "Tell me what you're passionate about."

Woman: "Well, I love escape room games."

Voss: "What is it about escape room games that makes you passionate?"

Woman: "They're fun to do with your friends, and they're immersive, and it challenges your mind."

Voss: "It challenges your mind?" [mirroring]

Woman: "Yeah, you only have 60 minutes to get out. There are a series of puzzles you have to solve to get out."

Voss: "It sounds like you love mental challenges." [labeling]

Woman: "I do. It's an immersive experience, like being part of a play...You also try to make it the best experience for others, so they enjoy it too."

Voss: "It also sounds like you really like to help people." [labeling]

Woman: "I guess I do. I never really thought about it like that."

Voss: "You sound like a really loyal person, too." [labeling]

Woman: "Ah, that's nice to say. My friends do say that about me!"

In three minutes, the woman never asked Voss a question about himself. For purposes of the exercise, she doesn't know much about Voss because she did almost all the talking. Yet--and here's the amazing part--when she was asked how she felt about the exchange, she said, "It made me feel like he [Voss] was listening to me."

Voss had just demonstrated how to build an instant rapport with another person by simply using modeling and labeling to encourage the other person to talk about herself.  

Voss calls this tactic "trust-based influence." If you want another person to say 'yes' to your idea, you must first gain their trust. Once they trust you, you'll be far more influential and more likely to strike a deal that makes both of you happy.