The Behavioral Change Stairway Model was developed by the FBI’s hostage negotiation unit, and it shows the 5 steps to getting someone to see your point of view.

By Kent Mulkey

The Behavioral Change Stairway Model was developed by the FBI’s hostage negotiation unit, and it shows the 5 steps to getting someone to see your point of view and change what they’re doing.

It works with barricaded criminals wielding assault rifles. It also applies to most any form of negotiating between two opposing points of view. FBI international hostage negotiator Chris Voss tells us the five steps:

  1. Active Listening: Listen to their side and make them aware you’re listening. 

  1. Empathy: Understand where they’re coming from and how they feel. 

  1. Rapport: Feed back their feeling. While empathy is what you feel, rapport is when they feel it back. They start to trust you. 

  1. Influence: Now that they trust you, you’ve earned the right to work on problem solving with them and recommend a course of action. 

  1. Behavioral Change: They act. I have been fortunate that close to 50% come out with their hands up and move to an environment that better suits them.

But . . .

Most Senior Housing Sales Counselors Get It Wrong

Why? They leave out the first three steps and go straight to Influence and then zero in on trying to get them to change what they are doing – to stop barricading themselves in their house and refuse to move to your community. Tomorrow.  

Saying to a prospect “Here are the top three reasons you should move to our community” might work if people were fundamentally rational, but they’re not.

From Chris Voss:

“…business negotiations try to pretend that emotions don’t exist. What’s your best alternative to a negotiated agreement? That’s to try to be completely unemotional and rational, which is a fiction about negotiation. So instead of pretending emotions don’t exist in negotiations, take emotions fully into account and use them to influence situations, which is the reality of the way all negotiations go…”

The most critical first step is Active Listening, but most people are terrible at it. Practice with a friend and see how long you can stay quiet while they talk. Listen particularly for emotion.

Let me know how it goes. I won’t say a word.

[The views expressed here are my own and not those of my employer.]