A Strange Negotiation Tactic – When a police negotiator has finally convinced a dangerous person to give up and surrender, they usually do something very strange: they touch the shoulder or arm of the target. Even though it may sound a little trivial, the negotiator is actually encouraged to do this in training. Why is it so important for a police negotiator to touch their targets physically?
A long time ago, there was a woman on my sales team called Flora. She was not particularly attractive, and her selling skill was just average. However, her performance was always one of the top in the team, and it got me curious. In order to find out how she achieved that, I secretly observed her for a period of time.
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Soon I discovered that she had a very strange habit when she talked to people. She always physically touched her prospects on their hands or shoulders at least once. And strangely enough, each time after they were touched, they all seemed a little more relaxed and approachable.
At first, I thought it was magic of some sort, but I soon learned that there was actually science behind this phenomenon.
According to a 2010 study by the University of Delaware, whenever we are in gentle contact with another person, our bodies release a hormone called oxytocin. This hormone has been demonstrated to be associated with a feeling of social generosity, and have a direct impact on human’s social behavior. In a classic study by Angela Stanton from Claremont Graduate University, participants who had ingested oxytocin were more generous than the control group during an economic game. In other words, oxytocin is like a magic “friendly pill”.
It seems far-fetched, but just by touching people, you can affect their body chemistry and make them friendlier. In fact, this has already been confirmed by empirical evidence. Jacob Hornik from the University of Chicago once conducted a study which investigated why some waitresses got more tips than others. They found that the more- tipped girls were not really prettier, but they did make more physical contacts with their customers, like casually touching their shoulders when asking them if everything was all right. It is also known that couples who have more physical intimacies (like hugging) tend to have happier relationships.
Obviously, you cannot just go and hug your business client or a member of the opposite sex in a bar, but the findings still have practical applications in your real life. Just like the story of Flora at the beginning, you can make casual contacts with your target to increase intimacy between the two of you. It is a very effective method for ice-breaking and opening up your prospects, so that they will volunteer more information to you.
Touching is even more important in the context of dating. According to a dating guru whom I personally know, if a man has touched a woman physically within the first few dates, then the relationship is more likely to develop further. The reason is that the ultimate goal of dating is to get close to each other. If physical contact has already been made early on, then both parties will be more used to further intimacy in future.
However, whenever you try to make physical contact with anyone, there are three things that you should bear in mind:
Firstly, it is harder for a man to touch a woman than the other way round. If you are a man who tries to make physical contact with a woman in a serious setting, you must always only engage the non-sensitive areas like arms or shoulders, and try to make the contact brief.
Secondly, always maintain eye contact when you do the touching. Never stare at the body part that you are trying to touch, or else you’ll look creepy and intentional.
Finally, be aware of cultural differences in some other countries where people are more reserved. For instance, it is never a good idea to physically touch a female stranger on the street in a conservative Islamic country, or you may risk punishment at the hands of the locals.
To find out more tricks on how to persuade and influence people, please get a copy of my book, the Art of Influencing Anyone.