An Effective Negotiating Technique Our Bank Learned from the FBI

Bank Negotiation Techniques

It was 8:30 in the morning back in September of 1993 when the Brooklyn Chase branch was robbed by two masked gunmen. The security guard was hit across the head and locked in the men’s room, a teller was pistol-whipped, and the branch manager had a gun put in her mouth, the trigger was pulled, and luckily, the only thing that happened was a click. “Next one is real,” said the thug. “Now open the vault.” How this robbery was resolved sticks in our minds and is was one of the lessons that drove home our most valuable, and seemingly cheesy, negotiating technique. In this article, we discuss this technique and how it helped us generate more business.




The FBI established a phone line to the main bank robber and then started questioning the robber. “We got a blue van out here. We have identified all the other vehicles except for this one. Do you know anything about it?,” said the FBI’s lead hostage negotiator. “Our vehicle isn’t out there because you chased our driver away,” the robber retorted. “We chased your driver away?” the FBI mirrored. “Well, when he seen the police, he cut,” the robber interjected. “Your driver cut?,” shot back the FBI negotiator. “Yeah, he left us hanging,” said the criminal.


The FBI’s mirroring technique is used to elicit more information about a situation. In this hostage case, the FBI quickly learned that the bank robber had one accomplice that left and his use of “us” uncovered another accomplice still in the bank branch. That was the start of a disclosure of information that came, thanks to mirroring that led to the ultimate safe resolution of the bank robbery.


Mirroring, technically called isopraxism, is neurobehavioral that subconsciously opens a bridge between two individuals. It is based on the concept that humans trust those that are similar to them and is why we tend to hire and do business with the people that look, dress and act like us. Undoubtedly you have heard of mirroring when it comes to body language. This is the same technique just applied verbally.


The execution of the technique is simply to repeat the last three words or the critical part of the sentence that you want more information on. By repeating the last part of the sentence, turning your response into a question by raising the inflection of your voice and by having at least four seconds of silence after the mirror, you will find that the other person almost always gives up more information.


Mirroring in Action


We were in front of this potential borrower that we have been after for more than a year. He called one day, and we went to meet him. After telling us about the business’s history, he added that since we have been calling on him, he wanted to see “how competitive we are.” “How competitive we are?” we quickly interjected. “Compared to SunTrust, I mean.” Our target had previously avoided the question on what other banks he was talking to. Mirroring helped us quickly uncover this valuable competitive information and was just the start of many admissions that helped us build a winning proposal.


The FBI calls mirroring their “Jedi Mind Trick.” It is simple, awkward at first, but uncannily effective. It takes a bit of practice to get used to with the critical part being the silence after the question. Most bankers have learned lots of various negotiation techniques but this one almost never fails and is very efficient at drawing information out while building trust. Try it around the office, with friends or when running errands and watch your target fill the silence with the exact valuable information you are trying to extract.