Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It

by: Chris Voss (0)

A former international hostage negotiator for the FBI offers a new, field-tested approach to high-stakes negotiations―whether in the boardroom or at home.

** A Wall Street Journal Bestseller **

After a stint policing the rough streets of Kansas City, Missouri, Chris Voss joined the FBI, where his career as a hostage negotiator brought him face-to-face with a range of criminals, including bank robbers and terrorists. Reaching the pinnacle of his profession, he became the FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator. Never Split the Difference takes you inside the world of high-stakes negotiations and into Voss’s head, revealing the skills that helped him and his colleagues succeed where it mattered most: saving lives. In this practical guide, he shares the nine effective principles―counterintuitive tactics and strategies―you too can use to become more persuasive in both your professional and personal life.

Life is a series of negotiations you should be prepared for: buying a car, negotiating a salary, buying a home, renegotiating rent, deliberating with your partner. Taking emotional intelligence and intuition to the next level, Never Split the Difference gives you the competitive edge in any discussion.

The Reviews

This is a phenomenal book, written by an author who spent the majority of his 24 years career as the lead international kidnapping negotiator for the FBI and its hostage negotiation representative for the National Security Council’s Hostage Working Group. Apart from trained by the bureau, he was also trained in Scotland Yard and Harvard Law School.But first and foremost, his negotiation techniques come directly from the tried and tested field, from his experience in the deep jungle of Ecuador, to the separatist area of the Philippines, the slumps of Tahiti, to the many occurrences from within the US including bank robberies, a prison coup, and that bomb threat incident that got Washington DC into a lockdown for 48 hours. Indeed, reading this book feels like watching a very intense action movie, with all the detailed, chaotic, and super-tense scenes.The many real-life lessons in the book also come from business world, board meeting battles, investment negotiations, and the various cases that his students faced, from high stake deals to as menial as asking a salary raise.Constructed the book using these real-life events, the author, Chris Voss, guides us through the negotiation tactics that worked and also the ones that didn’t, which ones became the FBI’s standard practice and which ones were so disastrous they literally cost lives and became the standard of what NOT to do. It is as if we jump directly into these many negotiation situations ourselves and Voss gives us on-the-job training and provides us with the pointers to the live action, which is exhilarating.And those techniques that became time-tested and have since molded into something near perfection? Voss teaches them all in this book.So what are the negotiation techniques? At its core lies active listening. Using a relaxed and friendly tone (or as Voss refer as “midnight FM DJ’s tone”), we first try to establish a rapport early on and listen to what our counterpart actually want, labelling their emotions, and validating their words (with the “I see”, “ok”, “uh-huh”, “yes” words).We then use mirroring, effective pauses, and calibrated questions to prompt for more reactions and dig for more information, all of which we eventually paraphrase and summarise to show them that we really understand their point of view, in order to create enough trust and feeling of safety for the real conversation to begin.In between the sequences, Voss teaches us several hacks, such as explaining why getting a “no” early on is important instead of getting two of the three “yes” (counterfeit, confirmation, and commitment). While a non-commitment “yes” can be used to just get away from the situation, a “no” can actually be an initial word to establish a sense of safety, security, and control for our counterpart, an important inner environment to get them relaxed and ready for a fruitful talk.The sequence then proceeds with the objection of getting a “that’s right” from them after we provide the summary, which would confirm where they stand in this negotiation and thus we can get a better measure of our leverages. Voss highlighted that there are 3 different types of leverage that we could identify in the conversation: positive (the ability to give people what they want), negative (the ability to hurt people), and normative (covers the principles and values that our counterpart have).Apart from leverages, different types of characters can also play a big role in the negotiation process, which Voss categorised into 3: the analyst, the accommodator, and the assertive. And he provides all the necessary tools on how to deal with each different one of them.Of course, the sequence is not rigid and should be fluid depending on the conversation, as we size them up, influence their sizing up on us, while keeping an eye on any potential Black Swans - which are clearly shown in the real-life examples. But none of these tools matter if we cannot control our own emotions, which is a critical part of the interaction. As Voss remark, “[i]f you can’t control your own emotions, how can you expect to influence the emotions of another party?”Negotiation is something we do every single day, whether we realised it or not, no matter how big or small, whether against a high profile counterpart or just bargaining with your own self. It serves two distinct but vital life functions - information gathering and behaviour influencing - where each party wants something from the other side. Hence, this book is a vital one to read, perhaps even one of the most important books you’ll ever going to read, due to its direct practicality for every kind of human interaction in any given situation.The importance of the lessons in this book can be seen from the 339 notes that I highlighted, almost twice as many as my normal average of 150+ in any book. It is easily the best book that I’ve read this year, and it’s right up there in the list of my favourite of all time.

Best negotiating education ever. A few decades ago, I studied negotiation. Then I applied it during my time in corporate America and then -- with more stress -- for the 14 years that I owned my own company. I did well.But, what I missed were very specific techniques at a very basic level. Voss covers those in detail. Mirroring and "No" for a couple of examples. I had read about mirroring and tried to apply it -- but the techniques I read were always vague. Voss makes his techniques specific and easily learned.I have applied Voss's techniques in my day to day interactions. Outstanding results. Hard to incorporate them all at once, but I work at it every day.I have now read this book cover to cover 2 times. I told that to the guy who recommended it to me. He indicated that he had read it a least 3 times. And, he negotiates daily in his business.This book is a very worthy education.

I decided to get this book after I listened to Chris Voss on a podcast talking about the skills he teaches. I then read some reviews that said this book was the most practical book there is on negotiations. This book dispelled so many myths I was holding about negotiations. It made the process seem less scary and less aggressive and adversarial. I loved the way Voss teaches skills that anyone can learn, practice, and apply. these are skills that you can use every single day not just in a formal negotiation. As he says, life is a series of negotiations. We negotiate several times a day, but we just don't realize it. I've already tried the mirroring and labeling skills in regular, everyday conversations, and they work! I'm going to try it out at my next work function. I'm an introvert and feel so awkward at these events. I never know what to say or talk about, but mirroring and labeling may be just what I need to get through the night. Voss isn't only teaching negotiation skills. He's also teaching skills on persuasion and influence. This is an easy read packed with so much useful, valuable information. Voss' style is funny and straightforward and packed with a punch for impact.

This well-written book opened my eyes to some new ideas for resolving conflicts. The emphasis is on listening, which is nothing new, but the book teaches techniques to train yourself to be a better listener by asking the right questions. The only place the author went off track, in my view, was his advice to NOT compromise. The brown shoe and black shoe example was horrible. The position he used in the illustration — wear one brown and one black — was NOT a compromise. Neither party was satisfied by that outcome, which is the very definition of compromise. The compromise position would have been to wear black shoes on some occasions and brown on others. Furthermore, in virtually every section of the book the author gives examples of where the author and others compromised to reach positive outcomes. That flaw aside, though, this was a great read.

I teach a negotiation course and while the books are solid, they do not completely cover the topic - this book fills in the rest.Despite its small size, it has tons of practical information packed into it. The chapters are well presented and easy to comprehend. Mr. Voss does a terrific job explaining everything. I plan to read through this several times per year until I have solidified all of the information into my brain. I am already adding things to my courses inspired by this information and several of my students have gotten the book and report their tremendous enjoyment of what they also gained.If you wish to improve your skills, this is a must have.

Let’s get this clear: You don’t get the life you deserve, you get the life you negotiate.That said, who better to guide you in the best techniques for negotiation than someone who was involved in genuinely high-stakes negotiating – world-class ex-FBI hostage negotiator, Chris Voss. Having seen too many B-Grade movies, your perception of dealing with hostage-takers, as was mine, may be assembling an armour-clad SWAT team, getting a clear head shot at the hostage taker, and rescuing the terrified victims.After seeing too many incidents end in disaster for the victims, the FBI turned to using very sophisticated negotiation techniques. Most business negotiators are raised on the “Getting to Yes” approach of Fisher and Ury. One of their keys to negotiating is the assumption that the other side is going to “act rationally and selfishly in trying to maximize their position.” Your task is to get as much as you can. The only people who come close to doing this are those negotiating with other people’s money and who will make an outsized commission irrespective of the outcome.The book’s title, ‘Never Split the Difference’, highlights the deficiencies in this approach. What is splitting the difference in a hostage negotiation? I’ll give you $5m instead of your asking price of $10m and you kill only 8 hostages and free 12?“Negotiation, as you’ll learn it here, is nothing more than communication with results,” Voss explains. The economist Amos Tversky and the psychologist Daniel Kahneman, the founders of the field of behavioural economics, won a Nobel Prize for demonstrating that man is in fact, (and even in business,) a very irrational beast.The beauty of the method Voss teaches is how easy it is to grasp the basics, even if it may take years to perfect these techniques. The method Voss describes was developed because it is easy to teach, easy to learn, and easy to execute. It was designed for police officers who weren’t interested in becoming academics or therapists. They simply needed a highly effective way of changing the behaviour of the hostage-taker, and to shift the emotional environment of the crisis just enough so that they can secure the safety of everyone involved.If indeed you don’t get what you deserve, only what you ask for, you have to ask correctly. So, claim your prerogative to ask for what you think is right.The centrepiece of this book, is ‘Tactical Empathy’ and it works. This doesn’t involve agreeing with the other person’s values and beliefs or giving out hugs, that’s sympathy.Tactical Empathy is contingent on active listening – listening hard and doing so in a relationship-affirming way. Active Listening involves techniques such as Labelling, Mirroring, Accusation Audit, silences and more. I will address only a few.Labelling is repeating your counterpart’s perspective back to them. You will be able to disarm your counterpart’s complaints by repeating them aloud. Labels almost always begin with the same words: It seems like … It looks like… It sounds like … and not “I’m hearing that …” The word “I” gets people’s guard up.There is enough research that indicates that the best way to address negativity is to observe it, without reaction and without judgment. Then label the negative feeling and replace it with positive, compassionate, and solution-based thoughts. “You seem disappointed that the price you were expecting to achieve is being rejected…” Then listen encouragingly so a solution can be found.There are three voices that are useful in a negotiation, one Voss calls the “late-night, FM DJ voice”: it is non-threating, soft, and calming. Talk that starts with “I’m sorry …” and a soft smile, makes people more open to creative solutions because their brains are not freezing in fear or anger.“Mirroring” is feeding back to your counterpart what they have just said. Not the body language. Not the accent. Not the tone or delivery. Just the words. Sometimes repeating only the last three words or the critical one to three words of what someone has just said, will produce the desired effect. Your counterpart will inevitably elaborate, and even reveal more information that will further fuel the negotiation. Mirrors work magic.By affirming what you are hearing, you are showing you understand (not support or concur with) your counterpart’s worldview.“It seems like you want us to let you go.” Or “It seems like you don’t want to go ahead with the sale under these conditions.” When they can say to you “That’s right…” you have connected in a meaningful way that will allow for the exploration of other options. If they had said, “You’re right…” more often than not, they are fobbing you off.“I always try to reinforce the message that being right isn’t the key to a successful negotiation—having the right mindset is,” Voss explains. Negotiation is not a battle between opposing forces.By doing an accusation audit in advance, you can often surface what is their concern upfront and eliminate it. When teaching negotiation, Voss invites students to roleplay. Knowing what is going to bother them, he introduces the process with: “In case you’re worried about volunteering to roleplay with me in front of the class, I want to tell you in advance … it’s going to be horrible… (But) those of you who do volunteer will probably get more out of this than anyone else.” The response is always positive.By listing every terrible thing your counterpart could say about you, you can address it, with playful seriousness, and elicit the useful ‘That’s right…’ reponse.“In the decades since my initiation into the world of high-stakes negotiations, I’ve been struck again and again by how valuable these seemingly simple approaches can be. The ability to get inside the head—and eventually under the skin—of your counterpart depends on these techniques and a willingness to change your approach, based on new evidence, along the way.”This is a remarkably engaging book, that reads like a novel, complete with reports of Voss’s gripping experiences chosen to highlight what he teaches. This is a must read for anyone whose work involves negotiation. For those who are not so engaged, read it anyway even if your most serious negotiation is your noisy neighbour or getting a seat on a “fully booked” flight.Readability Light --+-- SeriousInsights High +---- LowPractical High +---- Low*Ian Mann of Gateways consults internationally on leadership and strategy and is the author of the recently released Executive Update.

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It
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