4 Key Takeaways From Never Split the Difference

Former International FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss lets readers into his head so they can learn how to successfully negotiate in any area of their lives. In this guide he shares the nine essential strategies and he used to successfully negotiate with terrorists, bank robbers and other criminals who had taken a hostage. Ordinary people will learn how to best negotiate in their own lives, for their salary, with their spouse or at work.

My key Takeaways from Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

Takeaway #1: Building Trust to Gather Information

Negotiating successfully, no matter who it's with or in which area of your life, requires you to stay rational and use your intellect, you must build up a rapport so that trust is established and gather as much useful information as possible. You do this by actively listening to what the other person is saying and using the mirroring technique (when you repeat what the other person has said but in an inquisitive tone) to draw more information from them I.e “Your accounts manager quit??” This encourages the other person to elaborate more.

Takeaway #2: Watch your tone of voice throughout these negotiations.

Most times you'll need to use a playful/positive tone, smiling as you speak, but if the other person is nervous or could become upset, use a deep but soft voice, talking slowly to reassure them.

Takeaway #3: Putting Emotions To Use

When negotiating, you must tap into what the other person is feeling, be empathetic towards how the other person is feeling. It doesn't mean agreeing with them, it means understanding the other person's perspective to better position yourself in the negotiations. You can do this through a technique called labeling which means acknowledging the other person's position and feelings so that they become calmer and more rational. Tell the other person that you know they're worried their boss will think they didn't push hard enough, or that you know your kids are worried that their classmates will make fun of them for going to bed an hour earlier.

Takeaway #4: Don't Rush, Don't Compromise, and Don't Accept Demands

Always let the other person make the first offer. If you're in a hurry to settle something you'll come off with the worst end of the bargain. Don't feel rushed as few deadlines are real deadlines set in stone. Take your time to understand what the other person is truly pushing for, not what they say they want as the two are often different and if you rush you could easily give the person something they don't really need or want but just threw in for the sake of it

In-Depth Insight

Tuning Into Emotional Cues

Pay attention to the other person’s emotions and use empathy to your advantage - You don’t have to agree with them, just understand them. Psychotherapists, for example, tap into their patients' emotions so they can help them. You as a negotiator can do the same.

When Chris Voss was called in to negotiate with 4 escaped inmates, who were hiding out in an apartment and thought to be in possession of weapons, he was able to label their emotions. This helped him acknowledge and empathize with the escaped prisoners. Voss told them that he understood they were worried that if they came out of the apartment that they would be shot. He explained that he understood that they were scared and that they did not want to go back to prison. After six hours of communicating with them and building trust with the labeling technique, Voss convinced the prisoners to surrender with no one on either side getting hurt.

Labeling and “Tactical Empathy” are calming techniques that negotiators use to build rapport and consists of telling the other person that you acknowledge his or her feelings, motivations, and position and understand their feelings. This can be invaluable when dealing with someone who is acting irrationally.

Key Points from Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

  • Decision making is first and foremost emotionally driven. As human beings, we are all inherently emotional creatures. Therefore, in order to elevate your negotiation skills you must tune into the emotional needs (and fears) of your rival.
  • Rational Win-Win negotiating is not enough. Most people struggle to even identify what is a true “Win” for them, let alone achieve one.
  • Most people have one key basic need: to feel safe and in control. In the context of negotiation, people are afraid of a loss more than they value an equal gain. Knowing this, you can frame your preferred solution as one that promotes more safety and control.
  • Establishing rapport and trust is a necessary condition for good negotiation. As human beings, we want to connect with people who understand us, who we believe are similar to us, and who allow us to feel less alone. Therefore, a key for negotiation is to get your counterpart to feel comfortable with you and see you more as a partner than a rival.
  • Being emotionally empathetic allows you to create rapport and reveal information otherwise unknown.
  • Understanding our cognitive biases can lead to better decision making. This is fundamental to good negotiation and getting what you want.
  • Turning human emotions to your advantage by using active listening, mirroring, summarizing, reframing, and labeling (vocalizing someone else’s emotions and words) is vital during negotiation. People are drawn to similarities and those who understand them.
  • Asking good questions and paying attention to subtle verbal and nonverbal cues will allow you to reveal “Unknown Unknowns” or “Black Swan” bits of information. This can also help you spot dishonest or unscrupulous counterparts.

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Never Split the Difference Chapters

Chapter One - The New Rules
Chapter Two - Be a Mirror
Chapter Three - Don't Feel their Pain, Label It
Chapter Four - Beware 'Yes' - Master 'No'
Chapter Five - Trigger The Two Words that Immediately Transform any Negotiation
Chapter Six - Bend Their Reality
Chapter Seven - Create The Illusion Of Control
Chapter Eight - Guarantee Execution
Chapter Nine - Bargain Hard
Chapter Ten - Find the Black Swan

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My Favorite Quotes from Never Split the Difference

"Conflict brings out truth, creativity, and resolution.. He who has learned to disagree without being disagreeable has discovered the most valuable secret of negotiation."

"The beauty of empathy is that it doesn’t demand that you agree with the other person’s ideas.. If you approach a negotiation thinking the other guy thinks like you, you are wrong. That's not empathy, that's a projection."

"Negotiate in their world. Persuasion is not about how bright or smooth or forceful you are. It’s about the other party convincing themselves that the solution you want is their own idea. So don’t beat them with logic or brute force. Ask them questions that open paths to your goals. It’s not about you."

"Negotiation is not an act of battle; it’s a process of discovery. The goal is to uncover as much information as possible."

"It’s a phenomenon (and now technique) that follows a very basic but profound biological principle: We fear what’s different and are drawn to what’s similar. As the saying goes, birds of a feather flock together. Mirroring, then, when practiced consciously, is the art of insinuating similarity."

"Mirrors work magic. Repeat the last three words (or the critical one to three words) of what someone has just said. We fear what’s different and are drawn to what’s similar. Mirroring is the art of insinuating similarity, which facilitates bonding. Use mirrors to encourage the other side to empathize and bond with you, keep people talking, buy your side time to regroup, and encourage your counterparts to reveal their strategy."

"Another simple rule is, when you are verbally assaulted, do not counterattack. Instead, disarm your counterpart by asking a calibrated question."

"Psychotherapy research shows that when individuals feel listened to, they tend to listen to themselves more carefully and to openly evaluate and clarify their own thoughts and feelings... Contrary to popular opinion, listening is not a passive activity. It is the most active thing you can do."

"Research shows that the best way to deal with negativity is to observe it, without reaction and without judgment. Then consciously label each negative feeling and replace it with positive, compassionate, and solution-based thoughts."

"The positive/playful voice: Should be your default voice. It’s the voice of an easygoing, good-natured person. Your attitude is light and encouraging. The key here is to relax and smile while you’re talking."

"Though the intensity may differ from person to person, you can be sure that everyone you meet is driven by two primal urges: the need to feel safe and secure, and the need to feel in control. If you satisfy those drives, you’re in the door."

"The fastest and most efficient means of establishing a quick working relationship is to acknowledge the negative and diffuse it."

― Chris Voss, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It

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Editor and Founder

Tal Gur is a location independent entrepreneur, author, and impact investor. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His most recent book and bestseller, The Art of Fully Living - 1 Man, 10 Years, 100 Life Goals Around the World, has set the stage for his new mission: elevating the next generation of leaders to their true potential.

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