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Book:  Never Split the Difference

Author:  Chris Voss

Purchase:  Print | eBook | Audiobook

Citation:  Voss, C., & Raz, T. (2016). Never split the difference: Negotiating as if your life depended on it. HarperBusiness, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. 

Three Big Takeaways:
  • People want to be understood and accepted. Listening is the cheapest, yet most effective form of acceptance. By listening intensely, a negotiator demonstrates empathy and shows a sincere desire to better understand what the other side is experiencing. When individuals feel listened to, they become less defensive and oppositional and more willing to listen to other points of view. (pg. 16)

  • Life is negotiation. Your career, your finances, your reputation, your love life - at some point all of these hinge on your ability to negotiate. Negotiation is nothing more than communication with results, and conflict between two parties is inevitable in all relationships. So it’s useful that you know how to get what you want without inflicting damage. (pg. 17)

  • You should always let the other side anchor monetary negotiations. The issue is that neither side has perfect information going to the table. This often means you don’t know enough to open with confidence. While going first rarely helps, there is one way to seem to make an offer but bend the reality. That is, by alluding to a range. When confronted with naming your price, counter by recalling a similar deal which establishes your “ballpark,” albeit your best possible ballpark you wish to be in. Instead of saying “I’m worth $110k” You could say “At top places like X, people in this job get between $130k and $170k.” (pg. 130)


Other Key Ideas:

I still agree with many of the powerful bargaining strategies in the book, Getting to Yes. The core assumption was that the emotional brain could be overcome through a rational, joint problem-solving mindset. For years after the book came out, everybody focused on a problem-solving approach to bargaining interactions. But I believe that some negotiations are anything but rational problem-solving situations. (pg. 11)

When starting a negotiation - instead of prioritizing your argument - make your sole and all-encompassing focus on the other person and what they have to say. In that mode of true active listening, you will disarm your counterpart. Negotiation begins with listening, making it about the other people, validating their emotions, and creating enough trust and safety for a real conversation to begin. (pg. 28)

Going too fast is one of the mistakes all negotiators are prone to making. If we’re in too much of a hurry, people can feel as if they’re not being heard. Passage of time is one of the most important tools for a negotiator. (pg, 30)

When we radiate warmth and acceptance, conversations just seem to flow. When we enter a room with a level of comfort and enthusiasm, we attract people towards us. When we smile at people, they smile back. Understanding that reflex and putting it into practice is critical to the success of just about everything negotiating skill there is to learn. (pg. 32)

When people are in a positive frame of mind, they think more quickly , and are more likely to collaborate and problem solve. A smile on your face - and in your voice - will increase your own mental agility. (pg. 33)

There is nothing more frustrating or disruptive to any negotiation than to get the feeling you are talking to someone who isn’t listening. Strong negotiators must show empathy by paying attention to another human being, asking what they are feeling, and making a commitment to understand their world. Tactical empathy is understanding the feelings and mindset of another person so you increase your influence in all the moments that follow. (pg. 52)

The sweetest two words in any negotiation are “that’s right” (pg. 98)

When negotiating, paraphrase and summarize.  Paraphrasing shows that you really do understand and aren’t merely parroting their concerns. Summarizing is a combination of rearticulating the meaning of what is said plus the acknowledgement of the emotions underlying that meaning. (pg. 103)

The moment you’ve convinced someone that you truly understand her dreams and feelings, mental and behavioral change becomes possible, and the foundation for breakthrough has been laid. (pg. 112)

When negotiators tell their counterparts about their deadline, they get better deals. By revealing your cutoff you reduce the risk of impasse. Also, when an opponent knows your deadline, he’ll get to the real deal-making more quickly. Deadlines are almost never ironclad. What’s more important is engaging in the process and having a feel for how long that will take. (pg. 120)

One of the best questions to ask when you feel someone is being unreasonable is “How am I supposed to do that?” This question educates your counterpart on what the problem is instead of telling them what the problem is. This question lets the other guy think it’s his choice to take you there. (pg. 151)

The most basic rule of keeping your emotional cool is to bite your tongue and avoid giving knee-jerk, passionate reactions. Let the passion dissipate. That allows you to collect your thoughts and lowers your chance of saying more than you want to. Also, when you are verbally assaulted, do not counterattack. Instead, calmly ask a question. (pg. 158) 

“How” questions are a surefire way to keep negotiations going. They put the pressure on your counterpart to come up with answers, and to contemplate your problems when making their demands. With enough “how” questions, you can shape the negotiating environment in such a way that you’ll eventually get the answer you want to hear. A gentle “how” (as opposed to “no”) leaves your counterpart with a feeling of having been treated with respect. (pg. 167)

Remember the 7-38-55 rule. Only 7 percent of a message is based on the words while 38 percent comes froNom the tone of voice and 55 percent from the speaker’s body language and face. That’s why I often fly great distances to meet someone face-to-face, even when I can say much of what needs to be said over the phone. (pg. 176)

At some point in your life, you have likely been involved in a negotiation where you got to a “yes” that later turned out to be a “no.” That’s when the rule of three comes into play. When you can get the other guy to agree to the same thing three times in a conversation, you triple the strength of whatever you’re trying to drill at the moment; it’s very hard to fake conviction. Next time you’re not sure your counterpart is truthful and committed, try it. (pg. 177)

Liars tend to speak in more complex sentences in an attempt to win over their suspicious counterparts. People who are lying are more worried about being believed, so they work harder - too hard - at being believable. (pg. 178)

There are three types of negotiators: Accommodators, Assertive, and Analysts. Hollywood would suggest that the assertive style is most effective, but that’s not really the case. A whopping 75 percent of the effective lawyers fall into the cooperative type, while only 12 percent are assertive. If you’re not assertive, don’t despair. But assertion is actually counterproductive most of the time. (pg. 192)

As a well-prepared negotiator who seeks information and gathers it relentlessly, you’re going to want the other guy to name a price first, because you want to see his hand. You’re going to welcome the extreme anchor. If the other side pushes you to go first, wriggle from his grip. Instead of naming a price, allude to an incredibly high number that someone else might charge. No matter what happens, the point here is to sponge up information from your counterpart. Letting your counterpart anchor first will give you a tremendous feel for him. (pg. 199)

No deal is better than a bad deal. If you feel you can’t say “no” then you’ve taken yourself hostage. Once you’re clear on what your bottom line is, you have to be willing to walk away. Never be needy for a deal. (pg. 204)

When you are trying to get a good price on something, use the Ackerman model: 1) Set your target price, 2) Set your first offer at 65% of the target price, 3) Calculate three raises at decreasing increments (85, 95, and 100), 4) Use lots of empathy to get the other side to counter before you increase your offer, 5) When giving the final amount, use precise, nonround numbers (like $37,893). On your final number, throw in a nonmonetary item (that they probably don’t want) to show you’re at your limit. (pg. 206)

Researchers have found that people getting concessions often feel better about the bargaining process than those who are given a single firm, “fair” offer. In fact, they feel better even when they end up paying more than they otherwise might. (pg. 207)

Always get face time with your counterpart. Ten minutes of face time often reveals more than days of research. Pay special attention to the “unguarded moments” - the time at the beginning or the end of the session. (pg. 245)