Never Split the Difference, Chris Voss

Understand the other person. Understand their emotions. Their needs (survival) and understand their wants.

Listen! It's a form of empathy.

The FBI recruit a whole team to listen to a hostage situation converstaion - details are missed out. Your brain can only hold a tiny amount of information at any given time.

Don't jump to assumptions. Consider things as hypothesises. Approach things by trying to discover their standpoint the truths, not just expelling your own arguments.

Mirror the person. A technique repeating the core parts of the person's previous sentence with a pause.

Your tone matters a lot. Default to a happy cheerful tone. This makes for a more open interactions and move people quicker - system 1 thinking so you can control the flow better.

Label emotions. Empathy is recognising emotions - you don't have to feel the same way (sympathy) or even agree with them. Understand what they're feeling and present it as a neutral hypothesis: "It seems like you feel X"

What they say, or present at the superficial level is the what. Don't get pulled into the what of their words. Store it, and quickly move onto the why they are saying that. Their why!

Nab and raise the negative. Firstly, communicating an "accusation audit" is always perceived worse than it is, and thus gives the person a chance to refute, which puts them on the defence.

Pause and allow silence. People will fill the uncomfortable void by vomiting information.

Pick out and monitor micro-actions. People's body language, in response to you or the situation. Be a psychic (who only really reads body language and reactions).

In sum, mirror, label, think of why, raise the negative and pause. And you need to do this all at once, like as if each were an instrument and you're orchestrating it. It takes practice, may feel awkward at first, but will come naturally after a while, and serve you greatly!

Push for No, not Yes.

Yes is a social lubricant. When you're pushing for Yes, you may be seeking affirmation and stroking the ego. This is dangerous and will give you fake yes responses.

Desire to understand their world, their rejections. Hearing "no" is a way of opening up the conversation and gathering context".

No is bastardised. Yes is taken as being nice, positive and thus "No" is taken as the opposite.

No is actually fine! It represents a desire to keep the norm (change is hard) and empowers the other.

No is where the negotiation starts, and opens up the doors for overcoming challenges. If it's all straight yeses, it's going a bit too well, no?

Just like failure is a path to success. A yes should be pathed to via a road of Nos.

Yes comes in three forms, a counterfeit yes, a confirmation yes and a commitment yes. You want the final type. To clarify which yes you're getting, use the rule of three (below).

People want to reply to false negatives. By making negative statements, you provoke a response from people, where they have an opportunity to bounce back (perhaps a dialogue forms).

Reminder - a yes is worthless with a how to get to the yes. Don't see Yes as the end goal. A better end goal is getting them to say "that's right".

It's a by-product of showing unconditional understanding, rapport and empathy. Humans are naturally inclined to socially contructive behaviour, so use it in negotiations.

It's worth looking at the Behaviour Change Stairway Model (BCSM) model: active listening, empathy, rapport, influence and behaviour change.


Three more techniques on top of what we've learned before: positive encouragement, paraphrasing and summarisation.

Positive encouragement is exactly what it sounds like. Use affirmation keywords to ease the flow: "yes" "ok" "uh-huh".

Paraphrasing is repeating the subject's words back to them.

Summarisation is a near concluding step, where you articulate back to them, the meaning (needs and wants) of what the subject is talking about with the emotions they identify with it. It should be able to get you to "that's right".

When you find black swan moments (crucial peices of information that change the whole negotiation), use them to get to "that's right moments". It's a sign of deep desire and you can help achieve them.

Tricks to alter the reality

You can manipulate the course of actions by applying some techniques. Fundamentally know the person's, needs, wishes, wants, desires and focus on that (a bit like marketing)

Adding a deadline. Deadlines make things more hasty. It's a loss of value that comes from inaction. If you're at the receiving end of this remember that sometimes no deal is sometimes better than a deal!

Be sensitive to usage of "fair". People may act irrationally out of feeling something is unfair. If you hear the fair word used manipulatively on you, mirror them, pause and let them answer. "Could you explain how that is fair?". Remove the accusatory tone from this.

It comes in three forms, only one of which is beneficial. 1) Fair as a destabiliser, putting the receiver in defence. This happens if you state if something is fair/ unfair. "We've made this a fair deal". 2) Fair as an accusation, again putting you in defence: "This is a fair offer". Finally, 3) using it as a end point or setting an interaction paradigm "Let me know if anything is unfair". (1 and 2 honestly seem conflated to me...)

Ways of (re)framing and 'set-up':

Anchoring often referrs to setting the starting number. You can do this with emotions as well. If you're in the wrong, you may want to exaggerate the negative emotion. "I'm about to tell you something horrible". They brace for the worst, thus making your news relatively more palatable.

Let the other person go first to discover their setting, but sometimes you want to go first - if you need to anchor high.

Use a range if asked for a specific number, they'll tend to consider the lower end of the range. If you have to give a number, compare it to other high numbers "job X at high end Company Y is £80,000+".

Pivot to intangible assets. If they give a number too low, push for more intangible things. You squeeze more value out of the deal. Ask for something they don't want to offer and they may even go back to monetary terms and push that offer up.

Use specific numbers that seem calculated. I.e. £35,682, not £35k

Negotiating a salary raise

  • be pleasantly persistent
  • ask for success metrics, link them to a person ("you tell me how one is successful here", then they have a slight interest in your development, you force their hand)
  • push non-monetary stuff as additional negotiation room

Calibrated questions

These are opened ended "what" and "how" (reporter) questions, and in some very niche cases (and where you're confident it doesn't come across accusatory), use "why". Use why when you're taking their viewpoint, as a rhetorical question. I.e. "why would you use us vs them?". This is accusing yourself - and of course you have a great answer ready to respond with.

Definitely needs practice and pre-thought. But a carefully worded question gets the receiver to think about an open ended question (distraction, time buying), to solve your problem, and gives them the false illusion of control. "How am I supposed to do this?" you ask. Either they realise they've made a stupid request (and thus will recede instead of admitting it), or they give you a solution that they feel ownership in, yet you had framed the whole question in the first place. Top tip!

Remember all of these frames, setups, questions are effective in a context of emotional calm. Let emotions fly, and your strategy is also out the window.

Being persistent in these questions, as in asking the same one time and time again (perhaps rephrased each time) can really startle the opponent or allow them to completely exhaust their thoughts/ emotions. Useful for hostage situations, but think about your own context. Voss has the "rule of three", where you get the person to confirm their statement three times. Either it gets them realising how absurb the request is; you work out together there are challange to tackle or their lies get increasingly obvious and embarrassing.

It's also key to ask the question of - who else is a stakeholder in this outcome? Ask your contact that. They key decision holder and decision killer may be different people.

Other ways of affecting the state of your counterpart.

The 7, 38, 55 rule. 7% of information passed is verbal, 38% in tone of voice and 55% in body language. And when they mis-match, it's obvious. Try to get in-person interactions.

Pronoun usage - the more I, me, myself, (instead of them, we, us) the more ego and important the person is. Though - also be wary of people artificially using this to throw you off.

The pinnochio effect. If someone's lying, they may distance themselves from the lie (less personal pronouns), they may add more complexity to confuse the person, they may just add more words to fill out the answer.

Be personable - introduce yourself, say hi, shake a hand. It closes the distance.

Stay focussed on the end goal. Slyly say "no" without saying "no", divert and pander them. E.g. "how can I do that" is basically "no", or "thanks for lowering the price, I can't afford that", is also "no".