Never Split The Difference By Chris Voss – Book Summary

Never Split The Difference Book Summary
Never Split The Difference Book Summary

Never Split the Difference is a great compilation of life experiences of Chriss Voss who is a former FBI hostage negotiator. He shares the 10 key principles to negotiate effectively in different and tough situations.

Chris believes that using logic and reason aren’t always the best methods to use during negotiations because they can be seen as more forceful and less understanding. Tactical empathy is a much better approach to use because it allows you to see where the other person is coming from and understand their needs. This book will help you learn how to control negotiations with people by using empathy so that you can get what you need while still taking care of the other person.

Summary Read Time: Less than 5 minutes

Actual Book Length: 274

First Published in: 2016

Below is the detailed yet quick summary of the book:

Chapter 1: The New Rules

Negotiation starts with the idea that everyone wants to feel understood and accepted. The best way to show you understand someone is to listen to them. Listening shows that you care about what they have to say and that you want to understand their perspective.

A couple of years ago, psychologists discovered that we all have a tendency to adopt cognitive biases. These biases can lead to irrationality, and they’re surprisingly common. If we can better understand human negotiation psychology, we can become more successful negotiators.

Chapter 2: Be a Mirror

Great negotiators predict surprises and use their negotiation skills to expose them. Mediocre negotiators, on the other hand, are unprepared for surprises.

Chris Voss has this five-step process with all your negotiations:

  • Use the late-night FM DJ voice: Keep things calm and slow, and use this sparingly to emphasise a point. When done properly, the late-night FM DJ voice can create an aura of authority and trust without making the other party defensive.
  • Start with phrases like ‘I am sorry,’ so that you display openness.
  • Mirror the other participants to build a rapport.
  • Use silence effectively.
  • Repeat.

Chapter 3: Don’t Feel Their Pain, Label It

Once you’ve gained a better understanding of the other individual’s emotions, it can be helpful to validate those emotions by acknowledging them. This is called labeling. To do this, you should observe the other person’s non-verbal cues and the words they are using. When labeling emotions, it can be helpful to start with one of the following phrases:

  • ‘It seems like…’
  • ‘It looks like…’
  • ‘It sounds like…’

Chris has found that giving emotions labels can help to lessen the intensity of negative feelings, while also helping to solidify positive emotions. Therefore, labeling emotions can be helpful in de-escalating situations.

Chapter 4: Beware “Yes”—Master “No”

The word “no” can be a very powerful tool when negotiating, if used correctly. It can bring to light unknown issues that may cause contention. However, it is important to note that this works both ways. You should avoid pushing for a yes response from the other party, as this will not bring you closer to an agreement and could potentially irritate them.

Chris Voss describes a ‘no’ as the beginning of the negotiation, instead of its end. For instance, if the other party responds with “no”, this provides an excellent opportunity to clarify what it is that they don’t want.

Chris introduced three different types of “yes”:

  • Counterfeit – This is when the other person sees a yes response as the easiest way out. They had planned to say no, but didn’t want to deal with the consequences.
  • Confirmation – This is usually pretty straightforward. The other person gives a reflexive response to a simple question.
  • Commitment – This is the most impactful type of yes. It’s the kind of yes that leads to a definite outcome, like signing a contract.

Chapter 5: Trigger the Two Words that Immediately Transform Any Negotiation

“That’s right” is better than “yes.” Strive for it. Reaching “that’s right” in a negotiation creates breakthroughs.

Chris has found that a short, clear message like “That’s right” is usually the best way to let someone know you understand their concerns. This is more effective in getting negotiations back on track than just saying “Yes”. This shows that you really hear and understand what the other person is saying. Chris recommends using this technique along with a label and paraphrase.

Chapter 6: Bend Their Reality

The word ‘fair’ is one of the most important words to use in any negotiation. If you want to be a great negotiator, you need to be known as someone who is fair.

If you want to have more power in a difficult negotiation, you need to make the other person believe that they will lose something important if the deal doesn’t go through.”

Here’s a 6 step process to do that:

  • Anchor Their Emotions: Prior to negotiating with the other party, acknowledge their fears and ground their emotions in anticipation of a loss. Your goal is to fuel the other party’s loss aversion, which will motivate them to accept your offer in order to avoid loss.
  • Let the other guy go first: Going first isn’t always the best option when you’re negotiating price. The other side can anchor monetary negotiations, and by letting them do so you might get lucky. Chris has been in many negotiations when the other party’s first offer was higher than the number he had in mind as a closing figure.
  • Establish a Range: Establish a ballpark figure with credible references to support your statement. For instance, instead of saying, “I’m worth $110,000,” say, “At top places like Acme Corp., people in this job get between $130,000 and $170,000.” That gets your point across without making the other party defensive.
  • Pivot to Non-Monetary Terms: One of the easiest ways to get your counterpart to see things from your perspective is to focus on non-monetary terms. Make your offer seem reasonable by offering things that aren’t important to you but could be important to them. Or, if their offer is low you could ask for things that matter more to you than them.
  • When you talk numbers, use odd ones: Interestingly, random numbers are more likely to be accepted. For example, research suggests that numbers ending in 0 create a sense of bargaining possibility. In contrast, a less rounded number, like $47,845, creates a sense of authority.
  • Surprise them with a gift: Anchor with an extreme stake, then after rejection, offer a unrelated surprise gift to make the other party feel generous.

Chapter 7: Create the Illusion of Control

Use calibrated questions to create an illusion of control. By asking questions that start with “what” or “how,” negotiators can create an illusion of control and help educate the other party on the problem, rather than causing conflict by telling them what the problem is.

Chris uses the below calibrated questions in almost every negotiation:

  • What about this is important to you?
  • How can I help make this better for us?
  • How would you like me to proceed?
  • What is it that brought us into this situation?
  • How can we solve this problem?
  • What are we trying to accomplish here?
  • How am I supposed to do that?

Chapter 8: Guarantee Execution

You can increase your chances of success in negotiations by paying attention to body language and tone of voice. By using this nonverbal information to adapt to every element of the negotiation, you can ensure that both parties agree to and carry out the terms of the agreement.

Chris provides various tips for understanding and modifying the mental states of the other party through subtle verbal and nonverbal communication:

  • 7–38–55 Percent Rule: The words you use only account for 7 percent of the meaning of your message- the tone of your voice makes up 38 percent, and your body language and facial expressions account for the remaining 55 percent. Pay close attention to the other party’s tone and body language, and see if it matches the literal meaning of their words. If it doesn’t line up, they’re probably lying.
  • The Rule of Three: If you want to increase the chances of your offer being accepted in a negotiation, get the other party to agree to the same thing three times during the same conversation. Chris recommends labeling or summarizing what they said during the initial agreement to encourage them to agree a second time. For the third instance, you could use a calibrated question.
  • The Pinocchio Effect: A Harvard Business School study found that, on average, liars use more words than those telling the truth. They also tend to use more third-person pronouns.
  • The Chris Discount: People are often tired of being hammered with their own name. So, take a different tack and use someone else’s or your name. This creates the dynamic of “forced empathy.”

Chapter 9: Bargain Hard

When you feel like you’re stuck in a hard bargain, try to switch the conversation to non-monetary topics that can help finalize the deal. For example, if you’re trying to close a deal, you can use an encouraging tone of voice and ask, “Let’s put price aside for a moment and talk about what would make this a good deal?” Or “What else would you be able to offer to make that a good price for me?”.

Sometimes, all it takes to get the other person out of their rigidity is to change up the conversation.

Chapter 10: Find the Black Swan

As a negotiator, you need to instill that element of fear in the other party which makes them feel like they have everything to lose if the deal falls through.

According to Chris, there are 3 types of leverage:

  • Positive leverage: This is when you as a negotiator can withhold or provide what the other party wants.
  • Negative leverage: This is your ability as a negotiator to make the other party suffer.
  • Normative leverage: This is when you analyze the other party’s stance and use it to advance your position.

Black Swans are a great way to increase your normative leverage. To find them, try questioning the other party’s beliefs and actively listening. By doing this, you can learn what they value and reflect it back to them.

Use your known knowns as a guide, but don’t let them stop you from seeing what you don’t know. Every case is different, so be open, flexible, and adaptable. Move the discussion away from the deal and into the worldviews. Take the discussion away from the negotiation table and into the emotions and life of the other party. That’s where Black Swans live.

Photo of author
Published By: Anant

Leave a Comment