Never Split The Difference- Notes47 min read

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  • What’s it about?
  • Change your perspective on negotiation and cultivate a mindset of discovery
  • Open questions can get you the resultyou want and make the other party feel in control
  • Resolve conflict withoutconfrontation in four simple steps
  • Show empathy and identify theemotions of others in order to influence them
  • Don’t just get people to say“yes”—you want them to say “that’s right”
  • Learn to read the unspoken needs ofthe other party during negotiation, and address their “irrational blind spots”preemptively
  • Final summary
  • Now read the book
  • Key takeaways

What’s it about?

If you often struggle to get what you want out of life, then it may be time to develop your negotiation skills. This may seem like a strange suggestion if you have become accustomed to thinking of negotiation in business terms. However, negotiation is actually the art of learning how to communicate effectively and get results, which can apply to every part of your life—whether that is closing a business deal, getting a good price for a new car, or persuading your children to go to bed on time.

Typically, people perceive negotiation as a kind of sales strategy that is applied in a logical and mathematical way: if you complete x, y, and z, then you will achieve your goal. This has changed significantly over the years, especially for the FBI, who had to revise their approach to negotiations following grave failures, such as the Downs Hijacking in 1971, which led to a law suit against the FBI for turning a waiting game into a shoot out.

Now the FBI has become more emotionally engaged with the psychological tactics and strategies that they use for hostage situations; they also launched a Critical Incident Resolution Group (CIRG) in 1994. In Never Split the Difference, their top negotiation tips are revealed—techniques that have been proven in high-risk situations, but can also be helpful in everyday life, enabling success in irrational and emotionally driven situations.

You will discover how to decipher what people want from you, why they want it, and how to be empathetic in a tactical way that leads toward achieving your ultimate goal. In simple terms, you will be able to improve the way you communicate with people so that you can get what you want out of life in any given situation.

Change your perspective on negotiation and cultivate a mindset of discovery

The term “negotiation” has a lot of negative association. It may conjure up a memory of a time when you have been in conflict or felt bullied by someone into selling your product for less than it is worth—or indeed been pressured into overspending as a customer. But, while a bad negotiator may well treat the matter like a battle of intellect, good negotiators will approach things with curiosity and an open mind.

A good negotiator expects surprises and treats negotiation as information-gathering. Before you can achieve your end goal and influence the person you are communicating with, you need to forget any assumptions you may hold and solely focus on listening to them. This means truly listening, not just nodding your head and pretending it is going in while you continue to practice your own argument in your mind. Any potential scenarios you are imagining should only be considered a possibility.

Negotiations can feel overwhelming because your mind is trying to process the information gathered into potential difficulties or possible resolutions while you are still in the middle of a discussion. This makes active listening quite tricky, no matter how hard you try. It’s also why the FBI assigns a team of listeners for hostage negotiations, to avoid missing any nuggets of information that could help them lead hostages to safety.

To discover whether you are in the habit of relying on assumptions, think back to a moment when you felt you didn’t get the end result you were after, whether it was in a business meeting or during a disagreement at home. Be honest with yourself and answer these four questions:

  1. Did you begin with any assumptions about what the person wanted?
  2. Did you truly listen and discover anything new about them?
  3. Did you allow them enough time to explain themselves, or did you rush them?
  4. How much of the negative emotion felt during this conversation came from the voice inside your head versus the person in front of you?

In reflection, it is likely that you will now see just how much your actions during that meeting were influenced by internally formed assumptions. Quite possibly you didn’t truly listen to the other person because you had already decided on the outcome before the meeting began.

Learning to take a step back, clear your mind, and truly listen is the most effective way to become a successful negotiator. By approaching conversations with a mindset of discovery, you will begin to build trust and cultivate a safe environment for sharing. This will lead the other party to reveal key information that could not only inform what you do next, but also nurture a strong relationship between the two of you—a far more satisfactory result than what you may have experienced in the past.

Open questions can get you the result you want and make the other party feel in control

Whether you are dealing with a hostage situation, a family feud, or closing a business deal, when you start a negotiation, it is natural to grasp for control so that you can get the result you want. Unfortunately this often leads to a meaningless and potentially insincere agreement, rather than wholehearted understanding or a binding contract.

Remember: getting a yes means nothing without the how. When we hear “yes,” we often ignore any signals that the other party are not trulyonboard, which can later result in a failure to follow through on the agreement. However, posing open questions early on can help you to introduce ideas rather than impose them, allowing your counterpart to consider the best solution and truly commit to the eventual result. If what you want becomes their idea, the deal will be a lot easier and more likely to close.

Let’s explore how open questions can be used in practice. In a serious situation, such as a kidnapping scenario when the life of a loved one is being threatened for a large ransom, the open question “How do I know they are alive?” or “How can I do that when I don’t have that kind of money?” will buy the FBI time and nurture “forced empathy” with the kidnapper, causing them to identify with those being ransomed and encouraging them to seek out a solution to the problem. Alternatively, if you are trying to stop your teenager running away from home, you could switch “Please don’t leave!” with “What do you hope to achieve by going?” This will make them consider their reason for leaving and open up a dialogue so you can get to the bottom of the issue at hand.

In a business setting, one of the most common mistakes negotiators make is to arrange a deal that only serves the people in the room—not accounting for any invisible decision makers behind the scenes. These individuals often halt progress, meaning that what seemed like a sure thing between those present in the negotiation never manifests into a signed contract. To help avoid any blockers along the way, it is a good idea to use open questions that address the wider business. You could ask “How would this impact the rest of the business?” or “What can we do to help make this transition run smoothly for everyone involved?”

A negotiation shouldn’t be approached with a view to overcoming challenges and defeating your counterpart. A good negotiator will instead focus on enticing the other party toward a preferred result and will gather information about the bigger picture, leading to a mutually beneficial resolution that is agreeable to everyone involved. If you use some intelligently applied open questions, starting with “how” or “what,” you can achieve your goal while creating the illusion that they are in control—a win-win situation.

Resolve conflict without confrontation in four simple steps

We have all encountered someone in a position of authority resistant to input; they prefer compliance instead of collaboration, and nothing you say will ever change their mind. Right? Wrong. In addition to open questions, there are four key steps used by the FBI for negotiations that can help you disarm this personality type.

  1. Use a calming tone of voice. Like a late-night radio host, talk smoothly with downward inflections.
  2. Start with saying sorry. If you say sorry, you appear empathetic and understanding of their situation.
  3. Use mirroring techniques. Mirroring the other party’s body language or repeating their words helps make you more relatable and builds rapport.
  4. Pause for at least four seconds after speaking. The passing of time is the most powerful negotiation tool used in FBI negotiations, so don’t be afraid to go silent. This will let the other party keep talking, providing you with more valuable information. Plus, they may end up negotiating against themselves.

Then, simply repeat the process, and keep using these techniques until you get the result you are after, while also using open questions.

This technique works in volatile FBI hostage negotiations, but it can also work with any difficult personalities you need to handle personally, whether you are dealing with an unreasonable boss or an adolescent child. Let’s say your boss has asked you to stay late for a non-urgent project. Using a calm tone of voice, say sorry and repeat (mirror) the request, for example: “Sorry, you want me to stay late for X project due next month?” Then wait in silence, and allow them to rethink the request. At this point, they may give you a valid reason for the request, which will help you to proceed with the negotiation, understanding where they’re coming from. But more often than not, when the other party is forced to reconsider what they are asking, it will lead them to change their mind.

Of course, as the saying goes, it is not what we say but how we say it. As humans, we subconsciously feel calmer when someone speaks to us at slower pace, which helps alleviate any unnecessary anxiety. Your “radio host voice” may be a bit much the entire time, and there may also be occasion for a more playful tone to create a positive atmosphere. To understand which tone will work best, consider what the other party needs: if they seem anxious, then they need your calming voice. If they seem bored or unmotivated, use your playful voice.

Ultimately, if you follow these steps, you will be creating a safer environment for you both to talk and think together. This will enable you to build up trust with the person you are negotiating with as you allow them to revaluate their own position and open up.

Show empathy and identify the emotions of others in order to influence them

For many years, the FBI ignored the role of emotion in negotiation. It was seen as a hindrance; the primary goal was to separate people from the problem. However, in any high-risk situation that requires an FBI negotiation, emotion is the problem—rational thought is not on the agenda.

Now, an experienced FBI negotiator also needs to be emotionally intelligent, much like a trained therapist. Not only do they need to identify and label the emotions of others, they also need to recognize their own. In addition, they must work out what is behind those emotions and how they can use that information to influence what happens next. This is called “tactical empathy,” a technique that can be successfully applied in any negotiation.

To use tactical empathy as a tool in your own life, the most important first step is to acclimatize your senses by being patient, saying less, and observing more. Listen to what the other party is saying, watch their body language, and observe their tone of voice. The beginning of any negotiation should be primarily explorative, so use the radio voice, open question, and mirroring techniques provided earlier to gather as much information as possible. Keep going until you can label the emotion that they are experiencing and any factors that are contributing to that emotion. By assessing the bigger picture and truly understanding their position, you can then begin to fathom how you can influence them with whatever it is you are proposing.

Let’s say you are in the middle of a silly argument about the dishes with your partner. It was your turn but you need to rush out. In a calming tone you say: “Sorry, you say it was my turn to do the dishes?” As they respond, observe their behavior and tone of voice, and try to label the emotion they are feeling. In this case, you notice they are feeling underappreciated. You apologize again and confirm your appreciation: “Sorry, you are right it was my turn, but I would really appreciate your help today.”

Emotion is a powerful negotiation tool and using it to your advantage doesn’t have to be a cold tactic. In fact, in exploring any concerns the other party may have and by working toward a resolution together, they should leave with more clarity and confidence in the agreement. This approach will also help you to build a deeper and more meaningful relationship, which often leads to greater results for all parties.

Don’t just get people to say “yes”—you want them to say “that’s right”

The word “yes” has historically been considered the ultimate goal of any negotiation—but not anymore. What you actually need to hear is “that’s right,” because this means you not only have agreement, you also have an understanding. Getting someone to say these two words is about leading them toward their own subtle epiphany, a moment when they recognize their own emotion and feel released from any concerns. So, what does it take to get to those two magic words?

Having tried and tested the techniques revealed so far in isolation, the FBI’s elite Crisis Negotiation Unit (CNU) have since developed a five-stage crisis negotiation model: the Behavioral Change Stairway Model (BCSM). That is to actively listen and use tactical empathy to build rapport and influence the other party in a way that leads to behavioral change.

While the BCSM model was developed by the CNU, the core principles can be traced back to findings from American psychologist Carl Rogers. He recognized that forcing your own values on a client to establish the “correct” course of action is not effective, and that, instead, therapists should accept people for who they are and treat them with “unconditional positive regard.”

This approach can be very effective if you truly want to influence the behavior of others, whether they are your business partner, colleague, relative, or friend. Think about it. When someone tells you that you shouldn’t eat this, or smoke that, and that exercise is good for you, will you change for the sake of doing what is right? Probably not. Conversely, if someone was to truly listen to the reason you do those things and help you address the cause of your behavior, you might just begin to realize that a different course of action is necessary.

If you really make an effort to listen to what they are saying and connect with the emotion they are feeling, then you can help to navigate them toward a resolution and influence real change. They will come to an understanding in their epiphany that what you are proposing will facilitate the “right” outcome for their needs, as well as yours.

Learn to read the unspoken needs of the other party during negotiation, and address their “irrational blind spots” preemptively

The human mind is complex and often unpredictable, especially during negotiation. There are always a number of hidden needs and “irrational blind spots” that need to be addressed. Rather than treating a negotiation as a linear process, you need to be mindful that there is always leverage and a number of variables at hand.

In addition to listening and using the open question and mirroring techniques, which enable you to build rapport and trust, you also need to become less naive and more confident about what you can get out of the situation. Too often we default to a “let’s split the difference” mentality, trying to appease everyone involved—but this is not the best approach. If your partner disagreed with the color of your shoes, and you agreed to wear one in each color, this would not be a good result. Compromise is a bad deal: no deal at all is better than one that doesn’t deliver what you actually need.

Instead of splitting the difference, there are some neat tricks that can help you use recently discovered information to change the other party’s perception of the negotiation, causing them to abandon previous expectations and see the deal in the same light that you do. This includes using odd, unrounded numbers when discussing figures in order to signal your knowledge of the potential transaction, tapping into their need for fairness, and taking advantage of a fear of deadlines.

To help you visualize how this could work in practice, let’s look at the last one—a fear of deadlines. You are in a business meeting, and you discover that time is an issue: deadline pressures are causing your counterpart to feel anxious. Instead of falling into the trap of rushing into a compromise, address the deadline. What could you do to reassure them about the timeframe? You must get to the bottom of what is causing the anxiety and reassure them through your resolution. Equally, you can use the deadline pressure to your advantage: if they need this done quickly, then do they really have time to continue negotiations? Acknowledge that time is an issue, but that you are confident you can not only get it done in time, but get it done right.

During a negotiation, many people fail to articulate everything they are worried or feel anxious about. It is your job to expose these hidden needs and “irrational blind spots” so that you can address them immediately and reassure the other party. Don’t resort to splitting the difference or compromising; instead change their perception of the deal so that it is compatible with yours by preemptively resolving their problems. The secret to being a successful negotiator is a highly developed sense of perception.

Final summary

Negotiation is actually a very emotional process. A good negotiator knows how to listen and collect all the information they need before they attempt to close a deal. This is why the first step to improving your own negotiation skills is to change your perspective on what negotiating actually means.

It helps to view each negotiation as a discovery exercise, approaching each scenario with curiosity and an open mind. You can also use open questions and mirroring techniques to create “forced empathy,” which encourages the other party to reconsider what they are asking and rethink their way toward a resolution that works for both parties. This enables you to get the result you want, but also allows them to feel in control.

Adjustments to your tone of voice, using the word “sorry,” and mirroring the other party’s words and body language can help you to build rapport and create a shared space for thinking and speaking together. The FBI’s BCSM five-step strategy can also help you to get beyond a “yes” to real buy in and, ultimately, the two best words for a successful negotiation: “that’s right.”

Remember, a good negotiator should always expect surprises and enter a negotiation with an open mind. They should be ready to listen and act based on what they’ve learned or discovered during negotiations to address any issues the other party may have, even if these issues haven’t been expressed yet. If you can combine all of these techniques with strategic empathy tactics and address their unspoken needs, then you will have your negotiation counterpart in the palm of your hands.

Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

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Never Split the Difference Summary

Sam’s Notes

Chris Voss is a former international FBI hostage negotiator. In his book, Never Split the Difference, Chris reveals his battle-tested strategies for high-stakes negotiations.

The Five Big Ideas

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.

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.

Tactical empathy brings our attention to both the emotional obstacles and the potential pathways to getting an agreement done.

Giving someone’s emotion a name, otherwise known as labeling, gets you close to someone without asking about external factors you know nothing about.

“No” provides a great opportunity for you and the other party to clarify what you really want by eliminating what you don’t want.

Never Split the Difference Summary

Chapter 1: The New Rules

Negotiation begins with the universally applicable premise that people want to be understood and accepted. Listening is the cheapest, yet most effective concession we can make to get there. By listening intensely, you demonstrate empathy and show a sincere desire to better understand what the other side is experiencing.

Chapter 2: Be a Mirror

Good negotiators know that they need to be ready for surprises; great negotiators use their skills to reveal the surprises they are certain to exist.

Great negotiators question the assumptions that others accept on faith or in arrogance. Thus, they remain more emotionally open to all possibilities and more intellectually agile to a fluid situation.

People who view negotiation as a battle of arguments become overwhelmed by the voices in their head. Negotiation is not an act of battle; it’s a process of discovery. Your goal is to uncover as much information as possible.

To quiet the voices in your head, make your sole and all-encompassing focus the other person and what they have to say.

Your goal is to identify what your counterpart actually needs and get them feeling safe enough to talk about what they want.

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.

Going too fast is one of the mistakes all negotiators make. If you’re too much in a hurry, people can feel as if they’re not being heard and you risk undermining the rapport and trust we’ve built.

There are three voice tones available to negotiators:

The late-night FM DJ voice: Use selectively to make a point. Inflect your voice downward, keeping it calm and slow. When done properly, you create an aura of authority and trustworthiness without triggering defensiveness.

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.

The direct or assertive voice: Used rarely. Will cause problems and create pushback.

Put a smile on your face. When people are in a positive frame of mind, they think more quickly and are more likely to collaborate and problem-solve. Positivity creates mental agility in both you and your counterpart.

You can be very direct and to the point as long as you create safety by a tone of voice that says “I’m okay, you’re okay, let’s figure things out.”

View assumptions as hypotheses and use the negotiation to test them rigorously.

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.

By repeating back what people say, your counterpart will inevitably elaborate on what was just said and sustain the process of connecting.

In one study by Richard Wiseman, the average tip of the waiters who mirrored was 70 percent more than of those who used positive reinforcement.

Having the right mindset is the key to a successful negotiation.

To get your own way without confrontation, follow five simple steps:

Use the late-night FM DJ voice;

Start with “I’m sorry …”;


Silence. At least four seconds, to let the mirror work its magic on your counterpart; and


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

Tactical empathy is understanding the feelings and mindset of another in the moment and also hearing what is behind those feelings so you increase your influence in all the moments that follow. It’s bringing our attention to both the emotional obstacles and the potential pathways to getting an agreement done.

When we closely observe a person’s face, gestures, and tone of voice, our brain begins to align with theirs in a process called neural resonance, and that lets us know more fully what they think and feel.

If you want to increase your neural resonance skills, take a moment right now and practice. Turn your attention to someone who’s talking near you, or watch a person being interviewed on TV. As they talk, imagine that you are that person. Visualize yourself in the position they describe and put in as much detail as you can as if you were actually there.

Labeling is a way of validating someone’s emotion by acknowledging it. Give someone’s emotion a name and you show you identify with how that person feels. It gets you close to someone without asking about external factors you know nothing about.

The first step to labeling is detecting the other person’s emotional state.

The trick to spotting feelings is to pay close attention to changes people undergo when they respond to external events. Most often, those events are your words.

Once you’ve spotted an emotion you want to highlight, the next step is to label it aloud. Labels can be phrased as statements or questions. The only difference is whether you end the sentence with a downward or upward inflection. But no matter how they end, labels almost always begin with roughly the same words:

“It seems like …”

“It sounds like …”

“It looks like …”

When responding, your counterpart will usually give a longer answer than just “yes” or “no.” And if they disagree with the label, that’s okay. You can always step back and say, “I didn’t say that was what it was. I just said it seems like that.”

The last rule of labeling is silence. Once you’ve thrown out a label, be quiet and listen.

In basic terms, people’s emotions have two levels: the “presenting” behavior is the part above the surface you can see and hear; beneath, the “underlying” feeling is what motivates the behavior.

What good negotiators do when labeling is address those underlying emotions. Labeling negatives diffuses them (or defuses them, in extreme cases); labeling positives reinforces them.

Labeling helps de-escalate angry confrontations because it makes the person acknowledge their feelings rather than continuing to act out.

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

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.

Imagine yourself in your counterpart’s situation. When you acknowledge the other person’s situation, you immediately convey that you are listening. And once they know that you are listening, they may tell you something that you can use.

The reasons why a counterpart will not make an agreement with you are often more powerful than why they will make a deal, so focus first on clearing the barriers to agreement. Denying barriers or negative influences gives them credence; get them into the open.

Pause. After you label a barrier or mirror a statement, let it sink in. Don’t worry, the other party will fill the silence.

Label your counterpart’s fears to diffuse their power.

List the worst things that the other party could say about you and say them before the other person can. Because these accusations often sound exaggerated when said aloud, speaking them will encourage the other person to claim that quite the opposite is true.

Remember you’re dealing with a person who wants to be appreciated and understood. So use labels to reinforce and encourage positive perceptions and dynamics.

Chapter 4: Beware “Yes”—Master “No”

Pushing hard for “Yes” doesn’t get a negotiator any closer to a win; it just angers the other side.

For good negotiators, “No” provides a great opportunity for you and the other party to clarify what you really want by eliminating what you don’t want.

“No” is the start of the negotiation, not the end of it.

Great negotiators seek “No” because they know that’s often when the real negotiation begins.

“No” can often mean:

I am not yet ready to agree;

You are making me feel uncomfortable;

I do not understand;

I don’t think I can afford it;

I want something else;

I need more information; or

I want to talk it over with someone else.

Ask solution-based questions: “What about this doesn’t work for you?” “What would you need to make it work?” “It seems like there’s something here that bothers you.”

People have a need to say, “No.” So don’t just hope to hear it at some point; get them to say it early.

There are three kinds of “Yes”:


Confirmation; and


A counterfeit “yes” is one in which your counterpart plans on saying “no” but either feels “yes” is an easier escape route or just wants to keep the conversation going to get more information or some other kind of edge.

A confirmation “yes” is generally innocent, a reflexive response to a black-or-white question; it’s sometimes used to lay a trap but mostly it’s just simple affirmation with no promise of action.

A commitment “yes” is the real deal; it’s a true agreement that leads to action, a “yes” at the table that ends with a signature on the contract. The commitment “yes” is what you want, but the three types sound almost the same so you have to learn how to recognize which one is being used.

Whether you call it “buy-in” or “engagement” or something else, good negotiators know that their job is to gently guide their counterpart to discover their goal as his own.

Using all your skills to create rapport, agreement, and connection with a counterpart is useful, but ultimately that connection is useless unless the other person feels that they are equally as responsible, if not solely responsible, for creating the connection and the new ideas they have.

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.

If you’re trying to sell something, don’t start with “Do you have a few minutes to talk?” Instead ask, “Is now a bad time to talk?” Either you get “Yes, it is a bad time” followed by a good time or a request to go away, or you get “No, it’s not” and total focus.

As you can see, “No” has a lot of skills:

“No” allows the real issues to be brought forth;

“No” protects people from making—and lets them correct—ineffective decisions;

“No” slows things down so that people can freely embrace their decisions and the agreements they enter into;

“No” helps people feel safe, secure, emotionally comfortable, and in control of their decisions; and

“No” moves everyone’s efforts forward.

Another way to force “No” in a negotiation is to ask the other party what they don’t want.

If despite all your efforts, the other party won’t say “No,” you’re dealing with people who are indecisive or confused or who have a hidden agenda.

Saying “No” makes the speaker feel safe, secure, and in control, so trigger it. That’s why “Is now a bad time to talk?” is always better than “Do you have a few minutes to talk?”

Sometimes the only way to get your counterpart to listen and engage with you is by forcing them into a “No.” That means intentionally mislabeling one of their emotions or desires or asking a ridiculous question—like, “It seems like you want this project to fail”—that can only be answered negatively.

If a potential business partner is ignoring you, contact them with a clear and concise “No”-oriented question that suggests that you are ready to walk away. “Have you given up on this project?” works wonders.

Chapter 5: Trigger The Two Words That Immediately Transform Any Negotiation

Before you convince your counterpart to see what you’re trying to accomplish, you have to say the things to them that will get them to say, “That’s right.”

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

Use a summary to trigger a “that’s right.” The building blocks of a good summary are a label combined with paraphrasing. Identify, rearticulate, and emotionally affirm “the world according to …”

Chapter 6: Bend Their Reality

The most powerful word in negotiations is “Fair.”

As a negotiator, you should strive for a reputation of being fair. Your reputation precedes you. Let it precede you in a way that paves success.

Know the emotional drivers and you can frame the benefits of any deal in language that will resonate.

To get real leverage in a tough negotiation, you have to persuade the other party that they have something to lose if the deal falls through.

Here’s how:

1. Anchor Their Emotions

To bend your counterpart’s reality, you have to start with the basics of empathy. Start out with an accusation audit acknowledging all of their fears. By anchoring their emotions in preparation for a loss, you inflame the other side’s loss aversion so that they’ll jump at the chance to avoid it.

2. Let The Other Guy Go First … Most of The Time

Going first is not necessarily the best thing when it comes to negotiating price.

Let the other side anchor monetary negotiations.

By letting them anchor you also might get lucky: Chris has experienced many negotiations when the other party’s first offer was higher than the closing figure he had in mind. If he’d gone first they would have agreed and he would have left with either the winner’s curse or buyer’s remorse, those gut-wrenching feelings that he’d overpaid or undersold.

You’ve got to be careful when you let the other party anchor. You have to prepare yourself psychically to withstand the first offer. If the other guy’s a pro, a shark, he’s going to go for an extreme anchor in order to bend your reality.

3. Establish a Range

When confronted with naming your terms or price, counter by recalling a similar deal which establishes your “ballpark,” albeit the best possible ballpark you wish to be in. Instead of saying, “I’m worth $110,000,” say, “At top places like X Corp., people in this job get between $130,000 and $170,000.” That gets your point across without moving the other party into a defensive position. And it gets him thinking at higher levels.

4. Pivot to Non-Monetary Terms

One of the easiest ways to bend your counterpart’s reality to your point of view is to pivot to non-monetary terms.

After you’ve anchored them high, you can 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.

5. When You Do Talk Numbers, Use Odd Ones

Numbers that end in 0 inevitably feel like temporary placeholders, guesstimates that you can easily be negotiated off of. But anything you throw out that sounds less rounded—say, $37,263—feels like a figure that you came to as a result of a thoughtful calculation.

6. Surprise with a Gift

You can get your counterpart into a mood of generosity by staking an extreme anchor and then, after their inevitable first rejection, offering them a wholly unrelated surprise gift.

How to Negotiate a Better Salary

i. Be Pleasantly Persistent on Non-Salary Terms

Pleasant persistence is a kind of emotional anchoring that creates empathy with the boss and builds the right psychological environment for constructive discussion.

The more you talk about non-salary terms, the more likely you are to hear the full range of their options. For example, asking for extra vacation.

ii. Salary Terms without Success Terms is Russian Roulette

Once you’ve negotiated a salary, make sure to define success for your position—as well as metrics for your next raise.

iii. Spark Their Interest in Your Success and Gain an Unofficial Mentor

When you are selling yourself to a manager, sell yourself as more than a body for a job; sell yourself, and your success, as a way they can validate their own intelligence and broadcast it to the rest of the company.

Make sure they know you’ll act as a flesh-and-blood argument for their importance. Once you’ve bent their reality to include you as their ambassador, they’ll have a stake in your success.

Ask: “What does it take to be successful here?”

Don’t compromise. Meeting halfway often leads to bad deals for both sides.

Approaching deadlines entice people to rush the negotiating process and do impulsive things that are against their best interests.

The F-word—“Fair”—is an emotional term people usually exploit to put the other side on the defensive and gain concessions. When your counterpart drops the F-bomb, don’t get suckered into a concession. Instead, ask them to explain how you’re mistreating them.

You can bend your counterpart’s reality by anchoring his starting point. Before you make an offer, emotionally anchor them by saying how bad it will be. When you get to numbers, set an extreme anchor to make your “real” offer seem reasonable, or use a range to seem less aggressive.

People will take more risks to avoid a loss than to realize a gain. Make sure your counterpart sees that there is something to lose by inaction.

Chapter 7: Create the Illusion of Control

When you go into a store, instead of telling the salesclerk what you “need,” you can describe what you’re looking for and ask for suggestions. Then, once you’ve picked out what you want, instead of hitting them with a hard offer, you can just say the price is a bit more than you budgeted and ask for help with one of the greatest-of-all-time calibrated questions: “How am I supposed to do that?”

Calibrated questions have the power to educate your counterpart on what the problem is rather than causing conflict by telling them what the problem is.

You should use calibrated questions early and often, and there are a few that you will find that you will use at the beginning of nearly every negotiation. “What is the biggest challenge you face?” is one of those questions.

Here are some other great standbys that Chris uses in almost every negotiation, depending on the situation:

What about this is important to you?

How can I help to 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’s the objective? / What are we trying to accomplish here?

How am I supposed to do that?

Calibrated questions make your counterpart feel like they’re in charge, but it’s really you who are framing the conversation.

Even with all the best techniques and strategy, you need to regulate your emotions if you want to have any hope of coming out on top.

The first and most basic rule of keeping your emotional cool is to bite your tongue.

Another simple rule is, when you are verbally assaulted, is to disarm your counterpart by asking a calibrated question.

When people feel that they are not in control, they adopt what psychologists call a hostage mentality. That is, in moments of conflict they react to their lack of power by either becoming extremely defensive or lashing out.

Avoid questions that can be answered with “Yes” or tiny pieces of information. These require little thought and inspire the human need for reciprocity; you will be expected to give something back.

Ask calibrated questions that start with the words “How” or “What.” By implicitly asking the other party for help, these questions will give your counterpart an illusion of control and will inspire them to speak at length, revealing important information.

Don’t ask questions that start with “Why” unless you want your counterpart to defend a goal that serves you. “Why” is always an accusation, in any language.

Calibrate your questions to point your counterpart toward solving your problem. This will encourage them to expend their energy on devising a solution.

There is always a team on the other side. If you are not influencing those behind the table, you are vulnerable.

Chapter 8: Guarantee Execution

Negotiators have to be “decision architects.” They have to dynamically and adaptively design the verbal and nonverbal elements of the negotiation to gain both consent and execution.

“Yes” is nothing without “How.”

With enough of the right “How” questions, you can read and shape the negotiating environment in such a way that you’ll eventually get to the answer you want to hear.

The trick to “How” questions is that they are gentle and graceful ways to say “No” and guide your counterpart to develop a better solution—your solution. A gentle How/No invites collaboration and leaves your counterpart with a feeling of having been treated with respect.

Besides saying “No,” the other key benefit of asking “How?” is that it forces your counterpart to consider and explain how a deal will be implemented.

By making your counterparts articulate implementation in their own words, your carefully calibrated “How” questions will convince them that the final solution is their idea. And that’s crucial. People always make more effort to implement a solution when they think it’s theirs.

There are two key questions you can ask to push your counterparts to think they are defining success their way: “How will we know we’re on track?” and “How will we address things if we find we’re off track?” When they answer, you summarize their answers until you get a “That’s right.” Then you’ll know they’ve bought in.

Be wary of two telling signs that your counterpart doesn’t believe the idea is theirs. When they say, “You’re right,” it’s often a good indicator they are not vested in what is being discussed.

When you push for implementation and they say, “I’ll try,” be aware: it really means, “I plan to fail.”

When you hear either of the above, dive back in with calibrated “How” questions until they define the terms of successful implementation in their own voice.

Follow up by summarizing what they have said to get a “That’s right.”

You have to beware of “behind the table” or “Level II” players—that is, parties that are not directly involved but who can help implement agreements they like and block ones they don’t.

Below are tactics, tools, and methods for using subtle verbal and nonverbal forms of communication to understand and modify the mental states of your counterpart.

i. The 7-38-55 Percent Rule

Albert Mehrabian created the 7-38-55 rule. That is, only 7 percent of a message is based on the words while 38 percent comes from the tone of voice and 55 percent from the speaker’s body language and face.

Pay very close attention to tone and body language to make sure they match up with the literal meaning of the words. If they don’t align, it’s quite possible that the speaker is lying or at least unconvinced.

When someone’s tone of voice or body language does not align with the meaning of the words they say, use labels to discover the source of the incongruence.

Recognizing the incongruence and gently dealing with it through a label will make the other party feel respected. Consequently, your relationship of trust will be improved.

ii. The Rule of Three

The Rule of Three is simply getting the other guy to agree to the same thing three times in the same conversation.

The first time they agree to something or give you a commitment, that’s No. 1. For No. 2 you might label or summarize what they said so they answer, “That’s right.” And No. 3 could be a calibrated “How” or “What” question about implementation that asks them to explain what will constitute success, something like “What do we do if we get off track?”

The three times might also just be the same calibrated question phrased three different ways, like “What’s the biggest challenge you faced? What are we up against here? What do you see as being the most difficult thing to get around?”

iii. The Pinocchio Effect

In a study of the components of lying, Harvard Business School professor Deepak Malhotra and his coauthors found that, on average, liars use more words than truth tellers and use far more third-person pronouns. They start talking about him, her, it, one, they, and their rather than I, in order to put some distance between themselves and the lie. Moreover, they discovered that liars tend to speak in more complex sentences in an attempt to win over their suspicious counterparts.

The researchers dubbed this the Pinocchio Effect because, just like Pinocchio’s nose, the number of words grew along with the lie.

The more in love your counterpart is with “I,” “me,” and “my” the less important they are. Conversely, the harder it is to get a first-person pronoun out of a negotiator’s mouth, the more important they are.

iv. The Chris Discount

People are often tired of being hammered with their own name. So, take a different tack and use your own name.

Doing so creates the dynamic of “forced empathy.” It makes the other side see you as a person.

How to Get Your Counterparts to Bid Against Themselves

The best way to get your counterparts to lower their demands is to say “No” using “How” questions. These indirect ways of saying “No” won’t shut down your counterpart the way a blunt, pride-piercing “No” would.

Chris has found that you can usually express “No” four times before actually saying the word.

The first step in the “No” series is the old standby: “How am I supposed to do that?” You have to deliver it in a deferential way, so it becomes a request for help. Properly delivered, it invites the other side to participate in your dilemma and solve it with a better offer.

After that, some version of “Your offer is very generous, I’m sorry, that just doesn’t work for me” is an elegant second way to say “No.”

This well-tested response avoids making a counteroffer, and the use of “generous” nurtures your counterpart to live up to the word. The “I’m sorry” also softens the “No” and builds empathy.

Then you can use something like “I’m sorry but I’m afraid I just can’t do that.” It’s a little more direct, and the “can’t do that” does great double duty. By expressing an inability to perform, it can trigger the other side’s empathy toward you. “I’m sorry, no” is a slightly more succinct version for the fourth “No.” If delivered gently, it barely sounds negative at all.

If you have to go further, of course, “No” is the last and most direct way. Verbally, it should be delivered with a downward inflection and a tone of regard; it’s not meant to be “NO!”

Is the “Yes” real or counterfeit? Test it with the Rule of Three: use calibrated questions, summaries, and labels to get your counterpart to reaffirm their agreement at least three times. It’s really hard to repeatedly lie or fake conviction.

A person’s use of pronouns offers deep insights into his or her relative authority. If you’re hearing a lot of “I,” “me,” and “my,” the real power to decide probably lies elsewhere. Picking up a lot of “we,” “they,” and “them,” it’s more likely you’re dealing directly with a savvy decision maker keeping his options open.

Chapter 9: Bargain Hard

When you feel you’re being dragged into a haggle, you can detour the conversation to the non-monetary issues that make any final price work. You can do this directly by saying, in an encouraging tone of voice, “Let’s put price off to the side for a moment and talk about what would make this a good deal.” Or you could go at it more obliquely by asking, “What else would you be able to offer to make that a good price for me?” And 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.

When a negotiation is far from resolution and going nowhere fast, you need to shake things up and get your counterpart out of their rigid mindset.

When you want to flip a dubious counterpart to your side, ask them, “Why would you do that?” but in a way that the “that” favors you.

If you are working to lure a client away from a competitor, you might say, “Why would you ever do business with me? Why would you ever change from your existing supplier? They’re great!” In these questions, the “Why?” coaxes your counterpart into working for you.

Using the first-person singular pronoun is another great way to set a boundary without escalating into confrontation. When you say, “I’m sorry, that doesn’t work for me,” the word “I” strategically focuses your counterpart’s attention onto you long enough for you to make a point.

When you want to counteract unproductive statements from your counterpart, you can say, “I feel ___ when you ___ because ___,” and that demands a time-out from the other person.

Once you’re clear on what your bottom line is, you have to be willing to walk away. Never be needy for a deal.

The person across the table is never the problem. The unsolved issue is.

The Ackerman Model

The Ackerman model is an offer-counteroffer method. But it is an effective system for beating the usual lackluster bargaining dynamic, which has the predictable result of meeting in the middle.

The systematized and easy-to-remember process has only six steps:

Set your target price (your goal);

Set your first offer at 65 percent of your target price;

Calculate three raises of decreasing increments (to 85, 95, and 100 percent);

Use lots of empathy and different ways of saying “No” to get the other side to counter before you increase your offer;

When calculating the final amount, use precise, non-round numbers like, say, $37,893 rather than $38,000. It gives the number credibility and weight; and

On your final number, throw in a non-monetary item (that they probably don’t want) to show you’re at your limit.

Identify your counterpart’s negotiating style. Once you know whether they are Accommodator, Assertive, or Analyst, you’ll know the correct way to approach them.

Prepare an Ackerman plan. Before you head into the weeds of bargaining, you’ll need a plan including extreme anchors, calibrated questions, and well-defined offers. Remember: 65, 85, 95, 100 percent. Decreasing raises and ending on non-round numbers will get your counterpart to believe that he’s squeezing you for all you’re worth when you’re really getting to the number you want.

Chapter 10: Find The Black Swan

Every case is new. We must let what we know—our known knowns—guide us but not blind us to what we do not know.

As a negotiator, you should always be aware of which side, at any given moment, feels they have the most to lose if negotiations collapse.

To get leverage, persuade your counterpart that they have something real to lose if the deal falls through.

At a taxonomic level, there are three kinds of leverage: Positive, Negative, and Normative.

Positive leverage is quite simply your ability as a negotiator to provide—or withhold—things that your counterpart wants. When they say that, you have power.

Negative leverage is what most civilians picture when they hear the word “leverage.” It’s a negotiator’s ability to make his counterpart suffer.

Normative leverage is using the other party’s norms and standards to advance your position. If you can show inconsistencies between their beliefs and their actions, you have normative leverage.

Discovering the Black Swans that give you normative valuation can be as easy as asking what your counterpart believes and listening openly. You want to see what language they speak and speak it back to them.

In their book Negotiation Genius, Harvard Business School professors Deepak Malhotra and Max H. Bazerman provide a look at the common reasons negotiators mistakenly call their counterparts crazy.

Mistake #1: They Are Ill-Informed

People operating with incomplete information appear crazy to those who have different information.

Your job, when faced with someone like this in a negotiation, is to discover what they do not know and supply that information.

Mistake #2: They Are Constrained

In any negotiation where your counterpart is acting wobbly, there exists a distinct possibility that they have things they can’t do but aren’t eager to reveal.

Mistake #3: They Have Other Interests

These people are simply complying with needs and desires that you don’t yet understand, what the world looks like to them based on their own set of rules.

The Best Techniques for Flushing Out Black Swans—and Exploiting Them.

Let what you know—your known knowns—guide you but not blind you. Every case is new, so remain flexible and adaptable.

Black Swans are leverage multipliers. Remember the three types of leverage: positive (the ability to give someone what they want); negative (the ability to hurt someone); and normative (using your counterpart’s norms to bring them around).

Work to understand the other side’s “religion.” Digging into worldviews inherently implies moving beyond the negotiating table and into the life, emotional and otherwise, of your counterpart. That’s where Black Swans live.

Exploit the similarity principle. People are more apt to concede to someone they share a cultural similarity with, so dig for what makes them tick and show that you share common ground.

Recommended Reading

If you like Never Split the Difference, you may also enjoy the following books:

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Dan H. Pink

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