Never Split the Difference

by Chris Voss

A former FBI Top Hostage Negotiator’s Filed-Tested Tools for Talking

Chapter 1 The New Rules

One core assumption is that feeling is a form of thinking. Inspired by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, people are neither fully rational nor completely selfish, and that their tastes are anything but stable. Thus, do not assume people make rational decision especially when they are in negotiation.

  • Human suffers several behavioural phenomenons or theories, including Cognitive Bias, Framing Effect, Prospect Theory, Loss Aversion, etc.
  • System 1 (fast, instinctive, and emotional) and System 2 (slow, deliberative, and logical) are there to guide and steer the rational thoughts.
  • Tactical Empathy. When individuals feel listened to, they tend to listen to themselves more carefully and to openly evaluate and clarify their own thoughts and feelings. Listening is a martial art.
  • Negotiation servers to distinct (1) information gathering and (2) behaviour influencing

Chapter 2 Be A Mirror

Negotiator should engage the process with a mindset of discovery. The goal is to extract and observe as much information as possible. We start with we know nothing, and get to explore in the negotiation.

  • Don’t commit to assumptions; instead, view them as hypotheses and use the negotiation to test them rigorously. Negotiation is not an act of battle, it’s a process of discovery.

  • Slow Down, put together all the puzzle pieces.

  • Use the Late-Night, FM DJ Voice: deep, soft, slow, and reassuring. Clam the other side down. It’s the voice of an easygoing, good-natured person. The attitude is light and encouraging. Relax and smile. Smiling would have an impact tonally.

  • Mirroring, also called isopaxism, is essentially imitation. It’s another neuro-behaviour humans display in which we copy each other to comfort each other. Establish Trust. Use mirrors to encourage the other side to empathise and bond with you, keep people talking, buy your side time to regroup, and encourage your counterparts to reveal their strategy.

    • Repeat the last three words of what someone has just said.
    1. Start with “I’m sorry …”
    2. Mirror. Repeat the last three words (or the critical one to three words).
    3. Silence. At least four seconds, to let the mirror work its magic on your counterpart.
    4. Repeat

Chapter 3 Don’t Feel Their Pain, Label It

Negotiation is about emotional and feelings. How can one separate people from the problem when the emotions are the problem?

Instead of denying or ignoring emotions, good negotiators identify and influence them. Emotion is a tool.

  • Tactical Empathy. The ability to recognise the perspective of a counterpart, and of that recognition.
    • That’s an academic way of saying that empathy is paying attention to another human being, asking what they are feeling and making a commitment to understanding their world.
    • understand 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.
    • Labeling, by spotting their feelings, turned them into words, and then very calmly and respectfully repeated their emotions back to them.
    • 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 the person feels.
    • use the wording with “roughly”: “it looks like you are …”, “it seems you don’t want to go back to jail”.
    • when you phrase a label as a neutral statement of understanding, it encourages your counterpart to be responsive.
    • The last rule of labeling is silence. Once thrown out a label, be quite and listen.
    • Label counterpart’s fears to diffuse their power. When deal with a person who wants to be appreciated and understood. So use labels to reinforce and encourage positive perceptions and dynamics.
    • when people are shown photos of faces expressing strong emotion, the brain shows greater activity in the amygdala, the part that generates fear. But when they are asked to label the emotion, the activity moves to the areas that govern rational thinking. In other words, labeling an emotion-applying rational words to a fear-disrupt its raw intensity.
    • list the worst things that the other party could say about you and say them before the other person can.

Chapter 4 Beware “Yes” – Master “No”

“Yes” is often a meaningless answer that hides deeper objection (and “Maybe” is even worse). Pushing hard for “Yes” doesn’t get a negotiator any closer to a win; it just angers the other side. “No” is pure gold. That negative 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 not failure, it lead to “Yes”, as the final goal. Don’t get to ‘Yes’ before the final. “No “make people feel safe, “Yes” make people guard.

  • “No” could be one of the alternative, i.e. I am not yet ready to agree;I don’t understand; I don’t think I can afford it.
  • After getting ‘No’, ask solution-based questions or simply label their effect, i.e. what about this doesn’t work for you? what would you need to make it work?
  • Every ‘No’ gets me closer to ‘Yes’. But how to lead to a ‘No’? Two ways as below.
    • Mislabel one’s emotions or desires. Say something that you know is totally wrong, i.e. “So it seems that you really are eager to leave your job”. That forces them to listen and makes them comfortable correcting you by saying ‘No’.
    • Ask the other party what they don’t want. People are comfortable saying ‘No’ because it feels like self-protection. And once you’ve gotten them to say ‘No’, people are much more open to moving forward to new options and ideas.
  • In Email, how ever to be ignored again. Provoke a “No” with a one-sentence email.

Chapter 5 Trigger The Two Words That Immediately Transform Any Negotiation

Never try to get “Yes” at the end point. “Yes” is nothing without “how”. In business negotiation, “that’s right” often leads to the best outcomes. “That’s right” is great, however if “You’re right”, nothing changes. Consider this: whenever someone is bothering you, and they just won’t let up, and they won’t listen to anything you have to say, what do you tell them to get them to shut up and go away? The answer is “You’re right”.

  • The more person feels understood, and positively affirmed in that understanding, the more likely that urge for constructive behaviour will take hold.
  • “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, reariculate, and emotionally affirm “the world according to…”

Chapter 6 Bend Their Reality

People are emotional, irrational beasts who are emotional and irrational in predictable, pattern-filled way. Using the knowledge and tools to bend the reality is rational, not cheating. Tools are:

  • Don’t let yourself be fooled by the surface.
  • Not not Compromise by a split difference.
    • The win-win mindset pushed by so many negotiation experts is usually ineffective and often disastrous.
    • Compromise is often a ‘bad deal’. No deal is better than a bad deal.
  • Approaching deadlines. Deadlines regularly make people say and do impulsive things that are against their best interest, because we all have a natural tendency to rush as a deadline approaches. Having a deadline pushes you to speed up your concessions, but the other side, thinking that it has time, will just hold out for more. So, reveal the deadline to the counterpart could reduce the risks of impasse, and lead to a quickest concession.
  • Page 120
  • 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.
  • Bend the counterpart’s reality by anchoring one’s starting point.
  • People will take more risks to avoid a loss than to realise a gain. Make sure your counterpart sees that there is more things to lose by inaction. (Prospect Theory)