Never Split The Difference

By Chris Voss

It’s not enough to read Chris Voss, you have to listen to him — very carefully! Never Split The Difference: Negotiating as if your life depended on it is a negotiator’s tool box! Voss, CEO and Founder of The Black Swan Group, was the FBI’s chief hostage negotiator. In 275 pages he is going to unload a lifetime of learning.

The centerpiece of Never Split The Difference is “tactical empathy.” Tactical empathy is “listening as a martial art,” balancing emotional intelligence and assertiveness to get inside the head of another person. It is becoming a master of active listening. Voss devotes the first six chapters to helping us become great listeners, then he gives us the tools and tricks of the trade that multiply tactical empathy.

This book is outstanding. As Voss notes, his co-writer, Tahl Raz is a genius. The book flows. Each chapter ends with very helpful summary points. While Never Split The Difference doesn’t read like a field manual; you can treat it that way.

Here eleven of my top takeaways from Voss:

1. Approach: “If you approach a negotiation thinking that the other guy thinks like you, you’re wrong. That’s not empathy; that’s projection.”121 Most negotiation is emotionally-driven, not relationally driven . . . Our tactics must match.
2. Tactical empathy: Paying attention to another human, asking what they are feeling, making a commitment to understand their world. 46
3. Pace: “SLOW. IT. DOWN.”Negotiation is not an act of battle, it’s a process of discovery. The goal is to uncover as much as possible.”47
4. Mirroring: The conversational Swiss Army Knife. Learn to mirror the words of the person with whom you are negotiating.
5. Three categories of negotiators: Accommodators, Assertives, Analysts. 192
6. Energy Vampires: Highly dysfunctional people who suck the time and life out of others. 81
7. “No!” The surprising key word that starts a negotiation. See pages 78, 85.
8. Accusation audit: Listing the weaknesses of my case, everything terrible my counterpart could say about me — upfront. Voss calls this, “Taking the sting out.” It plays a key role in helping to disarm your counterpart in discussions.
9. How not Why: In negotiation, “Why”leads to defensiveness. “How”on the other hand “forces your counterpart to consider and explain how a deal will be implemented.”168-9;
10. Calibrated questions: ”Treat “why” like a burner on a hot stove.” Instead, utilize the power of “what”and “how” to calibrate nearly any question. 154
11. Patience: You must stay patient and focused to the end. “No deal is better than a bad deal.”

There is so much more to this book than the few notes above, but it will give you a taste for and appreciation of Voss’s excellence and bent toward the practical. Additionally, the author will provide you a helpful PDF to determine your negotiating style and point you toward multiple negotiating resources. He will also give you some golden quotes and aphorisms.

I have heard Chris Voss (The Global Leadership Summit), now I have read him. My appreciation grows! Although we don’t share the same worldview (according to Voss, we’re “always an animal”), we definitely share the desire to work collaboratively to bring about the best negotiating outcomes — and for this I must HEAR what he has to say and IMPLEMENT the lessons he shares.

Never Split The Difference: Negotiating as if your life depended on it is a great book!