10 Things You’ll Learn from “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss

I’m always in the lookout for new books of interest. I tend to buy far more than I have time to read, and it ensures I always have something cooking in my brain.

List subscriber Philippe wrote in a month ago to suggest Chris Voss’ Never Split the Difference. Philippe said it might be the best book on persuasion that he had read. I bought it… and immediately moved it to the top of my pile.

Is this the best book on persuasion I've ever read? It just might be…
Is this the best book on persuasion I’ve ever read? It just might be…

And… I think Philippe is right.

There are many good books out there, of course. The theories and research behind them are solid and applicable. I’ve written up more than a few in this website (with more to come — I buy ’em faster than I read ’em, but I read ’em faster than I write ’em up!)

Voss was the FBI’s lead negotiator from 2003 to 2007. In a hostage crisis —of which there are many in this book— you can’t split the difference in a win-win scenario. The FBI knows a negotiation needs to succeed. Voss shares with us those methods.

Voss’ book is filled with actionable advice towards getting the most out of a negotiation.

Here are ten things I pulled from my 14+ pages of notes…

10 Things You’ll Learn from Chris Voss in
Never Split the Difference
    1. Calibrated Questions are questions without a definite answer, or with a known answer that moves towards your resolution. If you ask someone a Yes/No question, you’re not gaining any additional information. Asking “How…?” keeps the other person taking, giving them a feeling of control.

    2. Black Swans are the unknown unknowns in any scenario. Taken from Nassim Nicholas Talib’s book Black Swan, the concept is that these hidden unknowns may be obvious ideas to one side of a negotiation, but not to all sides.A Black Swan, when uncovered, can give you great insights into the values of your counterpart, which gives you leverage. Until then, you’re best to hold multiple hypothesis about the variables at play. Don’t expect a certain outcome or reason until you have an understanding with your negotiating counterpart.

    3. When we move too fast we become a problem solver. That overlooks the emotional investment of people involved. We risk undermining trust and rapport when we’re a problem solver.Slow down and get the emotional connection so the other side feels —understands— that you have their interests at heart. Better to be a people mover.

    4. Mirroring is a human phenomenon that helps our brains work in sync —literally the same wavelength.Voss discusses how the FBI uses mirroring: by repeating the last few words of your counterpart’s sentence, it leads him to continue his thoughts to fill you in on his thought process.Copywriter Eugene Schwartz did the same… mirroring people’s words back to them… to build rapport and better understand his markets.

    5. Labeling an emotion or situation helps to bring it into the light without judgement. This is huge, to discuss personal feelings without your counterpart feeling attacked.”It seems like…” or “it feels like…” are just two of the ways Voss shows us Labeling.If we’re wrong— “hey I just said it feels that way…” And if we’re right, we get agreement. Either way, we get a better understanding of what drives the other side.

    6. Silence drives the other person to fill that silence, which provides research and leverage to you. Calibrated questions, mirroring, labeling, and minimal encouragement (oh, yes, uh huh, I see) help to keep your counterpart talking.

    7. Summarizing the other person, in your own words, to the point they feel understood will overcome barriers to negotiation. “That’s right” are the two words you want to hear after your summary. Your counterpart feels understood, and their objections melt away.

    8. Find the Level 2 players. There are always people outside of a negotiation that your deal will effect. Your counterpart might not want to look foolish to them. Asking how this deal will affect others on his side can open additional possibilities or uncover unknown barriers.

      Those other people can also help to spread the decision making process, if you need to involved someone with more (or additional) authority.

    9. We’re social creatures, programmed to get along with those around us. We tend to avoid conflict. We can use this to our advantage and get people to negotiate against themselves when we ask them to help solve our problems: “How am I supposed to do that?” This simple question brings in your counterpart as an active problem solver to the demands they’re making of you.

      In fact, Voss offers five ways to say No that invite the other party to improve their offer… without you really giving any counteroffer of your own!

    10. Voss introduced me to the Ackerman Model of price negotiation. It uses anchors to open a negotiation, with steps towards a final price, using labels, mirroring, calibrated questions, and summaries to get there.

      Voss’ book is a great pairing with George Thompson’s Verbal Judo and has many fingerprints from Jim Camp’s methods of negotiation.

      You can find Chris Voss’ Never Split the Difference here on Amazon. If you’re interested in building rapport and negotiating great deals, it’s a must read.