Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It

by Chris Voss

Hardcover, 2016


Harper Business (2016), Edition: 1, 288 pages


Business. Self-Improvement. Nonfiction. HTML: A former international hostage negotiator for the FBI offers a new, field-tested approach to high-stakes negotiationsâ??whether in the boardroom or at home. After a stint policing the rough streets of Kansas City, Missouri, Chris Voss joined the FBI, where his career as a hostage negotiator brought him face-to-face with a range of criminals, including bank robbers and terrorists. Reaching the pinnacle of his profession, he became the FBI's lead international kidnapping negotiator. Never Split the Difference takes you inside the world of high-stakes negotiations and into Voss's head, revealing the skills that helped him and his colleagues succeed where it mattered most: saving lives. In this practical guide, he shares the nine effective principlesâ??counterintuitive tactics and strategiesâ??you too can use to become more persuasive in both your professional and personal life. Life is a series of negotiations you should be prepared for: buying a car, negotiating a salary, buying a home, renegotiating rent, deliberating with your partner. Taking emotional intelligence and intuition to the next level, Never Split the Difference gives you the competitive edge in any discuss… (more)

Media reviews

Chris Voss's Never Split the Difference is a resourceful book with several great tips. Here is a link to a video summary of its key takeaway

User reviews

LibraryThing member EmreSevinc
My first thought when I came across this title was: "Probably yet another ordinary 'business' book that promises the world, tries to build a nice-sounding, feel-good narrative, forcing to drive its message home by selecting a few studies from psychology research."

I'm very happy to have been wrong.
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Not only is the book very exciting to read, but it also doesn't promise magic. The author, in his own words, isn't someone extraordinary or a business genius: he started his career as a hard-working police officer, went on to be an FBI agent, and climbed up the FBI ladder to be a negotiator. His war stories, both from local incidents, to high profile international ransom cases sets the scene very well. But what about applying the negotiation principles that worked in such criminal circumstances to everyday cases that most of the people encounter? Would they work well in a business setting? Would they work in ordinary, but still critical interpersonal relationships? How about negotiating with your children? What about negotiating with a car salesman? Is it even possible to get a rent decrease, when your landlord announced an increase in rent, declaring that this is the final word?

The distillation of principles, rules, and heuristics, based on field-tested methods and ample psychological research makes this book a very valuable and practical read. That doesn't mean you can immediately start applying the rules laid out by the author: some of the things will lead to extreme psychological resistance, and I'm sure you'll need serious preparation and deliberate practice; you should also be ready to fail (but at least be aware why exactly you did, if you do). Just like he described, many of us don't like conflict, and will try to stay away from it, even if that means a bad deal. But the message of the book is crystal clear: No deal is better than a bad deal. I had my share of business meetings and various negotiation war stories (yes, even engineers have to negotiate for a lot of things, whether they realize that or not not), and from now on, it'll be impossible for me to view such interactions without remembering the key points of that book.
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LibraryThing member ShadowBarbara
Excellent book by a former FBI-CIA hostage negotiator. Many great insights and debunks the Yes-Yes problems. Also, throws out the "remove the emotion" concept in Getting to Yes.
LibraryThing member Razinha
This might be the best book I've read this year. I'm not going to list the plethora of great points Voss it. It will help you.

Seriously. Read it.
LibraryThing member purrfectfire
Very informative and entertaining at the same time. It makes things clear about your own and others behavior
LibraryThing member Daniel.Estes
The closing pages of Never Split the Difference sums up the overall 'why' of the book so elegantly that rather than attempt to summarize it I'm going to reproduce it here.

"Overcoming fear and learning to get what you want out of life.

"People generally fear conflict so they avoid useful arguments
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out of fear that the tone will escalate into personal attacks they cannot handle. People in close relationships often avoid making their own interests known and instead compromise across the board to avoid being perceived as greedy or self-interested. They fold, they grow bitter and they grow apart. We've all heard of marriages that ended in divorce and the couple never fought.

"Families are just an extreme version of all parts of humanity, from government to business. Except for a few naturals, everyone hates negotiation at first. Your hands sweat, your fight-or-flight kicks in, with a strong emphasis on flight, and your thoughts trip drunkenly over themselves. The natural first impulse for most of us is to chicken out, throw in the towel, run. The mere idea of tossing out an extreme anchor is traumatic.

"That's why whimp/win deals are the norm in the kitchen and in the boardroom. But stop and think about that. Are we really afraid of the guy across the table? I can promise you that, with very few exceptions, he's not going to reach across and slug you. No, our sweaty palms are just an expression of physiological fear, a few trigger-happy neurons firing because of something more base. Our innate human desire to get along with other members of the tribe. It's not the guy across the table who scares us, it's conflict itself.

"If this book accomplishes only one thing, I hope it gets you over that fear of conflict and encourages you to navigate it with empathy. If you're going to be great at anything—a great negotiator, a great manager, a great husband, a great wife—you're going to have to do that. You're going to have to ignore that little genie who's telling you to give up, to just get along, as well as that other genie who's telling you to lash out and yell. You're going to have to embrace regular, thoughtful conflict as the basis of effective negotiation and of life.

"Please remember that our emphasis throughout the book is that the adversary is the situation, and that the person you appear to be in conflict with is actually your partner. More than a little research has shown that genuine, honest conflict between people over their goals actually helps energize the problem-solving process in a collaborative way. Skilled negotiators have a talent for using conflict to keep the negotiation going without stumbling into personal battle. Remember, pushing hard for what you believe is not selfish. It is not bullying. It is not just helping you. Your amygdala, the part of the brain that processes fear will try to convince you to give up, to flee, because the other guy is right or you're being cruel. But if you are an honest, decent person looking for a reasonable outcome, you can ignore the amygdala.

"With the style of negotiation taught in the book, an information-obsessed, empathetic search for the best possible deal, you are trying to uncover value. Period. Not to strong-arm or to humiliate. When you ask calibrated questions, yes, you are leading your counterpart to your goals, but you are also leading them to examine and articulate what they want, and why, and how they can achieve it. You are demanding creativity of them and therefore pushing them toward a collaborative solution.

"When I bought my red 4Runner, no doubt I disappointed the salesman by giving him a smaller payday than he would've liked, but I helped him reach his quota and no doubt I paid more for the truck than the car lot paid Toyota. If all I wanted was to win, to humiliate, I would've stolen the thing.

"And so I'm going to leave you with one request: Whether it's in the office or around the family dinner table, don't avoid honest, clear conflict. It will get you the best car price, the higher salary and the largest donation. It will also save your marriage, your friendship and your family. One can only be an exceptional negotiator and a great person by both listening and speaking clearly and empathetically. By treating counterparts and oneself with dignity and respect. And most of all, by being honest about what one wants, and what one can and cannot do. Every negotiation, every conversation, every moment of life is a series of small conflicts that, managed well, can rise to creative beauty. Embrace them."
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LibraryThing member Narilka
Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator, offers a different approach to the art of negotiation in his book Never Split the Difference. Through his experience spanning 20 years Voss has realized that older methods for negotiation, relying more on facts and logic, run counter to human nature and
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how we, as humans, make decisions. He proposes that we embrace human nature and adopt strategies that feel counterintuitive by taking emotional intelligence, targeted empathy and active listening skills to the next level to become more persuasive in our daily interactions. This was a refreshing point of view and Voss's techniques have many applications to all sorts of interactions between people, not just negotiations.

Each chapter starts with a real negotiation scenario from Chris's past, be it hostage situations with lives on the line or a class setting for training, then follows it up with insights into what worked and what didn't during the situation. He even highlights a spectacular failure and why things went as wrong as it did. Each chapter builds upon the previous with pointers on how to use the skills in combination with each other or individually. Each chapter ends with a summary that are great to refer back to. My kindle tells me I highlighted 92 passages I found so many things I want to review and remember.

After reading the book I have been working on integrating some of Voss's advice into my every day life. I think it's slowly helping me improve my social skills and daily interactions with others. It's definitely a work in progress. I'll be rereading parts of this book often.
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LibraryThing member paven
Learn how to negotiate, clear methods that could help you achieve your goals.
LibraryThing member joshuabliesath
I have never seen a book with so many typos and formatting issues. It seemed like somebody scanned a handwritten document and never went back to check all the mistakes.
I cannot comment on the content of the book because the typos and formatting were so bad that even if this were The Brothers
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Karamazov I could not recommend it to anybody.
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LibraryThing member bookworm12
A few things stuck with me from this one, but the tone of the author was exhausting and condescending.

Get them to say “that’s right” by explaining what you think they are saying.

Don't respond with a hard no. For example:
That’s a very generous offer, given our budget limitation. However,
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I don’t think that’s adequate compensation for the responsibilities on my plate.

Ask calibrated "How or What" questions like:
How am I supposed to accept it when I know how many places are hiring right now at a higher rate with the same flexibility?
I understand that the most you’re prepared to offer. How would you like me to prioritize those responsibilities during my work week to align with that compensation?

Three types of negotiators:
1) Aggressor - fills the quiet space with talking. Wants to be heard and understood.
2) Accommodator - will make empty promises. Values the relationship and wants the small talk.
3) Analyst - wants quiet moments to process

If you receive a bad/low offer say: I don’t see how that could ever work.
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LibraryThing member rivkat
BATNA/Getting to Yes, Voss argues, downplays the crucial importance of emotion and leads to “wimp wins,” where you get your bottom line but not the best deal you could have gotten. The idea of extracting the last bit of value from an opponent is more appealing to me for a hostage negotiation
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than for buying a car, I admit, but there’s a lot of interesting stuff, including about listening in a way that makes your counterpart feel heard; asking open-ended questions (how am I supposed to do that?) to get the other person invested in solving your problem; and embracing the power of no, which can unlock real negotiation.
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LibraryThing member thewestwing
Full of useful and actionable advice. Can see why it’s such a popular book.
LibraryThing member DrT
Book title and author: Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss. Reviewed 9/24/23

Why I picked this book up: after winning the Workbook for Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss back in July or August 2023 I
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really wanted to read the actual book so bought this one and am happy I did.

Thoughts: This author did life and death negotiations while mine are nothing close to that but he did cover things that were up my alley as a psychologist. He correctly pointed out “Listening is not a passive activity. It is the most active thing you can do.” People want to be understood and accepted. Listening is the cheapest, yet most effective concession we can make to get there. By listening intensely, a negotiator demonstrates empathy and shows a sincere desire to better understand what the other side is experiencing. It begins with listening, making it about the other people, validating their emotions, and creating enough trust and safety for a real conversation to begin. This book did a splendid job teaching the importance of navigating crucial conversations with impact. With the right techniques, we can find win-win situations. Active Listening, Asking Open Questions, Showing Empathy, and Summarizing. He shows The importance to embrace regular, thoughtful conflict as the basis of effective negotiation—and of life. Listening. Listening is not a passive activity. It is the most active thing you can do. It begins with listening, making it about the other people, validating their emotions, and creating enough trust and safety for a real conversation to begin.

Good negotiators are ready for surprises; great negotiators aim to use their skills to reveal the surprises they are certain exist. The goal is to identify what your counterparts actually need (monetarily, emotionally, or otherwise) and get them feeling safe enough to talk and talk and talk some more about what they want. The latter will help you discover the former.

Behavioral Change Stairway Model (BCSM). The model proposes five stages—active listening, empathy, rapport, influence, and behavioral change—that take any negotiator from listening to influencing behavior.

Creating unconditional positive regard opens the door to changing thoughts and behaviors. Humans have an innate urge toward socially constructive behavior. The more a person feels understood, and positively affirmed in that understanding, the more likely that urge for constructive behavior will take hold.

Create a Subtle Epiphany
The sweetest two words in any negotiation are actually “That’s right.”

You don’t want to hear “You’re right.”

This indicates they see the solution as yours, not theirs.

Negotiation is about finding irrational blind spots, hidden needs, and undeveloped notions.

Don’t Compromise

Deadlines are often arbitrary, almost always flexible, and hardly ever trigger the consequences we think—or are told—they will.

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.

People trust those who are in their in-group. Belonging is a primal instinct. And if you can trigger that instinct, that sense that, “Oh, we see the world the same way,” then you immediately gain influence.

Bottom line: People who expect more (and articulate it) get more.

Embrace Conflict
People generally fear conflict, so they avoid useful arguments out of fear that the tone will escalate into personal attacks they cannot handle.

Embrace regular, thoughtful conflict as the basis of effective negotiation—and of life.

More than a little research has shown that genuine, honest conflict between people over their goals actually helps energize the problem-solving process in a collaborative way.

With the style of negotiation taught in the book—an information-obsessed, empathic search for the best possible deal—you are trying to uncover value, period. Not to strong-arm or to humiliate.

Decades of goal-setting research is clear that people who set specific, challenging, but realistic goals end up getting better deals than those who don’t set goals or simply strive to do their best.

There are fill-in-the-blank labels that can be used in nearly every situation to extract information from your counterpart, or defuse an accusation:

It seems like _________ is valuable to you.

It seems like you don’t like _________.

It seems like you value __________.

It seems like _________ makes it easier.

It seems like you’re reluctant to _________.

Effective negotiators look past their counterparts’ stated positions (what the party demands) and delve into their underlying motivations (what is making them want what they want).

Never forget that a loss stings at least twice as much as an equivalent gain.

Why I finished this read: all of the above reasons and it was fun seeing psychology in action.

Stars rating: 5 of 5 as it covered what I was looking for and I enjoyed it that much.
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LibraryThing member john.cooper
Ladies and gentlemen, I am a fool for reading this book and thinking that it would help make me a better negotiator. Furthermore, I believe that many of the positive reviews of this book are from people who enjoyed reading it and believe that they must be better negotiators because they've worked
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to internalize its lessons, but who have never actually tried to put them into practice.

Voss is an exciting writer and you believe his stories, even though they are almost without exception stories of his incredible triumphs. It may not strike you, though, as it didn't strike me, that he rarely tells a story of failing a negotiation and learning from the failure. Take one of the few examples in the book that isn't from a crime scene. He saw the truck of his dreams. The dealer was asking $36,000 for it. (We gather that this was some years ago.) Voss goes into the dealership and sits there saying "no" to every dealer offer until he gets the price he wants: $30,000, or over 16% off the asking price.

It's an impressive story, until you stop to think about how lucky Voss was. After all, the dealership was clearly at least as motivated to sell the truck to him as he was to buy the truck. What if they had been more confident that they could sell the truck to someone else at the price they were asking? After all, the truck was a unique piece — that's why Voss wanted it so badly. And what if the dealer's cost for the truck was well above Voss's $30,000 figure, and they were not willing to sell at a loss? Voss's book doesn't deal with these scenarios. His stories rarely involve insurmountable roadblocks or necessary compromises. They're all about Voss, the best negotiator in the world, getting what he wants from a transaction. But we, his readers, are not as talented as Voss. We need not just to be fired up with stories of triumph, but to learn from difficult situations.

You guessed it: I went into a car dealership with Voss's book under my belt and tried to deal. It went wrong every which way. First, the dealership wouldn't come down on price — at all. And why should they? I was trying to buy a particular model in low supply and high demand. Second, when the dealership determined that I was trying to get a deal, they switched me from the initial salesperson, whom I liked, to another with a different attitude. The friendliness level dropped quickly, and that threw me. The simple fact was that I wanted to buy the car from them much more than they wanted to sell the car to me (in particular). And I'd missed one of Voss's implied lessons — one that he doesn't spell out, because it arises naturally from his personality: never lose your cool. Stay smiling. I wasn't prepared for the roadblocks I encountered, and when I lost my cool the game was over.

Eventually, I put a deposit down on the car. At full price. Weeks later, I'm still stinging.

I think that if you are more like me than like Voss — that is, if you sometimes experience social anxiety in difficult situations, if you are often unsure of yourself, if you tend to be trusting until you suddenly are not, or if you are more of an introvert than an extravert — you will get yourself into trouble by learning Voss's tips, because the greater lessons are ones that he never thinks to spell out.

On the other hand, if you, like Voss, are extraverted, easy-going, like to tussle a bit, then maybe this book will help you better play a game you probably already play pretty well.

Buyer beware.
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