This is a summary review of Never Split the Difference containing key details about the book.
What is Never Split the Difference About?
"Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It" is a book by Chris Voss that provides practical advice on how to negotiate effectively in a variety of situations, including business, personal relationships, and high-stakes negotiations.
Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator, shares the strategies and techniques he developed over the course of his career for negotiating successfully in high-pressure situations. He emphasizes the importance of building rapport and trust, and of using empathy and active listening to understand the other person's perspective and needs.
Never Split the Difference reveals the skills used in high-stakes negotiations that helped the author and his colleagues succeed where it mattered most: saving lives. The book contains nine effective principles—counterintuitive tactics and strategies—you too can use to become more persuasive in both your professional and personal life.
Some key takeaways from the book include the importance of framing negotiations as a problem-solving exercise rather than a zero-sum game, and of finding creative ways to meet the needs of both parties. Voss also advises being flexible and open to change, and being willing to walk away from a negotiation if it is not in your best interests.
Who is the Author of Never Split the Difference?
Chris Voss is a bestselling author and a 24-year veteran of the FBI. He is one of the preeminent practitioners and professors of negotiating skills in the world. He is the founder and principal of The Black Swan Group, a consulting firm that provides training and advises Fortune 500 companies through complex negotiations.
Tahl Raz is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author, he has edited and published in everything from Inc. Magazine and GQ to Harvard Business Review and the Jerusalem Post. He is a storyteller of big ideas in business, technology and the social sciences that are transforming the way we work and live.
How long is Never Split the Difference?
- Print length: 274 pages
- Audiobook: 8 hrs and 7 mins
What genre is Never Split the Difference?
Business, Nonfiction, Psychology
What are the main summary points of Never Split the Difference?
Here are some key summary points from the book:
- One of the most important goals in a negotiation is to create a "mutual win" where both parties feel that they have achieved their desired outcomes.
- It is key to listen actively and empathize with the other party in order to understand their perspective and needs.
- Using open-ended questions and reflecting back on the other party's words can help to create a sense of rapport and build trust.
- It is important to be flexible and willing to compromise in order to find a mutually beneficial solution.
- It is often helpful to make the first offer, as it sets the initial anchor point and can give you more leverage in the negotiation.
- It is important to be prepared and have a clear understanding of your own goals and boundaries before entering a negotiation.
- It is important to remain calm and avoid getting emotionally invested in the outcome of the negotiation.
- Being aware of and managing your own emotions and body language can be key to achieving a successful negotiation.
- Decision-making is first and foremost emotionally driven. As human beings, we are all inherently emotional creatures. Therefore, in order to elevate your negotiation skills you must tune into the emotional needs (and fears) of your rival.
- Rational Win-Win negotiating is not enough. Most people struggle to even identify what is a true “Win” for them, let alone achieve one.
- Most people have one key basic need: to feel safe and in control. In the context of negotiation, people are afraid of a loss more than they value an equal gain. Knowing this, you can frame your preferred solution as one that promotes more safety and control.
- Establishing rapport and trust is a necessary condition for good negotiation. As human beings, we want to connect with people who understand us, who we believe are similar to us, and who allow us to feel less alone. Therefore, a key to negotiation is to get your counterpart to feel comfortable with you and see you more as a partner than a rival.
- Being emotionally empathetic allows you to create rapport and reveal information otherwise unknown.
- Understanding our cognitive biases can lead to better decision-making. This is fundamental to good negotiation and getting what you want.
- Turning human emotions to your advantage by using active listening, mirroring, summarizing, reframing, and labeling (vocalizing someone else’s emotions and words) is vital during negotiation. People are drawn to similarities and those who understand them.
- Asking good questions and paying attention to subtle verbal and nonverbal cues will allow you to reveal “Unknown Unknowns” or “Black Swan” bits of information. This can also help you spot dishonest or unscrupulous counterparts.
- Learn to disagree without being disagreeable.
- When you are verbally assaulted, do not counterattack. Instead, ask calibrated questions.
- Do not avoid conflict. It brings out truth and creativity.
- Negotiation is not a battle; it’s a process of discovery.
- Ask questions that open paths to your goals. Persuasion is about the other party convincing themselves that the solution you want is their own idea.
- Embrace an attitude that is light and encouraging. Relax and smile while you’re talking. Have a positive and playful voice.
- Prepare. 'When the pressure is on, you don’t rise to the occasion; you fall to your highest level of preparation'
- Observe negativity without reaction and without judgment. Then consciously label each negative feeling and replace it with solution-based thoughts.
- Focus on the issue, not the person. The person across the table is not the problem; the situation is.
- 'Learn to take a punch or punch back, without anger.
- The more people feel understood, the more likely they will behave constructively.
- Slow down. 'If we’re too much in a hurry, people can feel as if they’re not being heard'. Talking slowly and clearly allow you to convey that you're in control.
- Don’t just pay attention to what people say, identify the motivation behind what they say.
- Question the assumptions that others accept on faith or in arrogance. Remain more emotionally open to all possibilities.
- Be open to a better deal than you initially expect. 'Never be so sure of what you want that you wouldn’t take something better.'
- Empathy doesn’t demand that you agree with someone's ideas. It is about acknowledging the other person’s situation and conveying that you are listening.
- Focus first on clearing the barriers to agreement. Give others permission to say “No” to your ideas.
What are key takeaways from Never Split the Difference?
Takeaway #1: Building Trust to Gather Information
Negotiating successfully, no matter who it's with or in which area of your life, requires you to stay rational and use your intellect, you must build up a rapport so that trust is established and gather as much useful information as possible. You do this by actively listening to what the other person is saying and using the mirroring technique (when you repeat what the other person has said but in an inquisitive tone) to draw more information from them I.e “Your accounts manager quit??” This encourages the other person to elaborate more.
Takeaway #2: Watch your tone of voice throughout these negotiations.
Most times you'll need to use a playful/positive tone, smiling as you speak, but if the other person is nervous or could become upset, use a deep but soft voice, talking slowly to reassure them.
Takeaway #3: Putting Emotions To Use
When negotiating, you must tap into what the other person is feeling, be empathetic towards how the other person is feeling. It doesn't mean agreeing with them, it means understanding the other person's perspective to better position yourself in the negotiations. You can do this through a technique called labeling which means acknowledging the other person's position and feelings so that they become calmer and more rational. Tell the other person that you know they're worried their boss will think they didn't push hard enough, or that you know your kids are worried that their classmates will make fun of them for going to bed an hour earlier.
Takeaway #4: Don't Rush, Don't Compromise, and Don't Accept Demands
Always let the other person make the first offer. If you're in a hurry to settle something you'll come off with the worst end of the bargain. Don't feel rushed as few deadlines are real deadlines set in stone. Take your time to understand what the other person is truly pushing for, not what they say they want as the two are often different and if you rush you could easily give the person something they don't really need or want but just threw in for the sake of it
What are key lessons from Never Split the Difference?
Lesson #1. Going Beyond Rationality
Negotiating successfully requires more than just logic because we humans are not always persuaded by rationality and don’t always accept logic, opting for unpredictable behaviour and letting our primal instincts take over instead.
Our cognitive biases make us act irrationally. This was discovered by psychologist Daniel Kahneman and economist Amos Tversky which upended the 1970s research that said that negotiation was based on humans acting rationally to their own advantage. Kahneman and Tversky identified not just 1 cognitive bias but 150 unique biases. This means that a wise negotiator must understand the human psyche to be successful.
Remember, negotiating skills are not only required in the boardroom and court of law. We all negotiate on a daily basis whether we realize it or not. Think about bedtime negotiations with your kids, negotiations with your spouse over what to do at the weekend, and asking your boss for a pay raise.
Lesson #2. Connection Starts with Respect
Before negotiations can begin you want to know as much information as possible about the situation and the person or people you’re going to be negotiating with. You want to know their needs, goals, and motivations.
In a hostage situation, for example, the negotiator needs to know what the kidnapper wants to achieve, whether they have weapons, whether what they are saying is true or false, how many kidnappers and hostages are inside a building, and so forth.
Creating an amicable connection with the other person is a must hence why you always see FBI agents talking to the criminal. This allows them to learn about their counterparts needs, goals, motivation, as well as their personality whilst also gaining trust which is essential for gaining information.
Lesson #3. From Active Listening to Trust
How do you build trust? Listen to the other person closely and repeat what they say in an inquisitive tone. This technique is called mirroring and shows that you’re empathetic to the other person and understand their point of view and what they are going through.
In a bank robbery situation, for example, let’s say that the robber is asking for a vehicle and has told the negotiator that his driver fled. In this situation, Chris Voss recommends asking the robber “was the driver chased off?” The robber will then feel the need to clarify, allowing the negotiator to piece together more information using the mirroring technique subsequently allowing for the driver to be apprehended.
Mirroring is an effective trust building technique, because it makes the counterpart feel that the person they’re talking to, in this case, the FBI negotiator, is similar to them despite us outsiders realizing that he is just doing his job and trying to resolve the situation peacefully. This technique isn’t only used in hostage situations, however.
Psychologist Richard Wiseman tested the effectiveness of mirroring in a restaurant when wait staff were taking orders. He asked one group of waiters and waitresses to use the mirroring technique (e.g. “...so you want the salad but without dressing and then the chicken?”) and the other group to use positive words (such as “no problem” and “great”). The staff who used mirroring received 70% more tips than those who used positive words.
Lesson #4. Adjusting Tone of Voice
The way someone says something is often more important than what they say. Therefore, when negotiating you must remember that the tone of your voice could well make or break the negotiation.
When you’re talking to someone who is becoming angry or upset, you should use a soft and deep voice to calm them down. This soothing voice in which you speak slowly and reassuringly is known as the ‘late-night DJ voice’.
If you need to encourage someone, then you can use a positive and playful tone of voice to show that you’re easy-going yet still empathetic. You want to smile from time to time to convey this even more as, even if the other person cannot see your face, they will be able to hear that smile in your voice. Try the positive tone out when you’re haggling for a better deal whether at a flea market or in a car salesroom and see what happens..
Lesson #5. Tuning Into Emotional Cues
Pay attention to the other person’s emotions and use empathy to your advantage - You don’t have to agree with them, just understand them. Psychotherapists, for example, tap into their patients' emotions so they can help them. You as a negotiator can do the same.
When Chris Voss was called in to negotiate with 4 escaped inmates, who were hiding out in an apartment and thought to be in possession of weapons, he was able to label their emotions. This helped him acknowledge and empathize with the escaped prisoners. Voss told them that he understood they were worried that if they came out of the apartment that they would be shot. He explained that he understood that they were scared and that they did not want to go back to prison. After six hours of communicating with them and building trust with the labeling technique, Voss convinced the prisoners to surrender with no one on either side getting hurt.
Labeling and “Tactical Empathy” are calming techniques that negotiators use to build rapport and consists of telling the other person that you acknowledge his or her feelings, motivations, and position and understand their feelings. This can be invaluable when dealing with someone who is acting irrationally.
Lesson #6. Don’t Accept a Bad Deal
Sometimes people are so keen to find a resolution to a conflict that they end up with a result that is not convenient. To ensure you don’t find yourself in this situation don’t compromise, don’t rush, and don’t accept a bad deal - don’t ‘split the difference’.
The problem with rushing and presuming is that sometimes the counterpart has needs that we are not even aware of which can skew the request and outcome when we wade in fast with a compromise.
Take kidnapping situations as an example and imagine that a kidnapper is saying that unless they get one million dollars by noon tomorrow they’ll kill the hostage. The kidnapper is claiming they want money, but in fact, they might be trying to make a statement. As such, giving the kidnapper the money doesn’t mean the hostage will be released. Know that deadlines are generally flexible so don’t rush and make a mistake by thinking that the deadline is the be all and end all - Negotiate!
In another kidnapping case that Chris Voss negotiated involving the wife of a Haitian police officer who was held for ransom he noticed an interesting pattern. The kidnappers would only request money on weekdays and go quiet on weekends. Voss realized that the kidnappers needed money for a partying habit. This indicated that the deadline and ransom amount were negotiable. Had he compromised due to the pressure of a deadline, he would have missed vital information. His patience, however, enabled him to successfully resolve the situation. Have patience and don’t accept a bad deal!
What are the chapters in Never Split the Difference?
Chapter One - The New Rules
Chapter Two - Be a Mirror
Chapter Three - Don't Feel their Pain, Label It
Chapter Four - Beware 'Yes' - Master 'No'
Chapter Five - Trigger The Two Words that Immediately Transform any Negotiation
Chapter Six - Bend Their Reality
Chapter Seven - Create The Illusion Of Control
Chapter Eight - Guarantee Execution
Chapter Nine - Bargain Hard
Chapter Ten - Find the Black Swan
Never Split the Difference Summary Notes
Here are some detailed summary notes and negotiation tactics from the book:
1. The New Rules Of Negotiation
Chris Voss brings a fresh perspective to the age-old practice of negotiation in his book. Voss starts by asserting that negotiation is not an innate talent but a skill that can be developed and refined. He then proceeds to critique the traditional approach to negotiation, which he believes falls short in today's world. Instead, Voss presents the radical idea of 'tactical empathy,' which involves getting into the other party's mind and influencing their emotions and perspective. In other words, he's advocating for a more strategic and psychological approach to negotiation. Voss also emphasizes the crucial role of communication in negotiations, particularly the significance of nonverbal cues and language.
2. The Power of Empathy
Voss delves deeper into the art of negotiation, honing in on one critical component that is often overlooked: empathy. Drawing upon his extensive experience, Voss elucidates the concept of empathy as not merely understanding another's feelings, but embodying them as one's own. By cultivating this ability, one can establish deep rapport and trust with their negotiating partner, allowing for the formation of mutually beneficial agreements. Voss goes on to provide detailed strategies for employing empathy in negotiation, emphasizing the crucial role of active listening and nonverbal cues in the process.
Chris Voss elucidates the potent strategy of mirroring. Drawing from his experience in high-stakes negotiations, Voss expounds on how mirroring entails the deft repetition of the other party's final words in a measured, dispassionate tone. This technique, according to Voss, serves to establish a deep sense of rapport and trust with the other party, thereby facilitating a more productive negotiation process. Additionally, mirroring can be effectively deployed to elicit further information or to deflect tough questions.
Chris Voss introduces a powerful technique known as "labeling," which has the potential to transform the way we approach negotiations. Through the use of labeling, we are able to reframe and acknowledge the emotions and perspectives of the other party, creating a more empathetic and constructive negotiation dynamic. Voss explains how to use labeling to establish rapport, reduce tension, and gain a deeper understanding of the other party's needs and motivations. Voss emphasizes the importance of using specific and nonjudgmental language when labeling, and provides numerous examples and exercises to help us master this crucial technique.
5. Accusation Audit
Chris Voss introduces a powerful negotiation technique that has proven to be effective in resolving conflicts and misunderstandings - the accusation audit. This technique involves addressing the other party's grievances or accusations by listing them out and responding to them in a calm and rational manner. According to Voss, the accusation audit helps to establish trust and build rapport with the other party, as it shows that you are willing to listen to their concerns and address any issues that may be causing tension or conflict. To execute the accusation audit successfully, Voss recommends using calibrated questions and active listening to gather information and understand the other person's perspective. He cautions against getting defensive or reacting emotionally during the process, as this could escalate the situation and destroy the trust that has been built with the other party. Instead, Voss advises staying calm and focused on finding a resolution to the issues at hand.
6. Setting the Hook
Voss reveals the powerful technique of "Setting the Hook" to gain leverage in any negotiation. The concept revolves around creating a sense of discomfort or uncertainty in the other party using carefully crafted questions or statements. By challenging their assumptions and opening up avenues for further discussion, negotiators can establish a stronger foothold in the negotiation process. Voss emphasizes that this technique must be used with utmost sincerity and genuineness, and warns against resorting to manipulation or deception.
7. The Boomerang
Chris Voss explores the technique of "The Boomerang" in the context of negotiation. This technique involves astutely redirecting the conversation back to the other party's interests, thereby establishing trust and building common ground. Voss elucidates the art of empathy and mirroring, explaining how these tactics can help negotiators skillfully steer conversations towards the needs and interests of the other party. Patience, Voss emphasizes, is key in negotiation; allowing the other party to fully express their needs and concerns sets the stage for successful negotiation. Moreover, Voss warns against the common mistake of attempting to persuade or convince the other party, which often leads to resistance and a breakdown in communication.
Voss expounds upon the integral concept of "bonding" in the realm of negotiation. Voss asserts that forging a bond is a pivotal element in achieving a successful outcome, as it serves to establish trust and engender a sense of connection between the parties involved. Drawing upon his wealth of experience, Voss outlines several effective techniques to foster such a bond, including employing open-ended questions, mirroring the other party's body language and vocal tone, and demonstrating a sincere interest in their perspective. Moreover, Voss underscores the importance of authenticity and transparency in cultivating trust and cementing a robust bond, ultimately yielding a fruitful negotiation for all parties involved.
9. The Power of No
Chris Voss delves into the nuanced concept of "no." Voss argues that "no" is a potent tool in negotiation, allowing us to set boundaries, establish control, and protect our interests. However, Voss also cautions that the improper use of "no" can create tension and damage trust in a negotiation. To navigate this delicate balancing act, Voss outlines several strategies for using "no" effectively, including inviting further discussion and reframing the conversation. Moreover, Voss advises against using "no" as a means to shut down the conversation or attack the other party. Instead, he recommends using "no" in a way that is respectful and constructive to maintain trust and continue the negotiation process. In addition to the tactical use of "no," Voss introduces readers to the concept of "the no alternative." This technique involves presenting the other party with a choice between two options, both of which involve a "no." Voss argues that this technique can lead to a mutually beneficial outcome, allowing both parties to feel as though they have gained something while also protecting their interests.
In the realm of negotiation, the concept of anchoring refers to the innate human tendency to attach undue weight to the first piece of information we encounter when faced with a decision. Needless to say, this can prove problematic in the delicate dance of negotiation. The initial anchor that is set can establish the tone and direction of the entire negotiation, rendering any attempts to change course an uphill battle. Voss proposes a number of shrewd tactics to effectively leverage the power of anchoring in negotiation. One such technique involves establishing an initial anchor that is conspicuously higher or lower than what you really hope to achieve. Another is to use calibrated questions to gather information and subtly shape the other party's perception of value. However, Voss warns against the perilous trap of allowing the other party to set the initial anchor, as it can be exceedingly difficult to recover from a disadvantageous starting point.
11. Tactical empathy
Voss introduces the concept of tactical empathy as a fundamental skill for successful negotiation. Through the identification and expression of the other party's emotions, tactical empathy allows for the establishment of trust and rapport, as well as a deeper understanding of their perspective. To effectively demonstrate tactical empathy, Voss suggests the use of calibrated questions and the "label" technique. However, Voss warns against the use of false empathy, which he sees as a manipulative technique that can damage trust and ultimately hinder the negotiation process. Instead, he emphasizes the importance of genuine empathy and authenticity in building a strong foundation for successful negotiation. By being sincere and transparent, negotiators can establish trust and understanding, ultimately leading to a more successful outcome.
12. The Veto
The veto is a powerful tool that can be used in a negotiation to prevent an agreement from being reached. As Voss argues, the veto must be used with caution and discretion, as it has the potential to inflict significant harm to the rapport and trust that has been built with the opposing party. Indeed, the veto is akin to a "nuclear option," capable of inflicting irreparable damage to the negotiation process. That being said, there are certain situations where the veto can be an effective and necessary tool, particularly when dealing with an unreasonable counterpart or when the proposed agreement does not align with your best interests. However, Voss emphasizes that the veto should only be used as a last resort, after all other options for reaching a mutually beneficial agreement have been exhausted.In order to utilize the veto effectively, Voss advises that it should be implemented in a strategic and calculated manner. The impact of the veto should be maximized while minimizing the potential for harm to the relationship with the opposing party.
13. The flinch
Voss sheds light on the power of the flinch - a physical reaction that can provide valuable insight into the other party's underlying concerns and fears. By noticing and acknowledging the other person's flinch, Voss explains that you can demonstrate your awareness of their concerns and build trust and rapport with them. However, Voss also warns against intentionally causing the flinch, as this may come across as aggressive or confrontational, and damage the relationship you have built with the other party. Instead, he advocates the use of calibrated questions and other tactics to gently probe the other person's concerns and address them collaboratively.
14. Calibrated questions
Chris Voss reveals the art of calibrated questions, an indispensable tool for mastering the complex world of negotiation. These carefully crafted open-ended questions are designed to establish rapport and build a sense of partnership with the other party, while gathering crucial information that is essential for successful negotiation. Voss stresses that calibrated questions should be used to elicit information about the other party's interests, concerns, and motivations, as well as to explore potential solutions and options. He warns against the use of "why" questions, which can be perceived as confrontational and accusatory, and instead recommends the use of "how" and "what" questions, which are more neutral and less likely to trigger a defensive response.
What does it mean to "Never split the difference"?
The phrase "never split the difference" refers to the idea that in a negotiation, it is important to aim for a "mutual win" where both parties feel that they have achieved their desired outcomes, rather than simply trying to find a middle ground or compromise that leaves both parties feeling unsatisfied. Voss argues that in order to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome, it is important to listen actively and empathize with the other party in order to understand their perspective and needs, and to be flexible and willing to compromise in order to find a solution that works for both parties. By following these principles, you can avoid simply "splitting the difference" and instead find a resolution that truly meets the needs and interests of both parties.
How to negotiate a salary based on the book's principles?
Here are some tips for negotiating salary based on the principles outlined in Chris Voss's book "Never Split the Difference":
- Do your research: Know the market value for your job and have data to back up your request for a higher salary.
- Prepare for the negotiation: Know your own goals and boundaries and have a clear understanding of what you want and what you are willing to accept.
- Make the first offer: By making the first offer, you can set the initial anchor point and give yourself more leverage in the negotiation.
- Listen actively and empathize with the other party: Try to understand their perspective and needs, and show them that you are willing to work towards a "win-win" solution.
- Use open-ended questions and reflective listening: These techniques can help to build rapport and trust, and can also help you to gather more information about the other party's perspective.
- Be flexible and willing to compromise: Look for ways to meet the needs of both parties and find a solution that works for everyone.
- Don't get emotionally invested in the outcome: Stay calm and focused on your goals, and remember that there may be other options or opportunities if this negotiation does not work out.
- Manage your body language and emotions: Be aware of how you are coming across and try to project confidence and openness.
What are some real-life examples of successful negotiations using the tactics discussed in the book?
One example is the story of how Voss, as a hostage negotiator for the FBI, helped negotiate a release. Voss describes how, in the negotiations, he used techniques to build rapport with the kidnapper. But it's not just in high-stakes situations like hostage negotiations where the tactics in "Never Split the Difference" can be effective. The book includes numerous examples of how the techniques can be applied in everyday life, such as negotiating a raise, buying a car, or even just navigating a conversation with a difficult friend or family member.
What is the main premise of the book?
It's all about creating a win-win situation, where everyone gets something they want. In other words, Voss does not believe in splitting the difference. Instead, he teaches us how to use empathy, active listening, and strategic questioning to get the other side to come to our way of thinking. He shows us how to use tactical empathy to disarm even the most stubborn opponent, and how to use calibrated questions to get to the heart of the matter.
What are some good quotes from Never Split the Difference?
"Negotiation is not an act of battle; it’s a process of discovery. The goal is to uncover as much information as possible."
"If you approach a negotiation thinking the other guy thinks like you, you are wrong. That's not empathy, that's a projection." (Meaning)
― Chris Voss, Never Split the Difference Quotes.
What do critics say?
Here's what one of the prominent reviewers had to say about Never Split the Difference: "Chatty and friendly and packed with helpful resources, this is an intriguing approach to business and personal negotiations." — Publishers Weekly
* The summary points above have been summarized from the book and other public sources. The editor of this summary review made every effort to maintain information accuracy, including the published quotes, book chapters, and key takeaways.