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

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A former FBI hostage negotiator offers a new, field-tested approach to negotiating – effective in any situation.

After a stint policing the rough streets of Kansas City, Missouri, Chris Voss joined the FBI, where his career as a kidnapping negotiator brought him face-to-face with bank robbers, gang leaders and terrorists. Never Split the Difference takes you inside his world of high-stakes negotiations, revealing the nine key principles that helped Voss and his colleagues succeed when it mattered the most – when people’s lives were at stake.

Rooted in the real-life experiences of an intelligence professional at the top of his game, Never Split the Difference will give you the competitive edge in any discussion.

274 pages, Hardcover

First published May 17, 2016

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About the author

Chris Voss

29 books1,460 followers
A 24 year veteran of the FBI, Chris Voss 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. Voss has taught for many business schools, including the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business, Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, Harvard University, MIT's Sloan School of Management, and Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, among others.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 8,819 reviews
Profile Image for James Q. Golden.
21 reviews110 followers
April 4, 2018
I'm sorry, but it seems you're looking for a review to help you decide if you Really want to read this book--if it's worth your time--or not. Wondering if somebody would be kind enough to provide you with that one review which would appeal to your tastes.

I have EXACTLY what you're looking for, but why would I provide it for you? I'm thinking No. Go ahead: tell me. Why would I bother saving your time with an eloquent and thorough review that would Definitely appeal to you and surely help you decide? Go ahead: tell me.

Are you done?

The answer is the same: it ain't happening. It seems you're wasting your time. The answer is a big, fat No.

What now?

It seems you're a little stuck right now, doesn't it? My answer doesn't sound it'll change anytime soon--I mean, I'm not the kind of guy who keeps checking his reviews and keeps editing them accordingly, so now what?

Looks like you could use some of the tips found in this book. Wasn't it about negotiating?

Hmm. . .
Profile Image for Mark.
519 reviews68 followers
September 20, 2016
One of the best books I've read over the last few years. In my opinion, the title does NOT do it justice. While this is applicable to negotiating, and the title DOES highlight a critical component, this book is valuable to MANY types of negotiating, even situations that we may not consider to be negotiating... things that happen every day. This borrows heavily from behavioral and neuro science areas to get at the way people work (all of us). It of necessity helps gain trust. It helps in understanding others and what their true motives are, so you can meet their needs. This can be applied whether you are negotiating for just helping someone. It's an amazing book... there are only about 4 books that I will repeat (maybe more than a 2nd time). This is DEFINITELY one of them. Thanks for an amazing lesson and reference, Chris! You're amazing.
Profile Image for Paige Halper.
133 reviews8 followers
May 31, 2022
**Edit as of 5/31/22: It appears I’ve gotten under some people’s skin. Welcome to the exchange of ideas, friends! I understand that your comment means you really want my attention and read what I have to say! That’s awesome. I, however, don’t give a shit about what you have to say. You’re free to comment and I’m free to ignore it. LMFAO.**

Did I really just read 288 pages of a white dude describing the world and how he manipulates others to "get the right answer" to his questions? I feel sick.

With the preface, you really believe Voss is the expert in his field (and a humble expert, which is refreshing beyond belief). But you'll also start to realize about 15 pages in that Voss' techniques only work because he lives in a world where everyone is systematically inclined to make men like him happy (either for fear of retribution or because they are men who hope Voss' success mirrors (hey, I used his favorite word!) their own). The world already accommodates him.

Can't wait for Never Split the Difference 2: A Woman's Perspective. It would be about 250 pages shorter because no one takes her seriously enough to answer her questions and instead asks to speak with the man in charge.
Profile Image for Always Pouting.
575 reviews762 followers
April 28, 2017
A lot of what affects how much you enjoy these books is, again, how self aware you are or how much consideration you've given to how you talk to people and the best way to get what you want from others. If you already easily have any easy time convincing people, or have thought about it and are self aware of how you behave and talk to others then I don't think any of these things are going to be surprising or helpful but if you haven't ever actually considered the way you interact with people then maybe this will be an eye opening book for you. Personally I think I've always been a little manipulative so I wasn't all that impressed. The writing was average also so the books clear and easy to read but I wasn't impressed by the writing either.

3 reviews
October 2, 2018
While I enjoyed reading the book, I couldn't help realize it was mainly about how to manipulate and use people in order to get your way. No matter how Chris worded his stories, examples, and techniques it all sounded like he is teaching "how to use others for your personal (or business's) gain. I honestly felt dirty reading it as it does teach how to be a horrible person to others while smiling and coming off as a great person.
I'll say as some one with high functioning autism and learning "to be human" (communicate and function normally in conversation) it does help me to see just how evil people can actually be, and avoid them. I learned from this book, the signs of manipulation and deception when talking with people or negotiating.
I get why top business people and those who deal with negotiating on a daily basis would read this book and learn from it. Good book for power/money hungry business people and good for those who want to learn how to avoid them.
Profile Image for Annie.
869 reviews837 followers
December 4, 2018
The book should have been titled "Start at No in Negotiations." Often, a "no" means "wait" or "I'm not comfortable with that." Probe deeper and listen carefully to uncover key information behind the "no" (such as "I want to but I don't have the money now" or "it is actually my spouse, not me, who doesn't agree"). This is a much more effective approach than trying to get the counterpart to say "yes," which the person might say just to get rid of you.

The author, who is a former FBI hostage negotiator, included too many hostage stories. These situations where lives are on the line, the negotiator would never split the difference (e.g., you take 2 hostages and I take 2 hostages) and hence, the book title. But for everyday situations (like negotiating with a family member, buying a car, or working with colleagues), the stories aren't that useful and such a perspective on negotiations isn't practical.

I recommend starting with Chapter 9 to understand the types of people in negotiations:
Analyst - methodical and diligent; need time to go over facts and consider the options
Accommodator - builds rapport through a continuous free-flowing exchange of information; not necessarily focused on the desired outcome
Assertive - direct and candid; getting it done quickly is more important than spending more time on getting it done right

Then start from the beginning and practice the skills, including:
Mirror - repeat the last three words (or the critical one to three words) of what someone has just said to draw out more information from the person
Label - validate someone's emotions and fears by acknowledging it (such as "it seems like you feel you're not being appreciated")
Accusation List - list the worst things the counterpart could say about you (such as "you probably think I don't spend enough time on this project") and give statements to alleviate that concern (such as "You can trust me to do my part without supervision" and "we all want this project to be successful").

Ask questions, collect information, and consider creative ways to get to your goals (such as non-monetary items - amenities, upgrades, positive reviews, and referrals). There is much more in the book that goes through the nuances of what to say, how to say it, and how to behave. It is a book that you need to read slowly, take notes, and practice the tips before moving on to the next chapter.
Profile Image for Mario Velarde.
35 reviews3 followers
August 10, 2016
Fantastic book. While I recommend it to everyone, I almost don't want to give away a competitive edge and prefer no one reads it--it's that good!
Profile Image for Andy.
1,452 reviews481 followers
July 9, 2021
This does not work well as an audiobook because there's a lot of filler and hot air. I agree with the starting premise of the book, i.e. that "Getting to Yes" is more or less useless because people aren't robots: When everybody involved is nice and logical, no one needs help with negotiating.
Having said that, I'm not sure how especially useful his advice is.
Personally, I got much more out of: Talking to Crazy: How to Deal with the Irrational and Impossible People in Your Life Talking to Crazy How to Deal with the Irrational and Impossible People in Your Life by Mark Goulston .
I would also recommend The Introvert's Edge: How the Quiet and Shy Can Outsell Anyone The Introvert's Edge How the Quiet and Shy Can Outsell Anyone by Matthew Owen Pollard . The author there recognizes that introverts have different strengths/weaknesses vs. extroverts and tailors advice for them.
Voss, on the other hand, describes himself as an asshole, and seems to think his advice applies to everyone. He doesn't appear to get that for many people a lot of what he recommends is either obvious (listening) or odious (taking maximum advantage of other people's misfortunes). Stuff like haggling for hours at the car dealer is something that gives him years of enormous pleasure, but nowadays would often just be an avoidable waste of time. Some of the advice seems harmless and potentially helpful (e.g. using "how" questions) and I'm willing to try that. If it helps, I'll bump up the rating.
Profile Image for ScienceOfSuccess.
110 reviews193 followers
November 26, 2017
tl;dr My animated summary of Never Split the Difference is available here: https://youtu.be/pWu6ie-QXjI

Chris Voss is a former FBI hostage negotiator. If you want to learn how to negotiate, he’s your top teacher. Every chapter in his book is a lesson. Each of them feels like an episode of some crime TV series. Every lesson is based on a real-life example from author’s involvement with hostage negotiations. After the storytelling, Chris explains which negotiating techniques worked and which didn’t. At the end of each chapter, there is a nice wrap-up of the key lessons learned.

The author discovered that the same techniques he used in life and death negotiations can be applied to everyday conflicts. Whether you are negotiating with kidnappers, trying to get a raise, or just negotiating “bedtime” with your kid, the principles stay the same. The main rule of negotiations is to remember that you’re dealing with a person who wants to be appreciated and understood.

“Never split the difference” is an impressive book, filled with practical knowledge. This is not theoretical science. All of those advices were proven right when someone’s life was on the line. You can’t read it like a textbook. This book is written like a thriller. It’s very absorbing and easy to read. After finishing it I feel like not only my negotiation skills improved, but my social skills overall got better. I believe everyone should read it. Most people don’t wake up every day expecting negotiations, but who knows, maybe tomorrow you’ll have an opportunity to discuss something that’s important to you? I can guarantee that such talk could go WAY better if you read this book.

Well deserved 5/5, I'd love to give 6stars here.
Profile Image for Cori.
851 reviews147 followers
September 26, 2018
Recently, I've snagged a couple interesting titles off the Audible deal-of-the-day. This book popped up and the premise was just so interesting, I had to get it for a couple dollars.

Chris Voss, the author, was a lead FBI hostage negotiator and haggled with terrorists, kidnappers, and a host of other bad dudes for a lot of years. I had an initial concern that Chris would be authoritarian and a tad bit self-enamored when I bought the book. The only reason for this being that most "bargain-like-a-boss" books I've read have been that way. But I figured, you don't get to be the FBI's lead hostage negotiator because of a false sense of importance so I figured I'd give 'er a go. And I'm so glad I did.

This book appealed to me because I thought, "Hey, I can actually use this to negotiate with agitated patients." But holy moly, Miss Molly. You can use these techniques to smooth out rough conversations with a spouse or family member, ease a tense stand-off with your nine year old that doesn't want to go to bed, and use your super-secret-spy techniques on the vegetable vendor on the side of the road. It's nifty stuff.

In reality, the information here is golden. I wasn't flipping through pages thinking, "I should write the world's most basic book on communication too and make money off it." This was actually valuable and evidenced-based. So many of these techniques are things I either use with aggressive/agitated patients, or will start using! Some of it, I realized, I use a rendition of, but not well, because I couldn't put my finger on the mechanics behind it. This is so simple, and yet, art. It breaks things down into simple concepts, but shows it takes practice to hone the skills (obviously, otherwise I'd be sauntering into that lead FBI negotiator position myself). Why should we start our questions with "what" and "how"? Why do we want the other guy to say no? When is it helpful to use the late night FM DJ voice vs. the chipper, friendly voice? I know the answers now. And they make a hecka-lotta sense.

If you read one self-help, communication, non-fiction book this year, read this one! Also, the Audible narrator was a pleasure to listen to. He did a wonderful job.

I'd rate this book a PG for some language and episodes of peril/violence.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,649 followers
December 15, 2017
I was prepared to hate this book and lump it in with the whole useless self-help genre (which begs the question why I keep reading those books), but I actually learned a lot. The book is basically a behavioral psychology approach to negotiations. I was taught all the BATNA and rational negotiations strategies in law school, but all those assumptions were based on rationality and lack of feelings. But we now understand that we are more prone to emotional decision making (system 1 or the elephant) as opposed to cool headed reasoned thinking (system 2 and the rider). So this book helps you negotiate (or maybe manipulate?) with our emotional reptilian brains. And to watch out for your own fallacies as well.
Profile Image for Nastja .
227 reviews1,410 followers
June 9, 2021
Автор: я научу вас таким оборотам речи, против которых у вашего противника не найдется никаких аргументов.
Читатель из России: "Вот где карту получали, туда и идите?" "Вас много, а я одна?" "Без петельки не принимаем?" Эти что ли?
Profile Image for David Rubenstein.
816 reviews2,583 followers
September 29, 2020
This is a FANTASTIC book! The author, Chris Voss, is an expert hostage negotiator for the FBI. He can never "split the difference"--a euphemism for compromise--because to compromise in a hostage negotiation is to lose a life or many lives.

Voss explains how to negotiate--not just for the FBI, but in any realm of life. So much of his advice sounds completely anti-intuitive. Just as an example, one should not be encouraged by the answer "Yes". It is much better to hear the answer "No". Why? A "Yes" means that your counterpart just wants to get rid of you. A "No" means that he is thinking for himself. You want to pose a question that gets a "No" response, but in a positive way. For example, "Do you want to give up on any chance of making a deal?" would be properly answered by "No", which means that your counterpart is thinking on his own, and not pressured to answer "Yes".

Well, I am probably not explaining this very well, but Voss clearly explains his approaches. He shows how these negotiating tactics work for the FBI, and helps to save lives. These tactics can also be applied to day-to-day negotiations, like asking for a raise, buying a car, and even talking with your spouse.

The book is filled with anecdotes that illustrate how negotiations can be very successful--or how ignoring his advice can be the route to failure. I highly recommend this book!

I didn't read this book; I listened to the audiobook. The narrator, Michael Kramer, does an excellent job to bring this book to life!
Profile Image for Simon Clark.
Author 1 book4,978 followers
September 4, 2017
A very practical, easy to read book on the various psychological tricks and techniques you can use in persuading people to see things your way. I was recommended to read this with regards to negotiating with brands (making sponsored video content) and it has certainly beefed up my skillset. I've actually already used a bunch of tips from this book outside of formal negotiations, and I can confirm that much as some of the tricks sound unnatural on paper they really do work!

As I say, the book is very readable with punchy prose, and the author Chris Voss punctuates each chapter with relevant (and often gripping) anecdotes. To be honest, the only thing that's preventing me from giving this a five star review is a lack of 'wow factor'. This is a book that states its purpose, knows what its talking about, and accomplishes the goals it sets out. But that's it. It wasn't life-changing, but it was very good.
Profile Image for Yevgeniy Brikman.
Author 4 books610 followers
June 2, 2019
Crap title, GREAT book.

The premise: the FBI's former chief international hostage negotiator (what a job title!) shares what he learned about negotiation throughout his career. These are the lessons the FBI has learned the hard way—those strategies that have been found to work when people's lives depend on it. And these strategies work not only for hostage negotiation, but in the types of negotiations you come across throughout life: asking a boss for a raise, convincing your kids to take out the trash, haggling over the price of a car, etc.

I found a lot of valuable insights in this book. So much, that it took me a few weeks to find the time to jot down all my thoughts here, and it'll take me even longer to internalize it all and start using it regularly. The author now runs a consulting company, so a few bits of the book felt like a marketing pitch, but the vast majority seemed like well thought out, actionable advice.

Some of my favorite take aways:

* Every person is driven by several primal urges in a negotiation: the need to feel safe; the need to feel in control; the need to be understood. Your goal in a negotiation is to gather as much information as possible to best meet these needs. Most of the items below touch on these basic needs.

* Tactical empathy: deeply understand what other person is feeling and what’s driving them. However, understanding that person is not the same as agreeing with that person or feeling sorry for them—that’s sympathy. You want empathy, because when you can understand what's driving someone, you'll be far better at negotiating with them.

* There are three "voices" you typically want to use in a negotiation. The first voice, and the one you should use by default, is your positive/playful voice: the voice of an easygoing, good-natured person, that is light and encouraging; relax and smile. The second is the late night radio DJ voice: low, smooth, calm, and showing that (a) you're relaxed and confident because (b) you are in control. And the third is the direct/assertive voice, similar to a drill sergeant. You very rarely use the third one.

* Mirroring: repeat back to the person the last thing they said, or the most important few words in their last sentence, but use voice intonation to indicate that you want them to expand on that topic—that you're seeking clarification. It gets them to do more talking and feel heard. It gives you more information.

* Labeling emotions: give names to the emotions the other person is expressing. Use the phrases "it seems like," "it sounds like," and "it looks like." Example: "It sounds like this is really frustrating you" or "It seems like you feel cheated." After providing the label, go silent. This prompts the other person to respond: either they'll agree ("yea, that's exactly it!") or they'll correct you ("I'm not frustrated, I'm..."), which case you'll understand them better. The book "Emotional Agility" also talks about labeling emotions as an effective way to better deal with your own feelings.

* Call out the negative: list all the other person's charges against you up front. Call out all their fears, grievances, and problems, acknowledge them, respond to them, and then invite the other person to add to it. Then, _listen_, and don't judge. Instead, as the person adds other items, label each negative emotion, acknowledge it, and find a way to turn it into something positive. For example: "It seems like you're concerned that we're a small, relatively unknown company, and what happens if we suddenly go out of business or get acquired? Will you be left hanging? I think this is a valid concern, but the advantage of working with a small company is that we can move much faster, and our license ensures that if we disappear, you're going to be fine because of [...]." Get the barriers that block progress into the open as soon as possible so you can deal with them pro-actively.

* Loss aversion: convince the other side they have something to lose if they don’t sign (and not only something win if they do sign). Humans are loss averse, fearing loss significantly more than valuing wins, so showing them what they lose can often be a bigger motivator than showing them what they gain.

* Anchors: start off the bidding (yes, you can say the first number!) with an extreme value to "anchor" the negotiation towards the range that favors you. E.g., Offer just 50% of the asking price as the first bid. You can also use ranges to your advantage, with the actual number you want at one end, and your extreme bid at the other: e.g., offer a range of 50-75% of the asking price, with your desired price being at 75%. This can be even more effective if you bring up ranges from external data: e.g., "At company X they pay $YYY-$ZZZ for this role." This way, the conversation isn't just about you or your own greed/needs, but about market conditions.

* Asymmetry: look for asymmetric trade-offs, such as something the other person can toss in that's cheap for them, but highly valuable for you. In most cases, money is valued equally, so this means looking for non-monetary terms. E.g., If you're a consultant negotiating with a law firm, you might be able to get them to mention you in their next journal/publication, which is cheap for them, but incredibly valuable marketing for you.

* Calibrated questions: take one of your demands and phrase it as a question to make it less pushy. E.g., Instead of telling someone, "you can't take do X," you say, “what do you hope to accomplish by doing X?” Ask something that forces them to think through YOUR problem: e.g., "How am I supposed to know the hostage is OK?" These questions force the other person to have empathy for your situation.

A particular powerful way to ask a calibrated question is to summarize the discussion so far and ask, "How am I supposed to do that?" E.g., "So you want me to sell this below my cost to produce it; how am I supposed to do that?" You can make these questions a request for help: "Can you help me figure out a way to get project X done by this deadline if project Y is also due at the same time?"

Use these sorts of questions to guide the conversation. The responder will actually end up doing most of the talking, so they'll feel like they are in control (they'll also feel more committed to the solution, as they will be actively helping to come up with it!), but you're actually guiding them, and forcing them to see things your way. After all, by answering your calibrated questions, they have to make your obstacles theirs and come up with a solution—YOUR solution.

A few notes: (a) The question you ask must be *open ended*; it' can't be a yes/no question or a quick factual question, otherwise, they'll answer without thinking, and expect something in return. (b) Don't accuse the person or attack them in the form of a question; instead, guide them to think through the blockers for you. (c) Most of the questions should be "what" and "how" questions; why is often accusatory, so you probably want to avoid it.


What makes you ask?
What about is important to you?
How can I help make this better for us?
How would you like me to proceed?
What is it that brought us into this situation?
How can we solve the problem?
What’s the objective / What are we trying to accomplish here?
How am I supposed to do that?

* Aim to not only get a "yes," but also a "how." The how is the implementation. If you just get a "yes," but no implementation details, then you may still fail. Use calibrated questions to ferret out the how. E.g., How am I supposed to do that? How will we know we’re on track? How will we address things if we find we’re off track? How does this affect the rest of your team? How on board are the people not on this call? What do your colleagues see as their main challenges in this area?

* Backup listener: someone who joins negotiations just to listen. Their job is to listen between the lines while the other person talks. When you're the active participant, you'll often miss critical cues that a backup listener can spot.

* Slow down. Most people go way too fast, but if you go too fast, the other person won’t feel like they are being heard.

* Strategy for dealing with a "bulldog" who tries to aggressively roll over you: (a) Use your late night radio DJ voice. (b) Say "sorry": e.g., I'm sorry you're feeling so much pressure. (c) Mirror: make it clear you're seeking clarification. The other person will repeat their message, but in different words, perhaps calmer. (d) Listen silently. (e) Repeat. If you do this over and over, the other person will quickly calm down. If you are being attacked, slow down, pause, count to 10 if you have to: the goal is to let your emotions settle. Then use the previous steps and calibrated questions.

* Don't be afraid of "no." No is the start of a negotiation—not the end of it. People want the power to say "no" (autonomy). Give them that power! Instead of avoiding "no" at all costs, try to look for a way to get an early "no" to make the other person feel comfortable and in control. Could be as simple as saying, "well, do you want this project to fail?" Another one that can work, especially if a customer has stopped responding: "have you given up on this project?" Sometimes, you want to intentionally get someone to say no, just to bring them into the conversation: e.g., intentionally mislabel an emotion.

* There are three types of yes. The first is the "counterfeit yes," where someone says yes just to move the conversation along, but with no intention of carrying through with whatever they agreed to (e.g., if you push too hard or are too aggressive, people may say yes just to get you to shut up, but they'll weasel out of it later). The second is the "confirmation yes," where someone agrees with something you said, but isn't necessarily going to do anything about it. The third, and the one you really want in a negotiation, is the "commitment yes," where the person intends to follow through. You may want to aim for three such yesses to really flush out any last reservations and to get the person 100% on board.

* Look for a "that’s right!" from the other person. If you can get them to say "that's right!" it means you've finally understood them and they know it. One way to get that is to present a summary of what you understand to be that person's goals/needs/position. If you get it right, the person will agree—and they'll agree with you without feeling like they are "giving in." But it's an agreement and it makes them feel understood, which is huge. Note that while "that's right!" is very valuable, "you're right" is often a disaster. It's not about you; it's about them and their needs.

* This book argues against "compromise." The argument is that compromises are lazy and avoid pain, but no one ends up getting what they really want. E.g., if the husband wants to wear black shoes and the wife wants him to wear browns hoes, then a compromise or splitting the difference results in the husband wearing one black shoe and one brown shoe—everyone loses. The reality is that good solutions require stress and pain.

* Haggling techniques: (a) Figure out your target price. (b) Begin your bidding at around 65% of your target price; then go to 85%, 95%, 100%. The first jump seems really big, and each jump after that is smaller and smaller to make it feel like you're approaching your absolute ceiling. (c) Use non-round numbers; instead of offering $500, offer $512.32, as it makes it seem like you did an exact calculation, and that's truly your ceiling. (d) As they make counter-offers, use calibrated questions to have the person bid against themselves: "Thank you for your generous offer. I wish I could, but I just can't do that. How could I ?"

* In a negotiation, the other part is NOT your enemy; not even in a hostage negotiation, let alone when negotiating salaries. The only enemy is the situation; the other person you're negotiating with is actually your partner in navigating this situation.

* Hopes and dreams: Visualize what the other person wants out of life, and try to use those aspirations to persuade them. Display a passion for what that person wants and lay out a plan for getting them there. Draw a roadmap for how that person can achieve their dreams—change their perception of what's possible—and you will succeed.

Phew. That's a lot of useful advice. Perhaps that's the biggest gotcha with the book: there's so much here that it's hard to know how to put it all together. I guess that's where practice comes in!

Oh, and as always, I've saved a few of my favorite quotes:

“Negotiate in their world. Persuasion is not about how bright or smooth or forceful you are. It’s about the other party convincing themselves that the solution you want is their own idea. So don’t beat them with logic or brute force. Ask them questions that open paths to your goals. It’s not about you.”

“'Yes' and 'Maybe' are often worthless. But 'No' always alters the conversation.”

“Negotiation is the art of letting the other side have your way.”
Profile Image for Nikolay.
99 reviews81 followers
April 9, 2021
I waited for almost a year before reviewing the book - it's a manual for achieving a goal and I wanted to make sure it worked in practice before I had an opinion.

Never Split the Difference was my first book about negotiation and I found it both thorough and useful. It has a ton of examples, most of them relatable. While probably we all find hostage situations fascinating, those are not part of my daily routine and negotiation in my life is at much lower stakes.

My learnings in the book fell into two main buckets:

• Questions to ask myself and area to cover in every negotiation – this includes making sure I understand the other side's motivation and limitations, do enough research, make sure I know what's the highest price I am ready to pay.
• Tactical tips – given that I am not super experienced in negotiations, there was a lot that was new to me. Calibrated questions, accusation audit for my side, ideas how to deal with naming a price, making current lack of agreement my fault, instead of attacking the price/belittling the product.

Applying those ideas in practice turned out to be not as hard as I thought, so the return of investment of the book has been positive. An interesting side effect I noticed is that I don't avoid negotiation situations as much, because I feel a tiny bit more confident. I see this as another win.

After all the praise, I’d like to offer a fair warning to future readers. Most strategies, and especially those relying on specific wording, are heavily dependent on the negotiation happening in the U.S. or in a similar enough culture. For example, both verbatim translations of “How am I supposed to do that?” and the general message sound ridiculous in Bulgarian. Another, similar example is trying to use the “I can't afford this” strategy – the other side shamed me for being poor :-) That said, I found the general framework to be universally applicable.

“Never Split the Difference” is for you:
✅ If you're new to negotiation.
✅ Are okay with following a detailed framework/steps.
✅ Want to understand the wider context around this framework, not just get a two-page HOWTO.
Requires extra work if:
🔸 You're not from a culture close enough to the U.S.
Profile Image for Petr Bela.
110 reviews21 followers
July 24, 2017
One of the most useful books I've ever read. Full of great tips, practical examples and surprising points about negotiating (without the other party feeling they've been cheated), which can be used in business, school, or any casual situation.

A few points I've remembered:
- Every negotiation starts with a "no". If you start with questions leading to "yes" (Do you want to help the world? Do you think we should stop animal abuse? ...), the other party will go into defense mode. By getting them to disagree early on, you'll establish boundaries and when they then say "yes", they really mean it (commitment yes).
- Empathy is important. You can't negotiate without understanding what (and why) the other party wants.

I've found this list of more notes you might find helpful, too: https://github.com/mgp/book-notes/blo...
Profile Image for Siobhán.
330 reviews41 followers
April 9, 2018
It's a nice premise and I like some of the articles I've read that the author has taken part in, but honestly I picked the book up again and reached a part where the author says how you can't see things as being all about you and then proceeds to tell all these stories about himself thinking things are all about him, and it didn't grip me or provide me with anything beyond a sense of this guy has good stories to tell but that isn't what I came here for.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,102 followers
May 23, 2020
Honestly, I got a weird feeling when I first read the title because it felt almost like a call to arms, like I was being told that the idea of compromise was utterly insane...

and I was right. It is. But not for the sake of arguing for argument's sake. It's funny, but I really liked this book. Any book that has a call to arms like this but keeps a central tenant like "tactical empathy" and "Really, truly listening to someone" isn't crazy.

And besides, it reminds me of the old story of Solomon and the two mothers who both insist that this one baby is their own and they're totally inconsolable about it. Wise old Solomon commands them to split the baby in half and let each mother take the half they want.

That's TOTALLY LEGIT, man.

The Solomon story isn't in this book but it ought to be. Instead, the author just went through Quantico and has done an amazing number of successful hostage negotiations and has helped a ton of people get exactly what they want in the business world.

How? A hint: he's never belligerent. He listens, mirrors what they're saying, and stays in calm control. And when I mean he listens, he truly, actively tries to understand exactly where the other person is coming from... and then finds a solution. Often it's not even the thing the other person asks for, but simply what they need. Understanding, validation, reassurance that they won't be murdered by cops if they come out with their hands up.

Those kinds of things. :)

I simplify, of course, but this book has a ton of great practical exercises to diffuse situations and actively engage whomever you're in negotiations with. When there is a consensus, real progress can be made. That means welcoming every "no" at the table. That merely defines the context. Yes's are fine, but defining the context will get to the heart of what people really want... and oddly enough, it's usually a lot less than or completely different from what they initially demanded.

Of course, it may take a bit more time to figure out the baby situation, but here's a little hint... the mother that screams and gives up her right to the baby probably loves the baby more. I'd trust her.
Profile Image for Inna.
653 reviews157 followers
January 6, 2020
- Відззеркалюйте останні кілька слів замість «що ви маєте на увазі»
- Змусьте людину сказати вам «ні», щоб потім добитися свого
- «Здається» краще за «мені здається»
- Перефразовуйте почуте так, що вам відповіли «це правда»
- Майже завжди питання, що починається з «чому», змушує людей захищатися.

Ця книжка пречудовий практичний посібник з ведення будь-яких перемовин у ��ашому житті. Купа прикладів з реального життя, розбір помилок – тільки і встигай занотовувати!
Автор висловлює надію, що ця книжка допоможе читачам подолати страх перед конфліктами. Що ж, віддзеркалення я використовувала в житті – це дійсно працює. Тож вперше планую використати книжку як настільну для опрацювання всіх інших методик і порад. У наступному році, звичайно)
Profile Image for Klinta.
334 reviews159 followers
May 3, 2021
I have very mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I appreciate the advice and really enjoyed the real-life examples. But on the other hand... I'm so against conflict. The book made me squirm uncomfortably because his negotiation style seemed often rude, especially when not in hostage situations. Although the author tried to convince me at the end of the book this is an "OK" conflict, it's still hard to translate his words into my actions and put this to practice. I'll try though.

I specifically would need to reread this book multiple times because it contains so many tips about what and how to say and they all just can't stick with one-time reading.
Profile Image for Christopher Lawson.
Author 10 books122 followers
May 10, 2016

And so begins this surprising book. The author begins the book by relating his experience at a prestigious seminar at Harvard University. Several of the college's top negotiators put him on the spot to see how he would negotiate in a hypothetical hostage negotiation.

The author held his own against the expert negotiators, surprising the professors. How did he do so well? Mr. Voss explains that the methods used by the FBI were developed over time, "products of experiential learning; they were developed by agents in the field, negotiating through crisis and sharing stories of what succeeded and what failed." In other words, these tactics HAD to work. If hostage negotiators failed, people literally DIED.

The author discovered that the same techniques used in life and death situations could be generalized--they "made great sense intellectually, and they worked everywhere...In the twenty years I spent at the Bureau we’d designed a system that had successfully resolved almost every kidnapping we applied it to."

NEVER SPLIT THE DIFFERENCE is not just about tricky negotiation tactics, or ways to "outwit" your adversary in battle. Whether you are negotiating with kidnappers, or just negotiating a raise, the principles are the same. For example, people always want to be understood and accepted. "Remember you’re dealing with a person who wants to be appreciated and understood." This is true no matter the type of negotiation.

This also means careful listening, or what the author calls, the martial art of "Tactical Empathy." It's nearly impossible to listen to the other side; so, you have to deliberately change your focus: "Make your sole and all-encompassing focus the other person and what they have to say. In that mode of true active listening."

Each chapter in NEVER SPLIT THE DIFFERENCE begins with a real-life example from the author's involvement with hostage negotiations. Warning: Many of these cases are brutal, and oftentimes people are hurt, or even killed. After the real case is presented, the author then explains what negotiating techniques worked, and which didn't. At the end of each chapter, there is a nice wrap-up of the key lessons learned.

One of the key techniques recommended is to "Be a mirror." You simply try to reflect back what is said: "The intention behind most mirrors should be 'Please, help me understand.' Every time you mirror someone, they will reword what they’ve said. "

The book's title reflects the author's position that compromise, or "Splitting the Difference" is actually a lazy way to conclude a negotiation. It often gives bad results: "We don’t compromise because it’s right; we compromise because it is easy and because it saves face." However, a simple compromise is often "ineffective and often disastrous. At best, it satisfies neither side. And if you employ it with a counterpart who has a win-lose approach, you’re setting yourself up to be swindled."

Instead of taking the easy way, Chris recommends working relentlessly to see "what is really motivating the other side." The negotiation is not so much a battle, as a process of "Discovery." Figure out as much as you can about what the other sides really needs. Even when the other side says, "No," that's okay. Use that to clarify what the parties really want. Figure out the other side’s “religion," or what truly matters to them.

Finally, the Appendix contains detailed steps for preparing for an important negotiation. For instnace, list your goals, as well as the negotiating "tools" you will be using. Chris explains that in the heat of discussion, you will otherwise forget your tactics.

All in all, I found NEVER SPLIT THE DIFFERENCE to be an impressive book, filled with practical knowledge, tips, and just plain WISDOM about how to deal with people. I like the fact that the tips and tactics are PROVEN techniques--not just some theoretical ideas. If you've negotiated with kidnappers, I'm pretty sure that qualifies you as an experienced negotiator.

Advance copy for review courtesy of Edelweiss Book Distributors.

Profile Image for Rafael Lucas.
15 reviews2 followers
November 13, 2017
Never Split the difference:

- Active Listening: listen more than talk.
- Mirroring: repeat the 3 important words in the last sentence your counterpart said.
- Silences: after saying a proposal, something important or labeling/mirroring try a moment of silence, people feel uncomfortable with it and will keep talking.
- Late-Night FM DJ voice: calm and deep.
- Tactical Empathy:
- Labeling: repeating the persons perspectives and feelings back to them.
- Accusation Audit: before sending a harsh info or low ball, you say they’ll think you’re “bad and mean”.
- Summaries: summarizes what your counterpart said and his feelings.
- Paraphrasing: paraphrases what he said to show empathy and understanding.
- Go for “That’s right” instead of “Yes” or “You’re right”. It means you understood how the person thinks instead of having him dodging you.
- “No”: aim for a no question in the beginning instead of always going for “Yes”.
- Fairness idea: it’s a great tool to pressure the others proposal
- Deadlines: use them to apply pressure and create urgency.
- Make them feel like not accepting your offer is a loss.
- Questions: always use open ended questions to make them talk and solve your problems: “How” and “What”. Avoid questions that can be answered with yes or no.
- Calibrated questions: make your counterpart bid against themselves with these, the most common one is “how am I supposed to do that?”. Basically they’re your way of saying “No” to their proposal but without doing it, this way avoiding to do a counterproposal.
- Bargain:
- Always try to make your counterpart bid first,
- Give a low/high ball in the beginning to set an anchor
- Use ranges to be less aggressive (especially when setting the first price).
- Use odd/weird numbers to seem that is the result of a calculation
- Negotiate non-cash benefits if their proposal is too low, instead of giving a far number. (“What could you offer me that makes this deal great for both of us?”).
- Ackerman system:
- Set your target price (goal)
- Set your first offer 65% above/bellow target
- Calculate three raises of decreasing increments to 85%, 95%, 100%.
- Use lots of empathy and different ways of saying “no” to get the other to counter before you increase your offer.
- When calculating a final amount use a precise, non-round number.
- On the final number throw a non-monetary item to show that you’re at your limit.
- Black Swan: informations that you don’t know and are game changers. Best way to find them out is to get to know your counterpart personally, ask open-ended questions, make them talk, and listen closely.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Stacey B.
321 reviews83 followers
April 13, 2021
Within all the genres out there, "Self Help" books have never been written for me.
In the past ten years, I have read maybe ..five.
They are written for most everyone else who are able to appreciate and execute the suggestions given from these books without finding themselves doing a few dramatic eye rolls.
And so...
My son told me about a book he read saying "it really works" if I could possibly give it a chance by applying the information correctly.
I, as he knows am a selective skeptic; so we decided on an experiment. People skills.
My son to asked me make a reservation and suggested I call a very popular restaurant to see if I could get an outdoor reservation at 7:15- 7:30 for six people two days from now.
With the many requests I asked, of course there was nothing available.
One second later with not enough time for a cancellation to happen, he called them right back from my phone, using a voice and temperament I never knew he had.. He proceeded to engage in a long conversation, while getting the reservation I was refused.
A fluke- probably, but I would never bash a book which may be someone else's bible.
If this book changed his tone and temperament, I need to read it.
**Coming from a selective skeptic, the author makes valid points for responses in many topics which actually can play a significant role in ways you would not think applicable.
Profile Image for Jeff.
122 reviews
July 13, 2017
This is by far the best book on negotiation I've ever read and newly entered into my top reads list. Never split the difference takes conventional thinking that negotiating is logical, is about "getting to yes" and "splitting the difference" to get achieve a "win-win" situation, then flips that thinking on it's head. The author frames negotiation as two parties working collaborating where the situation is the adversary - what a great way to approach a negotiation. The author stresses the importance of genuine empathy in a negotiation. As a consumer, father and professional salesperson, this book is invaluable. My key takeaways:
-When disagreeing with someone's point of view, say "sorry: repeat back to them what they said in a radio voice and then they should be able to give you some additional clarity. If more clarity is needed, repeat
-Use labeling to disarm someone and generate trust during a disagreement, for example: "it looks as though you want to do the following" "it looks as though you feel the following way"
-Accusation audit (a form of anchoring): say upfront the worst case scenario / harshly self-critique for example I'm going to sound like an a****** and then say the statement, they will be more sympathetic and less likely to think you are an a****** as a result
-Don't be afraid of no. No is the start of a negotiation it makes people feel calm and in control so give them the chance to do so. Allow them to respond to no and work towards getting the "that's right" you seek
-Empathy doesn't mean you necessarily agree with the other person it means you're trying to understand their point of view
-Asking questions you know will result in a no answer are very productive for example ask "what will you say no to today?"
-To get a response when someone is ignoring your emails ask them "have you given up on this project?"
-A summary is labeling and paraphrasing
-Successful negotiations result in getting to "that's right" not to "you're right". It's about correctly understanding the other person's point of view and situation
-Contrary to popular belief you get a better deal when both parties know your deadline
-We are all irrational and we are all emotional
-Use calibrated questions to collect information that start with what and how never use why which is accusatory
-Repeatedly asking calibrated open how questions is a way to say no without making others feel like they've lost control
-The objective is not to get others to say "yes" it's to get them to say "that's right" keep asking calibrated questions until they say "that's right"
-To understand who all the decision-makers are, ask open questions like "how does this affect the rest of the team?" "who else will be affected by this?" "how do others feel about this?"
-To avoid getting a false yes, have them say yes three times in three different ways using calibrated questions
-Using your first name humanizes the discussion. Funny example I'm going to try for getting a discount at a store by saying "hi my name is Jeff what's the Jeff discount"
-There are four ways to say no: ask "how can I do that"; "your offer is very generous but I just cannot do that"'; gently say no (need to re-listen to remember the 4th)
-A bargaining technique is to offer 65% of what you willing to pay (extreme anchor) then 85 then 95 then 100 and make sure to emphasize along the way
-At every negotiation there should be three black swans: a piece of information that is previously unknown and instrumental to the negotiation
-To uncover black swans in a meeting have a second person join you both of you take notes compare notes afterwards and also look between the lines
-Uncover the other person's unobtained goals and charter a plan for them to achieve them
-the audiobook referred to a negotiation preparation checklist, but I can't find it
Profile Image for Stefan Gugler.
223 reviews20 followers
September 13, 2021
Yeah, no.

I don't have the energy to go back and cite representative passages but it really didn't do much for me. It's just one more of those "hard-ass man explains how to be a rational™ hard-ass" book. It felt like the bland third child to save the marriage between 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People: The Ultimate Revelations Of Steven Covey and Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. Chris Voss is so incredibly full of himself that at time I just had to put the book away. But what about the content?

I guess it depends on how many of such guide books you've already read. It's always the same: some nice anecdotes where the author or one of their student comes out on top, "analysis" of said anecdote, some disparaging words on how "theory" or other methods can't solve the problem, then their solution and in the end a trusty summary in 6 bullet points, just how they learned it in the Harvard MBA Business Enterprise Leadership Harvard Management School of Managers. I can't say that this formula is never useful. I can't say The 48 Laws of Power didn't influence me when I was 14. Sure: These books might provide heuristics if you can't yet think for yourself and might work in some few, highly contrived, certified survivorship bias filtered situations. Fair enough. But in most scenarios, it's just very unlikely to help you. Mostly it just comes down to not be a prick. Listen to the other party. Be honest. What irked me, despite the unscientificness of the claims, is that it always felt manipulative. "You can even use these tactics with your wife, haha", is something you wouldn't be surprised to read in that book. Men will literally become crisis negotiators instead of going to therapy.

(Just as a small example: He says that you have to give a steep anchor point when negotiating a price. E.g. you only offer 65% of the value of the thing you want. I just cannot fathom, if somebody offered me 65% of the price of a thing that I know very well the price of, that I'd cave. I mean, we can argue about this, but without some nice statistics it's just a baseless claim. And I'm not sure where are with our psychological methodology, Kahnemannian paradigm crumbling and all.)

In the last section he talks about "Black Swans", basically a hidden piece of information about your adversary that makes you win. He literally references Taleb's The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable but fails to understand it. He talks past the idea and is obviously just intrigued by the aesthetic but I'd bet 5:1 that Taleb would eat Voss alive and call him a charlatan. Even Voss' company is called Black Swan Ltd which is an absolute joke.

Everything about this is a joke and now that I wrote this I feel it's even more of a 1.5* than a 2*, so there's that.
Profile Image for Philipp.
632 reviews188 followers
October 31, 2017
Update 31 October 2017:

I used one of the techniques presented here (if you're asking for money, make the number look as precise as possible to imply that you've thought deeply about what exactly you need) in a small grant application to sequence some seagrasses and the grant was awarded in full, nice! Sadly I can't prove that it was awarded because I used a precise number...

Original text:

Fun short book from a former hostage negotiation expert turned business consultant. It's a bunch of techniques to use empathy and a few psychological tricks to understand what the other person in any conflict actually wants, and to steer the negotiation to where you want it to go. He calls his techniques "tactical listening" - I'm imagining buff guys with knee protectors, Kevlar vests and helmets all sitting down for a nice cup of tea, but sadly it's nothing like that, it's more about the weird quirks human brains exhibit (think Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow, which is quoted a few times), and how to use those quirks together with good and attentive listening to your advantage.

It's all very much about emotions, very little Homo economicus. Don't avoid conflicts, but embrace them. Try to find "black swans" (unknown unknowns, in this case unknown information about your negotiation partners) and use them, they're powerful. Make your "opponent" say "No" so you at least know where the boundaries are, work from there (I wish I could do that with science funding agencies).

But: What happens if you have two guys who have to negotiate with each other, but who've read similar books on the art of negotiation? Do they get stuck in an infinite loop of calibrated open "How" questions, forever trying to make the other say "that's right"? What happens when you accidentally mislabel a situation/feeling (think your teacher saying "this is very hard"), but don't realize it yourself?
Profile Image for Mohsen M.B.
226 reviews31 followers
March 26, 2019
در این کتاب نویسنده با داستان‌ها و مثال‌های متعدد سعی می‌کند که مخاطب را گام به گام با شیوه‌ی مذاکره مدرن و اثربخش آشنا کند
برای من که مطالعه‌ای در این زمینه نداشتم، جذاب بود

وقتی کتاب را می‌خواندم، متوجه شدم که ما بسیاری از این اصول را ناخودآگاه در زندگی‌مان به‌کار می‌گیریم و جزئی از تجربه‌ی زیستی ما شده‌اند اما از بعضی دیگر اجتناب می‌کنیم
جالب است که فرهنگ نقش برجسته‌ای در این مسئله دارد. (مثلاً نویسنده اشاره می‌کند که در یکی از نمونه‌های عالی مذاکره، چانه‌زنی ما ایرانی‌ها هنگام خرید است!) و همین تأثیر فرهنگ و ساختار است که باعث می‌شود بسیاری از بخش‌ها و مثال‌های این کتاب مستقیم به کار ما نیایند.ـ
پس بهتر است با آزمودن این روش‌ها، قالب فرهنگی مناسبشان را پیدا کنیم چراکه به گفته‌ی نویسنده، مذاکره پویاست و تعیین اصول حتمی و تغییرناپذیر بزرگ‌ترین اشتباه خواهد بود.ـ

اصلاً و ابداً از ترجمه راضی نبودم؛ خواندن کتاب را سخت و خسته‌کننده کرده بود. عادت بد تا انتها خواندن کتاب‌های آزاردهنده را باید ترک کنم
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