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Never Split The Difference

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"Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It" by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz


The majority of the interactions we have at work and at home are negotiations that boil down to the expression of a simple, animalistic urge: I want. “I want you to free the hostages,” is a very relevant one to this book, of course. But so is: “I want you to accept that $1 million contract.” “I want to pay $20,000 for that car.” “I want you to give me a 10 percent raise.” and “I want you to go to sleep at 9 p.m.”

This is a book about negotiation. Each principle is accompanied by useful examples. The book is well structured. The writing is fine.

I was concerned this might be one of those pop-sci books. The ones where each chapter starts with an anecdote, then a study that explains the story is described. On closer investigation the study is probably small and unreliable. The type of book where each chapter seems to have been written separately, then an order chosen for them at the end.

Fortunately that is not the case. The author seems to have come by his principles the hard way, by working as a negotiator and training others to negotiate. You get the feeling that each lesson comes from trial and error, not extrapolation from studies.

The principles are accompanies with many examples, different ways of saying things, ways the techniques can go wrong, etc. There is an appendix to help you put together a cheat-sheet before a negotiation. The book is very useable.

It is always difficult to know how correct or useful the advice actually is until you use it. I will revisit this review in 4 months and update with my experiences. The very small amount of negotiation experience that I do have seemed to line up with the author's suggestions, so I am optimistic that the rest of the book will be very useful. I am almost excited to go out and engage in a battle of wills with someone just to test things out, but really conflict-avoidance is going to be my biggest challenge in become a better negotiator. My daughter seems to be learning this, I must improve quickly before she surpasses me, for both our sakes.



Page: 7 “Chris, why don’t you tell everybody your approach,” Sheila said. “It seems like all you do to these Harvard Law School students is say ‘No’ and stare at them, and they fall apart. Is it really that easy?” I knew what she meant: While I wasn’t actually saying “No,” the questions I kept asking sounded like it. They seemed to insinuate that the other side was being dishonest and unfair. And that was enough to make them falter and negotiate with themselves.

Page: 7 “I’m just asking questions,” I said. “It’s a passive-aggressive approach. I just ask the same three or four open-ended questions over and over and over and over. They get worn out answering and give me everything I want.”

Page: 12 under this model, if you know how to affect your counterpart’s System 1 thinking, his inarticulate feelings, by how you frame and deliver your questions and statements, then you can guide his System 2 rationality and therefore modify his responses. That’s what happened to Andy at Harvard: by asking, “How am I supposed to do that?” I influenced his System 1 emotional mind into accepting that his offer wasn’t good enough; his System 2 then rationalized the situation so that it made sense to give me a better offer.

Page: 17 The majority of the interactions we have at work and at home are negotiations that boil down to the expression of a simple, animalistic urge: I want. “I want you to free the hostages,” is a very relevant one to this book, of course. But so is: “I want you to accept that $1 million contract.” “I want to pay $20,000 for that car.” “I want you to give me a 10 percent raise.” and “I want you to go to sleep at 9 p.m.”

Page: 17 Conflict between two parties is inevitable in all relationships. So it’s useful—crucial, even—to know how to engage in that conflict to get what you want without inflicting damage. In this book, I draw on my more than two-decade career in the Federal Bureau of Investigation to distill the principles and practices I deployed in the field into an exciting new approach designed to help you disarm, redirect, and dismantle your counterpart in virtually any negotiation. And to do so in a relationship-affirming way.

Page: 21 in the Appendix you’ll find an invaluable tool I use with all my students and clients called the Negotiation One Sheet: a concise primer of nearly all our tactics and strategies for you to think through and customize for whatever kind of deal you’re looking to close.


Page: 25 In negotiation, each new psychological insight or additional piece of information revealed heralds a step forward and allows one to discard one hypothesis in favor of another. You should engage the process with a mindset of discovery. Your goal at the outset is to extract and observe as much information as possible.

Page: 27 We always worked in teams. The thinking behind this policy was that all these extra sets of ears would pick up extra information. In some standoffs, we had as many as five people on the line, analyzing the information as it came in, offering behind-the-scenes input and guidance to our man on the phone—and that’s how we were set up here. We had Joe taking the lead on the phone, and another three or four of us were listening in, passing notes back and forth, trying to make sense of a confusing situation. One of us was trying to gauge the mood of the bad guy taking the lead on the other end, and another was listening in for clues or “tells” that might give us a better read on what we were facing, and so on. Students of mine balk at this notion, asking, “Seriously, do you really need a whole team to … hear someone out?” The fact that the FBI has come to that conclusion, I tell them, should be a wake-up call. It’s really not that easy to listen well. We are easily distracted. We engage in selective listening, hearing only what we want to hear, our minds acting on a cognitive bias for consistency rather than truth.

Page: 28 For those people who view negotiation as a battle of arguments, it’s the voices in their own head that are overwhelming them. When they’re not talking, they’re thinking about their arguments, and when they are talking, they’re making their arguments. Often those on both sides of the table are doing the same thing, so you have what I call a state of schizophrenia: everyone just listening to the voice in their head (and not well, because they’re doing seven or eight other things at the same time). It may look like there are only two people in a conversation, but really it’s more like four people all talking at once.

Page: 28 Instead of prioritizing your argument—in fact, instead of doing any thinking at all in the early goings about what you’re going to say—make your sole and all-encompassing focus the other person and what they have to say.

Page: 30 Going too fast is one of the mistakes all negotiators are prone to making. If we’re too much in a hurry, people can feel as if they’re not being heard and we risk undermining the rapport and trust we’ve built. There’s plenty of research that now validates the passage of time as one of the most important tools for a negotiator. When you slow the process down, you also calm it down. After all, if someone is talking, they’re not shooting.

Page: 32 When we radiate warmth and acceptance, conversations just seem to flow. When we enter a room with a level of comfort and enthusiasm, we attract people toward us. Smile at someone on the street, and as a reflex they’ll smile back. Understanding that reflex and putting it into practice is critical to the success of just about every negotiating skill there is to learn. That’s why your most powerful tool in any verbal communication is your voice. You can use your voice to intentionally reach into someone’s brain and flip an emotional switch.

Page: 33 Most of the time, you should be using the positive/playful voice. It’s the voice of an easygoing, good-natured person. Your attitude is light and encouraging. The key here is to relax and smile while you’re talking. A smile, even while talking on the phone, has an impact tonally that the other person will pick up on.

Page: 33 Playful wasn’t the move with Chris Watts. The way the late-night FM DJ voice works is that, when you inflect your voice in a downward way, you put it out there that you’ve got it covered. Talking slowly and clearly you convey one idea: I’m in control. When you inflect in an upward way, you invite a response. Why? Because you’ve brought in a measure of uncertainty. You’ve made a statement sound like a question. You’ve left the door open for the other guy to take the lead, so I was careful here to be quiet, self-assured. It’s the same voice I might use in a contract negotiation, when an item isn’t up for discussion. If I see a work-for-hire clause, for example, I might say, “We don’t do work-for-hire.” Just like that, plain, simple, and friendly. I don’t offer up an alternative, because it would beg further discussion, so I just make a straightforward declaration. That’s how I played it here. I said, “Joe’s gone. You’re talking to me now.” Done deal. You can be very direct and to the point as long as you create safety by a tone of voice that says I’m okay, you’re okay, let’s figure things out.

Page: 36 While mirroring is most often associated with forms of nonverbal communication, especially body language, as negotiators a “mirror” focuses on the words and nothing else. Not the body language. Not the accent. Not the tone or delivery. Just the words. It’s almost laughably simple: for the FBI, a “mirror” is when you repeat the last three words (or the critical one to three words) of what someone has just said. Of the entirety of the FBI’s hostage negotiation skill set, mirroring is the closest one gets to a Jedi mind trick. Simple, and yet uncannily effective. By repeating back what people say, you trigger this mirroring instinct and your counterpart will inevitably elaborate on what was just said and sustain the process of connecting. Psychologist Richard Wiseman created a study using waiters to identify what was the more effective method of creating a connection with strangers: mirroring or positive reinforcement. One group of waiters, using positive reinforcement, lavished praise and encouragement on patrons using words such as “great,” “no problem,” and “sure” in response to each order. The other group of waiters mirrored their customers simply by repeating their orders back to them. The results were stunning: the average tip of the waiters who mirrored was 70 percent more than of those who used positive reinforcement. […] I only half-jokingly refer to mirroring as magic or a Jedi mind trick because it gives you the ability to disagree without being disagreeable.

Page: 44 If you take a pit bull approach with another pit bull, you generally end up with a messy scene and lots of bruised feelings and resentment. Luckily, there’s another way without all the mess. It’s just four simple steps: Use the late-night FM DJ voice. Start with “I’m sorry …” Mirror. Silence. At least four seconds, to let the mirror work its magic on your counterpart. Repeat.

Page: 45 Popping his head into her office, the boss said, “Let’s make two copies of all the paperwork.” “I’m sorry, two copies?” she mirrored in response, remembering not only the DJ voice, but to deliver the mirror in an inquisitive tone. The intention behind most mirrors should be “Please, help me understand.” Every time you mirror someone, they will reword what they’ve said. They will never say it exactly the same way they said it the first time. Ask someone, “What do you mean by that?” and you’re likely to incite irritation or defensiveness. A mirror, however, will get you the clarity you want while signaling respect and concern for what the other person is saying. “Yes,” her boss responded, “one for us and one for the customer.” “I’m sorry, so you are saying that the client is asking for a copy and we need a copy for internal use?” “Actually, I’ll check with the client—they haven’t asked for anything. But I definitely want a copy. That’s just how I do business.” “Absolutely,” she responded. “Thanks for checking with the customer. Where would you like to store the in-house copy? There’s no more space in the file room here.” “It’s fine. You can store it anywhere,” he said, slightly perturbed now. “Anywhere?” she mirrored again, with calm concern. When another person’s tone of voice or body language is inconsistent with his words, a good mirror can be particularly useful. In this case, it caused her boss to take a nice, long pause—something he did not often do. My student sat silent. “As a matter of fact, you can put them in my office,” he said, with more composure than he’d had the whole conversation. “I’ll get the new assistant to print it for me after the project is done. For now, just create two digital backups.”


Page: 54 Now, pay close attention to exactly what we said: “It looks like you don’t want to come out. It seems like you worry that if you open the door, we’ll come in with guns blazing. It looks like you don’t want to go back to jail.” We employed our tactical empathy by recognizing and then verbalizing the predictable emotions of the situation. We didn’t just put ourselves in the fugitives’ shoes. We spotted their feelings, turned them into words, and then very calmly and respectfully repeated their emotions back to them. In a negotiation, that’s called labeling. Labeling is a way of validating someone’s emotion by acknowledging it. Give someone’s emotion a name and you show you identify with how that person feels. It gets you close to someone without asking about external factors you know nothing about (“How’s your family?”).

Page: 55 Labeling has a special advantage when your counterpart is tense. Exposing negative thoughts to daylight—“It looks like you don’t want to go back to jail”—makes them seem less frightening.

> In stoicism, consciously imagining the worst possible outcome helps do this for oneself.

Page: 55 For most people, it’s one of the most awkward negotiating tools to use. Before they try it the first time, my students almost always tell me they expect their counterpart to jump up and shout, “Don’t you dare tell me how I feel!” Let me let you in on a secret: people never even notice.

Page: 56 It seems like … It sounds like … It looks like … Notice we said “It sounds like …” and not “I’m hearing that …” That’s because the word “I” gets people’s guard up. When you say “I,” it says you’re more interested in yourself than the other person, and it makes you take personal responsibility for the words that follow—and the offense they might cause.

Page: 56 The last rule of labeling is silence. Once you’ve thrown out a label, be quiet and listen. We all have a tendency to expand on what we’ve said, to finish, “It seems like you like the way that shirt looks,” with a specific question like “Where did you get it?” But a label’s power is that it invites the other person to reveal himself.

Page: 57 If you’ll trust me for a second, take a break now and try it out: Strike up a conversation and put a label on one of the other person’s emotions—it doesn’t matter if you’re talking to the mailman or your ten-year-old daughter—and then go silent. Let the label do its work.

Page: 59 Try this the next time you have to apologize for a bone-headed mistake. Go right at it. The fastest and most efficient means of establishing a quick working relationship is to acknowledge the negative and diffuse it. Whenever I was dealing with the family of a hostage, I started out by saying I knew they were scared. And when I make a mistake—something that happens a lot—I always acknowledge the other person’s anger. I’ve found the phrase “Look, I’m an asshole” to be an amazingly effective way to make problems go away. That approach has never failed me.

Page: 61 Though superficially simple, the changes TJ made in the script had a deep emotional resonance with the delinquent ticket holders. It mentioned their debt to the team but also acknowledged the team’s debt to them, and by labeling the tough economic times, and the stress they were causing, it diffused the biggest negative dynamic—their delinquency—and turned the issue into something solvable.

Page: 67 “It sounds like you think we are the big, bad prime contractor trying to push out the small business,” Anna said, heading off the accusation before it could be made. “No, no, we don’t think that,” Angela said, conditioned by the acknowledgment to look for common ground. With the negatives labeled and the worst accusations laid bare, Anna and Mark were able to turn the conversation to the contract. Watch what they do closely, as it’s brilliant: they acknowledge ABC’s situation while simultaneously shifting the onus of offering a solution to the smaller company. “It sounds like you have a great handle on how the government contract should work,” Anna said, labeling Angela’s expertise. “Yes—but I know that’s not how it always goes,” Angela answered, proud to have her experience acknowledged. Anna then asked Angela how she would amend the contract so that everyone made some money, which pushed Angela to admit that she saw no way to do so without cutting ABC’s worker count. Several weeks later, the contract was tweaked to cut ABC’s payout, which brought Anna’s company $1 million that put the contract into the black.

Page: 70 Following on the heels of an argument is a great position for a negotiator, because your counterpart is desperate for an empathetic connection. Smile, and you’re already an improvement. “Hi, Wendy, I’m Ryan. It seems like they were pretty upset.” This labels the negative and establishes a rapport based on empathy. This in turn encourages Wendy to elaborate on her situation, words Ryan then mirrors to invite her to go further. “Yeah. They missed their connection. We’ve had a fair amount of delays because of the weather.” “The weather?” After Wendy explains how the delays in the Northeast had rippled through the system, Ryan again labels the negative and then mirrors her answer to encourage her to delve further. “It seems like it’s been a hectic day.” “There’ve been a lot of ‘irate consumers,’ you know? I mean, I get it, even though I don’t like to be yelled at. A lot of people are trying to get to Austin for the big game.” “The big game?”

Page: 71 The next time you find yourself following an angry customer at a corner store or airplane line, take a moment and practice labels and mirrors on the service person. I promise they won’t scream, “Don’t try to control me!” and burst into flames—and you might walk away with a little more than you expected.

Page: 73 List the worst things that the other party could say about you and say them before the other person can. Performing an accusation audit in advance prepares you to head off negative dynamics before they take root. And because these accusations often sound exaggerated when said aloud, speaking them will encourage the other person to claim that quite the opposite is true.


Page: 74 You feel like his prey, and you are! The last thing you want to do is say “Yes,” even when it’s the only way to answer, “Do you drink water?” Compromise and concession, even to the truth, feels like defeat. And “No,” well, “No” feels like salvation, like an oasis. You’re tempted to use “No” when it’s blatantly untrue, just to hear its sweet sound. “No, I do not need water, carbon filtered or otherwise. I’m a camel!”

> When a salesman calls and tries to use questions to gain lots of 'yes' responses: do you drink water, do you hate the test of your tap water, then buy our product!

Page: 75 But at the end of the day, “Yes” is often a meaningless answer that hides deeper objections (and “Maybe” is even worse). Pushing hard for “Yes” doesn’t get a negotiator any closer to a win; it just angers the other side. So if “Yes” can be so damn uncomfortable, and “No” such a relief, why have we fetishized one and demonized the other?

Page: 77 A trap into which many fall is to take what other people say literally. I started to see that while people played the game of conversation, it was in the game beneath the game, where few played, that all the leverage lived. In our chat, I saw how the word “No”—so apparently clear and direct—really wasn’t so simple. Over the years, I’ve thought back repeatedly to that conversation, replaying how Amy so quickly turned me down, again and again. But her “No’s” were just the gateway to “Yes.” They gave her—and me—time to pivot, adjust, and reexamine, and actually created the environment for the one “Yes” that mattered.

> From the 'no's, he understood what he needed to do to get to 'yes'

Page: 78 “No” is the start of the negotiation, not the end of it. We’ve been conditioned to fear the word “No.” But it is a statement of perception far more often than of fact. It seldom means, “I have considered all the facts and made a rational choice.” Instead, “No” is often a decision, frequently temporary, to maintain the status quo. Change is scary, and “No” provides a little protection from that scariness.

Page: 78 It comes down to the deep and universal human need for autonomy. People need to feel in control. When you preserve a person’s autonomy by clearly giving them permission to say “No” to your ideas, the emotions calm, the effectiveness of the decisions go up, and the other party can really look at your proposal. They’re allowed to hold it in their hands, to turn it around. And it gives you time to elaborate or pivot in order to convince your counterpart that the change you’re proposing is more advantageous than the status quo.

Page: 79 When someone tells you “No,” you need to rethink the word in one of its alternative—and much more real—meanings: I am not yet ready to agree; You are making me feel uncomfortable; I do not understand; I don’t think I can afford it; I want something else; I need more information; or I want to talk it over with someone else. Then, after pausing, ask solution-based questions or simply label their effect: “What about this doesn’t work for you?” “What would you need to make it work?” “It seems like there’s something here that bothers you.” People have a need to say, “No.” So don’t just hope to hear it at some point; get them to say it early.

Page: 84 you’re not going to logically convince them that they’re safe, secure, or in control. Primal needs are urgent and illogical, so arguing them into a corner is just going to push your counterpart to flee with a counterfeit “Yes.”

Page: 86 Gun for a “Yes” straight off the bat, though, and your counterpart gets defensive, wary, and skittish. That’s why I tell my students that, if you’re trying to sell something, don’t start with “Do you have a few minutes to talk?” Instead ask, “Is now a bad time to talk?” Either you get “Yes, it is a bad time” followed by a good time or a request to go away, or you get “No, it’s not” and total focus.

Page: 87 Marti told me that she considered a variety of scenarios. She thought about going right at his jealousy and hashing it out, or explaining how the job would reflect well on the Bureau: “Would you like our office to be honored for its expertise?” But by the time she sat down with him, she had picked one of the most strongly worded “No”-oriented setup questions I have ever heard. “Do you want the FBI to be embarrassed?” she said. “No,” he answered. “What do you want me to do?” she responded. […] When I heard Marti do that, I was like, “Bang!” By pushing for a “No,” Marti nudged her supervisor into a zone where he was making the decisions. And then she furthered his feelings of safety and power with a question inviting him to define her next move.

Page: 91 One great way to do this is to mislabel one of the other party’s emotions or desires. You say something that you know is totally wrong, like “So it seems that you really are eager to leave your job” when they clearly want to stay. That forces them to listen and makes them comfortable correcting you by saying, “No, that’s not it. This is it.” Another way to force “No” in a negotiation is to ask the other party what they don’t want. “Let’s talk about what you would say ‘No’ to,” you’d say. And people are comfortable saying “No” here because it feels like self-protection. And once you’ve gotten them to say “No,” people are much more open to moving forward toward new options and ideas.

Page: 91 “No”—or the lack thereof—also serves as a warning, the canary in the coal mine. If despite all your efforts, the other party won’t say “No,” you’re dealing with people who are indecisive or confused or who have a hidden agenda. In cases like that you have to end the negotiation and walk away. Think of it like this: No “No” means no go.

Page: 92 We’ve all been through it: You send an email to someone you’re trying to do business with and they ignore you. Then you send a polite follow-up and they stonewall you again. So what do you do? You provoke a “No” with this one-sentence email. Have you given up on this project? The point is that this one-sentence email encapsulates the best of “No”-oriented questions and plays on your counterpart’s natural human aversion to loss. The “No” answer the email demands offers the other party the feeling of safety and the illusion of control while encouraging them to define their position and explain it to you.


Page: 112 “That’s right” is better than “yes.” Strive for it. Reaching “that’s right” in a negotiation creates breakthroughs. Use a summary to trigger a “that’s right.” The building blocks of a good summary are a label combined with paraphrasing. Identify, rearticulate, and emotionally affirm “the world according to …”


Page: 116 So don’t settle and—here’s a simple rule—never split the difference. Creative solutions are almost always preceded by some degree of risk, annoyance, confusion, and conflict. Accommodation and compromise produce none of that. You’ve got to embrace the hard stuff. That’s where the great deals are. And that’s what great negotiators do.

Page: 117 Yes, I used the word “imaginary.” In all the years I’ve been doing work in the private sector, I’ve made it a point to ask nearly every entrepreneur and executive I’ve worked with whether, over the course of their entire careers, they have ever been a witness to or a party of a negotiation in which a missed deadline had negative repercussions. Among hundreds of such clients, there’s one single, solitary gentleman who gave the question serious consideration and responded affirmatively. Deadlines are often arbitrary, almost always flexible, and hardly ever trigger the consequences we think—or are told—they will. Deadlines are the bogeymen of negotiation, almost exclusively self-inflicted figments of our imagination, unnecessarily unsettling us for no good reason. The mantra we coach our clients on is, “No deal is better than a bad deal.” If that mantra can truly be internalized, and clients begin to believe they’ve got all the time they need to conduct the negotiation right, their patience becomes a formidable weapon.

Page: 119 Allow me to let you in on a little secret: Cohen, and the herd of negotiation “experts” who follow his lead, are wrong. Deadlines cut both ways. Cohen may well have been nervous about what his boss would say if he left Japan without an agreement. But it’s also true that Cohen’s counterparts wouldn’t have won if he’d left without a deal. That’s the key: When the negotiation is over for one side, it’s over for the other too.

Page: 122 In the Ultimatum Game, years of experience has shown me that most accepters will invariably reject any offer that is less than half of the proposer’s money. Once you get to a quarter of the proposer’s money you can forget it and the accepters are insulted. Most people make an irrational choice to let the dollar slip through their fingers rather than to accept a derisory offer, because the negative emotional value of unfairness outweighs the positive rational value of the money.

Page: 123 Remember Robin Williams’s great work as the voice of the genie in Disney’s Aladdin? Because he wanted to leave something wonderful behind for his kids, he said, he did the voice for a cut-rate fee of $75,000, far below his usual $8 million payday. But then something happened: the movie became a huge hit, raking in $504 million. And Williams went ballistic. Now look at this with the Ultimatum Game in mind. Williams wasn’t angry because of the money; it was the perceived unfairness that pissed him off.

> Should have barbelled, fixed base with percentage of the profits

Page: 124 The most common use is a judo-like defensive move that destabilizes the other side. This manipulation usually takes the form of something like, “We just want what’s fair.” Think back to the last time someone made this implicit accusation of unfairness to you, and I bet you’ll have to admit that it immediately triggered feelings of defensiveness and discomfort. These feelings are often subconscious and often lead to an irrational concession.

Page: 125 The second use of the F-bomb is more nefarious. In this one, your counterpart will basically accuse you of being dense or dishonest by saying, “We’ve given you a fair offer.” It’s a terrible little jab meant to distract your attention and manipulate you into giving in.

Page: 125 If you find yourself in this situation, the best reaction is to simply mirror the “F” that has just been lobbed at you. “Fair?” you’d respond, pausing to let the word’s power do to them as it was intended to do to you. Follow that with a label: “It seems like you’re ready to provide the evidence that supports that,” which alludes to opening their books or otherwise handing over information that will either contradict their claim to fairness or give you more data to work with than you had previously. Right away, you declaw the attack.

Page: 127 a person who’s told he has a 95 percent chance of receiving $10,000 or a 100 percent chance of getting $9,499 will usually avoid risk and take the 100 percent certain safe choice, while the same person who’s told he has a 95 percent chance of losing $10,000 or a 100 percent chance of losing $9,499 will make the opposite choice, risking the bigger 95 percent option to avoid the loss. The chance for loss incites more risk than the possibility of an equal gain.

> This seems to work on me, I do feel like it is due to the size of the figures though. At $10 it would probably not work. If I were very rich it would probably not work. Unsure this is truly irrational.

Page: 128 But first let me leave you with a crucial lesson about loss aversion: In a tough negotiation, it’s not enough to show the other party that you can deliver the thing they want. To get real leverage, you have to persuade them that they have something concrete to lose if the deal falls through.

> !

Page: 128 The problems became so bad that I was going to have to go back to the contractors I’d signed up, who normally got $2,000 a day, and tell them that for several months, I could only offer $500. I knew exactly what they would do if I just told them straight out: they’d laugh me out of town. So I got each of them on the phone and hit them hard with an accusation audit. “I got a lousy proposition for you,” I said, and paused until each asked me to go on. “By the time we get off the phone, you’re going to think I’m a lousy businessman. You’re going to think I can’t budget or plan. You’re going to think Chris Voss is a big talker. His first big project ever out of the FBI, he screws it up completely. He doesn’t know how to run an operation. And he might even have lied to me.” And then, once I’d anchored their emotions in a minefield of low expectations, I played on their loss aversion. “Still, I wanted to bring this opportunity to you before I took it to someone else,” I said. Suddenly, their call wasn’t about being cut from $2,000 to $500 but how not to lose $500 to some other guy.

> !

Page: 130 That’s why I suggest you let the other side anchor monetary negotiations. The real issue is that neither side has perfect information going to the table. This often means you don’t know enough to open with confidence. That’s especially true anytime you don’t know the market value of what you are buying or selling, […] By letting them anchor you also might get lucky: I’ve experienced many negotiations when the other party’s first offer was higher than the closing figure I had in mind.

Page: 131 In a recent study,4 Columbia Business School psychologists found that job applicants who named a range received significantly higher overall salaries than those who offered a number, especially if their range was a “bolstering range,” in which the low number in the range was what they actually wanted.

Page: 133 in terms of negotiation, some numbers appear more immovable than others. The biggest thing to remember is that numbers that end in 0 inevitably feel like temporary placeholders, guesstimates that you can easily be negotiated off of. But anything you throw out that sounds less rounded—say, $37,263—feels like a figure that you came to as a result of thoughtful calculation. Such numbers feel serious and permanent to your counterpart, so use them to fortify your offers.

Page: 133 You can get your counterpart into a mood of generosity by staking an extreme anchor and then, after their inevitable first rejection, offering them a wholly unrelated surprise gift. Unexpected conciliatory gestures like this are hugely effective because they introduce a dynamic called reciprocity; the other party feels the need to answer your generosity in kind.

Page: 134 Without prodding, they dropped to $50,000. Now that the kidnappers’ reality had been bent to a smaller number, my colleagues and I told the nephew to stand his ground. “How can I come up with that kind of money?” we told him to ask. Again, the kidnapper dropped his demand, to $25,000. Now that we had him in our sights, we had the nephew make his first offer, an extreme low anchor of $3,000. The line went silent and the nephew began to sweat profusely, but we told him to hold tight. This always happened at the moment the kidnapper’s economic reality got totally rearranged. When he spoke again, the kidnapper seemed shell-shocked. But he went on. His next offer was lower, $10,000. Then we had the nephew answer with a strange number that seemed to come from deep calculation of what his aunt’s life was worth: $4,751. His new price? $7,500. In response, we had the cousin “spontaneously” say he’d throw in a new portable CD stereo and repeated the $4,751. The kidnappers, who didn’t really want the CD stereo felt there was no more money to be had, said yes.

Page: 138 he countered with $120,000. Angel didn’t say “No” or “Yes,” but kept talking and creating empathy. Then, in the middle of a sentence, seemingly out of the blue, his boss threw out $127,000. With his boss obviously negotiating with himself, Angel kept him going. Finally his boss said he agreed with the $134,500 and would pay that salary starting in three months, contingent on the board of directors’ approval. As the icing on the cake, Angel worked in a positive use of the word “Fair” (“That’s fair,” he said), and then sold the raise to his boss as a marriage in which his boss would be the mentor. “I’m asking you, not the board, for the promotion, and all I need is for you to agree with it,” he said. And how did Angel’s boss reply to his new ambassador? “I’ll fight to get you this salary.”

Page: 141 the calibrated, or open-ended, question. […] it’s really as simple as removing the hostility from the statement “You can’t leave” and turning it into a question. “What do you hope to achieve by going?”

Page: 148 Normally we would have had the guy ask a bulletproof proof-of-life question, like, “What was the name of the girlfriend’s teddy bear when she was little?” But in this situation, this drug dealer hadn’t yet been coached on asking a “correct” question. So in the middle of the conversation with the kidnapper, he just blurts, “Hey, dog, how do I know she’s all right?” And the funniest thing happened. The kidnapper actually went silent for ten seconds. He was completely taken aback. Then he said, in a much less confrontational tone of voice, “Well, I’ll put her on the phone.” I was floored because this unsophisticated drug dealer just pulled off a phenomenal victory in the negotiation. To get the kidnapper to volunteer to put the victim on the phone is massively huge.

Page: 149 Instead of asking some closed-ended question with a single correct answer, he’d asked an open-ended, yet calibrated one that forced the other guy to pause and actually think about how to solve the problem. I thought to myself, This is perfect! It’s a natural and normal question, not a request for a fact. It’s a “how” question, and “how” engages because “how” asks for help. Best of all, he doesn’t owe the kidnapper a damn thing. The guy volunteers to put the girlfriend on the phone: he thinks it’s his idea.

> !

Page: 151 ask for help with one of the greatest-of-all-time calibrated questions: “How am I supposed to do that?” The critical part of this approach is that you really are asking for help and your delivery must convey that. With this negotiating scheme, instead of bullying the clerk, you’re asking for their advice and giving them the illusion of control. Asking for help in this manner, after you’ve already been engaged in a dialogue, is an incredibly powerful negotiating technique for transforming encounters from confrontational showdowns into joint problem-solving sessions. And calibrated questions are the best tool.

> This feels overly brusque to my English ears, might need to soften over here. "How do I do that?" simply? He later gives examples of 'how am I supposed to do that' questions including 'How can we raise that much', and notes that it is important for the tone to not be critical, so it does seem that a softer question would be best.

Page: 152 Like the softening words and phrases “perhaps,” “maybe,” “I think,” and “it seems,” the calibrated open-ended question takes the aggression out of a confrontational statement or close-ended request that might otherwise anger your counterpart. What makes them work is that they are subject to interpretation by your counterpart instead of being rigidly defined. They allow you to introduce ideas and requests without sounding overbearing or pushy. And that’s the difference between “You’re screwing me out of money, and it has to stop” and “How am I supposed to do that?”

Page: 153 calibrated questions avoid verbs or words like “can,” “is,” “are,” “do,” or “does.” These are closed-ended questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or a “no.” […] let me cut the list even further: it’s best to start with “what,” “how,” and sometimes “why.” Nothing else. “Who,” “when,” and “where” will often just get your counterpart to share a fact without thinking. And “why” can backfire. Regardless of what language the word “why” is translated into, it’s accusatory. There are very rare moments when this is to your advantage.

Page: 154 “Does this look like something you would like?” can become “How does this look to you?” or “What about this works for you?” You can even ask, “What about this doesn’t work for you?” and you’ll probably trigger quite a bit of useful information from your counterpart. Even something as harsh as “Why did you do it?” can be calibrated to “What caused you to do it?” which takes away the emotion and makes the question less accusatory.

Page: 154 “What is the biggest challenge you face?” is one of those questions. It just gets the other side to teach you something about themselves, which is critical to any negotiation because all negotiation is an information-gathering process.

> What can I do to get a raise this year?

Page: 154 What about this is important to you? How can I help to 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 this problem? What’s the objective? / What are we trying to accomplish here? How am I supposed to do that?

Page: 155 knew him well enough to know that he was trying to show me that he was in charge. So after we talked for a while, I looked at him and asked, “When you originally approved this trip, what did you have in mind?” He visibly relaxed as he sat back in his chair and brought the top of his fingers and thumbs together in the shape of a steeple. Generally this is a body language that means the person feels superior and in charge. “Listen,” he said, “just make sure you brief everyone when you get back.” That question, calibrated to acknowledge his power and nudge him toward explaining himself, gave him the illusion of control. And it got me just what I wanted.

Page: 157 The script we came up with hit all the best practices of negotiation we’ve talked about so far. Here it is by steps: A “No”-oriented email question to reinitiate contact: “Have you given up on settling this amicably?” A statement that leaves only the answer of “That’s right” to form a dynamic of agreement: “It seems that you feel my bill is not justified.” Calibrated questions about the problem to get him to reveal his thinking: “How does this bill violate our agreement?” More “No”-oriented questions to remove unspoken barriers: “Are you saying I misled you?” “Are you saying I didn’t do as you asked?” “Are you saying I reneged on our agreement?” or “Are you saying I failed you?” Labeling and mirroring the essence of his answers if they are not acceptable so he has to consider them again: “It seems like you feel my work was subpar.” Or “… my work was subpar?” A calibrated question in reply to any offer other than full payment, in order to get him to offer a solution: “How am I supposed to accept that?” If none of this gets an offer of full payment, a label that flatters his sense of control and power: “It seems like you are the type of person who prides himself on the way he does business—rightfully so—and has a knack for not only expanding the pie but making the ship run more efficiently.” A long pause and then one more “No”-oriented question: “Do you want to be known as someone who doesn’t fulfill agreements?” From my long experience in negotiation, scripts like this have a 90 percent success rate. That is, if the negotiator stays calm and rational.


Page: 167 The trick to “How” questions is that, correctly used, they are gentle and graceful ways to say “No” and guide your counterpart to develop a better solution—your solution. A gentle How/No invites collaboration and leaves your counterpart with a feeling of having been treated with respect. Look back at what Julie did when the Colombian rebel kidnappers made their first demands. “How can we raise that much?” she asked. Notice that she did not use the word “No.” But she still managed to elegantly deny the kidnappers’ $5 million demand. As Julie did, the first and most common “No” question you’ll use is some version of “How am I supposed to do that?” (for example, “How can we raise that much?”). Your tone of voice is critical as this phrase can be delivered as either an accusation or a request for assistance. So pay attention to your voice.

Page: 168 “How am I supposed to do that?” became our primary response to a kidnapper demanding a ransom. And we never had it backfire.

Page: 169 By making your counterparts articulate implementation in their own words, your carefully calibrated “How” questions will convince them that the final solution is their idea. And that’s crucial. People always make more effort to implement a solution when they think it’s theirs. That is simply human nature. That’s why negotiation is often called “the art of letting someone else have your way.”

Page: 169 There are two key questions you can ask to push your counterparts to think they are defining success their way: “How will we know we’re on track?” and “How will we address things if we find we’re off track?” When they answer, you summarize their answers until you get a “That’s right.” Then you’ll know they’ve bought in.

Page: 169 when they say, “You’re right,” it’s often a good indicator they are not vested in what is being discussed. And when you push for implementation and they say, “I’ll try,” you should get a sinking feeling in your stomach. Because this really means, “I plan to fail.” When you hear either of these, dive back in with calibrated “How” questions until they define the terms of successful implementation in their own voice. Follow up by summarizing what they have said to get a “That’s right.”

Page: 172 We could have avoided all that had we asked a few calibrated questions, like: How does this affect everybody else? How on board is the rest of your team? How do we make sure that we deliver the right material to the right people? How do we ensure the managers of those we’re training are fully on board? If we had asked questions like that, the CEO and HR head would have checked with this guy, maybe even brought him into the meeting

Page: 176 In two famous studies on what makes us like or dislike somebody,1 UCLA psychology professor Albert Mehrabian created the 7-38-55 rule. That is, only 7 percent of a message is based on the words while 38 percent comes from the tone of voice and 55 percent from the speaker’s body language and face. While these figures mainly relate to situations where we are forming an attitude about somebody, the rule nonetheless offers a useful ratio for negotiators. You see, body language and tone of voice—not words—are our most powerful assessment tools. That’s why I’ll often fly great distances to meet someone face-to-face, even when I can say much of what needs to be said over the phone.

> Check This

Page: 178 Either way, going at the same issue three times uncovers falsehoods as well as the incongruences between words and body language we mentioned in the last section. So next time you’re not sure your counterpart is truthful and committed, try it.

> Try and get 3 yes'es if they seem unsure

Page: 180 asked her if I got a discount for joining and she said, “No.” So I decided to try another angle. I said in a friendly manner, “My name is Chris. What’s the Chris discount?” She looked from the register, met my eyes, and gave a little laugh. “I’ll have to ask my manager, Kathy,” she said and turned to the woman who’d been standing next to her. Kathy, who’d heard the whole exchange, said, “The best I can do is ten percent.” Humanize yourself. Use your name to introduce yourself. Say it in a fun, friendly way. Let them enjoy the interaction, too. And get your own special price.

Page: 181 the best way to get your counterparts to lower their demands is to say “No” using “How” questions. These indirect ways of saying “No” won’t shut down your counterpart the way a blunt, pride-piercing “No” would. In fact, these responses will sound so much like counterbids that your counterparts will often keep bidding against themselves.

Page: 181 After that, some version of “Your offer is very generous, I’m sorry, that just doesn’t work for me” is an elegant second way to say “No.” This well-tested response avoids making a counteroffer, and the use of “generous” nurtures your counterpart to live up to the word. The “I’m sorry” also softens the “No” and builds empathy.


Page: 189 He returned after another eternity. “You win,” he said. “My manager okayed $32,500.” He pushed a paper across the desk that even said “YOU WIN” in big letters. The words were even surrounded with smiley faces. “I am so grateful. You’ve been very generous, and I can’t thank you enough. The truck is no doubt worth more than my price,” I said. “I’m sorry, I just can’t do that.” Up he stood again. No smile now. Still befuddled. After a few seconds, he walked back to his manager and I leaned back. I could taste victory. A minute later—no eternity this time—he returned and sat. “We can do that,” he said.

> I woukd have taken the 32k at that point! oops

Page: 199 And if the other side pushes you to go first, wriggle from his grip. Instead of naming a price, allude to an incredibly high number that someone else might charge. Once when a hospital chain wanted me to name a price first, I said, “Well, if you go to Harvard Business School, they’re going to charge you $2,500 a day per student.” No matter what happens, the point here is to sponge up information from your counterpart. Letting your counterpart anchor first will give you a tremendous feel for him. All you need to learn is how to take the first punch.

> "If I were a contracter you would need to pay 400+ a day" etc.

Page: 204 We’ve said previously that no deal is better than a bad deal. If you feel you can’t say “No” then you’ve taken yourself hostage. Once you’re clear on what your bottom line is, you have to be willing to walk away. Never be needy for a deal.

> 买东西别怕对方不卖你,卖东西别怕对方不买

Page: 206 The systematized and easy-to-remember process has only four steps: Set your target price (your goal). Set your first offer at 65 percent of your target price. Calculate three raises of decreasing increments (to 85, 95, and 100 percent). Use lots of empathy and different ways of saying “No” to get the other side to counter before you increase your offer. When calculating the final amount, use precise, nonround numbers like, say, $37,893 rather than $38,000. It gives the number credibility and weight. On your final number, throw in a nonmonetary item (that they probably don’t want) to show you’re at your limit. The genius of this system is that it incorporates the psychological tactics we’ve discussed—reciprocity, extreme anchors, loss aversion, and so on—without you needing to think about them.

> Named the Ackerman method. Guess you would use the inverse percentages for negotiating a raise. Start at the top of your range, then drop to 80, 70, finally 65 (but the final number should be 51,203 or something

When you make these offers, they work on various levels. First, they play on the norm of reciprocity; they inspire your counterpart to make a concession, too. Just like people are more likely to send Christmas cards to people who first send cards to them, they are more likely to make bargaining concessions to those who have made compromises in their direction. […] the diminishing size of the increases—notice that they decrease by half each time—convinces your counterpart that he’s squeezing you to the point of breaking. By the time they get to the last one, they’ll feel that they’ve really gotten every last drop.

Page: 207 people getting concessions often feel better about the bargaining process than those who are given a single firm, “fair” offer. In fact, they feel better even when they end up paying more—or receiving less—than they otherwise might.

> Yep, rule two of selling stuff on the street, anchor high and let people bargain you down, otherwise they feel like they got a bad deal!

Page: 209 Here Mishary pulled out his research: buildings around the neighborhood were offering “much” lower prices, he said. “Even though your building is better in terms of location and services, how am I supposed to pay $200 extra?”


Page: 239 A little befuddled but still in the negotiation mindset, my student constructed a label. Inadvertently he mislabeled the situation, triggering the broker to correct him and reveal a Black Swan. “If he or she is selling such a cash cow, it seems like the seller must have doubts about future market fundamentals,” he said. “Well,” he said, “the seller has some tougher properties in Atlanta and Savannah, so he has to get out of this property to pay back the other mortgages.”

Page: 241 It also bears noting that my student did tons of work beforehand and had prepared labels and questions so that he was ready to jump on the Black Swan when the broker offered it.

> Importance of prep!

Page: 242 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 wimp-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.

Page: 243 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.

Page: 246 Exploit the similarity principle. People are more apt to concede to someone they share a cultural similarity with, so dig for what makes them tick and show that you share common ground. When someone seems irrational or crazy, they most likely aren’t. Faced with this situation, search for constraints, hidden desires, and bad information. Get face time with your counterpart. Ten minutes of face time often reveals more than days of research. Pay special attention to your counterpart’s verbal and nonverbal communication at unguarded moments—at the beginning and the end of the session or when someone says something out of line.

Page: 251 Negotiation is a psychological investigation. You can gain a measure of confidence going into such an investigation with a simple preparatory exercise we advise all our clients to do. Basically, it’s a list of the primary tools you anticipate using, such as labels and calibrated questions, customized to the particular negotiation.

APPENDIX: One-sheet

SECTION I: THE GOAL Think through best/worst-case scenarios but only write down a specific goal that represents the best case.

Page: 253 Now, while I counsel thinking about a best/worst range to give my clients the security of some structure, when it comes to what actually goes on your one sheet, my advice is to just stick with the high-end goal, as it will motivate and focus your psychological powers, priming you to think you are facing a “loss” for any term that falls short. 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.

SECTION II: SUMMARY Summarize and write out in just a couple of sentences the known facts that have led up to the negotiation.

SECTION III: LABELS/ACCUSATION AUDIT Prepare three to five labels to perform an accusation audit.

Page: 255 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 _.

Page: 255 “It seems as though you’re not a fan of subletters” or “It seems like you want stability with your tenants.”

SECTION IV: CALIBRATED QUESTIONS Prepare three to five calibrated questions to reveal value to you and your counterpart and identify and overcome potential deal killers.

Page: 256 There will be a small group of “What” and “How” questions that you will find yourself using in nearly every situation. Here are a few of them:

  • What are we trying to accomplish?
  • How is that worthwhile?
  • What’s the core issue here?
  • How does that affect things?
  • What’s the biggest challenge you face?
  • How does this fit into what the objective is?


  • What are we up against here?
  • What is the biggest challenge you face?
  • How does making a deal with us affect things?
  • What happens if you do nothing?
  • What does doing nothing cost you?
  • How does making this deal resonate with what your company prides itself on?

Page: 257 Be ready to execute follow-up labels to their answers to your calibrated questions.

SECTION V: NONCASH OFFERS Prepare a list of noncash items possessed by your counterpart that would be valuable.

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Last modified 2019-07-28 Sun 21:17. Contact