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

“This is listening as a martial art, balancing the subtle behaviors of emotional intelligence and the assertive skills of influence, to gain access to the mind of another person. Contrary to popular opinion, listening is not a passive activity. It is the most active thing you can do. ” ― Chris Voss, Never Split the Difference

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Never Split the Difference is a 2016 book by Chris Voss. Voss joined the FBI, where his career as a hostage negotiator brought him face-to-face with a range of criminals, including bank robbers and terrorists. Reaching the pinnacle of his profession, he became the FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator.

Never Split the Difference is a fascinating book. Voss and his colleagues used negotiation to save lives. If you don’t succeed, it’s not about closing a deal. It’s about losing lives. And FBI was doing something wrong in hostage situations. Decades ago, their approach in hostage negotiations was to play time and not negotiating with the criminals. That obviously did not work. Since then, they have greatly evolved these negotiation techniques and in the book Voss shares nine principles of negotiating through his experiences in the field.

“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.” ― Chris Voss, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It

I am not going to go through exact nine principles here because I feel like they wouldn’t be of much use on their own and also I am worried I would confuse the examples I want to use in this review. Here are my takeaways from the book: importance of the situation and the tone of voice, Voss explains that there are 3 common “voices” used in FBI negotiation situations. There’s commanding and assertive voice, positive happy go lucky voice (I did make that up but you can probably picture that kind of a voice) and smooth late night FM DJ voice. Out of these, which one would you use?

Importance of NO. Negotiation has not begun until you get to no. A no will get speaker’s focus and a question that prompts a no gives the speaker a sense of safety and control and they feel like by turning you down they have gotten rid of you. And this is where you can do some digging. You can ask what makes them uncomfortable about the situation or what you have said. If you don’t get to no you might be dealing with indecisive people or ones who have a hidden agenda.Get them to say: yes, that’s right instead of yes, you are right. Yes, that’s right means they share the same goals and if they say yes, you’re right it means they likely do not feel like they are in control of the situation or they want to get rid of you.

Find the Black Swan. In 1981, there was a hostage situation in bank. 37 year old William Griffin took 8 people hostage. Everything was going relatively smoothly and FBI followed their tactics until the moment when instead of releasing hostages at the deadline set by the FBI, Griffin shot them. This was because FBI had missed a black swan. Griffin had no intention of making it out alive from the situation so he had no care for his own life or the hostages. I really enjoyed this book. I am fascinated by people in this kind of leadership positions and what actions they take. Moreover, the actions must be correct, otherwise you will risk lives. I would rate this book 4/5 stars.

How-To Read Never Split the Difference
1. I think this is a great book for anyone working in sales and especially telemarketing. Or if you love negotiating which I guess anyone should.
2. Audible edition is pure gold. I loved the narrator and would warmly recommend it. Hardcover is around 300 pages.
3. Watch the short video below and get inspired enough to read this :)

Never Split the Difference :)


“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.” ― Chris Voss, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It

4 thoughts on “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It

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