Never Split the Difference

by Chris Voss, Tahl Raz

Troy Shu
Troy Shu
Updated at: April 09, 2024
Never Split the Difference
Never Split the Difference

Unlock the secrets of effective negotiation with the "Never Split the Difference" book summary. Discover strategies to transform conflict, harness empathy, and gain leverage for successful negotiations. Actionable insights to apply immediately.

What are the big ideas?

The Art of 'No' in Negotiation

Instead of pushing for 'Yes', making counterparts say 'No' can create a sense of safety, leading to more open and effective negotiations. It changes the dynamic, encouraging honest dialogue and problem-solving.

Transform Conflict with Calibrated Questions

Open-ended, calibrated questions ('How' and 'What'), instead of direct confrontations, guide counterparts to solve the negotiator’s problems, fostering a collaborative rather than adversarial relationship.

Harnessing Tactical Empathy

Using tactical empathy involves deeply understanding and vocalizing the counterpart's perspective to build trust and influence their decisions, emphasizing the importance of emotional intelligence over pure logic in negotiations.

Unlocking Black Swans

Identifying critical, hidden pieces of information, or 'Black Swans', can dramatically change the outcome of a negotiation, underscoring the value of thorough preparation and open-minded exploration.

The Strategic Use of Leverage

Effective negotiators understand and utilize three types of leverage: positive (providing what the other party wants), negative (inflicting loss), and normative (appealing to the other party's norms), to sway negotiations in their favor.

The Power of Acknowledgment

Acknowledging the counterpart's emotions and perspective through techniques like mirroring, emotional labeling, and strategic silence can diffuse tensions and encourage them to open up, facilitating a more cooperative negotiation process.

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The Art of 'No' in Negotiation

The Power of 'No' in Negotiation Counterintuitively, pushing for 'Yes' can actually undermine effective negotiation. Instead, eliciting 'No' from your counterpart can be a powerful tactic. When you give them the freedom to disagree, it creates a sense of safety and control. This encourages them to be more open and honest, rather than simply trying to appease you.

By allowing 'No', you shift the dynamic from a battle of wills to a collaborative problem-solving process. Your counterpart can now define their own boundaries and desires, rather than feeling forced into a 'Yes'. This provides valuable insights that you can use to craft a mutually beneficial agreement.

So don't be afraid of 'No'. Embrace it as the starting point for productive negotiation. By making space for disagreement, you paradoxically open the door to deeper understanding and, ultimately, a stronger 'Yes' commitment from your counterpart.

Here are examples from the context that support the key insight about the art of 'No' in negotiation:

  • The author was the head of the New York City FBI Crisis Negotiation Team and was the primary negotiator in a tense hostage situation. Instead of giving orders or asking what the fugitives wanted, he used a "late-night FM DJ voice" to say things like "It looks like you don't want to come out" and "It seems like you worry that if you open the door, we'll come in with guns blazing." This approach of labeling the fugitives' emotions and not pushing for a 'Yes' ultimately led to the fugitives coming out peacefully.

  • The author's colleague Marti Evelsizer, the FBI's Crisis Negotiation Coordinator in Pittsburgh, was facing dismissal from her position due to her supervisor's jealousy. When meeting with her supervisor, she used a strongly worded "No"-oriented setup question: "Do you want the FBI to be embarrassed?" This prompted a "No" response, which then allowed Marti to ask "What do you want me to do?" - shifting the dynamic and leading to a more constructive conversation.

  • The author explains that saying "No" gives the speaker a "feeling of safety, security, and control." He advises that good negotiators "welcome - even invite - a solid 'No' to start, as a sign that the other party is engaged and thinking." This stands in contrast to pushing for an early "Yes", which can make the counterpart defensive and less likely to openly engage.

  • The author cites Jim Camp's advice to "give your adversary (counterpart) permission to say 'No' from the outset of a negotiation." This "right to veto" preserves the counterpart's autonomy and creates a more collaborative environment for the negotiation.

Key terms and concepts:

  • Tactical Empathy: The ability to precisely label emotions, both of others and one's own, and use that understanding to influence the negotiation.
  • Calibrated Questions: Questions designed to prompt a "No" response, which then allows the negotiator to shift the dynamic and have a more constructive dialogue.

Transform Conflict with Calibrated Questions

Transform Conflict with Calibrated Questions

Avoid direct confrontations and instead use open-ended, calibrated questions that start with "How" or "What". These questions guide your counterpart to solve your problems, fostering a collaborative relationship rather than an adversarial one.

For example, instead of saying "You're screwing me out of money and it has to stop", you can ask "How am I supposed to do that?". This allows your counterpart to understand the problem and offer a solution, without feeling attacked. The key is to ask for help in a calm, non-confrontational way.

Calibrated questions give your counterpart the illusion of control, while you are actually steering the conversation in the direction you want. This disarms them and makes them more likely to cooperate. It's a powerful negotiation technique that transforms conflicts into joint problem-solving sessions.

Here are some examples from the context that support the key insight about transforming conflict with calibrated questions:

  • The senior physician who was dealing with a frustrated patient asked calibrated questions like "What is so important about leaving?" and "How am I supposed to do that?" This led the patient to solve his own problem in the way the doctor wanted, by suspending the patient's unbelief and giving him the illusion of control.

  • When the client of the PR firm was not paying her bills, the author advised her to ask the client "How am I supposed to do that?" This open-ended, calibrated question pushed the client to understand the problem and offer a solution, without sounding confrontational.

  • The FBI crisis negotiator in Harlem used a "late-night FM DJ voice" to repeatedly say things like "It looks like you don't want to come out" and "It seems like you worry that if you open the door, we'll come in with guns blazing." These calibrated statements, rather than direct orders, eventually led the armed fugitives to come out peacefully.

  • The author emphasizes that calibrated questions that start with "How" and "What" take the aggression out of confrontational statements and allow the negotiator to introduce ideas and requests without sounding overbearing. They give the counterpart the illusion of control and guide them to solve the negotiator's problems.

Harnessing Tactical Empathy

Tactical empathy is the ability to recognize and vocalize the emotions and perspective of your counterpart. It is a powerful negotiation technique that goes beyond simply understanding the other person's point of view. By labeling their feelings and concerns, you can build trust, diffuse tension, and steer the conversation in a more productive direction.

Rather than approaching negotiations with a cold, logical mindset, the most effective negotiators tap into the emotional undercurrents at play. They understand that emotions are not obstacles, but tools to be wielded skillfully. By aligning with their counterpart's emotional state, they can anticipate their reactions and adapt their approach accordingly.

The key is to slow down, observe, and listen. Pay close attention to your counterpart's tone, body language, and word choices. Then, reflect back what you observe in a calm, validating manner. For example, you might say "It seems like you're feeling frustrated about this situation." This demonstrates that you are tuned in and care about their perspective.

Mastering tactical empathy takes practice, as it can feel unnatural at first. But over time, it becomes an invaluable skill that allows you to navigate even the most high-stakes negotiations with greater finesse and influence. By tapping into the emotional realm, you can uncover hidden motivations, build rapport, and ultimately reach more favorable outcomes.

Here are key examples from the context that support the insight about harnessing tactical empathy:

  • The FBI crisis negotiator in Harlem used a "late-night FM DJ voice" to calmly label the emotions of the fugitives, saying things like "It looks like you don't want to come out" and "It seems like you worry that if you open the door, we'll come in with guns blazing." This allowed him to build trust and get the fugitives to eventually surrender peacefully.

  • The negotiator explained that "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." This disrupts the raw intensity of negative emotions like fear.

  • A brain imaging study found that "when people are shown photos of faces expressing strong emotion, the brain shows greater activity in the amygdala, the part that generates fear. But when they are asked to label the emotion, the activity moves to the areas that govern rational thinking." This demonstrates the power of labeling emotions.

  • The context emphasizes that "empathy is not about being nice or agreeing with the other side. It's about understanding them. Empathy helps us learn the position the enemy is in, why their actions make sense (to them), and what might move them." This highlights the importance of emotional intelligence over pure logic.

  • The context contrasts this with the "traditional negotiating advice" to "keep a poker face" and "separate the people from the problem," which ignores the critical role of emotions in negotiations.

Unlocking Black Swans

Uncover Hidden Leverage to Gain the Upper Hand Black Swans are unexpected, game-changing pieces of information that can dramatically shift the power dynamics in a negotiation. These unknown unknowns hold the potential to provide you with significant leverage - the ability to influence your counterpart's perceptions, actions, and decisions.

To unlock Black Swans, you must adopt a mindset of openness and curiosity. Resist the urge to confirm your existing assumptions. Instead, actively probe for new insights by asking probing questions and closely observing your counterpart's verbal and nonverbal cues. Be alert for any information that seems innocuous but could hold hidden value.

Leverage comes in three forms: positive (providing what your counterpart wants), negative (threatening what they fear losing), and normative (appealing to their values and norms). Black Swans can amplify any of these leverage types, giving you a decisive advantage. By uncovering the unknown unknowns, you gain the power to shape the negotiation in your favor and achieve truly remarkable outcomes.

Examples to support the key insight:

  • The story of the bank robbery in Brooklyn highlights how the robbers' true motivation - not money, but a desire to provoke a lethal police response - was a critical 'Black Swan' that the negotiators failed to uncover, leading to a tragic outcome.
  • The example of the Griffin bank crisis shows how the negotiators were blinded by their assumptions and failed to recognize the clues that Griffin had already killed people and had no interest in demands, another 'Black Swan' that could have changed their approach.
  • The context explains how Black Swans are "events or pieces of knowledge that sit outside our regular expectations and therefore cannot be predicted" - critical information that can dramatically alter the course of a negotiation if uncovered.
  • The passage emphasizes the importance of remaining flexible and open-minded, not relying solely on "known knowns" and prior experience, in order to identify these unexpected, game-changing Black Swans.
  • It highlights the need to thoroughly interrogate the situation, ask probing questions, and pay close attention to verbal and nonverbal cues from the counterpart, in order to uncover these hidden pieces of information.

The Strategic Use of Leverage

Leverage is the secret weapon of expert negotiators. There are three powerful types of leverage:

Positive Leverage is your ability to provide or withhold what the other party wants. When they say "I want...", you have the power to make their desire come true or deny it. This puts you in control and improves your negotiating psychology.

Negative Leverage is your ability to make the other party suffer. This is the "leverage" most people picture - the threat of consequences if they don't comply. Negative leverage is potent because people fear losses more than they desire gains.

Normative Leverage uses the other party's own beliefs and standards against them. If you can show inconsistencies between their actions and their professed values, you gain an advantage. No one likes to be exposed as a hypocrite.

The key is to identify the specific things your counterpart wants to gain or fears losing, then strategically use the appropriate type of leverage to influence the negotiation in your favor. Mastering these three levers of leverage is what separates expert negotiators from amateurs.

Here are key examples from the context that illustrate the strategic use of leverage in negotiations:

Positive Leverage

  • The context explains that positive leverage is "your ability as a negotiator to provide—or withhold—things that your counterpart wants." For example:
    • If a potential buyer tells you "Yes, I'd like to buy your business," you now have positive leverage because you control what they want - your business.
    • You can use this leverage to create a bidding war and get a better deal, even if this is the only offer you have.
    • Once you have positive leverage, you can identify other things your opponent wants, like buying your firm over time, and use that to negotiate a better price.

Negative Leverage

  • Negative leverage is "a negotiator's ability to make his counterpart suffer" through threats, like "If you don't fulfill your commitment, I will destroy your reputation."
  • The context cautions that negative leverage must be used carefully, as "threats can be like nuclear bombs" that can "poison or blow up the whole process."
  • Instead of direct threats, the context suggests more subtle techniques like "labeling" your negative leverage, such as saying "It seems like you strongly value the fact that you've always paid on time."

Normative Leverage

  • Normative leverage is "using the other party's norms and standards to advance your position."
  • For example, if your counterpart mentions they generally pay a certain multiple of cash flow when buying a company, you can frame your desired price to reflect that valuation.
  • The key is to "discover the Black Swans that give you normative valuation" by openly asking what your counterpart believes and then speaking their "language" back to them.

Overall, the context emphasizes that effective negotiators strategically utilize these three types of leverage - positive, negative, and normative - to sway negotiations in their favor, while cautioning about the risks of heavy-handed use of negative leverage.

The Power of Acknowledgment

Acknowledge your counterpart's emotions and perspective. This disarms tension and encourages them to open up. Use techniques like mirroring, emotional labeling, and strategic silence to achieve this.

Mirroring involves repeating the last few words your counterpart said. This signals that you are listening and builds rapport. Emotional labeling means directly naming the feelings you observe, like "It seems like you're feeling frustrated." This diffuses negative emotions. Strategic silence allows the other person to fill the void, revealing more information.

By acknowledging your counterpart's point of view, you create a collaborative environment. They feel heard and understood, making them more willing to work with you towards a mutually beneficial agreement. Mastering these techniques transforms negotiations from adversarial battles into cooperative problem-solving sessions.

Here are examples from the context that support the key insight about the power of acknowledgment:

  • When the FBI negotiator was trying to get the armed fugitives to come out of the apartment, he used a "late-night FM DJ voice" to repeatedly acknowledge their perspective: "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." This acknowledgment of their emotions and situation eventually led the fugitives to come out peacefully.

  • When the FBI official in Canada was upset that the negotiator had entered the country without proper clearance, the negotiator directly acknowledged the negative dynamic, saying "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned." This direct acknowledgment of the official's anger helped diffuse the situation and allowed the negotiator to get the necessary clearance.

  • When dealing with the family of a hostage, the negotiator would start by saying "I know you're scared." Acknowledging their underlying emotion of fear helped establish a quick working relationship.

  • When making a mistake, the negotiator would often say "Look, I'm an asshole." Directly acknowledging the other person's potential anger helped make the problems go away.

The key concept illustrated here is tactical empathy - the ability to precisely identify and acknowledge the emotions and perspective of the counterpart. By doing so, the negotiator is able to diffuse tensions, build rapport, and encourage the counterpart to open up and collaborate.


Let's take a look at some key quotes from "Never Split the Difference" that resonated with readers.

He who has learned to disagree without being disagreeable has discovered the most valuable secret of negotiation.

The quote means that being able to express disagreement while maintaining a respectful and harmonious conversation is a crucial skill in negotiation. This ability to disagree without causing offense or hostility can lead to more productive discussions and positive outcomes.

Conflict brings out truth, creativity, and resolution.

Conflict can reveal hidden truths and inspire innovative solutions, ultimately leading to resolution. When people disagree, they are prompted to express their perspectives and needs more authentically, which can foster better understanding and more effective problem-solving. However, managing conflict constructively is essential to harness its potential benefits.

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.

The quote means that successful negotiation isn't about showcasing one's own brilliance, eloquence, or strength, but rather about understanding and connecting with the other party's perspective. Instead of imposing your ideas on them, guide them towards your desired outcome by asking thoughtful questions that spark their curiosity and motivation. The key is to make the negotiation about their needs and desires, fostering an environment where they believe the solution is their own idea.

Comprehension Questions

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How well do you understand the key insights in "Never Split the Difference"? Find out by answering the questions below. Try to answer the question yourself before revealing the answer! Mark the questions as done once you've answered them.

1. Why might pushing for a 'Yes' in negotiations actually be counterproductive?
2. How does encouraging a 'No' response in negotiations change the dynamic between parties?
3. What psychological benefits does saying 'No' offer to individuals in a negotiation?
4. What is the purpose of calibrated questions in negotiations and how should they be designed?
5. How does tactical empathy play a role in effective negotiation?
6. Why use open-ended questions starting with 'How' or 'What' in negotiations?
7. What is the effect of asking calibrated questions in a non-confrontational manner?
8. How do calibrated questions transform conflicts into problem-solving sessions?
9. What is the importance of the tone of voice when using calibrated questions?
10. What is tactical empathy in the context of negotiations?
11. How can labeling emotions affect negotiations?
12. Why are emotions considered tools rather than obstacles in negotiations?
13. How does tactical empathy contribute to uncovering hidden motivations in negotiations?
14. What are Black Swans in the context of negotiation?
15. What mindset should you adopt to uncover Black Swans?
16. What are the three forms of leverage in negotiation?
17. How can Black Swans affect the leverage in a negotiation?
18. Why is it important to not rely solely on known knowns in a negotiation?
19. How does positive leverage influence negotiations?
20. What is the primary goal of acknowledging a counterpart's emotions and perspective?
21. What are the three techniques mentioned for acknowledging a counterpart’s emotions and perspective?
22. How does mirroring function in conversation?
23. What is the purpose of emotional labeling?
24. What does strategic silence accomplish in negotiations?
25. How does acknowledging a counterpart's point of view transform a negotiation?
26. What is tactical empathy and how is it applied in negotiations?

Action Questions

0 / 9

"Knowledge without application is useless," Bruce Lee said. Answer the questions below to practice applying the key insights from "Never Split the Difference". Mark the questions as done once you've answered them.

1. How can you practice saying 'No' in everyday situations to enhance your negotiation skills?
2. What are some ways you can create a safe space for others to say 'No' in a negotiation or discussion?
3. How can you rephrase a potential confrontation into an open-ended, calibrated question to promote collaboration?
4. How can you practice labeling emotions more effectively in your personal and professional interactions?
5. In what ways can you slow down during negotiations or conflicts to ensure you're employing tactical empathy?
6. How can you implement the strategy of labeling emotions to improve personal relationships?
7. How can you facilitate an environment or conversation that encourages the revelation of unexpected information or perspectives?
8. What steps can you take to identify and utilize normative leverage in your next negotiation?
9. How might you use emotional labeling to navigate a difficult conversation more effectively?

Chapter Notes

How to Become the Smartest Person . . . in Any Room

Here are the key takeaways from the chapter:

  • Calibrated Questions: These are open-ended questions that the other side can respond to but have no fixed answers. They buy time, give the counterpart the illusion of control, and constrain them without them realizing it.

  • Passive-Aggressive Approach: Repeatedly asking the same 3-4 calibrated questions wears down the counterpart, making them falter and negotiate against themselves to give the negotiator everything they want.

  • Emotional Intelligence vs. Rational Thinking: Negotiation is more about understanding and manipulating the counterpart's emotional, irrational "System 1" thinking rather than just appealing to their logical, rational "System 2" thinking.

  • Tactical Empathy: Listening intently to demonstrate understanding and acceptance of the counterpart's perspective, in order to build trust and influence their behavior.

  • Negotiation is Ubiquitous: Negotiation skills are applicable to all areas of life, from business deals to personal relationships, not just hostage situations.

  • Importance of "No": Getting to "No" is crucial, as it starts the real negotiation. Negotiators should aim for "That's right" instead of just "Yes" from the counterpart.

  • Calibrated Questions and Framing: Using "How?" and "What?" questions, as well as framing the negotiation in a certain way, can unconsciously influence the counterpart's perspective and decisions.

  • Black Swans: Uncovering the 3-5 pieces of information that would dramatically change the negotiation is a game-changer, and a key skill to develop.

How to Quickly Establish Rapport

  • Prepare for Surprises: Good negotiators prepare to be ready for possible surprises, while great negotiators aim to use their skills to reveal the surprises they are certain to find.

  • Avoid Assumptions, Test Hypotheses: Don't commit to assumptions; instead, view them as hypotheses and use the negotiation to test them rigorously.

  • Quiet the Voices in Your Head: People who view negotiation as a battle of arguments become overwhelmed by the voices in their head. To quiet these voices, make your sole focus the other person and what they have to say.

  • Slow Down the Pace: Going too fast is a common mistake among negotiators. If you're in too much of a hurry, people can feel like they're not being heard, which can undermine the rapport and trust you've built.

  • Leverage Positive Emotions: When people are in a positive frame of mind, they think more quickly and are more likely to collaborate and problem-solve. Maintain a smile and use a positive, playful voice to create mental agility in both you and your counterpart.

  • Use the Late-Night FM DJ Voice: This voice tone, characterized by a calm, slow, and downward-inflecting delivery, can be used selectively to convey authority and trustworthiness without triggering defensiveness.

  • Employ Mirroring Techniques: Repeating the last three words (or the critical one to three words) of what someone has just said can facilitate bonding, encourage the other side to empathize with you, keep people talking, buy your side time to regroup, and encourage your counterparts to reveal their strategy.

How to Create Trust with Tactical Empathy

  • Tactical Empathy: Tactical empathy is the ability to recognize the perspective of a counterpart and vocalize that recognition. It involves understanding the feelings and mindset of another in the moment and hearing what is behind those feelings to increase influence.

  • Labeling Emotions: Labeling is a way of validating someone's emotion by acknowledging it. Labeling an emotion disrupts its raw intensity and makes it seem less frightening. Labels often start with phrases like "It seems like..." or "It looks like..." to avoid using "I" which can make the other person defensive.

  • Neutralizing Negative Emotions: Labeling negative emotions diffuses them, while labeling positive emotions reinforces them. Addressing the underlying emotions, rather than just the presenting behavior, is key to resolving conflicts.

  • Accusation Audit: Performing an "accusation audit" involves listing every negative thing your counterpart could say about you. This allows you to preemptively address those concerns, taking the "sting out" of potential accusations.

  • Mirroring and Silence: Mirroring your counterpart's language and tone, and using strategic silence, encourages them to open up and reveal more information that you can use to your advantage.

  • Prioritizing Relationship over Outcome: The primary goal of using these techniques is to build a meaningful human connection, not just to extract a desired outcome. Healthy relationships are the foundation for successful negotiations.

  • Practicing and Internalizing the Techniques: These skills feel artificial at first, but with practice they become natural extensions of how you communicate. Consistency and repetition are key to making them habitual.

How to Generate Momentum and Make It Safe to Reveal the Real Stakes

Here are the key takeaways from the chapter:

  • Break the habit of attempting to get people to say "yes": Being pushed for "yes" makes people defensive. Our love of hearing "yes" makes us blind to the defensiveness we ourselves feel when someone is pushing us to say it.

  • "No" is not a failure: We have learned that "No" is the anti-"Yes" and therefore a word to be avoided at all costs. But it really often just means "Wait" or "I'm not comfortable with that." Learning to hear "No" calmly is important, as it is not the end of the negotiation, but the beginning.

  • "Yes" is the final goal, but don't aim for it at the start: Asking someone for "Yes" too quickly in a conversation - e.g. "Do you like to drink water, Mr. Smith?" - gets their guard up and paints you as an untrustworthy salesman.

  • Saying "No" makes the speaker feel safe, secure, and in control, so trigger it: By saying what they don't want, your counterpart defines their space and gains the confidence and comfort to listen to you. That's why "Is now a bad time to talk?" is always better than "Do you have a few minutes to talk?"

  • Sometimes the only way to get your counterpart to listen and engage is by forcing them into a "No": This means intentionally mislabeling one of their emotions or desires or asking a ridiculous question - like, "It seems like you want this project to fail" - that can only be answered negatively.

  • 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.

  • If a potential business partner is ignoring you, contact them with a clear and concise "No"-oriented question: This suggests that you are ready to walk away, e.g. "Have you given up on this project?" This can work wonders.

How to Gain the Permission to Persuade

  • Unconditional Positive Regard: The chapter emphasizes the importance of creating unconditional positive regard, where the negotiator accepts the counterpart as they are, which opens the door to changing thoughts and behaviors. Humans have an innate urge toward socially constructive behavior, and the more a person feels understood and positively affirmed, the more likely this urge will take hold.

  • "That's Right" vs. "Yes": The chapter highlights that "that's right" is a more powerful response than a simple "yes" in a negotiation. Reaching "that's right" in a negotiation can create breakthroughs, as it signifies that the counterpart has assessed and agreed with the negotiator's statement of their own free will.

  • Triggering "That's Right" with a Summary: The chapter explains that a good summary, which combines a label (identifying the counterpart's feelings) and paraphrasing (rearticulating the meaning of what is said), can be an effective way to trigger the "that's right" response. This summary allows the negotiator to reflect the "world according to" the counterpart.

  • Avoiding "You're Right": The chapter contrasts "that's right" with "you're right," emphasizing that "you're right" is a disastrous response, as it indicates the counterpart has agreed in theory but not truly embraced the conclusion, often leading them to revert to the undesired behavior.

  • Applying "That's Right" in Negotiations: The chapter provides several examples of how the "that's right" technique has been successfully applied in various negotiation scenarios, including a hostage negotiation, a sales pitch, and a career negotiation. These examples demonstrate the power of this approach in creating breakthroughs and achieving desired outcomes.

How to Shape What Is Fair

Here are the key takeaways from the chapter:

  • Negotiations are driven by subterranean desires and needs: The chapter emphasizes that the true motivations and drivers behind a negotiation are often hidden beneath the surface. Successful negotiators must look beyond the explicit demands and uncover the underlying emotional and psychological factors that shape their counterpart's behavior.

  • Compromise often leads to bad deals: The chapter argues against the common advice to "split the difference" or compromise. It suggests that compromise frequently results in suboptimal outcomes for both parties, and that great deals often emerge from embracing the "hard stuff" of negotiation rather than seeking easy solutions.

  • Deadlines can be leveraged: While deadlines are often seen as constraints, the chapter explains how skilled negotiators can use the psychological pressure of deadlines to their advantage. By understanding the flexibility of deadlines and the tendency for people to make impulsive decisions as a deadline approaches, negotiators can strategically manage the timeline to improve their leverage.

  • The power of "fairness": The chapter delves into the profound influence the concept of "fairness" has on human decision-making. It explains how people will often reject objectively beneficial offers if they perceive them as unfair, and how skilled negotiators can use this emotional trigger to their advantage or avoid being manipulated by it.

  • Anchoring and framing: The chapter introduces the concept of "anchoring" - the idea that initial reference points heavily influence subsequent perceptions and decisions. It demonstrates how negotiators can strategically frame their offers and counteroffers to shape their counterpart's reality and expectations.

  • Leveraging non-monetary terms: In addition to monetary considerations, the chapter emphasizes the importance of negotiating non-monetary terms and using them to create value and shift the dynamic in your favor.

  • Odd numbers and ranges: The chapter suggests using odd numbers and ranges when making offers, as these techniques can make proposals seem more thoughtful and reasonable compared to round, "placeholder" numbers.

  • Mentorship and success metrics: The chapter provides a framework for negotiating salary, which involves defining success metrics, sparking the employer's interest in your success, and gaining an unofficial mentor within the organization.

How to Calibrate Questions to Transform Conflict into Collaboration

Here are the key takeaways from the chapter:

  • Avoid Confrontational Negotiation: Aggressive confrontation is the enemy of constructive negotiation. Instead of trying to force your opponent to admit you are right, focus on using the counterpart's power to get to your objective.

  • Use Open-Ended, Calibrated Questions: Ask questions that start with "How" or "What" instead of questions that can be answered with a simple "Yes" or "No". These open-ended, calibrated questions give your counterpart an illusion of control and inspire them to reveal important information.

  • Avoid "Why" Questions: Questions starting with "Why" are generally accusatory and should be avoided, unless you want your counterpart to defend a goal that serves you.

  • Design Questions to Guide the Conversation: Calibrate your questions to point your counterpart toward solving your problem. This will encourage them to expend their energy on devising a solution.

  • Regulate Your Emotions: When attacked in a negotiation, pause and avoid angry emotional reactions. Instead, ask your counterpart a calibrated question to disarm them and regain control of the conversation.

  • Influence the Entire Team: There is always a team on the other side. If you are not influencing those behind the table, you are vulnerable. Ensure your negotiation efforts reach past your direct counterpart.

  • Give the Illusion of Control: The secret to gaining the upper hand in a negotiation is giving the other side the illusion of control. Calibrated questions allow you to guide the conversation while making your counterpart feel in charge.

  • Suspend Unbelief: Getting your counterpart to drop their active resistance or "unbelief" is key to transforming a confrontational showdown into a collaborative problem-solving session.

How to Spot the Liars and Ensure Follow-Through from Everyone Else

  • Calibrated "How" Questions: Asking "How" questions repeatedly keeps your counterparts engaged but off balance, as it forces them to contemplate your problems when making their demands. This allows you to shape the negotiating environment subtly.

  • Gentle "No" Responses: Using phrases like "How am I supposed to do that?" as a gentle version of "No" can push your counterpart to search for other solutions - your solutions. This often leads them to bid against themselves.

  • Identifying "Behind the Table" Players: Analyzing the motivations of parties not directly involved in the negotiation, but who can help implement or block agreements, is crucial. You can do this by asking how a deal will affect everybody else and how on board they are.

  • Nonverbal Communication Analysis: Following the 7-38-55 Percent Rule, which states that only 7% of a message is based on words, while 38% comes from tone of voice and 55% from body language and facial expressions, can help you identify when your counterpart is lying or uncomfortable.

  • The Rule of Three: Getting your counterpart to reaffirm their agreement at least three times, using calibrated questions, summaries, and labels, helps ensure the "Yes" is real and not just a counterfeit acquiescence.

  • Pronoun Usage Analysis: A person's use of pronouns can offer insights into their relative authority. Frequent use of "I," "me," and "my" suggests the real power to decide likely lies elsewhere, while "we," "they," and "them" may indicate you're dealing with a savvy decision maker.

  • The "Chris Discount": Using your own name to humanize yourself and create "forced empathy" can help you break the ice and even get a personal discount, as people are often tired of being hammered with their own name by slick salespeople.

How to Get Your Price

  • Identify Negotiating Styles: There are three main negotiating styles - Accommodator, Assertive, and Analyst. Knowing your counterpart's style is crucial to tailoring your approach effectively.

    • Accommodators value building relationships and seek win-win outcomes. They are friendly, optimistic, and focused on maintaining good rapport.
    • Assertives are driven by winning and accomplishing their goals quickly. They are direct, aggressive, and focused on their own objectives.
    • Analysts are methodical, detail-oriented, and averse to mistakes. They prefer to work independently and are hypersensitive to reciprocity.
  • Prepare Thoroughly: When the pressure is on, you will default to your highest level of preparation. Thoroughly research your counterpart, set an ambitious but legitimate goal, and plan out the specific labels, calibrated questions, and responses you will use.

  • Expect and Withstand Extreme Anchors: Experienced negotiators often start with ridiculous, extreme offers to knock you off balance. Be prepared to dodge these "punches" without getting sucked into the compromise trap. Use tactics like deflecting, pivoting to terms, and responding with calibrated questions.

  • Set Boundaries Assertively: When necessary, set firm boundaries and push back against unreasonable demands. Use techniques like "strategic umbrage," "I" messages, and the "ready-to-walk" mindset. However, avoid escalating to anger or aggression - the goal is to maintain a collaborative relationship.

  • Employ the Ackerman Bargaining Model: This systematic approach involves: 1) setting a target price, 2) starting with an extreme anchor at 65% of the target, 3) making three decreasing offers (85%, 95%, 100%), 4) using calibrated questions and "no" responses to get the counterpart to counter, and 5) ending on a precise, non-round number.

How to Create Breakthroughs by Revealing the Unknown Unknowns

Here are the key takeaways from the chapter:

  • Unknown Unknowns (Black Swans) are Powerful: Things that were previously thought to be impossible or never imagined can happen, and these "Black Swans" can have game-changing effects on a negotiation. Negotiators must be open to uncovering these unknown unknowns.

  • Three Types of Leverage: There are three main types of leverage in negotiations:

    • Positive Leverage: The ability to provide or withhold things the other party wants.
    • Negative Leverage: The ability to inflict loss or withhold gain from the other party.
    • Normative Leverage: Using the other party's own norms and standards to advance your position.
  • Understand Your Counterpart's "Religion": Digging into your counterpart's worldview, beliefs, and values (their "religion") can provide powerful normative leverage and help you speak their language.

  • Exploit the Similarity Principle: People are more likely to trust and concede to those they view as similar or familiar. Find common ground with your counterpart.

  • Don't Dismiss the "Irrational": When your counterpart seems to be acting irrationally, it's likely due to constraints, hidden interests, or bad information, not true irrationality. Dig deeper to uncover the underlying reasons.

  • Get Face Time: In-person interactions, especially at unguarded moments, are crucial for uncovering Black Swans that research alone may miss.

  • Embrace Conflict: Avoid the urge to simply compromise or avoid conflict. Thoughtful, empathetic conflict can lead to better, more creative solutions.


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