Book Notes – Never Split the difference – Voss

Never split the difference - book by Chris Voss
Never split the difference – book by Chris Voss

Negotiation isn’t so much about the issue at hand but what the other person really wants. Establishing trust and getting down the real reason are main steps to negotiation.


  • Slow, deep calm voice. Objective is to get as much information to determine what is really the issue
  • Mirroring is mimicking what the other person does and builds a subcontious bond (people do it naturally), speech patterns, tone of voice, body language, vocabulary, tempo etc.
  • Repeat last few words of the sentence so other party provides more information on the subject, pause so other party can think and respond.
  • To Confront -> with slow deep voice, start with I’m sorry, mirror (intent is please let me understand), at least 4 seconds of silence, repeat
  • Smiling is effective way to convey positivity and break barriers


  • Acknowledge someone’s emotions – “It looks like …” “It seems like…” “it sounds like…”
  • Acknowledge the negative to diffuse it (incl emotions)
  • Accusation Audit – Start with something that is very bad to soften the response “I don’t want to seem like an asshole…”
  • Empathise with the other’s situation so you can acknowledge it and relay that you are listening.
  • Clear the barriers to agreement, usually more powerful than why they want to make a deal

Beware Yes, master no

  • No starts the conversation, yes and maybe are often hiding other objections. No often means
    • I’m not ready to agree
    • You are making me uncomfortable
    • I don’t understand
    • I don’t think I can afford it
    • I want something else
    • I need more information
    • I want to talk it over with someone else
  • Yes has 3 meanings, Counterfeit (means no but wants to escape), Confirmation (reflex response), Commitment (this is an actual yes)
  • Telemarketer orient script with “no” as answer they are looking for is 23% more effective
  • Logic and brute force does not work, other party has to convince themselves that the solution you want is their own idea. Ask questions that lead them to it.

Trigger the two words (That’s right)

  • The more a person feels understood and affirmed, the more likely constructive behaviour will happen
  • You’re right is not good
  • Using a summary can trigger the “that’s right” reaction. – label + paraphrasing

Bending the reality

  • Know what the actual intent is, not just what is voiced
  • Don’t meet halfway, bad deal for both
  • Deadlines make people rush and do impulsive things that may not be in their interest
  • The word “Fair” is used to put the other side on the defensive and gain, don’t agree, ask them to explaining how it is unfair
  • Anchor the starting point, say it will be bad, use something high so the “real” offer is reasonable.
  • People will take more risks to avoid a loss vs get a gain. Make them see there is something to lose by not acting.

Create illusion of control

  • Confrontation is not good for constructive negotiation
  • Avoid questions with short answers or yes/no, they give little information and set an expectation that you will do the same
  • Use calibrated questions “How …” “What …” it implicitly asks the other party for help. don’t use “why…”
  • Calibrate questions to solving your problem
  • Pause before responding to avoid emotional reactions

Guarantee execution

  • How questions to keep them engaged and illusion of control
  • Use “How can I do that” instead of no
  • Tone of voice and body language more important than actual words
  • To detect counterfeit yes, get them to reaffirm their agreement (calibrated questions, summaries, labels)
  • The use of “I” or “me”, “my” says real power is elsewhere, using “we”, “they” , “them” likely decision maker
  • Use your name to make yourself a person to the other side, can use humour as well.

Bargain Hard

  • Identify if counterpart is Accomodator, assertive or analyst.
  • Preparation is key, design goal, lablels, calibrated questions and responses ahead of time
  • Don’t compromise
  • Set boundaries
  • Set your max and offer 65, 85, 95, 100% don’t end on round numbers so counterpart thinks this is a though our number. Can throw in non-monetary item as well with last offer to help.

Black Swan

  • Be flexible, there may be unknown factors at play
  • Black swan is leverage multiplier (Positive – give what they want, negative – hurt someone, normative – use norms to bring them around)
  • Knowing the other side’s world views help find the black swan
  • Review what you heard, compare notes, try toread between the lines
  • Exploit similiarity, show share common ground
  • Irrational or crazy likely are not, need to find the constraints, hidden desires and bad info
  • Face time is much better to assess nonverbal communication.





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