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Never Split the Difference

By Chris Voss

*A Book Review*

by Michael C. Gray

© 2021 by Michael C. Gray

Imagine being an FBI hostage negotiator. You are negotiating over a hostage's life. In this situation, you can't "split the difference." If you get half of the hostage back, you have lost! There are valuable lessons learned from these extreme scenarios that can be applied in business and personal situations. Former FBI negotiator Chris Voss shares those lessons in Never Split the Difference.

Never Split the Difference isn't just about negotiation, it's also about effective human communications.

Successful negotiation largely depends on getting the other person to do most of the talking. Hopefully, they will eventually reveal their real concerns, which might not have anything to do with their stated demands. For example, in Latin American hostage situations, Voss discovered kidnappers wanted to get some money to party during the weekend. If he could stall, they would often accept a much smaller amount to have the funds for their planned weekend activities.

One way to get the other person talking is by mirroring. Just respond to a statement with their last three words to have the other person continue with his or her thought, and possibly reveal additional critical information.

You can also mirror emotions with phrases such as, "it seems like...", "it sounds like..." and "it looks like...".

Contrary to the philosophy of always trying to get the other person to start saying "yes," Voss found the best place to start a negotiation is to get the other person (or for yourself) to initially say "no." "No" gives the parties time to pivot, adjust and reexamine and create the environment for the "yes" that matters. Then you can follow up with solution-based questions, like "What about this doesn't work for you?"

A key response to elicit from the other person is "That's right!" (Note: "That's right" is not the same as "yes" or "you're right.") When your adversaries say "That's right," they feel they have assessed what you've said and pronounced it as correct of their own free will.

When the other person makes an impossible demand, a response that can get them off their base is, "How am I supposed to do that?"

As part of the information-gathering process, a negotiator should be trying to identify "black swans." Black swans are pieces of information we've never imagined but that would be game changing if uncovered. That are unknown unknowns.

Never Split the Difference includes nail-biting examples of FBI negotiations in the U.S. and overseas. It also includes examples of how people have used the ideas in everyday situations.

For great ideas about communicating and negotiating more effectively, Never Split the Difference is an invaluable book you will want to own and study.

Buy it online at Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It.

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