STANWOOD insights

Book review: Never Split the Difference - Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It - Chris Voss

Aug 13, 2019 10:45:22 AM / by Hannes Kleist

Our head of catering Hannes, reviews his favorite books.

This week Hannes read the a deeply insightful book about negotiation.

If you imaging the international head hostage negotiator of the FBI to give you hard ball pressure tactics, you will be disappointed. 

Successful negotiation is all about empathy and rapport. 

The book describes how you can do that step-by-step.


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.

Mirroring, also called isopraxism, is essentially imitation. It’s another neurobehavior humans (and other animals) display in which we copy each the average tip of the waiters who mirrored was 70 percent more than of those who used positive reinforcement.

Anger is rarely productive—in you or the person you’re negotiating with. It releases stress hormones and neurochemicals that disrupt your ability to properly evaluate and respond to situations. And it blinds you to the fact that
you’re angry in the first place, which gives you a false sense of confidence.

I always acknowledge the other person’s anger. I’ve found the phrase “Look, I’m an asshole”

  • 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? The implication

Don’t try to force your opponent to admit that you are right. Aggressive confrontation is the enemy of constructive negotiation.

Avoid questions that can be answered with “Yes” or tiny pieces of information. These require little thought and inspire the human need for reciprocity; you will be expected to give something back.
Ask calibrated questions that start with the words “How” or “What.” By implicitly asking the other party for help, these questions will give your counterpart an illusion of control and will inspire them to speak at length, revealing important information.

Don’t ask questions that start with “Why” unless you want your counterpart to defend a goal that serves you. “Why” is always an accusation, in any language.

Calibrate your questions to point your counterpart toward solving your problem. This will encourage them to expend their energy on devising a solution.

Bite your tongue. When you’re attacked in a negotiation, pause and avoid angry emotional reactions. Instead, ask your counterpart a calibrated question.

There is always a team on the other side. If you are not influencing those behind the table, you are vulnerable.

There could always be someone whispering into his ear. At the end of the day, the deal killers often are more important than the deal makers.

(A surprisingly high percentage of negotiations hinge on something outside dollars and cents, often having more to do with self-esteem, status, and other nonfinancial needs.)

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?

You: “I heard you say, ‘Yes,’ but it seemed like there was hesitation in your voice.” Them: “Oh, it’s nothing really.” You: “No, this is important, let’s make sure we get this right.” Them: “Thanks, I appreciate it.”

I said in a friendly manner, “My name is Chris. What’s the Chris discount?”

But while innocent and understandable, thinking you’re normal is one of the most damaging assumptions in negotiations.

“Well, if you go to Harvard Business School, they’re going to charge you $ 2,500 a day per student.”

Buy the book here