Season 2 The Work of 12: Chris Voss on Never Split the Difference

Chris Voss is one of the worlds leading authorities in hostage negotiation. In this episode, I discuss his excellent book on applying his skills to business negotiations.

Chris Voss is the CEO and Founder of the Black Swan Group Ltd and author of Never Split The Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It. He also taught international business negotiation at Harvard University and was the principal international kidnapping negotiator of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for 4 years. For 7 years he worked with the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit negotiating for high profile international kidnapping cases. During Chris’s 24 year tenure in the Bureau, he was trained in the art of negotiation by not only the FBI but Scotland Yard and Harvard Law School.

Win Win not your best outcome

New Rules

Most Old School don’t work is because they ignore human being

Humans are irrational, emotional and biased

Human beings want to be accepted and understood.

Be an active listener

Start with Active Listening.

What are they saying?

EQ and Empathy

Be a Mirror

Question assumptions

Negotiation is not a battle… it’s an act of discovery

Focus on what other person wants to say. Make them feel safe.

Validate their concerns and emotions.

3 types voice: Late night DJ voice… calm and slow, playful positive… default, direct assertive

Mirroring works magic

Establish TRUST is goal. Insightful and Warm (not bully or fact)

Help them see solving your problem solve their problem

Hear what you want to hear… eliminating all the rest.

Mirroring: Reply using last 3 or 4 words that they have said.

‘YES… last few words’

Signalling I hear you and similar = Trust

DJ voice, I’m sorry, Mirror, Use Silence Effectively, Repeat

Never say I understand

Don’t Feel their pain label it

Make them feel understood – TACTICAL Empathy

Labeling – Actively listen to other person. Validate their emotion.

It seems like…. sounds like… looks like

Extract emotion and state it out loud

MAIN GOALS: Actively listen, employ tactical empathy and employ mirroring and labelling


No can mean – not ready, uncomfortable, understand, afford, need more info, prefer talking someone else

What about this doesn’t work for you?

What would you need to make this work?

It seems like there’s something hear that bothers you?

3 Kinds Yes –

Counterfeit – Easier to say yes

Confirmation – Reflexive to Yes or no

Commitment – real deal

Recognise which YES

No allows real issues, protects bad decisions, slows down, safe and secure


That’s right

Summarize to get it


Fair is critical

Anchor their emotions – acknowledge fears… prepare for a loss

Let other guy go first – opposite anchoring

Establish a range – People get between  _   and _

Pivot to non monetary terms

When you talk numbers use odd ones (numbers ending in 0 seem placeholders)

Surprise them with a gift

Create Illusion of Control

Calibrated Questions: Open ended How and what questions…

Educate on what problem is. Make them feel in charge.

  • What about this is important to you?
  • How can I help 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 are we trying to accomplish here?
  • How am I supposed to do that?

Landlord… How am I supposed to do that? Ask them to help solve your problem

Guarantee Execution

Rule of 3 – Yes, that’s right, calibrated question

Pinocchio effect… liars use third person and more words

Chris Discount – use own name (forced empathy)

Bargain hard

Change tacts and get them out of rigid mindset

Use ‘I’ to bring attention to you.

Never be needy

Ackerman model – target price, 65% 3 raises 85,95,100%, empathy and No, precise number, non monetary item on final number

3 types leverage

Positive – You have the power to give

Negative – You can make them suffer

Normative – Analyze their stance and use it to advance

Find common ground with them and world view


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