Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

never split the difference

About the Book

Punchy, powerful and packed full of useful information, Never Split the Difference is the ultimate crash-course in negotiation tactics.

Written by former FBI hostage Negotiator, Chris Voss, is takes you on a journey from negotiation theory to ‘black swans’ and everything in between, with unbelievable true-stories laced throughout.

Here are some of my favourite takeaways (of which there are many)!


Favourite Passages

  • “What we needed were simple psychological tactics and strategies that worked in the field to calm people down, establish rapport, gain trust, elicit the verbalisation of needs, and persuade the other guy of our empathy.” Chapter 1: The New Rules


  • “In this world, you get what you ask for; you just have to ask correctly.” Chapter 1: The New Rules


  • “For those people who view negotiation as a battle of arguments, it’s the voices in their own head that are overwhelming them. When they’re not talking, they’re thinking about their arguments, and when they are talking, they’re making their arguments. Often those on both sides of the table are doing the same thing, so you have what I call a state of schizophrenia: everyone just listening to the voice in their head… It may look like there are only 2 people in a conversation, but really it’s more like 4 people all talking at once.” Chapter 1: The New Rules


  • “Going too fast is one of the mistakes all negotiators are prone to making. If we’re too much in a hurry, people can feel as if they’re not being heard and we risk undermining the rapport and trust we’ve built. There’s plenty of research that now validates the passage of time as one of the most important tools for a negotiator. When you slow the process down, you also calm it down.” Chapter 2: Be a Mirror


  • “Strike up a conversation and put a label on one of the other person’s emotions – it doesn’t matter if you’re talking to the mailman or your ten-year-old daughter – and then go silent. Let the label do its work. [It invites the other person to reveal himself.] Chapter 3: Don’t Feel Their Pain, Label It


  • “All of us have intuitively done something close to this thousands of times. You’ll start a criticism of a friend by saying, “I don’t want this to sound harsh…” hoping that whatever comes next will be softened… The small but critical mistake this commits is denying the negative. That actually gives it credence.” Chapter 3: Don’t Feel Their Pain, Label It


  • “For good negotiators, “No” is pure gold. That negative provides a great opportunity for you and the other party to clarify what you really want by eliminating what you don’t want.” Chapter 4: Beware “Yes” – Master “No”


  • “Instead ask, ‘Is now a bad time to talk?’ Either you get ‘Yes, it is a bad time’ followed by a good time or a request to go away, or you get ‘No, it’s not’ and total focus.” Chapter 4: Beware “Yes” – Master “No”


  • “The moment you’ve convinced someone that you truly understand her dreams and feelings (the whole world that she inhabits), mental and behavioural change becomes possible, and the foundation for a breakthrough has been laid.” Chapter 5: Trigger the Two Words that Immediately Transform Any Negotiation


  • “I’m here to call bullshit on compromise right now. We don’t compromise because it’s right; we compromise because it is easy and because it saves face… Distilled to its essence, we compromise to be safe. Most people in a negotiation are driven by fear or by the desire to avoid pain. Too few are driven by their actual goals.” Chapter 6: Bend their Reality


  • “Deadlines are the bogeyman of negotiation, almost exclusively self-inflicted figments of our imagination, unnecessarily unsettling us for no good reason. The mantra we coach our clients on is ‘No deal is better than a bad deal.'” Chapter 6: Bend their Reality


  • “‘I got a lousy proposition for you,’ I said, and paused until each asked me to go on. ‘By the time we get off the phone, you’re going to think I’m a lousy businessman. You’re going to think I can’t budget or plan… And he might have even lied to me.’// And then, once I’d anchored their emotions in a minefield of low expectations, I played on their loss aversion.// ‘Still, I wanted to bring this opportunity to you before I took it to someone else,’ I said.” Chapter 6: Bend their Reality


  • “The biggest thing to remember is that numbers that end in 0 inevitably feel like temporary placeholders, guesstimates that you easily be negotiated off of. But anything you throw out that sounds less rounded – say, $37,263 – feels like a figure that you came to as a result of thoughtful calculation.” Chapter 6: Bend their Reality


  • “When you go into a store, instead of telling the salesclerk what you ‘need’, you can describe what you’re looking for and ask for suggestions.// Then, once you’ve picked out what you want, instead of hitting them with a hard offer, you can just say the price is a bit more than you budgeted and ask for help with one of the greatest-of-all-time calibrated questions: ‘How am I supposed to do that?’ The critical part of this approach is that you really are asking for help and your delivery must convey that. With this negotiating scheme, instead of bullying the clerk, you’re asking for their advice and giving them the illusion of control.” Chapter 7: Create the Illusion of Control


  • “The first and most basic rule of keeping your emotional cool is to bite your tongue… Pause. Think. Let the passion dissipate. That allows you yo collect your thoughts and and be more circumspect in what you say.” Chapter 7: Create the Illusion of Control


  • “The researchers dubbed this the Pinocchio Effect because, just like Pinocchio’s nose, the number of words grew along with the lie. People who are lying are, understandably, more worried about being believed, so they work harder – too hard, as it were – at being believable.” Chapter 8: Guarantee Execution


  • “I was in an outlet mall… and picked out some shirts in one of the stores. At the front counter the young lady asked me if I wanted to join their frequent buyer program.// I asked her if I got a discount for joining and she said ‘No’.// So I decided to try another angle. I said in a friendly manner, ‘My name is Chris. What’s the Chris discount?’.// She looked from the register, met my eyes, and gave a little laugh.// ‘I’ll have to ask my manager, Kathy,’ she said and turned to the woman who’d been standing next to her.// Kathy, who’d heard the whole exchange, said, ‘The best I can do is ten percent.” Chapter 8: Guarantee Execution


  • “When you’re dealing with the Assertive types, it’s best to focus on what they have to say, because once they are convinced you understand them, then and only then will they listen for your point of view.” Chapter 9: Bargain Hard


  • “We’ve seen how each of these groups views the importance of time differently (time = preparation; time = relationship; time = money). They also have completely different interpretations of silence…” Chapter 9: Bargain Hard


  • “You can also respond to a punch-in-the-face anchor by simply pivoting to terms. What I mean by this is that when you feel you’re being dragged into a haggle you can detour the conversation to the non-monetary issues that make any final price work.” Chapter 9: Bargain Hard


  • “One way to understand leverage is as a fluid that sloshes between the parties. As a negotiator you should always be aware of which side, at any given moment, feels they have the most to lose if negotiations collapse. The party who feels they have more to lose and are the most afraid of that loss has less leverage, and vice versa.” Chapter 10: Find the Black Swan


  • “When the pressure in on, you don’t rise to the occasion – you fall to your highest level of preparation.” Appendix


What Others Are Saying

review for never split the difference


Star Rating:


I haven’t started putting the tactics to use yet so I don’t know how effective they’ll be, but from everything I’d read, I’m hopeful they’ll work a treat!

I loved this from start to finish. It’s not often I glean so much new information from one book and when I do, it makes me very happy indeed. I feel like I’m a negotiation ninja now!

Highly, HIGHLY recommend!


2 thoughts on “Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

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