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Book Summary: Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

You are not robbed just because the other party was smarter than you during negotiations said Warren Buffett.

Start your Negotiation with Right Kind of Voice

There are three kinds of voices you can use for negotiation.

1. DJ FM voice: DJ FM voice is a voice of calm and assurance.

Talk slowly and clearly and even don’t command order in Dj FM voice. Even while making a statement use a downward inflection tone of voice.


Upward inflection invites responses and brings ambiguity, plus your statement sounds like a question.

2. Positive playful voice: It’s an easy-going voice that shows confidence. You need to sprinkle smile in your conversation, and your attitude should be encouraging.

Smile increases mental alertness and brings your counterpart in a positive frame of mindset.

This will help the other party to take a problem-solving approach, instead of fighting.

3. Direct voice:

The direct voice makes direct statements but creates safety before making direct statements.

In negotiation focus on listening because listening helps you to reveal the needs of your counterpart.

You can easily talk about wants but start with listening neither want nor need. With listening skills, you can build trust, validate emotions and create safety to begin the real conversation.

However, listening takes time and you should be attentive while listening because if you’re in hurry, your counterpart can sense it. You may risk destroying the rapport you made so far.

In negotiation don’t focus your energy on what you want to say, instead how you say it.


Your brain understands words and feelings behind those words. You can easily understand the intention of another person by observing words.

Try mirroring in any conversation to build rapport. It is neurobehavioral. In this, you copy other moments to comfort your conversation partner. You can do this with body patterns, vocabulary, and rate of speech.

It’s unconscious behavior that indicates people are connecting in sync and establishing rapport.

In Mirroring one person unconsciously repeats the moments of another person such as gesture and speech pattern. A negotiator only mirror words to establish rapport and build trust.

In this, you repeat the last three words of your counterpart, and your counterpart explains what he just said.

De-escalating Emotion with Labeling Tactics

Do you know emotions can derail your communication? Instead of ignoring emotions you should identify the emotions of your counterpart and influence them.

Now the question is, how do you detect the emotions?

With listening skills, you can know everything about your counterpart. How do you convey you’re listening?

You should acknowledge another person’s situation but don’t agree with opinion, values and beliefs.

If you understand the emotions, you’ve a chance to turn them to your advantage. The more you know about someone, the more power you’ll gain.

What is the difference between empathy and sympathy?

Empathy is the ability to understand other person feelings while sympathy is the ability to take part in someone else’s feelings and feel the pain.

Tactical empathy is understanding the feelings and mindset of your counterpart and the cause behind feelings.

You can use tactical empathy to understand and then verbalize the predictable emotions of the situation.

When you observe a person’s face, gesture and tone of voice. Your brain begins to align with them and help you to understand their feeling.

In negotiation, this is known as labeling. Labeling is a process of validating someone’s emotions by acknowledging it, giving emotion a name and show your identity.

Label each negative emotion and replace it with positive thoughts. Labels will also help you in de-escalating anger as it forces the other persons’ to acknowledge the feelings rather than continue to act.

Labeling has a specific rule that makes it less like chatting. The first step of labeling is to detect the other person’s emotional state. Once you’ve spotted an emotion you want to highlight the next step is to label it aloud.

Labels can frame as the following statements:

  • It seems like…
  • It sounds like…
  • It looks like…

With labels, your counterpart will give longer answers instead of yes or no. If he disagrees with you, you can say I didn’t say that, I just said it seems like that.

The last rule of labeling is silence. Once you’ve shot a label, now it’s time to be quiet and listen.

Crave No in any Negotiation

Pushing hard for yes in any negotiation doesn’t take you closer to your counterpart. But it definitely angers the other side.

You should crave for no in negotiation. Experience negotiators seek no because real negotiation begins after it. As it provides you the opportunity to clarify what you want by eliminating what you don’t want.

‘No’ doesn’t end the conversation, but it brings the actual issue on the table. It rarely means I’ve considered all the facts and make a choice.

Saying no provides a little protection because changes are scary.

Everyone needs to feel in control. When your counterpart can say no to your idea, the emotions calm, and the effectiveness goes up.

With this, your counterpart can look at your proposal. And this gives you time to convince him that changes you‘re offering is better than the existing condition.

Saying no can bring down the barriers and allow effective communication. This means you‘ve to train yourself to hear no other than rejection.

When someone tells you no you need to re-think the word in its alternatives form.

  • I’m not ready yet to agree.
  • You’re making me feel uncomfortable.
  • I don’t understand.
  • I want something else’s.
  • I don’t think I can afford it.
  • I want more information.
  • I want to talk it over with someone else.

Pause for a second and then ask solution-based questions.

  • What about this doesn’t work for you?
  • What would you need to make it work?

You can also label their effect. Like, It seems like there is something that bothers you.

People are habitual to say no. Don’t hear it at some point in your negotiation let them say early.

Kinds of Yes

Now let’s learn about kinds of yes.

There are three kinds of ‘Yes’.

  1. Counterfeit.
  2. Confirmation.
  3. Commitment.

A counterfeit yes in which your counterpart plans to say no but feel it’s easy to say yes to escape from a conversation.

Never Split the Difference Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, Counterfeit 'Yes'

Counterfeit ‘Yes’

A confirmation yes is an innocent or a force response. It’s a simple affirmation with no promise to action.

Your goal should be a commitment yes. It’s a real deal. It’s a true agreement that ends with a signature on the contract.

The commitment yes is your end goal. But, the three kinds sound same. So you’ve to train your ears to recognize which one your counterpart is using.

Understanding the right kind of yes helps you to get a signature on your deal.

In every negotiation, the result comes from someone else’s decision. And if you believe you can control other decisions with logic and compromise. You’re wrong. You can’t control other decisions, but you can influence them.

Everyone you meet is direct by two primal urges; the need to feel safe and secure, and the need to feel in control.

You can’t logically convince your counterpart that he’s safe and in control. Instead of, getting inside with logic and fake smiles. You can reach there by asking for no.

Saying no gives the feelings of safety security, and in control. You can use questions that prompt no answers. And your counterpart feels that by turning you down he’s proved that he’s in a driver seat.

Despite this, if your counterpart isn’t saying no then you should end the conversation and walk away. Because you’re dealing with people who are confused or having a hidden agenda.

‘No’ opens the discussion. The sooner you force your counterpart to say no the sooner you’ll see options and opportunities that you were blind to see.

No has a lot of skills in it.

  • No strengthens the real issue to bring forward.
  • No protect people from making weak decisions.
  • No helps people to feel safe, secure, and emotionally comfortable.

But, there is a difference between making your counterpart feel he can say no and getting him to say no.

Hiding Deadline can lead you to terrible outcomes

Your counterpart might have hidden needs, desires, and undeveloped notions. Once you understand the unspoken need.

You’ll discover a universe of variables that you can use to change your counterpart’s needs and expectations using fears of deadline and mysterious power of odd numbers.

But you should not compromise. Because splitting the difference can lead to a terrible outcome.

You might be thinking,

What is Splitting the Difference?

Let’s say, I’m selling you an old car in $5,000. but you’re offering me $4,300. So let’s split the difference and make a price in which both agree. That’s is $4,650.

In simple term, it is the average of two amounts.

People drive by fear or desire to avoid pain. Too few are driven by the goal. So don’t settle with less than what you intended. And here is a simple rule, never split the difference.

Creative solutions are preceded by some kind of risk, confusion, and conflict. You’ve to embrace the hard stuff. That’s where the good deals are.

You need to keep the cooperative, rapport building empathetic approach, the kind of environment in which you can make a deal.

The process of rapport building may take time, even you aren’t sure that the situation will be in your favor or not. And, you might desire to speed up the process so you can reach the end outcome.

But resist this urge. Because when you allow the variable of time to trigger urgency, you’ll create an environment of reactive behavior and poor choices. And your counterpart may be thinking you aren’t listening.

In research, it finds out hiding your deadline increases risk. Because it pushes you to speed up the process, but your counterpart may be thinking he has time, and hold to get more concession.

Moore discovered that if you tell your counterpart about your deadline, the chances are you’ll get a better deal. When your counterpart knows your deadline. He’ll get to the deal quickly.

Identifying the unmet objectives

If you as a negotiator can help people to reveal problems, pain, and unmet objective.

If you understand what people are buying. You can sell them a solution to their problems.

In negotiation, it isn’t enough to show that you can deliver what your counterpart wants. To get the real advantage you’ve to persuade him that he can lose something if the deal falls.

Once you know the emotional driver you can frame the benefits to get any deal.

You may be wondering why people chose your deal? First, you need to understand how people choose options that involve risk.

Prospect theory describes how a person prefers between options that involve risk.

It says a person will choose a sure thing over probability.

Even when probability is a better choice. This is known as the certainty effect.

And a person takes greater risk to avoid losses than to achieve gain. This’s known as loss aversion.

1. Emotion Anchoring: You should begin with empathy. So start with acknowledging all fears of your counterpart by anchoring their emotions in preparation for a loss.

2. Let the other guy go first: Going first isn’t a good choice when it comes to negotiating prices. Because no one has complete information.

The issue is neither side has perfect information. This means you don’t know enough to open with confidence.

If you don’t know the market value of what you’re buying or selling. You’ve to be careful and let the other guy anchor first(say the price first).

If the guy on the other side of the table is pro then he is come up with a mediocre offer to grind your emotions. Your emotion reaches its peak, you need to control yourself.

You’ve to prepare yourself to withstand the emotional storm.

However, if you’re dealing with a beginner counterpart, you can throw out an extreme anchor.

And, if you know the market and you’re dealing with. You might offer a number to speed up your negotiation process.

Why your counterpart throw a mediocre offer?

When your counterpart gives you a mediocre offer, your emotions reach its peak. Because this isn’t what you expected earlier.

Now when he throws another offer better from the first one. But not what you expected. You’ll agree with this offer. This is known as an anchor and adjustment effect. And this helps people to hire other people below their worth.

3. Establishing a range: Do you want to go first?


Start with the estimated range.

Instead of saying, I’m worth $1,17, 000 you can say at this position people usually get between $1,19, 000 to $1,55, 000.

With this, you give your counterpart an idea about your expectation.

Now your counterpart begins to think higher. Because People who hear extreme anchors adjust their expectations unconsciously.

Now if you give the range of $1,19,000 to $1,55,000. Then your counterpart would offer you $1,19,000 because it looks cheap in comparison with $1,55,000.

And make sure the below amount of your range is what you expect. So if you want $1,17,000 your range should start from $1,17, 000 or more.

4. Non-monetary terms: What happens when your counterpart isn’t agreed with $1,19, 000?

In this, you may switch to non-monetary terms.

When the offer is low you could ask your counterpart for non-monetary terms. Something that isn’t important to your counterpart but could be important to you.

5. The Magic of Odd Numbers: When you use numbers use odd numbers. Any less round number let say, $1,93, 128 because it feels like the result comes from the thoughtful calculation.

The Power of Calibrate Questions

Negotiation involved getting your counterpart to do the work for you and suggest your solution. It involves giving him the illusion of control while you were the once defining the end goals.

You’ve to calibrate questions carefully, like you would calibrate a gun sight, to target a specific problem.

Calibrated questions avoid verbs or words like can, is, are, do, does. These are close-ended questions that can be answered simply yes or no.

Instead, calibrate questions start: who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Calibrate questions words inspire your counterpart to think, and then speak.

Start with what, how, and sometimes why. Who, when, and where will get your counterpart to share facts without thinking. And the word why can backfire.

You can use what and how to calibrate any questions.

Does this look like something you would like? Will become how does this look to you?

Even, why did you do it? Can be calibrated as what caused you to do it?

This will take away the emotion. And your calibrate questions should not look like you’re accusing your counterpart.

Calibrated questions make your counterpart feel he’s in charge, but in reality, you’re framing the conversation.

Remember when you enter a negotiation arm yourself with your list of calibrated questions.

But here is a trick!

Without self-control and emotion control. It doesn’t work.

If you can’t control your emotions how can you expect to influence the emotions of others?

To keep your emotional cool is to slightly press your tongue between your teeth.

Biting your tongue helps you to calm your emotions when you’re verbally attacked. Don’t counterattack. Instead, disarm your counterpart by asking a calibrated question.

When your counterpart feels he is losing control he may become defensive.

Neurologically in situations like this, the fight or flight mechanism in the reptilian brain or the emotion in the limbic system overwhelm the rational part of our mind. Then this leads your counterpart to become defensive.

Aware of Level Two Player

If you want ‘yes’ and get your deal to fulfill, you’ve to discover and influence level two-player.

When implementation happens by committee, the support of that committee is key. You’ve to identify motives.

It’s easy and can carry out by asking a few calibrated questions, like How does this affect the rest of your team?

In any negotiation, you’ve to analyze the entire negotiation space. Because people who are affected by what is negotiated can protest their power later on.

It is stupid to consider the interests of those who are on the table. You’ve to beware of behind the table, level two-player. Because deal killers play a significant role than deal makers.

However, you could avoid all this. All you need a tool kit of calibrated questions. Then, with the specific wrench, you can undress every kind of nut. The toolkit of calibrated questions:

Never Split the Difference Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, toolkit

  • How does this affect everybody else?
  • How onboard is the rest of your team?
  • How do we make sure that we delivered that right material to the right people?
  • How do we ensure the managers of those we’re training are fully onboard?

Learn how to deal with Jerk

As negotiators, you’re going to talk to guys who lie at your face and try to scare you.

You need to learn how to deal with jerks.

Identify deception is part of negotiation. But, you also need to learn how to recognize and interpret the subtitles of communication like verbal, nonverbal, and paraverbal to persuade your counterpart.

Now, you may be wondering what is paraverbal?

Paraverbal refers to how you say words. How you say something depends upon how you feel.

You maybe feel happy, sad, angry, or forceful. Your feelings determine your tone of voice, and the way you say words is important.

Even changing a single word can unconsciously influence the conscious choice of your counterpart.

You need tools to disarm jerk and charm everybody else’s. Now it’s the time to check the second set of the toolkit.

The 7-38-55 percentage Rule: Albert Mehrabian created the 7-38-55 rule. The rule says only 7 percent of the message is based on the words while 38 percent comes from the tone of voice, and 55 percent from the speaker’s body language and face.

Strengthen the power of yes: You might be in a conversation where you go for ‘yes’ but later turned out to be ‘no’. Maybe the other party was lying to you. But, it is a common experience. People will lie at your face.

You may be wondering how you save yourself from this?

Agrees your counterpart on the same thing three times in the same conversation.

It’ll triple the strength of ‘yes’, and uncover problems before it happens. because it is tough to repeat lies.

To avoid sound pushy, vary your tactics. You can also use calibrated questions to triple the power of yes.

  • What is the biggest challenge you faced?
  • What are we up against here?
  • What do you see as being the most difficult things to get around?

Aksing ‘yes’ for three times uncover deception and incongruence between words and body language.

The Pinocchio Effect: You peer display sign when he lie.

Because liar use more words to describe a situation than truth-teller.

Liar use him, her, it, one, they, and their rather than ‘I’.

Because peer wants to put some distance between himself and the lie. Liar even speaks in a complex sentence because he is trying hard to convince people.

Plus, the number of words grew along with the lie. People who are lying are more worried about being belied. So they work hard to make sentences.

Pay attention to their use of pronoun: The use of pronouns can help give you a clue about counterpart importance in the decision making process.

The best way to get your counterpart to lower their demands is to say ‘no’ using how questions. These questions are indirect saying ways of saying no.

You can express ‘no’ four times before saying the word.

The first is, How I’m supposed to do that? The statement sound like you’re asking for help.

Second is, I’m sorry that just doesn’t work for me is a second way to say ‘no’.

I’m sorry but I’m afraid, I just can’t do that. It is a little more direct. By expressing an inability to perform, it triggers the other side empathy towards you.

I’m sorry no, is a slightly more concise version to say no.

No is the last and more direct way. But, it should be delivered in a downward inflection.

How to Bargain?

Recognization of psychological subtleties can play a significant role at the bargaining table.

Your negotiation style and your counterpart form through childhood, schooling, family, and culture.

Before you begin negotiation, understand your counterpart style. In bargaining sessions, experience negotiators lead with a silly offer to grind emotions of the counterpart.


Because your counterpart wants you to feel absurd.

Extreme anchoring is powerful as it makes your emotions unstable and you’ll lose emotional stability.

But, there are ways to weather the storm.


Negotiators deflect the storm with questions like, what are we trying to accomplish here?

When you’re dragging into a bargaining process. You can diverse the conversation to the non-monetary terms to make the final price.

You can do this by saying directly in an encouraging tone of voice, What else would you able to offer to make a good price for me?

However, if your counterpart pushes you to go first. Suggest a high number that someone else’s might charge.

Then in confidence voice say, “I’m sorry that just doesn’t work for me”.

In the bargaining session, the principle is to never look your counterpart as an enemy.

The person across the table is never the problem. But, the unsolved issue is. Focus on the issue. This helps you to avoid emotional escalation.

Black swan that change the game

Black swan is the piece of information once unrevealed can change the game. In negotiation, there are three kinds of information.

First, the information you know, like your counterpart name, offers and their expectation.

Second the information you know that exists but didn’t know where it is.

And the last is a black swan. The piece of information once uncover can change the negotiation. It’s the information out there but you may not give attention to it.

As it is a piece of information you never imagine.

You should remain flexible and adaptable in any situation.

Chris Voss belief that in every negotiation your counterpart may hold at least three black swans. Three unpredictable pieces of information once discover could change the game.

Finding and acting on back swans require a change in mindset. Because black swan isn’t easy to detect.

Conventional questions and research techniques work to confirm ‘known’ and reduce uncertainty. They don’t dig deep to discover ‘unknowns’.

To uncover black swan, ask questions. Read non-verbal clues. And pay attention to the voice of your counterpart.

You’ve to feel for the truth, note small pauses that suggest discomfort and lies.

In some negotiations, you may feel you’ve leverage. Maybe you’re in a position of authority or have access to more information than the other person. Other times you may feel you’ve no leverage at all.

You need to figure out what your counterpart wants to achieve and fears to lose. With this piece of information, you can build leverage.

Leverage is an emotional concept, and can be manufactured either it exists or not.

As a negotiator, you need to persuade your counterpart that he’ll lose something if the deal falls. This will help you to build leverage.

You need to look for pieces of information that show what is important to your counterpart, What signifies status and reputation to them? What most worries to them?

To find this information, go outside from the negotiating table and speak to a third party that knows your counterpart.

Once you understand your counterpart world view you can build influence.

When your counterpart display attitude, beliefs that is similar to your, you tend to like them more. This will help you to increase rapport.

Treat your counterpart with dignity and respect, and be honest about what you want and what you can’t do.

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