Book: Never Split the Difference, Chris Voss


One of the must-reads for negotiations but I’ve come to it very late. It does have some really interesting and unique insights which will be helpful in the future.

Strongly recommended.


Listen to your counterpart. Use positive, easy-going voice. You should (almost) never be assertive in negotiations. Use mirroring (repeating words) and labelling (validating emotions). Get the counterpart to say “no” early. Use calibrated questions that start with “what,” “how,” and “why”. Three negotiation types (analyst, accommodator, assertive) – each one needs to be handled differently.


“I’m just asking questions,” I said. “It’s a passive-aggressive approach. I just ask the same three or four open-ended questions over and over and over and over. They get worn out answering and give me everything I want.”


Psychotherapy research shows that when individuals feel listened to, they tend to listen to themselves more carefully and to openly evaluate and clarify their own thoughts and feelings.

Your goal at the outset is to extract and observe as much information as possible and to reveal all surprises.

In some standoffs, we had as many as five people on the line, analyzing the information as it came in, offering behind-the-scenes input and guidance to our man on the phone.

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.

Make your sole and all-encompassing focus the other person and what they have to say.


Your most powerful tool in any verbal communication is your voice.

Most of the time, you should be using the positive/playful voice. It’s the voice of an easygoing, good-natured person. Your attitude is light and encouraging. Other two: late-night DJ, assertive (used rarely).

You can be very direct and to the point as long as you create safety by a tone of voice that says I’m okay, you’re okay, let’s figure things out.

Put a smile on your face when talking.


A “mirror” is when you repeat the last three words (or the critical one to three words) of what someone has just said.

Four steps for mirroring:

  1. Use the late-night FM DJ voice. 
  2. Start with “I’m sorry …”
  3. Mirror.
  4. Silence. At least four seconds, to let the mirror work its magic on your counterpart.
  5. Repeat.

Emotions aren’t the obstacles, they are the means.

Labeling is a way of validating someone’s emotion by acknowledging it.

Labels almost always begin with roughly the same words: It seems like… It sounds like… It looks like…

I’ve found the phrase “Look, I’m an asshole” to be an amazingly effective way to make problems go away.

The faster we can interrupt the amygdala’s reaction to real or imaginary threats, the faster we can clear the road of obstacles, and the quicker we can generate feelings of safety, well-being, and trust.

We do that by labeling the fears. These labels are so powerful because they bathe the fears in sunlight, bleaching them of their power and showing our counterpart that we understand.

Accusation audit: to prepare for the meeting, list every terrible thing your counterpart could say about you. 

After Anna labeled Angela’s fears, Angela’s first instinct was to add nuance and detail to those fears. And that detail gave Anna the power to accomplish what she wanted from the negotiation.

Imagine yourself in your counterpart’s situation.

The reasons why a counterpart will not make an agreement with you are often more powerful than why they will make a deal, so focus first on clearing the barriers to agreement.

Pause. After you label a barrier or mirror a statement, let it sink in.

Label your counterpart’s fears to diffuse their power.

Yes and No

Pushing hard for “Yes” doesn’t get a negotiator any closer to a win; it just angers the other side.

“No” is the start of the negotiation, not the end of it. 

Then, after pausing, ask solution-based questions or simply label their effect: “What about this doesn’t work for you?” “What would you need to make it work?” “It seems like there’s something here that bothers you.” 

People have a need to say, “No.” So don’t just hope to hear it at some point; get them to say it early.

Sure, the word they’ll say right off is “Yes,” but that word is only a tool to get this blowhard to go away. They’ll weasel out later, claiming changing conditions, budget issues, the weather.

There are actually three kinds of “Yes”: Counterfeit, Confirmation (no promise), and Commitment.

Using all your skills to create rapport, agreement, and connection with a counterpart is useful, but ultimately that connection is useless unless the other person feels that they are equally as responsible, if not solely responsible, for creating the connection and the new ideas they have.

Everyone you meet is driven by two primal urges: the need to feel safe and secure, and the need to feel in control. If you satisfy those drives, you’re in the door.

If your biggest fear is “No,” you can’t negotiate. You’re the hostage of “Yes.”

“No” helps people feel safe, secure, emotionally comfortable, and in control of their decisions;

Email magic: how never to be ignored again. You provoke a “No” with this one-sentence question: “Have you given up on this project?”

That’s right

“That’s right” is great, but if “you’re right,” nothing changes.

Use a summary to trigger a “that’s right.” The building blocks of a good summary are a label combined with paraphrasing.

Bend their reality

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.

Deadlines are often arbitrary, almost always flexible, and hardly ever trigger the consequences we think—or are told—they will.

“No deal is better than a bad deal.”

Hiding your deadlines dramatically increases the risk of an impasse.

And second, when an opponent knows your deadline, he’ll get to the real deal- and concession-making more quickly.

In other words, while we may use logic to reason ourselves toward a decision, the actual decision making is governed by emotion.

Most people make an irrational choice to let the dollar slip through their fingers rather than to accept a derisory offer, because the negative emotional value of unfairness outweighs the positive rational value of the money.

To get real leverage, you have to persuade them that they have something concrete to lose if the deal falls through.

1. Anchor their emotions

By anchoring their emotions in preparation for a loss, you inflame the other side’s loss aversion so that they’ll jump at the chance to avoid it. 

2. Let the other guy go first . . . most of the time.

But going first is not necessarily the best thing when it comes to negotiating price. That’s why I suggest you let the other side anchor monetary negotiations. That said, you’ve got to be careful when you let the other guy anchor. You have to prepare yourself psychically to withstand the first offer.

3. Establish a range

Understand, if you offer a range (and it’s a good idea to do so) expect them to come in at the low end.

4. Pivot to nonmonetary terms

After you’ve anchored them high, you can make your offer seem reasonable by offering things that aren’t important to you but could be important to them.

5. When you do talk numbers, use odd ones

The biggest thing to remember is that numbers that end in 0 inevitably feel like temporary placeholders, guesstimates that you can easily be negotiated off of. Say, $37,263—feels like a figure that you came to as a result of thoughtful calculation. Such numbers feel serious and permanent to your counterpart, so use them to fortify your offers.

6. Surprise with a gift

Add reciprocity.

Create illusion of control

Instead of asking some closed-ended question with a single correct answer, he’d asked an open-ended, yet calibrated one that forced the other guy to pause and actually think about how to solve the problem.

“Hey, dog, how do I know she’s all right?”

Giving your counterpart the illusion of control by asking calibrated questions—by asking for help—is one of the most powerful tools for suspending unbelief.

What was a showdown—“I’m going to leave” versus “You can’t leave”—and asked questions that led the patient to solve his own problem . . . in the way the doctor wanted.

One of the greatest-of-all-time calibrated questions: “How am I supposed to do that?”

Calibrated questions have the power to educate your counterpart on what the problem is rather than causing conflict by telling them what the problem is.

First off, calibrated questions avoid verbs or words like “can,” “is,” “are,” “do,” or “does.” These are closed-ended questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or a “no.” Instead, they start with a list of words people know as reporter’s questions: “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “why,” and “how.” Those words inspire your counterpart to think and then speak expansively.

But let me cut the list even further: it’s best to start with “what,” “how,” and sometimes “why.”

The very first thing I talk about when I’m training new negotiators is the critical importance of self-control. If you can’t control your own emotions, how can you expect to influence the emotions of another party?

You have to keep away from knee-jerk, passionate reactions. Pause. Think. Let the passion dissipate.

Who has control in a conversation, the guy listening or the guy talking? The listener, of course.

Guarantee execution

The kidnapper who was negotiating with Julie seemed extremely perplexed by her persistent questions, and he kept asking for time to think. That slowed everything down, but he never got angry with Julie. Answering questions gave him the illusion that he had control of the negotiation.

Calibrated “How” questions are a surefire way to keep negotiations going. They put the pressure on your counterpart to come up with answers, and to contemplate your problems when making their demands.

Causing the other side to work that hard and forcing that much internal coordination in service of our own goals was unprecedented.

When implementation happens by committee, the support of that committee is key. Simply ask “What do your colleagues see as their main challenges in this area?”

You see, body language and tone of voice—not words—are our most powerful assessment tools.

The Rule of Three is simply getting the other guy to agree to the same thing three times in the same conversation.

Liars start talking about him, her, it, one, they, and their rather than I, in order to put some distance between themselves and the lie. They also discovered that liars tend to speak in more complex sentences in an attempt to win over their suspicious counterparts.

The more in love they are with “I,” “me,” and “my” the less important they are. The harder it is to get a first person pronoun out of a negotiator’s mouth, the more important they are.

The reality is people are often tired of being hammered with their own name in negotiations.

The best way to get your counterparts to lower their demands is to say “No” using “How” questions. These responses will sound so much like counterbids that your counterparts will often keep bidding against themselves.

Some version of “Your offer is very generous, I’m sorry, that just doesn’t work for me” is an elegant second way to say “No.”

You can ignore the so-called negotiating experts who say apologies are always signs of weakness.

“Yes” is nothing without “How.” Asking “How,” knowing “How,” and defining “How” are all part of the effective negotiator’s arsenal.

Bargain hard

Three negotiation types.


  • Analysts are methodical and diligent. They are not in a big rush.
  • Analysts often speak in a way that is distant and cold instead of soothing.
  • Analysts hate surprises.
  • Are hypersensitive to reciprocity.
  • Asking too many questions to start is a bad idea. Use clear data to drive your reason; don’t ad-lib; use data comparisons to disagree and focus on the facts; warn them of issues early; and avoid surprises.


  • The most important thing to this type of negotiator is the time spent building the relationship.
  • Their goal is to be on great terms with their counterpart. They love the win-win.
  • Of the three types, they are most likely to build great rapport without actually accomplishing anything.
  • They will yield a concession to appease or acquiesce and hope the other side reciprocates.
  • If they’re your counterpart, be sociable and friendly.


  • The Assertive type believes time is money; every wasted minute is a wasted dollar.
  • Assertives are fiery people who love winning above all else, often at the expense of others.
  • They focus on their own goals rather than people. And they tell rather than ask.
  • 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.

Before you can even think about bargaining effectively, you have to understand your counterpart’s “normal.” 

Don’t treat others the way you want to be treated; treat them the way they need to be treated.

No matter what happens, the point here is to sponge up information from your counterpart. Letting your counterpart anchor first will give you a tremendous feel for him. All you need to learn is how to take the first punch.

When you want to flip a dubious counterpart to your side, ask them, “Why would you do that?” but in a way that the “that” favors you.


1. Set your target price (your goal).

2. Set your first offer at 65 percent of your target price.

3. Calculate three raises of decreasing increments (to 85, 95, and 100 percent).         

4. Use lots of empathy and different ways of saying “No” to get the other side to counter before you increase your offer. 

5. When calculating the final amount, use precise, nonround numbers like, say, $37,893 rather than $38,000. It gives the number credibility and weight.         

6. On your final number, throw in a nonmonetary item (that they probably don’t want) to show you’re at your limit.

The party who feels they have more to lose and are the most afraid of that loss has less leverage, and vice versa.

As effective negotiators have long known and psychologists have repeatedly proved, potential losses loom larger in the human mind than do similar gains.

Once you’ve understood your counterpart’s worldview, you can build influence.

In other words: listen, listen again, and listen some more.

If you can trigger that instinct, that sense that, “Oh, we see the world the same way,” then you immediately gain influence.

During a typical business meeting, the first few minutes, before you actually get down to business, and the last few moments, as everyone is leaving, often tell you more about the other side than anything in between.