Reading Time: 4 minutes

My book review this month is on Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It, by Chris Voss. In this book, Voss shares many stories about his years spent in FBI international hostage negotiations, where life depended on the success of the negotiations.

Material compromise was not an option. It was high stakes negotiations with troubled souls who were unknown and perhaps not easily researched, as one might research those involved in a key business deal. Here are some key takeaways from the book.

  • Negotiation is very much about building relationships and engaging in conversation. Two tricks that work well are to name the pain that the other person is feeling up front, and to repeat back what you hear the other party saying.
  • Learn how to start by seeking a ‘no’ at the beginning of your conversation. A ‘no’ can help you understand whether the other party is just not ready, or if they need more data, or perhaps, they are simply uncomfortable. The list of possible barriers is long and a ‘no’ will give you time to ferret them out. An early ‘yes’ response can be very deceiving if you don’t recognize a half-hearted, uncommitted response.
  • Get others involved; i.e., don’t think you have to negotiate without a team listening in for hidden insights that you might miss.
  • Ask “calibrated questions.” They typically begin with how or what, cannot be answered with a yes or no, and have no fixed answer. It gives the other side an “illusion of control” and buys you a little time to think.
  • The challenge in negotiations is to identify the unknown, unknowns, sometimes called, Black Swans. Use the known, knowns as a guide but be careful that you don’t make too many assumptions. Get some face time, even if you are forced to negotiate from afar. To learn what you don’t know, when you don’t know what to ask, you need to get into their minds and figure out what makes them tick, what is critical to them, and what they secretly want.

Thank you for reading, have you read this book? If so, what were your takeaways?