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Never split the difference summary

It’s always good to think about a few skills that broaden your horizons. One of these skills is negotiating. Chriss Voss didn’t have the option to have a BATNA as the chief FBI negotiator, or best alternative to negotiated agreement. What’s the BATNA when someone’s taken 20 hostages? Only half get killed?

That has given Voss a unique take on negotiation: How to get people to do what you want and let it seem to be their own idea. Never split the difference.

I came across his book through the “The knowledge project” podcast with him. It’s one of the first books I bring up when I talk books with people. The stories are entertaining and the techniques are easy to remember. As always there’s even a few nuggets you can transport to your marketing campaigns.

Use calibrated questions

Calibrated questions buy time and give your opponent the illusion of control

One of the key items in “Never split the difference” are calibrated questions. They are designed to say no while keeping your options open. They buy time and give your opponent the illusion of control. The always begin with “What” or “How” and they avoid the possibility of a yes or no answer.

  • How can we solve this problem?
  • What about X is important to you?
  • How am I supposed to do that?
  • What makes you ask that?

Prepare a few of these calibrated questions in advance so you have a go to list. You can use them to extract more information, so look for things you need to know and what your opponent wants or needs.

Responding the right way

It’s not a tennis match: you’ve got time.

Take a five seconds before responding. This allows you to calm down and gather your thoughts. It’s not a tennis match: you’ve got time. This pause also gives off the impression that you consider what they said to be important.

Mirror the last part of what they said, or even summarise it. Try to get them to say: “that’s right”. This is a sign that they made and you understood the point you made. Mirroring also enables your opponent to expand their thoughts, helping you to identify key points that will derail the negotiation.

Name something that’s bothering them without having it come across as an accusation

To talk about things that the other side wants to avoid you can use a technique called labeling. This consists of saying “It seems like” or “it looks like”. That makes sure that you name something that’s bothering them without having it come across as an accusation. Once you throw that label out thereā€¦ listen.

Bits and bops

  • The more important your counterpart makes themselves (I, me) the less important they likely are, and vice versa (we, they).
  • You need to know what success looks like.
  • Why is very accusatory as a question. Try to rewrite it as a “What made you, what caused you” question.
  • Get them to answer “yes” three times to different summaries and calibrated questions to make sure that you’re on the same page.

Want to see if “Never split the difference” is something for you? Check out the Authors at Google talk with Chris Voss on YouTube.

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