Never Split the Difference

Sometimes it can be hard to get a customer to be on the same page as you. Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss shows you how to be an expert negotiator. Voss's offers recommendations from when he was a hostage negotiator with the FBI.
Harrison Kenning
June 15, 2021

Who is Chris Voss and why listen to him?

Chris Voss was an FBI agent for 24 years. He worked his way up to being the top kidnapping negotiator in the entire FBI organization. In other words, he reached the peak of his profession and was known to be very good at what he did.

In this book, Chris shares many exciting stories of times when he helped to release a hostage safely. More importantly, he shares many lessons in negotiation, lessons that are universal. This means it doesn’t matter if you’re an FBI negotiator or you’re just trying to get a higher salary or resolve a family conflict. The principles of human communication are always the same.

Being on the phone with bank robbers and terrorists forced Chris and the FBI to find negotiation strategies that work no matter what. And these are the exact same strategies you’re about to learn.

Today Chris runs a consulting group called Black Swan Ltd that helps Fortune 500 companies win complex negotiations.


You seek real understanding between you and your counterpart.

This is the moment you’ve convinced someone that you truly understand their dreams and feelings, you’re laying the foundation of true behavioural and mental change for them.

The two words you seek are: “that’s right.”

Once the counterpart says (or thinks) those words, they’ve truly understood and embraced what you’ve said as the(ir) reality. To them, it’s a subtle epiphany. (Beware: “you’re right” is the exact opposite and brings no behavioural change. It’s usually just another counterfeit “yes”.)

To trigger a “that’s right” moment:

  1. Pause and listen actively (sketched in chapter 2).
  2. Use minimal encouragers, such as “Yes,” “OK,” “Uh-huh,” or “I see”.
  3. Mirror (listen and repeat back what they’ve said).
  4. Label their feelings (chapter 3), ie. “It all seems so tragically unfair, I can now see why you sound so angry.”
  5. Paraphrase what they’ve said in your own words, showing you aren’t merely parroting the other person.
  6. Finally, summarise. Rearticulate the meaning of what is said and label the underlying emotions. In other words, repeat back the “world according to your counterpart.” Anyone faced with a good summary will respond “that’s right.”

Here is a great 10 minute video that outlines this book.

You can purchase the book here: Amazon Link

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