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The Three Types of Leverage

There are three types of leverage you can use in a negotiation:

  1. Positive leverage: Ability to provide or withhold things your counterpart wants.
  2. Negative leverage: Ability to make your counterpart suffer.
  3. Normative leverage: Using your counterpart's norms or standards to advance your position. For example, if your counterpart says they pay their people fairly, you can use that to argue for a fair salary.

Black Swans can provide either positive, negative or normative leverage that you can use to your advantage.

Section: 1, Chapter: 10

Book: Never Split The Difference

Author: Chris Voss

The Negotiation One-Sheet

To prepare for a negotiation, Voss recommends making a one-page 'negotiation sheet' that summarizes:

  1. The goal you want
  2. A summary of key facts about the situation
  3. Labels and calibrated questions for an accusation audit
  4. Calibrated questions you can use to shape the negotiation
  5. Noncash items possessed by your counterpart that would be valuable

Section: 1, Chapter: 7

Book: Never Split The Difference

Author: Chris Voss

Anchor Their Emotions In Preparation For A Loss

fore you make an offer, emotionally anchor your counterpart by saying how bad it will be. Steps:

  1. Warn your counterpart first: "I've got a lousy proposition for you"
  2. Then put out your offer: "We can only pay $500, but let me tell you why..."
  3. Silence - let it sink in, and do not make a counteroffer
  4. When making your offer, use precise non-round numbers like $517 vs $500

Section: 1, Chapter: 6

Book: Never Split The Difference

Author: Chris Voss

Avoiding Confrontational Showdowns

In the 1993 Waco siege, negotiators were dealing with David Koresh, a man who believed he was the Messiah. Traditional bargaining tactics and "rational" arguments were useless. The FBI negotiators tried to get Koresh to see their way but ended up in a series of useless confrontational showdowns.

In situations like this, negotiators need to avoid head-on disagreements and instead "seduce" the other party by asking calibrated "How?" questions.

For example, instead of telling Koresh his demands were crazy, they could have asked "How am I supposed to get that for you?" This would have made Koresh feel in control while still leading him to realize his position was unreasonable.

Section: 1, Chapter: 7

Book: Never Split The Difference

Author: Chris Voss

Deadlines Are Often Arbitrary

Deadlines are often arbitrary and almost never trigger the consequences we think - or are told - they will. The other side uses deadlines to put pressure on you, but in reality, they are often just a negotiation tactic.

The best way to use deadlines is to impose them on the other side. For example, kidnappers would give the FBI deadlines, but Voss' team figured out the kidnappers just wanted ransom by Friday to party on the weekend. So the FBI used that knowledge to drag out negotiations until Thursday or Friday, when the kidnappers were more flexible.

Section: 1, Chapter: 6

Book: Never Split The Difference

Author: Chris Voss

The FBI's Covert Negotiation Weapons

Over two decades of experience, the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit developed a framework of proven negotiation tactics:

  1. Active Listening: Listen intently to your counterpart and make them feel understood
  2. Tactical Empathy: Recognize and vocalize your counterpart's perspective without necessarily agreeing
  3. Mirroring: Imitate your counterpart's speech patterns to build rapport
  4. Labeling: Put their feelings into words to show understanding and diffuse negativity
  5. Paraphrasing: Repeat back what they say in your own words
  6. Summarizing: Combine paraphrasing and labeling to reinforce key points
  7. Calibrated Questions: Gently say no by asking open-ended questions that start with "how" or "what"

Section: 1, Chapter: 1

Book: Never Split The Difference

Author: Chris Voss

The Chris Discount

Using your own name creates the dynamic of "forced empathy" - it makes the other side see you as a person.Voss likes to use his own name to cut through the business tension and create a personal connection, often in a fun playful way.

For example, when a store clerk asks him if he wants to join their rewards program, he'll say "I'd love to, but only if I can get the Chris discount." Then he smiles. Or when negotiating a contract and feeling pushed into a corner, he'll say "C'mon, I'm Chris, just give me the Chris price."

Humanizing yourself with your own name is a great way to break down barriers and make the other side want to cooperate with you.

Section: 1, Chapter: 8

Book: Never Split The Difference

Author: Chris Voss

The Secret To Gaining The Upper Hand

"The goal is to identify what your counterparts actually need and get them feeling safe enough to talk about what they want. The latter will help you discover the former. Wants are easy to talk about, representing the aspiration of getting your way, and sustaining any illusion of control we have as we begin to negotiate; needs imply survival, the very minimum required to make us act, and so make us vulnerable."

Section: 1, Chapter: 2

Book: Never Split The Difference

Author: Chris Voss

"The Ultimate Currency In Business Is Not Money. It's Trust."

"More than ever before, trust is the most important currency in business. The ability to build trust, and do it authentically, is the greatest predictor of a brand's success... Without trust, a business fails."

Section: 2, Chapter: 5

Book: Company Of One

Author: Paul Jarvis

Negotiation Is Not Rational, It's Emotional

Humans are not rational beings, we are emotional, irrational beasts prone to cognitive biases. Negotiation is not about logic and intellect, it's about emotions and feelings.

To be a great negotiator, you have to get over your aversion to negotiating. Don't avoid conflict, learn to embrace it. Negotiation is really about getting what you want from others in a psychologically savvy way.

Successful negotiation involves getting your counterpart to do the work for you by triggering their own internal pressures and desires. The goal is to have them make your argument for you.

Section: 1, Chapter: 1

Book: Never Split The Difference

Author: Chris Voss

Win/Win Agreements Turn Implicit Expectations Into Explicit Commitments

One of the most practical ways to implement a Win/Win paradigm is developing Win/Win Agreements. These agreements transform fuzzy expectations into concrete deliverables, creating clarity and buy-in on both sides. Covey outlines five key elements:

  • Desired results: What specific outcomes are we trying to achieve?
  • Guidelines: What parameters will guide our efforts?
  • Resources: What financial, technical or human resources can we draw on?
  • Accountability: How will we evaluate results? When will we check in?
  • Consequences: What do we expect to happen as a result of achieving (or not achieving) the desired results?

To put this into practice, think of an upcoming project or collaboration. Take time upfront to discuss these five elements with all involved. The process of making expectations explicit often uncovers hidden misalignment. It also equips everyone to hold themselves and each other accountable for success.

Section: 3, Chapter: 6

Book: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Author: Stephen Covey

Using Knowledge To Gain An Edge

The common thread between the KKK and real estate agents is information asymmetry - they both use specialized knowledge and privileged information to gain an edge over the general public.

  • KKK members closely guarded their secret rituals, language, and practices to maintain an aura of mystery and menace that facilitated their intimidation tactics
  • Real estate agents are privy to extensive data on home sales, buyer interest, market conditions, etc. that they can leverage to get better deals for themselves versus for their clients

In both cases, piercing the veil of secrecy can help level the playing field. When Stetson Kennedy exposed the KKK's secrets, it defanged the organization. And digital tools have made it easier for homeowners to get comparable sales data, reducing real estate agents' historical information advantage.

Section: 1, Chapter: 2

Book: Freakonomics

Author: Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

Don't Go In With Assumptions

Good negotiators enter interactions with a mindset of discovery, looking to extract and observe as much information as possible. But most people enter with assumptions and arguments already in their head, which blinds them to what is really happening.

Hold multiple hypotheses and use the negotiation to test them. Don't treat your assumptions as gospel but as your negotiating counterpart's positions and arguments unfold before you.

Great negotiators question the assumptions that others accept on faith, and thus remain more emotionally open to all possibilities.

Section: 1, Chapter: 2

Book: Never Split The Difference

Author: Chris Voss

Mirroring

During a hostage negotiation, Voss asked the hostage taker "We chased your driver away?" mirroring the kidnappers own words back to him. This simple mirroring led the kidnapper to start "vomiting" information, admitting key details about his accomplice they didn't previously know about.

Section: 1, Chapter: 2

Book: Never Split The Difference

Author: Chris Voss

Religion - Digging Into Your Counterpart's Worldview

To uncover Black Swans and gain leverage, you need to dig into your counterpart's worldview - what Voss calls their "religion".

Your counterpart's religion is what they believe is important, what their organization values, their standards for what is fair or good or worthy.

By understanding your counterpart's religion, you can craft your proposal in a way that resonates with what they believe and what they value. You uncover your counterpart's religion by listening closely, picking up clues in how they talk about themselves, their company, and their values.

Section: 1, Chapter: 10

Book: Never Split The Difference

Author: Chris Voss

Loss Aversion Is A Powerful Motivator

People will take greater risks to avoid losses than to achieve gains. Make sure your counterpart sees there is something to lose by inaction.

But don't try to force your counterpart to admit that you're right. Aggressive confrontation is the enemy of constructive negotiation.

Avoid questions that can be answered with "yes" or tiny pieces of information. These require little thought and inspire the need for reciprocity. Instead, ask calibrated questions that start with "How" or "What." This will give your counterpart the illusion of control and inspire them to speak at length, revealing important information.

Section: 1, Chapter: 6

Book: Never Split The Difference

Author: Chris Voss

"You're Right" Is Not Agreement

Voss' son Brandon was a high school football player who tackled blockers head on, even when coached not to. Voss explained to him why this was bad, and Brandon would say "You're right" but then go right back to the bad behavior. "You're right" was not real agreement, just a way to end the conversation.

So Voss tried another approach - he summarized and labeled Brandon's worldview, saying "You seem to think it's unmanly to dodge a block." Brandon thought about it and said "That's right." This was a breakthrough - Brandon now saw the real reason for his behavior and was able to change it. "You're right" is often counterfeit, while "that's right" is a sign of true agreement and openness.

Section: 1, Chapter: 5

Book: Never Split The Difference

Author: Chris Voss

Creating Unconditional Positive Regard

When someone feels understood, and positively affirmed in that understanding, they become much more likely to open up and reveal more of themselves. This is called unconditional positive regard, and it is crucial to reaching negotiation breakthroughs.

Negotiators can trigger it by skillfully summarizing and labeling their counterpart's perspective until they respond with "that's right."

Humans have an innate urge to socially constructive behavior. The more a negotiator makes their counterpart feel understood and positively affirmed, the more likely they are to act in a positive and collaborative way.

Section: 1, Chapter: 5

Book: Never Split The Difference

Author: Chris Voss

The Tortured Truth: When Interrogation Tactics Backfire

The KSM interrogation raises thorny ethical questions about when, if ever, coercion is justified with a terrorist who may have knowledge of imminent threats. However, Gladwell contends that the practical reality is that harsh techniques are often counterproductive from a pure fact-finding perspective:

  • Sleep deprivation, waterboarding, and other EITs are designed to break down resistance, not enhance recall
  • Sustained stress and trauma can cause false confessions and distorted memories
  • Torture may condition detainees to say whatever they believe interrogators want to hear
  • Building rapport and trust is more effective for eliciting actionable intelligence

While the "ticking time bomb" scenario is a compelling thought experiment, in reality, Gladwell argues, coercion is a poor tool for getting at the truth with an uncooperative stranger.

Section: 4, Chapter: 9

Book: Talking to Strangers

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

"Yes" Is Nothing Without "How"

In a negotiation, your job isn't just to get an agreement, but to get your counterpart to follow through on the agreement. Asking "How?" questions is the key to guaranteeing execution.

For example, "How will we know we're on track?" and "How will we address things if we find we're off track?"Ask calibrated "How" questions until your counterpart answers "That's right."

Only then will you have confidence they will execute."Yes" is meaningless without a strong commitment to "How." Asking "How" ensures your counterpart has a plan and a vision of the successful outcome.

Section: 1, Chapter: 8

Book: Never Split The Difference

Author: Chris Voss

Let the Other Side Go First

"The other guy has stuff he's not showing you, and you're going to have to get him to talk about it. To uncover these things, you have to let him go first. You've got to really listen and look for those opportunities where he reveals his hand."

Section: 1, Chapter: 4

Book: Never Split The Difference

Author: Chris Voss

The 7-38-55 Percent Rule

When it comes to negotiation, the 7-38-55 Percent Rule states that:

  • 7 percent of a 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.

This means that most of the important information is coming through the way you say it, not what you say. Skilled negotiators pay very close attention to tone of voice and body language to gain additional insights.

Section: 1, Chapter: 8

Book: Never Split The Difference

Author: Chris Voss

Be Aware of the F-Word

The F-word - "Fair" - is an emotional term people exploit to put the other side on the defensive. When your counterpart drops the F-bomb, don't get suckered into a concession.

Instead, ask them to explain how you're mistreating them.The best way to use "Fair" is at the start of the negotiation. Say "I want you to feel I'm treating you fairly at all times. So please stop me at any time if you feel I'm being unfair and we'll address it."

Using "Fair" in this way sets you up as an honest dealer and gives your counterpart permission to use the word "Fair" in the negotiation

Section: 1, Chapter: 9

Book: Never Split The Difference

Author: Chris Voss

The FBI's Lead International Kidnapping Negotiator

Chris Voss, the author, was the FBI's lead international kidnapping negotiator. He worked on over 150 international hostage cases during his 24-year career with the FBI. Through his experience negotiating with terrorists, bank robbers, and kidnappers, Voss developed a new approach to high-stakes negotiation based on emotional intelligence and empathy.

Section: 1, Chapter: 1

Book: Never Split The Difference

Author: Chris Voss

Ackerman Bargaining

Voss recommends using the Ackerman Bargaining system to negotiate price. The steps are:

  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, non-round numbers like, say, $37,893 rather than $38,000. It gives the number credibility and weight.
  6. On your final number, throw in a non-monetary item (that they probably don't want) to show you're at your limit.

Section: 1, Chapter: 9

Book: Never Split The Difference

Author: Chris Voss

Don't Feel Their Pain, Label It

Tactical empathy is understanding the feelings and mindset of another in the moment and also hearing what is behind those feelings so you increase your influence in all the moments that follow. It's bringing our attention to both the emotional obstacles and the potential pathways to getting an agreement done. The steps are:

  1. Actively listen to their side
  2. Vocalize the underlying emotions you hear (labeling)
  3. Pause and let them talk more
  4. Repeat until they have vented all their emotions and feel understood

Section: 1, Chapter: 3

Book: Never Split The Difference

Author: Chris Voss

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