Book notes: Never Split the Difference, by Chris Voss

What follows are my highlighted quotes from the book—the best book I have ever read about negotiating. You can also read my summary of Never Split the Difference.


I was employing what had become one of the FBI’s most potent negotiating tools: the open-ended question.

calibrated questions:

queries that the other side can respond to but that have no fixed answers.

Separate the person—the emotion—from the problem; two, don’t get wrapped up in the other side’s position (what they’re asking for) but instead focus on their interests (why they’re asking for it) so that you can find what they really want; three, work cooperatively to generate win-win options; and, four, establish mutually agreed-upon standards for evaluating those possible solutions.

Framing Effect, which demonstrates that people respond differently to the same choice depending on how it is framed (people place greater value on moving from 90 percent to 100 percent—high probability to certainty—than from 45 percent to 55 percent, even though they’re both ten percentage points).

Prospect Theory explains why we take unwarranted risks in the face of uncertain losses. And the most famous is Loss Aversion, which shows how people are statistically more likely to act to avert a loss than to achieve an equal gain.

Man, he wrote, has two systems of thought: System 1, our animal mind, is fast, instinctive, and emotional; System 2 is slow, deliberative, and logical. And System 1 is far more influential. In fact, it guides and steers our rational thoughts.

What were needed were simple psychological tactics and strategies that worked in the field to calm people down, establish rapport, gain trust, elicit the verbalization of needs, and persuade the other guy of our empathy. We needed something easy to teach, easy to learn, and easy to execute.

It all starts with the universally applicable premise that people want to be understood and accepted. Listening is the cheapest, yet most effective concession we can make to get there. By listening intensely, a negotiator demonstrates empathy and shows a sincere desire to better understand what the other side is experiencing.

The majority of the interactions we have at work and at home are negotiations that boil down to the expression of a simple, animalistic urge: I want.

So it’s useful—crucial, even—to know how to engage in that conflict to get what you want without inflicting damage.

Good negotiators, going in, know they have to be ready for possible surprises; great negotiators aim to use their skills to reveal the surprises they are certain exist.

really smart people often have trouble being negotiators—they’re so smart they think they don’t have anything to discover.

Great negotiators are able to question the assumptions that the rest of the involved players accept on faith or in arrogance, and thus remain more emotionally open to all possibilities, and more intellectually agile to a fluid situation.

do you really need a whole team to . . . hear someone out?” The fact that the FBI has come to that conclusion, I tell them, should be a wake-up call. It’s really not that easy to listen well.

We engage in selective listening, hearing only what we want to hear, our minds acting on a cognitive bias for consistency rather than truth. And that’s just the start.

we are easily overwhelmed.

When they’re not talking, they’re thinking about their arguments, and when they are talking, they’re making their arguments. Often those on both sides of the table are doing the same thing, so you have what I call a state of schizophrenia: everyone just listening to the voice in their head (and not well, because they’re doing seven or eight other things at the same time). It may look like there are only two people in a conversation, but really it’s more like four people all talking at once.

There’s one powerful way to quiet the voice in your head

prioritizing your argument—in fact, instead of doing any thinking at all in the early goings about what you’re going to say—make your sole and all-encompassing focus the other person and what they have to say. In that mode of true active listening—aided by the tactics you’ll learn in the following chapters—you’ll disarm your counterpart. You’ll make them feel safe. The voice in their head will begin to quiet down.

The goal is to identify what your counterparts actually need (monetarily, emotionally, or otherwise) and get them feeling safe enough to talk and talk and talk some more about what they want.

it begins with listening, making it about the other people, validating their emotions, and creating enough trust and safety for a real conversation to begin.

Going too fast is one of the mistakes all negotiators are prone to making.

When we radiate warmth and acceptance, conversations just seem to flow. When we enter a room with a level of comfort and enthusiasm, we attract people toward us.

Most of the time, you should be using the positive/ playful voice. It’s the voice of an easygoing, good-natured person.

When people are in a positive frame of mind, they think more quickly, and are more likely to collaborate and problem-solve (instead of fight and resist).

When you inflect in an upward way, you invite a response. Why? Because you’ve brought in a measure of uncertainty.

If I see a work-for-hire clause, for example, I might say, “We don’t do work-for-hire.” Just like that, plain, simple, and friendly. I don’t offer up an alternative, because it would beg further discussion, so I just make a straightforward declaration.

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.

The other group of waiters mirrored their customers simply by repeating their orders back to them. The results were stunning: the average tip of the waiters who mirrored was 70 percent more than of those who used positive reinforcement.

If you take a pit bull approach with another pit bull, you generally end up with a messy scene and lots of bruised feelings and resentment. Luckily, there’s another way without all the mess. It’s just four simple steps: 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.

The intention behind most mirrors should be “Please, help me understand.”

negotiation is primarily a language of conversation and rapport: a way of quickly establishing relationships and getting people to talk and think together.

Don’t commit to assumptions; instead, view them as hypotheses and use the negotiation to test them rigorously.

People who view negotiation as a battle of arguments become overwhelmed by the voices in their head. Negotiation is not an act of battle; it’s a process of discovery.

The late-night FM DJ voice: Use selectively to make a point. Inflect your voice downward, keeping it calm and slow. When done properly, you create an aura of authority and trustworthiness without triggering defensiveness.

The positive/ playful voice: Should be your default voice. It’s the voice of an easygoing, good-natured person. Your attitude is light and encouraging. The key here is to relax and smile while you’re talking.

Mirrors work magic. Repeat the last three words (or the critical one to three words) of what someone has just said. We fear what’s different and are drawn to what’s similar. Mirroring is the art of insinuating similarity, which facilitates bonding. Use mirrors to encourage the other side to empathize and bond with you, keep people talking, buy your side time to regroup, and encourage your counterparts to reveal their strategy.

Emotions are one of the main things that derail communication. Once people get upset at one another, rational thinking goes out the window.

You can learn almost everything you need—and a lot more than other people would like you to know—simply by watching and listening, keeping your eyes peeled and your ears open, and your mouth shut.

empathy is “the ability to recognize the perspective of a counterpart, and the vocalization of that recognition.”

I didn’t say anything about agreeing with the other person’s values and beliefs or giving out hugs. That’s sympathy. What I’m talking about is trying to understand a situation from another person’s perspective.

We didn’t just put ourselves in the fugitives’ shoes. We spotted their feelings, turned them into words, and then very calmly and respectfully repeated their emotions back to them. That’s called labeling.

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

Think of labeling as a shortcut to intimacy, a time-saving emotional hack.

For most people, it’s one of the most awkward negotiating tools to use. Before they try it the first time, my students almost always tell me they expect their counterpart to jump up and shout, “Don’t you dare tell me how I feel!” Let me let you in on a secret: people never even notice.

no matter how they end, labels almost always begin with roughly the same words: It seems like . . . It sounds like . . . It looks like . .

“It sounds like . . .” and not “I’m hearing that . . .” That’s because the word “I” gets people’s guard up.

Labeling negatives diffuses them (or defuses them, in extreme cases); labeling positives reinforces them.

I learned how important it was to go directly at negative dynamics in a fearless but deferential manner.

The best way to deal with negativity is to observe it, without reaction and without judgment. Then consciously label each negative feeling and replace it with positive, compassionate, and solution-based thoughts.

It was the stupidly aggressive, impersonal, tone-deaf style of communication that is the default for most business.

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.

Think back to that Harlem landing: I didn’t say, “It seems like you want us to let you go.” We could all agree on that. But that wouldn’t have diffused the real fear in the apartment, or shown that I empathized with the grim complexity of their situation. That’s why I went right at the amygdala and said, “It seems like you don’t want to go back to jail.”

The road is not always cleared so easily, so don’t be demoralized if this process seems to go slowly. The Harlem high-rise negotiation took six hours. Many of us wear fears upon fears, like layers against the cold, so getting to safety takes time.

“It seems that you are really passionate about this gift and want to find the right project reflecting the opportunities and life-changing experiences the Girl Scouts gave you.”

By digging beneath what seems like a mountain of quibbles, details, and logistics, labels help to uncover and identify the primary emotion driving almost all of your counterpart’s behavior, the emotion that, once acknowledged, seems to miraculously solve everything else.

defense lawyers do this properly by mentioning everything their client is accused of, and all the weaknesses of their case, in the opening statement. They call this technique “taking the sting out.”

The first step of doing so is listing every terrible thing your counterpart could say about you, in what I call an accusation audit.

As you just saw, the beauty of going right after negativity is that it brings us to a safe zone of empathy. Every one of us has an inherent, human need to be understood, to connect with the person across the table.

“It seems you are taking the rough day pretty well,” he says. “I was also affected by the weather delays and missed my connecting flight. It seems like this flight is likely booked solid, but with what you said, maybe someone affected by the weather might miss this connection. Is there any possibility a seat will be open?”

I encourage you to take the risk of sprinkling these in every conversation you have. I promise you that they will feel awkward and artificial at first, but keep at it. Learning to walk felt awfully strange, too.

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.

List the worst things that the other party could say about you and say them before the other person can. Performing an accusation audit in advance prepares you to head off negative dynamics before they take root. And because these accusations often sound exaggerated when said aloud, speaking them will encourage the other person to claim that quite the opposite is true.

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.

people will fight to the death to preserve their right to say “No,” so give them that right and the negotiating environment becomes more constructive and collaborative almost immediately.

There are actually three kinds of “Yes”: Counterfeit, Confirmation, and Commitment.

Though the intensity may differ from person to person, you can be sure that 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.

By pushing for a “No,” Marti nudged her supervisor into a zone where he was making the decisions. And then she furthered his feelings of safety and power with a question inviting him to define her next move.

If you want do something today to make sure that doesn’t happen, you can give to XYZ Committee, which is working hard to fight for you. See how clearly that swaps “Yes” for “No” and offers to take a donation if Mr. Smith wants? It puts Mr. Smith in the driver’s seat; he’s in charge.

Another way to force “No” in a negotiation is to ask the other party what they don’t want. “Let’s talk about what you would say ‘No’ to,” you’d say. And people are comfortable saying “No” here because it feels like self-protection. And once you’ve gotten them to say “No,” people are much more open to moving forward toward new options and ideas.

If despite all your efforts, the other party won’t say “No,” you’re dealing with people who are indecisive or confused or who have a hidden agenda. In cases like that you have to end the negotiation and walk away. Think of it like this: No “No” means no go.

Have you given up on this project? The point is that this one-sentence email encapsulates the best of “No”-oriented questions and plays on your counterpart’s natural human aversion to loss.

Break the habit of attempting to get people to say “yes.” Being pushed for “yes” makes people defensive. Our love of hearing “yes” makes us blind to the defensiveness we ourselves feel when someone is pushing us to say it.

“No” is not a failure. We have learned that “No” is the anti-“ Yes” and therefore a word to be avoided at all costs. But it really often just means “Wait” or “I’m not comfortable with that.” Learn how to hear it calmly. It is not the end of the negotiation, but the beginning.

Saying “No” makes the speaker feel safe, secure, and in control, so trigger it.

That’s why “Is now a bad time to talk?” is always better than “Do you have a few minutes to talk?”

Persuasion is not about how bright or smooth or forceful you are. It’s about the other party convincing themselves that the solution you want is their own idea.

If a potential business partner is ignoring you, contact them with a clear and concise “No”-oriented question that suggests that you are ready to walk away. “Have you given up on this project?” works wonders.

If you successfully take someone up the Behavioral Change Stairway, each stage attempting to engender more trust and more connection, there will be a breakthrough moment when unconditional positive regard is established and you can begin exerting influence.

the sweetest two words in any negotiation are actually “That’s right.”

The “that’s right” breakthrough usually doesn’t come at the beginning of a negotiation. It’s invisible to the counterpart when it occurs, and they embrace what you’ve said.

Summarize: A good summary is the combination of rearticulating the meaning of what is said plus the acknowledgment of the emotions underlying that meaning (paraphrasing + labeling = summary).

Driving toward “that’s right” is a winning strategy in all negotiations. But hearing “you’re right” is a disaster.

You’re right.” He agreed, in theory, but he didn’t own the conclusion. Then he would go right back to the behavior we were trying to get him to stop.

The moment you’ve convinced someone that you truly understand her dreams and feelings (the whole world that she inhabits), mental and behavioral change becomes possible, and the foundation for a breakthrough has been laid.

Use a summary to trigger a “that’s right.” The building blocks of a good summary are a label combined with paraphrasing. Identify, rearticulate, and emotionally affirm “the world according to . .

There’s always leverage. Negotiation is never a linear formula: add X to Y to get Z. We all have irrational blind spots, hidden needs, and undeveloped notions.

We don’t compromise because it’s right; we compromise because it is easy and because it saves face.

You’ve got to embrace the hard stuff. That’s where the great deals are. And that’s what great negotiators do.

Increasing specificity on threats in any type of negotiations indicates getting closer to real consequences at a real specified time.

To gauge the level of a particular threat, we’d pay attention to how many of the four questions—What? Who? When? And how?—were addressed.

When people issue threats, they consciously or subconsciously create ambiguities and loopholes they fully intend to exploit.

when negotiators tell their counterparts about their deadline, they get better deals.

“If you approach a negotiation thinking that the other guy thinks like you, you’re wrong,” I say. “That’s not empathy; that’s projection.”

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

“Fair?” you’d respond, pausing to let the word’s power do to them as it was intended to do to you. Follow that with a label: “It seems like you’re ready to provide the evidence that supports that,” which alludes to opening their books or otherwise handing over information that will either contradict their claim to fairness or give you more data to work with than you had previously. Right away, you declaw the attack.

“I want you to feel like you are being treated fairly at all times. So please stop me at any time if you feel I’m being unfair, and we’ll address it.”

As a negotiator, you should strive for a reputation of being fair.

while our decisions may be largely irrational, that doesn’t mean there aren’t consistent patterns, principles, and rules behind how we act.

people are drawn to sure things over probabilities, even when the probability is a better choice. That’s called the Certainty Effect.

people will take greater risks to avoid losses than to achieve gains. That’s called Loss Aversion.

The chance for loss incites more risk than the possibility of an equal gain.

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

let the other side anchor monetary negotiations.

neither side has perfect information going to the table. This often means you don’t know enough to open with confidence. That’s especially true anytime you don’t know the market value of what you are buying or selling,

be careful when you let the other guy anchor. You have to prepare yourself psychically to withstand the first offer.

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.

I want to stimulate my counterpart’s brainstorming to see what valuable nonmonetary gems they might have that are cheap to them but valuable to me.

numbers that end in 0 inevitably feel like temporary placeholders,

The line went silent and the nephew began to sweat profusely, but we told him to hold tight. This always happened at the moment the kidnapper’s economic reality got totally rearranged.

“What does it take to be successful here?”

we all were still suffering under the notion that negotiation was a wrestling match where the point is to exhaust your opponent into submission, hope for the best, and never back down.

the calibrated, or open-ended, question. What it does is remove aggression from conversations by acknowledging the other side openly, without resistance. In doing so, it lets you introduce ideas and requests without sounding pushy. It allows you to nudge.

we had this very tit-for-tat mentality. Under that mentality, if we called up the bad guys we were asking for something, and if they gave it to us we had to give them something back. And so, because we were positive that the Burnhams were alive, we’d never bothered to call and ask for proof of life.

And all negotiation, done well, should be an information-gathering process that vests your counterpart in an outcome that serves you.

Worst of all, the bad guys know that they have just given you something—a proof of life—which triggers this whole human reciprocity gene.

It’s a “how” question, and “how” engages because “how” asks for help.

the secret to gaining the upper hand in a negotiation is giving the other side the illusion of control.

Our job as persuaders is easier than we think. It’s not to get others believing what we say. It’s just to stop them unbelieving.

“Unbelief is the friction that keeps persuasion in check,”

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’s so powerful about the senior doctor’s technique is that he took 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.

“He who has learned to disagree without being disagreeable has discovered the most valuable secret of negotiation.”

you can just say the price is a bit more than you budgeted and ask for help with one of the greatest-of-all-time calibrated questions: “How am I supposed to do that?” The critical part of this approach is that you really are asking for help and your delivery must convey that. With this negotiating scheme, instead of bullying the clerk, you’re asking for their advice and giving them the illusion of control.

The real beauty of calibrated questions is the fact that they offer no target for attack like statements do. 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.

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.”

it’s best to start with “what,” “how,” and sometimes “why.”

What and how questions are the key.

Regardless of what language the word “why” is translated into, it’s accusatory.

The only time you can use “why” successfully is when the defensiveness that is created supports the change you are trying to get them to see. “Why would you ever change from the way you’ve always done things and try my approach?”

the key to getting people to see things your way is not to confront them on their ideas (“ You can’t leave”) but to acknowledge their ideas openly (“ I understand why you’re pissed off”) and then guide them toward solving the problem (“ What do you hope to accomplish by leaving?”).

If you can’t control your own emotions, how can you expect to influence the emotions of another party?

The script we came up with hit all the best practices of negotiation we’ve talked about so far. Here it is by steps:
1. A “No”-oriented email question to reinitiate contact: “Have you given up on settling this amicably?”
2. A statement that leaves only the answer of “That’s right” to form a dynamic of agreement: “It seems that you feel my bill is not justified.”
3. Calibrated questions about the problem to get him to reveal his thinking: “How does this bill violate our agreement?”
4. More “No”-oriented questions to remove unspoken barriers: “Are you saying I misled you?” “Are you saying I didn’t do as you asked?” “Are you saying I reneged on our agreement?” or “Are you saying I failed you?”
5. Labeling and mirroring the essence of his answers if they are not acceptable so he has to consider them again: “It seems like you feel my work was subpar.” Or “. . . my work was subpar?”
6. A calibrated question in reply to any offer other than full payment, in order to get him to offer a solution: “How am I supposed to accept that?”
7. If none of this gets an offer of full payment, a label that flatters his sense of control and power: “It seems like you are the type of person who prides himself on the way he does business—rightfully so—and has a knack for not only expanding the pie but making the ship run more efficiently.”
8. A long pause and then one more “No”-oriented question: “Do you want to be known as someone who doesn’t fulfill agreements?” From my long experience in negotiation, scripts like this have a 90 percent success rate. That is, if the negotiator stays calm and rational. And that’s a big if.

The first and most basic rule of keeping your emotional cool is to bite your tongue. Not literally, of course. But you have to keep away from knee-jerk, passionate reactions. Pause. Think. Let the passion dissipate. That allows you to collect your thoughts and be more circumspect in what you say. It also lowers your chance of saying more than you want to.

Another simple rule is, when you are verbally assaulted, do not counterattack. Instead, disarm your counterpart by asking a calibrated question. The next time a waiter or salesclerk tries to engage you in a verbal skirmish, try this out. I promise you it will change the entire tenor of the conversation.

when people feel that they are not in control, they adopt what psychologists call a hostage mentality. That is, in moments of conflict they react to their lack of power by either becoming extremely defensive or lashing out.

Don’t try to force your opponent to admit that you are 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 human need for reciprocity; you will be expected to give something back.

Ask calibrated questions that start with the words “How” or “What.” By implicitly asking the other party for help, these questions will give your counterpart an illusion of control and will inspire them to speak at length, revealing important information.

Don’t ask questions that start with “Why” unless you want your counterpart to defend a goal that serves you. “Why” is always an accusation, in any language.

Calibrate your questions to point your counterpart toward solving your problem. This will encourage them to expend their energy on devising a solution.

Bite your tongue. When you’re attacked in a negotiation, pause and avoid angry emotional reactions. Instead, ask your counterpart a calibrated question. There is always a team on the other side. If you are not influencing those behind the table, you are vulnerable.

Your tone of voice is critical as this phrase can be delivered as either an accusation or a request for assistance. So pay attention to your voice.

negotiation is often called “the art of letting someone else have your way.”

(A surprisingly high percentage of negotiations hinge on something outside dollars and cents, often having more to do with self-esteem, status, and other nonfinancial needs.)

We could have avoided all that had we asked a few calibrated questions, like: How does this affect everybody else? How on board is the rest of your team? How do we make sure that we deliver the right material to the right people? How do we ensure the managers of those we’re training are fully on board?

UCLA psychology professor Albert Mehrabian created the 7-38-55 rule. That is, only 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.

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

vary your tactics. The first time they agree to something or give you a commitment, that’s No. 1. For No. 2 you might label or summarize what they said so they answer, “That’s right.” And No. 3 could be a calibrated “How” or “What” question about implementation that asks them to explain what will constitute success, something like “What do we do if we get off track?”

liars use more words than truth tellers and use far more third-person pronouns. They start talking about him, her, it, one, they, and their rather than I, in order to put some distance between themselves and the lie.

The researchers dubbed this the Pinocchio Effect because, just like Pinocchio’s nose, the number of words grew along with the lie.

The use of pronouns by a counterpart can also help give you a feel for their actual importance in the decision and implementation chains on the other side of the table. The more in love they are with “I,” “me,” and “my” the less important they are.

Conversely, the harder it is to get a first person pronoun out of a negotiator’s mouth, the more important they are.

Instead, take a different tack and use your own name. That’s how I get the Chris discount.

Humanize yourself. Use your name to introduce yourself. Say it in a fun, friendly way. Let them enjoy the interaction, too. And get your own special price.

you can usually express “No” four times before actually saying the word.

The first step in the “No” series is the old standby: “How am I supposed to do that?” You have to deliver it in a deferential way, so it becomes a request for help. Properly delivered, it invites the other side to participate in your dilemma and solve it with a better offer. After that, 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.)

Then you can use something like “I’m sorry but I’m afraid I just can’t do that.”

The art of closing a deal is staying focused to the very end. There are crucial points at the finale when you must draw on your mental discipline. Don’t think about what time the last flight leaves, or what it would be like to get home early and play golf. Do not let your mind wander. Remain focused.

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

Ask calibrated “How” questions, and ask them again and again. Asking “How” keeps your counterparts engaged but off balance. Answering the questions will give them the illusion of control. It will also lead them to contemplate your problems when making their demands. Use “How” questions to shape the negotiating environment. You do this

By using “How can I do that?” as a gentle version of “No.” This will subtly push your counterpart to search for other solutions—your solutions. And very often it will get them to bid against themselves.

Don’t just pay attention to the people you’re negotiating with directly; always identify the motivations of the players “behind the table.” You can do so by asking how a deal will affect everybody else and how on board they are.

Follow the 7-38-55 Percent Rule by paying close attention to tone of voice and body language. Incongruence between the words and nonverbal signs will show when your counterpart is lying or uncomfortable with a deal.

Is the “Yes” real or counterfeit? Test it with the Rule of Three: use calibrated questions, summaries, and labels to get your counterpart to reaffirm their agreement at least three times. It’s really hard to repeatedly lie or fake conviction.

A person’s use of pronouns offers deep insights into his or her relative authority. If you’re hearing a lot of “I,” “me,” and “my,” the real power to decide probably lies elsewhere. Picking up a lot of “we,” “they,” and “them,” it’s more likely you’re dealing directly with a savvy decision maker keeping his options open.

Use your own name to make yourself a real person to the other side and even get your own personal discount. Humor and humanity are the best ways to break the ice and remove roadblocks.

Negotiation style is a crucial variable in bargaining. If you don’t know what instinct will tell you or the other side to do in various circumstances, you’ll have massive trouble gaming out effective strategies and tactics.

if you’re not Assertive, don’t despair. Blunt assertion is actually counterproductive most of the time.

Apologies have little value to them since they see the negotiation and their relationship with you as a person largely as separate things.

ACCOMMODATOR 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.

If your counterparts are sociable, peace-seeking, optimistic, distractible, and poor time managers, they’re probably Accommodators.

If you have identified yourself as an Accommodator, stick to your ability to be very likable, but do not sacrifice your objections.

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

Experienced negotiators often lead with a ridiculous offer, an extreme anchor. And if you’re not prepared to handle it, you’ll lose your moorings and immediately go to your maximum. It’s human nature.

“Let’s put price off to the side for a moment and talk about what would make this a good deal.”

“What else would you be able to offer to make that a good price for me?”

expressions of anger increase a negotiator’s advantage and final take.

However, by heightening your counterpart’s sensitivity to danger and fear, your anger reduces the resources they have for other cognitive activity, setting them up to make bad concessions that will likely lead to implementation problems, thus reducing your gains.

when someone puts out a ridiculous offer, one that really pisses you off, take a deep breath, allow little anger, and channel it—at the proposal, not the person—and say, “I don’t see how that would ever work.” Such well-timed offense-taking—known as “strategic umbrage”—can wake your counterpart to the problem.

Threats delivered without anger but with “poise”—that is, confidence and self-control—are great tools. Saying, “I’m sorry that just doesn’t work for me,” with poise, works.

The person across the table is never the problem. The unsolved issue is. So focus on the issue.

This is one of the most basic tactics for avoiding emotional escalations.

The systematized and easy-to-remember process has only four steps:
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 end

“You fall to your highest level of preparation,”

Great example of price haggling - it seems like you would rather run the risk of keeping the place unrented.”

Identify your counterpart’s negotiating style. Once you know whether they are Accommodator, Assertive, or Analyst, you’ll know the correct way to approach them.

Prepare, prepare, prepare. When the pressure is on, you don’t rise to the occasion; you fall to your highest level of preparation. So design an ambitious but legitimate goal and then game out the labels, calibrated questions, and responses you’ll use to get there. That way, once you’re at the bargaining table, you won’t have to wing it.

Get ready to take a punch. Kick-ass negotiators usually lead with an extreme anchor to knock you off your game. If you’re not ready, you’ll flee to your maximum without a fight. So prepare your dodging tactics to avoid getting sucked into the compromise trap.

Set boundaries, and learn to take a punch or punch back, without anger. The guy across the table is not the problem; the situation is. Prepare an Ackerman plan. Before you head into the weeds of bargaining, you’ll need a plan of extreme anchor, calibrated questions, and well-defined offers. Remember: 65, 85, 95, 100 percent. Decreasing raises and ending on nonround numbers will get your counterpart to believe that he’s squeezing you for all you’re worth when you’re really getting to the number you want.

I began to hypothesize that in every negotiation each side is in possession of at least three Black Swans, three pieces of information that, were they to be discovered by the other side, would change everything. My experience since has proven this to be true.

conventional questioning and research techniques are designed to confirm known knowns and reduce uncertainty. They don’t dig into the unknown.

“Why are they communicating what they are communicating right now?”

leverage is the ability to inflict loss and withhold gain.

Where does your counterpart want to gain and what do they fear losing? Discover these pieces of information, we are told, and you’ll build leverage over the other side’s perceptions, actions, and decisions.

To get leverage, you have to persuade your counterpart that they have something real to lose if the deal falls through. At a taxonomic level, there are three kinds: Positive, Negative, and Normative.

Positive leverage is quite simply your ability as a negotiator to provide—or withhold—things that your counterpart wants.

Negative leverage is what most civilians picture when they hear the word “leverage.” It’s a negotiator’s ability to make his counterpart suffer.

This sort of leverage gets people’s attention because of a concept we’ve discussed: loss aversion.

Potential losses loom larger in the human mind than do similar gains.

I do not believe in making direct threats and am extremely careful with even subtle ones. Threats can be like nuclear bombs. There will be a toxic residue that will be difficult to clean up.

If you shove your negative leverage down your counterpart’s throat, it might be perceived as you taking away their autonomy. People will often sooner die than give up their autonomy.

A more subtle technique is to label your negative leverage and thereby make it clear without attacking. Sentences like “It seems like you strongly value the fact that you’ve always paid on time” or “It seems like you don’t care what position you are leaving me in” can really open up the negotiation process.

Normative leverage is using the other party’s norms and standards to advance your position.

If you can show inconsistencies between their beliefs and their actions, you have normative leverage. No one likes to look like a hypocrite.

There is the visible negotiation and then all the things that are hidden under the surface (the secret negotiation space wherein the Black Swans dwell).

the “paradox of power”—namely, the harder we push the more likely we are to be met with resistance.

you have to use negative leverage sparingly.

By positioning your demands within the worldview your counterpart uses to make decisions, you show them respect and that gets you attention and results.

Using your counterpart’s religion is extremely effective in large part because it has authority over them. The other guy’s “religion” is what the market, the experts, God, or society—whatever matters to him—has determined to be fair and just. And people defer to that authority.

Review everything you hear. You will not hear everything the first time, so double-check.

Use backup listeners whose only job is to listen between the lines. They will hear things you miss.

we trust people more when we view them as being similar or familiar.

people respond favorably to requests made in a reasonable tone of voice and followed with a “because” reason.

So we told him to send a version of our classic email for nonresponders, the one that always works: “Have you given up on finalizing this deal this year?”

when you recognize that your counterpart is not irrational, but simply ill-informed, constrained, or obeying interests that you do not yet know, your field of movement greatly expands. And that allows you to negotiate much more effectively.

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. That’s why reporters have a credo to never turn off their recorders: you always get the best stuff at the beginning and the end of an interview.

Every negotiation, every conversation, every moment of life, is a series of small conflicts that, managed well, can rise to creative beauty. Embrace them.

Let what you know—your known knowns—guide you but not blind you. Every case is new, so remain flexible and adaptable.

Black Swans are leverage multipliers. Remember the three types of leverage: positive (the ability to give someone what they want); negative (the ability to hurt someone); and normative (using your counterpart’s norms to bring them around).

Work to understand the other side’s “religion.” Digging into worldviews inherently implies moving beyond the negotiating table and into the life, emotional and otherwise, of your counterpart. That’s where Black Swans live.

Review everything you hear from your counterpart. You will not hear everything the first time,

Exploit the similarity principle. People are more apt to concede to someone they share a cultural similarity with, so dig for what makes them tick and show that you share common ground.

When someone seems irrational or crazy, they most likely aren’t. Faced with this situation, search for constraints, hidden desires, and bad information.

Get face time with your counterpart. Ten minutes of face time often reveals more than days of research. Pay special attention to your counterpart’s verbal and nonverbal communication at unguarded moments—at the beginning and the end of the session or when someone says something out of line.