Never Split The Difference / Chris Voss

The book Never Split the Difference is written by former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss and describes different strategies that you can use during negotiations. Thus as one would expect, it is filled with many nail biting true stories which are used to illustrate its points. I personally standby the methods in the book, having been able to successfully apply them to the effect of saving thousands of dollars.

The first thing which sold me on the theory presented in the book, was its discussion on why “No” is not a bad word to hear while negotiating. While it may seem a bit counter intuitive, and go against many traditional negotiating strategies, I have also found this principle to be true. I have similarly written about the principle in my own book: Fundamentals of Female Dynamics.

Nowhether its a potential business or romantic partner with whom you want to speak, they must first feel comfortable being with you before they will be willing to open up. By showing a person that you are completely comfortable with hearing “No” from them (i.e. you won’t become angry or upset), you make them feel in control of the situation. You also instantly remove negative pressure, since the other person will no longer fear becoming trapped. When a person feels that they may become uncomfortably cornered, they will look to escape the interaction at the first opportunity they get.

Your counterpart will be more comfortable listening to what you have to say, if they know that you will respect their final decision. Thus by showing a person you are comfortable with them saying “No” early on in a conversation, you give them a feeling of control which allows them to more quickly open up to the possibilities that you are presenting to them.

I have adapted many of the book’s strategies for negotiating prices, and have found them effective even within back-and-forth email communications. My personal hybrid negotiation strategy based on the book resembles the following structure.

Always be friendly from the start of the conversation, and work with the person to solve the problem (which is finding an acceptable deal), and not against the person to just get what you want. All phrasing should be done to refer to you and your counterpart as a team that is working together to solve the problem. You want the solution to seem like a mutual victory, which cannot be done when employing a “you vs. me” dynamic.

I then use the Ackerman Bargaining Technique:

  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.

The above steps were taken from this Medium article which summarizes multiple techniques described in the book.

I always first start out every email in which I decline to accept at offer with a sentence of gratification showing that I appreciate the other person’s time and assistance. I then follow with the words: “I’m sorry, but we won’t be able do that…” This makes it seem like I am taking responsibility for the offer not yet being adequate, rather than implying that the other side is proposing an unfair deal.

I then complete the sentence with a honest explanation about why I can’t accept it: “…because, (insert reason here).” It is a proven psychological fact, if you justify your actions by using the word “because” followed by a reason, the person on the receiving end will be much more likely to accept it. Simply hearing the word “because,” even when its followed by a clearly nonsensical reason, still works wonders. My reason is usually an explanation on of how financially the risk will be too great given the current expected return on the investment. This also further implies that I don’t have a large margin of extra capital that could be squeezed out of me.

Through out the process, I also offer other non monetary concessions, even when I don’t think the other side will necessarily want them. This shows that I am willing to sacrifice or provide extra value to my counterpart in different ways, while proving that I am truly trying to work with them to find a solution. A good additional non-monetary concession that I have found to work well, is a guarantee that I will provide my counterpart with repeat future business.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to everyone. While hopefully you will never be put in the situation where you will need to negotiate for you life, this book may at least help you save money on rent when it comes to renegotiating your apartment lease.



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