Never Split the Difference: Notes

Overarching summary: make your problems their problems – listen to them – demonstrate that your’e listening – listen to their body + emotions + tone as much as their words – never split the difference.

Chapter 1:

  • negotiate in order to 1) gather information, and 2) influence behaviour.
  • don’t split the difference! A hostage negotiator doesn’t get to do this (“you want $1 million, I want 10 hostages, how about you give me 5 and I’ll give you $500,000?)

Chapter 2: The Mirror

  • Negotiation is not an argument. It’s a process of discovery. Enter a negotiation with a mindset of discovery, and always test your theories. You never know enough about the situation.
  • Become “the late night FM DJ.” His tone is slow, smooth, and downwardly inflecting. This makes you sound relaxed and in control. Speak slowly!
  • Mirror the other person’s last three words. You’ll connect with the other person and they will feel heard.
  • How to mirror? Step 1: become the late night FM DJ. Step 2: say “I’m sorry,” with a “please, help me understand” tone. Step 3: Mirror their request in a question. Step 4: SILENCE! Shut it! Let the silence do its magic! They’ll reconsider out loud and/or you’ll find out more about why someone’s doing something . Step 5: Repeat.
  • This is useful when someone’s body language or tone does not match the text of their speech (perhaps they’re lying, for eg).

Chapter 3: Labelling:

  • this is where you notice and then articulate out loud someone’s feelings. You say “it sounds/looks/seems like …”, not “I think” or “I hear”, etc. After you label, shut up! Let them speak.
  • Be empathetic, NOT sympathetic. Empathy = seeing the world from someone else’s perspective. Sympathy = agreeing with someone else’s perspective.
  • Labelling should help you acknowledge the emotion behind the text and figure out why he holds it.
  • Labelling diffuses negative emotions and reinforces positive emotions. It’s also a great discovery tool. For eg., If there’s negativity behind the text, then 1) observe without judgement/reaction, 2) label, 3) figure out why they hold the emotion, and 4) offer a positive alternative/solution.
  • Useful for: taking away imaginary/real threats and obstacles, understanding the person, and getting them to explain themselves.
  • Super technique: the Accusation Audit.
  • Name everything they could accuse you of. Expose your vulnerabilities. All of them. (eg. “I know I’m such a manipulative, condescending, abrasive, arrogant, stuck-up, demanding, annoying, buffoon of a man”). Then pause after speaking!
  • This takes the sting out of your opponent, possibly releases tension by making the other person laugh, makes you trustworthy for acknowledging the elephant, creates common ground, and lets people empathize, correct and thus defend you (remember, people love to correct others).

Chapter 4: Master the “No”

  • Great for starting negotiations, figuring out what someone wants, or getting someone to respond to you.
  • Ask a question whose answer is no. Pause, label, and then they’ll tell you what they want.
  • In a negotiation, there are two urges: 1) being safe/secure, and 2) feeling in control.
  • Someone saying “no” satisfies these two urges.
  • There are three types of “Yes” – Counterfeit, Confirmation, and Commitment. Do not am for an immediate yes, as doing so will raise their guard.
  • Instead, get them to say a no. No makes them feel safe, brings forth the real issues, and protects people from making bad decisions. It also makes them listen to you more and makes it comfortable to correct you.
  • How: ask them what they don’t want: “I’d like chocolate ice cream please.” “You want vanilla?” “No, chocolate.” “Okay, I’ll get some chocolate ice cream for you.” “Thanks!”
  • Another way to do it is to purposefully mislabel their emotions.
  • You can also straight up ask them “what would you say ‘no’ to?”.
  • Getting them to say no also opens them up to new options and ideas.
  • Lastly, getting them to say no plays on their loss aversion. Eg. “are you sure you’d like to let our friendship go to waste?”
  • Figure out what they don’t want using no. Don’t “persuade” using logic/force. Ask questions which lead to your solution.
  • If they won’t say no after everything from above, then you should walk away. They’re either indecisive, confused, or have a hidden agenda.

Chapter 5: Trigger the Two Great Words – “That’s Right”

  • “that’s right” is better than “you’re right” 100% of the time.
  • When someone says “that’s right”, it’s a breakthrough! Especially when you’re negotiating with someone with an extremely rigid ideology or position.
  • How do you get someone to say it? By active listening. This means lots of pauses, which gets them further explaining themselves, drains them of (heated) emotion, and allows for emphasis.
  • Try and limit the # of times you say “yes” or “ok” or “I see” – instead, mirror! Say what he said using his words.
  • Mirror. Label too – say how the other person feels. And lastly, summarize. Mirror, label, summarize. This will get you the “that’s right”
  • A “yes” without a “how” is a no.
  • If they say “you’re right”, it means that they agree in theory, but they don’t own the conclusion.
  • “that’s right” means they’re open to your position and your request.
  • You do this by mirroring, labelling, and summarizing. This identifies, rearticulates, and emotionally reaffirms their worldview.

Chapter 6: Bend their Reality

  • Here’s the goal: don’t settle, don’t be driven by fear, pain or risk avoidance, or annoyance, or by confusion, or by conflict. Be driven by your goals. And never, NEVER SPLIT THE DIFFERENCE.
  • Here’s another tip: no deal is better than a bad deal. Patience and your willingness to walk away are your tools. Use time and deadlines to close people.
  • For gauging threats/deadline seriousness, look at how detailed their plans are: what/who/when/how. Look for patterns to get why they’re really doing it. Figure out their deadlines – for eg., car dealers will sell for less at the month’s end. The Haitian kidnappers will sell for less at the weekend’s end. The closer you are to a deadline, the less you’ll settle for.
  • Having a no-deal sucks for both parties.
  • If you reveal your deadline, then they’ll cut to the chase more quickly.
  • Fairness is relative – everyone thinks they’re fair in their own frames. But nobody uses the same fairness frame.
  • People care more about respect and fairness than about maximizing utility. Suggesting that your opponent is being unfair should be used with caution; it’s messy. Here’s what can happen:
  • 1) “we just want what’s fair”. This has the effect of destabilizing the accused by making them feel guilty. This is usually a defensive move which is done when someone feels overwhelmed. If someone does it to you, you should breathe, say “sorry”, and ask to go back to the point where the unfair treatment first started.
  • 2) “We’ve given you a fair offer”. This shifts the focus from one party to the other. It makes you feel defensive, and is an accusation of denseness/dishonesty. To respond, flip it! Ask them to prove that they are fair. For eg., you can drill down some more on the subject they were avoiding.
  • 3) “If you ever feel like I’m being unfair, please stop me.” This lets people use the f word (fair) honestly, as in, it’s okay if they use it. Just don’t get manipulative with it.
  • Bending time! Here’s how to bend their reality (demonstrated with how to negotiate a salary):
  • 1) Anchor their emotions by using empathy or an accusation audit. It prepares them for a loss, triggering loss aversion. Then, remind them of the remind them of loss aversion.
  • 2) Let the other guy go first! They may give you more than what you ask for. Only then should you
  • 3) Establish a range. It’s a ballpark that does not get the other person defensive. Put your ideal end point in the lower end. Throwing out really high numbers is called anchoring, but it’s dishonest, so beware.
  • 4) Pivot to non-monetary terms too. Offer things of little value to you but high value to them. This makes your range more reasonable. Furthermore, you get to see what non-monetary gems they have in store for you.
  • 5) Use odd numbers, never a zero. This will make the number feel serious, permanent and thoughtful.
  • 6) Surprise with a gift. This is good for after you put out an extreme anchor that they reject. The gift creates reciprocity which they’ll look to repay.
  • Salaries – be pleasantly persistent for non-salary terms (things like vacation, benefits, etc). If you push for these, they’ll either show you other options or bump up your $ salary.
  • Define success metrics in the interview as well. Ask “what’s it take to be successful here?” They’ll tell you what to aim for AND will invest in your success. Boom. You just made a mentory.

Chapter 7: Create the Illusion of Control:

  • Use the open-ended question. It lets you solve a problem with the other person, and he’ll think that it’s his idea!
  • Great for when you’re having a dominance dispute. Don’t be upfront about what you want. Be vague + guide them to your desires using questions. The persona you should wear is one where you’re “asking for help.”
  • Open ended questions take away insult and aggression.
  • Avoid verbs which lead to closed questions (avoid “yes” or “no” questions). Do NOT use ‘why’ either. It is automatically perceived as an accusation.
  • Instead, use ‘how’ or ‘what’. Use them early and often. Importance + better + proceed + solve + objective, + ‘how am I supposed to do that?’
  • You’re going to need the other guy’s intelligence to help you with your problem.
  • Open ended questions lets the other guy feel in control.
  • When someone feels like they’re losing control, they get defensive or lash out. In case this happens, disarm them with a calculated question.
  • Do this with a calculated question and an apology. This puts them into the problem solving framework.

Chapter 8: Guarantee Execution.

  • when you want to gently say no, use a “how” question. Instead of “no”, say “how am I supposed to do that?” But don’t use it as an accusation. Ask like you’re pleading for help – it’ll make the other side empathize with you.
  • It works extra well if YOU have been empathetic with your counterpart.
  • Also use the how question when you’ve got a “yes” from your negotiation guy without any execution. For example: “how will we go forward with this? How will we talk when we get off track?”
  • 1) ask a how question. 2) summarize until you get a “that’s right” from them.
  • If you get a “you’re right” or an “I’ll try” from them, you have FAILED! Ask calculated questions until they define success themselves. Then you can get a “that’s right” and succeed.
  • When your negotiation guy is a jerk, ask “what” and “how” questions instead of pushing back.
  • The how question lets you overcome an aggressive and manipulative adversary.
  • Just keep asking multiple “how” and “what” questions.
  • Lastly, if your adversary has body language or tone which does not resemble his words, LABEL IT to bring up the discrepancy.

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