Tag Archive for: negotiation strategies

Never Split the Difference – Betties Book Brief

Betties Book Brief - Never Split the Difference - Negotiations

Negotiations happen in all facets of life. Whether it’s negotiating with your children about how much they need to eat for dinner (one of the hardest negotiations to win, if we’re being honest!) or it’s getting yourself into the best car at the best price, you’re bound to run into scenarios that require you to put your best self forward in order to get what you want.

Former FBI Hostage Negotiator, Chris Voss, took his first-hand experience with intense negotiations and turned it into a life-changing guide for others to get what they want. While we won’t be using his tips for hostage scenarios, we thoroughly enjoyed his book, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It. Business negotiations can be tricky and, as you know, we love to learn new tricks to make running a business easier. The dramatic stories that Chris Voss used to explain his strategies were riveting and left us ready to learn more.

Summary of Never Split the Difference

Getting to a good deal involves detecting subtle and non-obvious signals beneath the words. Use “How” instead of “No” to get to a “Yes”. Ask “How” questions again and again to keep the person you’re negotiating with engaged, but off-balance. It gives the illusion of control while getting them to think about the problems you are facing. Asking “How can I do that?” can get them to negotiate against themselves.

However, make sure not to overlook key players. There may be someone behind the scenes with the ability to kill a deal. Be sure to negotiate with all stakeholders. Often times, the decision-maker will grossly overuse pronouns such as they, him, and she in order to deflect attention from themselves. The use of I, me, or my may be a sign that they are not in charge. Tone and body language make up 93% of communication, so be sure to pay attention. Incongruence between tone and body language is an indicator of a lie. To be sure that a “Yes” is real, use the rule of three.

Types of Negotiators

Analyst – An Analyst is a negotiator who is very methodical and diligent in their negotiations. They hate surprises and are skeptical by nature. An Analyst prefers to work on their own and ties mistakes to their own self-image. This type of negotiator views silence in a negotiation as an opportunity to think and they may appear to agree when actually, they agreed to think about it.

Accommodator – The Accommodator prioritizes the relationship in a negotiation. They just want to communicate and view silence as anger. This negotiator may overpromise something that they may not actually be able to provide. Their tone and body language are key if they are hesitant – it won’t come out in their words.

Assertive – This negotiator’s priority is to be heard. They love to win above all else and just want the solution to be done rather than getting it perfect. An Assertive negotiator won’t listen until they are convinced that you hear and understand their point of view. In their eyes, silence is just time to talk more.

Phases of Negotiation

  1. Diffuse perceived deal killers and objections. Use “Why” questions and the “F” word – Fair. Make them feel safe and in control by avoiding oriented questions. Extreme anchoring is important here.
  2. Pre “That’s Right” phase. This phase is getting information and understanding the story of the other person. You want to use calibrated questions (How & What). Use mirroring and mislabeling.
  3. Communicate understanding and empathy. Use Tactical Empathy to understand what is behind the other person’s feelings. Bring their emotional pathways and obstacles to light. Use mirroring and labeling and summarize them.
  4. Collaborate on a solution. Discuss implementation and use calibrated questions (How & What). This is the time to use the Ackerman Model (below).

Negotiation Tools

  • Calibrated Questions. These are What and How questions, and sometimes Why. Use these to identify your counterpart’s fears, locate potential deal killers, stall, create the illusion of control, and say no without saying no. e.g. How am I supposed to do that?
  • Mirroring. This involves repeating the last 3-5 words said by your counterpart using a calm voice with an upward inflection (like a question). Generally this tool is followed by being silent for a minimum of 4 minutes. Use this tool to get information, test the firmness of their position, establish rapport, and make your counterpart feel safe. Mirroring is especially useful for assertive types.
  • Labeling. Verbally identify concerns, challenges, or internal states of your counterpart with phrases like, “It seems like you…” and “It sounds like you…”. Flush out their concerns and show empathy.
  • Labeling (accusation audit). Demonstrate that you see nuances in your counterpart’s emotions by using phrases like, “It sounds like you’re afraid of…”. This shows empathy and helps to trigger a “That’s right” response. You want to avoid “You’re right” in favor of “That’s right”.
  • Mislabeling. Use incorrect labels to determine their reaction and get to the core of their valuation.
  • No-oriented questions. Questions like, “Is now a bad time to talk?” or “Have you given up on this project?”. This helps to make your counterpart feel safe and in control.
  • The F-word. Using the word “Fair” proactively to establish trust. You want to be sure to defend it when this word is used against you. As a negotiator, you strive to be fair. Early on, say “I want you to feel like you’re being treated fairly. Please stop me if you feel I’m being unfair and we’ll address it.”
  • Discuss implementation. Use calibrated questions at the end of a negotiation regarding hypothetical situations. Force your counterpart to imagine future events. This assumptively persuades your counterpart to shift their mindset and visualize the negotiated deal.
  • Extreme Anchoring. Give an extreme statement or offer at the start of or early in a negotiation. This makes later, lesser offers and actions seem reasonable. Diffuse anticipated objections or emotions. Sometimes this is done through an accusation audit to prepare them for a loss (it’s going to be terrible, but…).

Ackerman Model

This is a 6-step offer/counteroffer method.

  1. Set your target price (goal).
  2. Set your first offer at 65% of target price.
  3. Calculate 3 raises of decreasing increments (85, 95, 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. Use precise non-round numbers when calculating the final amount (such as $37,893 instead of $38,000).
  6. Throw in a non-monetary item (that they probably won’t want) on your final number to show you’re at your limit.

Other Takeaways

  • We have a cognitive bias for consistency rather than truth. We hear that which supports our belief systems.
  • When there is a negative situation, call it out right away.
  • There is no need to use all of the tools at once. The best negotiators know when to use which tool.
  • Getting a “That’s right” response is gold. Not, “You’re right” but “That’s right”. When the other party says this, it confirms your understanding of them and shifts things in your favor.
  • The rule of three is key. Get the other party to agree three times during the conversation.
  • Any response that is not a flat out rejection gives you the advantage.


As you can see, we gained a lot from this read. Our business (and parenting) negotiations will be much more smooth in the future as we implement Chris Voss’s valuable tips. How can you implement some of these strategies and tricks in your negotiations? We’d love to hear!


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