Never Split The Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It

Have taken some time these past weeks to read a book in my attempt to see how I can improve my mental self. The guy passed me this book and I took a chance at it since it wasn’t too thick (approximately 200 pages) and a great paperback to have with me when I move around.

Chris Voss, together with Tahl Raz, presented some useful tips and techniques to apply in different situations and I’ve tried to see how I might be able to apply them at work. Basically, his advice to his readers is to see all potential conflicts as opportunities to resolve a crisis or problem and to see the person you are dealing with as your potential partner in striking a win-win deal and not a wimp-win situation. I’ve taken some notes for myself which I hope I can remember whenever such situations arise. Let’s hope I can get to put some of these tips to good use soon.

  1. Let your counterpart speak first. Use labels to summarise what was said to show empathy. ‘It seems… (you value, you don’t like, you’re hesitant…). A pause after a label can be a good way to encourage your counterpart to continue from where you left off and provide more information that may be useful. Alternatively, try to lead your counterpart to agree with you and provide affirmation that you are both on the same page (‘That’s right.’) – this is better than a ‘yes‘ answer.

  2. Neutralise the negative sentiments and focus on reinforcing the positive ones. This will make your counterpart emotionally more positive and encourage him/her to speak up.

  3. Say ‘no‘ without using the word itself. Always reject any inital approaches or offers so that you can achieve more.(e.g. ‘How am i able to achieve this?‘; ‘What xx do you have to show…’) Open-ended questions will allow your counterpart to feel they are in control when they answer them.

  4. Ask questions that trigger a ‘no‘ response  from your counterpart (e.g. ‘Have you given up on xxx?‘; ‘Do you wish to see failure xxx?‘ etc)

  5. If you wish to break a piece of bad news to your counterpart, downplay his expectation first so that the bad news does not seem all too bad.

  6. When negotiating a deal, let your counterpart make the offer first before you counter so that you are aware of his limits. Providing a range may help to manage expectations; using a non-rounded up figure gives one an impression that it is deliberate and calculated.

  7. If you are really unable to match up to the expectations requested by your counterpart, throw in something intangible or a surprise gift and play it up.

  8. Do not let deadlines stop you from getting a better proposal than you deserve. A bad proposal is worse than not having any at all.

  9. When attacked verbally, force yourself to control your emotions and continue to ask calibrated questions. Similarly, do not attack your counterpart as this will only result in negative emotions and trigger unhelpful/negative responses from him/her.

  10. Test your counterpart’s commitment by asking questions that lead to ‘yes’ three times. The more they commit to their answer, the more likely they will commit themselves to fulfill them.

  11. Focus on the situation and not on the counterpart you are talking to. Also know that it is not the guy you fear and dread but the situation that needs to be resolved. Embrace your counterpart and assure him/her you are there to solve the problem with them.

That’s it for now! Thanks Chris and Tahl for your wonderful advice. I shall see for myself what works or not and force myself to do better each time.

Till then!

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