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Ciao, I'm Julia.

Never Split The Difference summary

This is amazing book with a wealth of information on negotiating well, but more generally speaking, on human psychology, behaviour and communication. The book is also well-structured, with each chapter covering a single topic. Each chapter then flows on nicely, one from the other, to build up all the essential steps in any negotiation.

I've picked out below, the key points fromm each chapter. The book also ends with how to prepare a negotiation cheat sheet which serves as a pretty handy summary.

How to become the smartest person in any room

  • 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.

Be a mirror - how to quickly establish rapport

  • 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.
  • In negotiation, each new psychological insight or additional piece of information revealed heralds a step forward and allows one to discard one hypothesis in favor of another. You should engage the process with a mindset of discovery. Your goal at the outset is to extract and observe as much information as possible. Which, by the way, is one of the reasons that really smart people often have trouble being negotiators—they’re so smart they think they don’t have anything to discover.
  • 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.
  • But neither wants nor needs are where we start; 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.
  • There are essentially three voice tones available to negotiators: the late-night FM DJ voice, the positive/playful voice, and the direct or assertive voice. Forget the assertive voice for now; except in very rare circumstances, using it is like slapping yourself in the face while you’re trying to make progress. You’re signaling dominance onto your counterpart, who will either aggressively, or passive-aggressively, push back against attempts to be controlled. Most of the time, you should be using the positive/playful 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. A smile, even while talking on the phone, has an impact tonally that the other person will pick up on.
  • 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:
    • Use the late-night FM DJ voice.
    • Start with “I’m sorry …”
    • Mirror. Silence. At least four seconds, to let the mirror work its magic on your counterpart.
    • Repeat.

Label their pain - create trust with tactical empathy

  • Empathy is a classic “soft” communication skill, but it has a physical basis. When we closely observe a person’s face, gestures, and tone of voice, our brain begins to align with theirs in a process called neural resonance, and that lets us know more fully what they think and feel.
  • Research shows that 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.
  • 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. Denying barriers or negative influences gives them credence; get them into the open.
  • Label your counterpart’s fears to diffuse their power. We all want to talk about the happy stuff, but remember, the faster you interrupt action in your counterpart’s amygdala, the part of the brain that generates fear, the faster you can generate feelings of safety, well-being, and trust.
  • 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.
  • Remember you’re dealing with a person who wants to be appreciated and understood. So use labels to reinforce and encourage positive perceptions and dynamics.

Generate momentum and make it safe to reveal the real stakes

  • “No” is the start of the negotiation, not the end of it. We’ve been conditioned to fear the word “No.” But it is a statement of perception far more often than of fact. It seldom means, “I have considered all the facts and made a rational choice.” Instead, “No” is often a decision, frequently temporary, to maintain the status quo.
  • In fact, your invitation for the other side to say “No” has an amazing power to bring down barriers and allow for beneficial communication. This means you have to train yourself to hear “No” as something other than rejection, and respond accordingly.
  • Then, after pausing, ask solution-based questions or simply label their effect: “What about this doesn’t work for you?” “What would you need to make it work?” “It seems like there’s something here that bothers you.”
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Saying “No” makes the speaker feel safe, secure, and in control, so trigger it. By saying what they don’t want, your counterpart defines their space and gains the confidence and comfort to listen to you. That’s why “Is now a bad time to talk?” is always better than “Do you have a few minutes to talk?”
  • Negotiate in their world. 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. So don’t beat them with logic or brute force. Ask them questions that open paths to your goals. It’s not about you.

How to gain the permission to persuade

  • Driving toward “that’s right” is a winning strategy in all negotiations. But hearing “you’re right” is a disaster.
  • “That’s right” is better than “yes.” Strive for it. Reaching “that’s right” in a negotiation creates breakthroughs.
  • 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 …”

How to shape what is fair

  • So don’t settle and—here’s a simple rule—never split the difference. Creative solutions are almost always preceded by some degree of risk, annoyance, confusion, and conflict. Accommodation and compromise produce none of that. You’ve got to embrace the hard stuff. That’s where the great deals are. And that’s what great negotiators do.
  • In other words, while we may use logic to reason ourselves toward a decision, the actual decision making is governed by emotion.
  • If you can get the other party to reveal their problems, pain, and unmet objectives—if you can get at what people are really buying—then you can sell them a vision of their problem that leaves your proposal as the perfect solution.
  • To get real leverage, you have to persuade them that they have something concrete to lose if the deal falls through.
  • The tendency to be anchored by extreme numbers is a psychological quirk known as the “anchor and adjustment” effect. Researchers have discovered that we tend to make adjustments from our first reference points.
  • Splitting the difference is wearing one black and one brown shoe, so don’t compromise. Meeting halfway often leads to bad deals for both sides.
  • Approaching deadlines entice people to rush the negotiating process and do impulsive things that are against their best interests.
  • The F-word—“Fair”—is an emotional term people usually exploit to put the other side on the defensive and gain concessions. When your counterpart drops the F-bomb, don’t get suckered into a concession. Instead, ask them to explain how you’re mistreating them.
  • You can bend your counterpart’s reality by anchoring his starting point. Before you make an offer, emotionally anchor them by saying how bad it will be. When you get to numbers, set an extreme anchor to make your “real” offer seem reasonable, or use a range to seem less aggressive. The real value of anything depends on what vantage point you’re looking at it from.
  • People will take more risks to avoid a loss than to realize a gain. Make sure your counterpart sees that there is something to lose by inaction.

How to calibrate questions to tranform conflict into collaboration

  • 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.
  • What about this is important to you? How can I help to make this better for us? How would you like me to proceed? What is it that brought us into this situation? How can we solve this problem? What’s the objective? / What are we trying to accomplish here? How am I supposed to do that? The implication of any well-designed calibrated question is that you want what the other guy wants but you need his intelligence to overcome the problem. This really appeals to very aggressive or egotistical counterparts.
  • The basic issue here is that 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. Neurologically, in situations like this the fight-or-flight mechanism in the reptilian brain or the emotions in the limbic system overwhelm the rational part of our mind, the neocortex, leading us to overreact in an impulsive, instinctive way.
  • 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.

How to spot the liars and ensure follow through from everyone else

  • By making your counterparts articulate implementation in their own words, your carefully calibrated “How” questions will convince them that the final solution is their idea. And that’s crucial. People always make more effort to implement a solution when they think it’s theirs. That is simply human nature. That’s why negotiation is often called “the art of letting someone else have your way.”
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

How to get your price

  • If you’re an analyst you should be worried about cutting yourself off from an essential source of data, your counterpart. The single biggest thing you can do is to smile when you speak. People will be more forthcoming with information to you as a result. Smiling can also become a habit that makes it easy for you to mask any moments you’ve been caught off guard.
  • If your counterparts are sociable, peace-seeking, optimistic, distractible, and poor time managers, they’re probably Accommodators. If they’re your counterpart, be sociable and friendly. Listen to them talk about their ideas and use calibrated questions focused specifically on implementation to nudge them along and find ways to translate their talk into action.
  • The most important thing to get from an Assertive will be a “that’s right” that may come in the form of a “that’s it exactly” or “you hit it on the head.” When it comes to reciprocity, this type is of the “give an inch/take a mile” mentality. They will have figured they deserve whatever you have given them so they will be oblivious to expectations of owing something in return.
  • We’ve seen how each of these groups views the importance of time differently (time = preparation (analyst); time = relationship (accomodators); time = money (assertive)). They also have completely different interpretations of silence.
  • But while innocent and understandable, thinking you’re normal is one of the most damaging assumptions in negotiations. With it, we unconsciously project our own style on the other side.
  • First, deflect the punch in a way that opens up your counterpart. Successful negotiators often say “No” in one of the many ways we’ve talked about (“How am I supposed to accept that?”) or deflect the anchor with questions like “What are we trying to accomplish here?”
  • 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 Ackerman model is an offer-counteroffer method, at least on the surface. But it is a very effective system for beating the usual lackluster bargaining dynamic, which has the predictable result of meeting in the middle. The systematized and easy-to-remember process has only four steps:
    • Set your target price (your goal). Set your first offer at 65 percent of your target price. Calculate three raises of decreasing increments (to 85, 95, and 100 percent).
    • Use lots of empathy and different ways of saying “No” to get the other side to counter before you increase your offer.
    • When calculating the final amount, use precise, nonround numbers like, say, $37,893 rather than $38,000. It gives the number credibility and weight.
    • On your final number, throw in a nonmonetary item (that they probably don’t want) to show you’re at your limit.
  • 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.
  • 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.

How to create breakthroughs by revealing the unknown unknowns

  • One way to understand leverage is as a fluid that sloshes between the parties. As a negotiator you should always be aware of which side, at any given moment, feels they have the most to lose if negotiations collapse. The party who feels they have more to lose and are the most afraid of that loss has less leverage, and vice versa.
  • Research by social scientists has confirmed something effective negotiators have known for ages: namely, we trust people more when we view them as being similar or familiar.
  • Here are some of the best techniques for flushing out the Black Swans—and exploiting them. Remember, your counterpart might not even know how important the information is, or even that they shouldn’t reveal it. So keep pushing, probing, and gathering information.
    • Let what you know—your known knowns—guide you but not blind you. Every case is new, so remain flexible and adaptable. - Remember the Griffin bank crisis: no hostage-taker had killed a hostage on deadline, until he did. 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, so double-check. Compare notes with team members. Use backup listeners whose job is to listen between the lines. They will hear things you miss.
    • 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.

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