Book review: Never split the difference - Negotiating as if your life depended on it


  • Author:         Chris Voss
  • Subject:        Negotiation
  • Year:              2016
  • ISBN:             9780062407801
If someone envisions a master of negotiation as an alpha male like Donald Trump who speaks the loudest to threaten everyone else into submission, this book will definitely turn your understanding upside down. 

As a veteran FBI hostage negotiator for many years, the author has all the credibility to speak on this topic. In contrary to the traditional, rational problem solving approach which aims to separate emotional elements from the issue in order to arrive at a so-called "win-win" situation, he argues that humans are irrational beasts who more often than not act on impulsive feelings rather than meticulous calculation. And he also sees that such insight is not only for crisis handling but can also be applied to business and daily-life interactions.

By borrowing concepts from counselling such as tactical empathy, active listening, emotional labelling etc., the author views the negotiation process as a way to create rapport with the subject in order to dismantle the emotional bomb built up inside his or her mind. Together with tricks like mirroring, calibrated questions, creating the illusion of control to distort the reality of the subjects, this can eventually lead to an outcome that is highly favourable to the negotiator instead of just "splitting the difference" between the two parties (hence the title of the book). He illustrates many of the ideas with his real-life hostage experiences, which make the theories both entertaining and convincing. 

Although I would not say everything said in the book is a totally brand-new idea, or everything will work magic as it is claimed, there is still much valuable takeaway from this. Highly recommended for those who want to improve their negotiation skills, or maybe are just curious about the weakness of our illogical minds.



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