Never Split the Difference


1: Chris Voss was in a bind. 

After serving as the FBI’s chief hostage negotiator, he had decided to go into business for himself.

The good news?

For his first consulting project, he received the honor of training the national hostage negotiation team from the United Arab Emirates.

The bad news? 

Chris was serving as a subcontractor.  “The prestige of the assignment was tempered during the project by problems with … continue reading

1: In 1977, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat strikingly advanced the Egypt-Israel peace treaty negotiations when he made a surprise speech to the Israeli Knesset.

As negotiators, there is a lesson we can learn from this dramatic gesture: Be aware of opportunities to pivot to non-monetary terms. 

The FBI’s former chief hostage negotiator, Chris Voss, notes that this “generous gesture that did not involve making any actual concessions but did … continue reading

1: Imagine we are preparing for an important negotiation.

Do we make the initial offer or encourage the other side to do so? 

Yesterday, we looked at FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss’s advice: Refrain from making the first offer in a financial negotiation.

If we do so, there is a possibility we will leave money on the table. “I’ve experienced many negotiations when the other party’s first offer was … continue reading

1: Renowned detective novelist Raymond Chandler had been hired to be the screenwriter for the 1944 classic film Double Indemnity by the famous Hollywood film director Billy Wilder. 

Raymond was new to the movie business. He demanded $150 a week and “warned Wilder that it might take him three weeks to finish the project,” Chris Voss writes in his book Never Split the Difference.

Billy and the movie’s producer … continue reading

1: It was negotiation expert Herb Cohen’s first big business deal, Chris Voss, writes in his book Never Split the Difference.

Herb was sent to Japan by his company to negotiate with a supplier. 

“When he arrived, his counterparts asked him how long he was staying,” Chris notes. 

Herb told them one week.

“For the next seven days, his hosts proceeded to entertain him with parties, tours, and … continue reading

1: Fair is fair.  Until it isn’t. 

The actor and comedienne Robin Williams wanted to do something special for his kids, Chris Voss writes in his book Never Split the Difference.

So, he agreed to be the voice of the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin for a fee of $75,000.  Far below his usual $8 million payday. 

“But then something happened,” Chris notes.  “The movie became a huge hit, raking … continue reading

1: “If you approach a negotiation thinking that the other guy thinks like you, you’re wrong,” Chris Voss writes in his book Never Split the Difference.

“That’s not empathy; that’s projection.”

Chris is the FBI’s former chief hostage negotiator.  He has also taught business negotiation in MBA programs at USC and Georgetown.  During the third week of his negotiations class, he has his students play what he calls the … continue reading

1: “We’re always taught to look for the win-win solution, to accommodate, to be reasonable,” Chris Voss writes in his book Never Split the Difference.

We’re taught wrong.

“The traditional negotiating logic that’s drilled into us from an early age, the kind that exalts compromises, says, ‘Let’s just split the difference,'” he observes. “Then everyone’s happy.” 

What does Chris think of this logic?

“No. Just, simply, no,” he notes.… continue reading

1: “Give us the money,” the kidnappers told the nephew of a prominent Haitian political figure, “or your aunt is going to die.” 

It was Monday morning in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. The year was 2004.

The nephew called the FBI office. Chris Voss, the FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator, came onto the line.

“He spoke so fast he had to repeat his story three times before I understood,” Chris … continue reading