Book Review: Never Split The Difference

Never Split The Difference:  Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, Chris Voss with Tahl Raz

I read this book after a bit of time, since someone recommended this book to me some time ago and the book was so much in demand that it took me months to get the chance to read it.  Was it worth the wait?  I think it was.  This is an exciting book and it is easy to see why it is a popular one because the author manages to combine two worlds together that have a lot to say about each other as an experienced hostage negotiator for the FBI as well as someone with a deep interest in business negotiations [1].  The combination of the two makes this an interesting book and one that encourages people to take a look at themselves and not view themselves as rational and also to use listening skills as a long-term strategic advantage to withhold information while one gathers it and builds rapport.  There is a great deal to enjoy here, even if the author takes a somewhat harsh tone of the time that would likely not come off very well in person.

In terms of its contents, this book is one that is well organized and constantly goes back and forth between the author’s experiences as a hostage negotiator and his experiences as a student of business consulting with regards to negotiations.  The book begins by a discussion of the new rules and the importance of listening and personal growth, which is often sabotaged when people think of themselves as the smartest people in the room.  After that comes a discussion of the use of mirroring to build rapport in a negotiation.  The third chapter then looks at the use of labeling that creates trust through tactical empathy.  The author then talks about the pace of negotiations and how to generate momentum that is wary of yes and mastering no.  The author then talks about how to trigger the two words that transform any negotiation–“that’s right” and the way that people can learn how to shape the reality of what is fair by building solid anchors.  A discussion of how to give others the illusion of control then moves into ways to guarantee execution and spot liars.  The last two chapters talk about hard bargaining and finding the black swans, those elusive unknown unknowns that can create breakthroughs or destroy one’s well-laid plans.

Part of the fascination with this book is the way that the author shows himself to be an adrenaline junkie with his discussions of high stakes hostage negotiations including Haitian hostages for parties, the problems that result when people are immensely divided, the way that important people tend to use language that minimizes their own feelings of self-importance, and the way that people are divided into assertive, analytical, and accommodating people.  The author comes off rather strongly in a way that would turn me off personally, but appeared to work given the sort of people he worked with, and it was fortunate for him that he managed to find work that has allowed him to perform a useful job to society in terms of popularizing insights gained in dealing with particularly violent forms of businessmen in those who take hostages and hold them for random rather than simply being an aggressive lout.  All in all this is a good book and one that I can say deserves its popularity in my local library system, that’s for sure.  most readers will be able to get a few worthwhile techniques or encourage the development of techniques that they already know at least in part.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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