Below is my notes for Never Split the Difference, my favorite book on negotiation. Back to the beginning of 2018, I took over a strategic cooperation negotiation from a colleague. Though the negotiation failed, I still learned a ton from the process. I wished that I had read the book before that negotiation, so that the results would be different. Anyway, enjoy the highlights below.
The New Rules
Tactic Calibrated Questions: queries that other side can respond to but that have no fixed answers. It buys you time. It gives your counterpart the illusion of control - they are the one with the answers and power after all - and it does all that without giving them any ideas of how constrained they are by it.
Fisher and Ury’s approach was basically to systematize problem solving so that negotiating parties could reach a mutually beneficial deal - the greeting to “Yes” in the title. Their core assumption was that the emotional brain - that animalistic, unreliable, and irrational beast - could be overcome through a more rational, joint problem-solving mindset. Their system was easy to follow and seductive, with four basic tenets. One, separate the person - the emotion - from the problem; two, don’t get wrapped up in the other side’s position (what they’re asking for) but instead focus on their interests (why they’re asking for it) so that you can find what they really want; three, work cooperatively to generate win-win options; and four, establish mutually agreed-u[pm standards for evaluating those possible
Throughout decades of research with Tversky, Kahneman proved that humans all suffer from Cognitive Bias, that is , unconscious - and irrational - brain processes that literally distort the way we see the world. There’s the Framing Effect, which demonstrates that people respond differently to the same choice depending on how it is framed (people place greater value on moving from 90 percent to 100 percent - high probability to certainty - than from 45 percent to 55 percent, even through they’re both ten percentage points). Prospect Theory explains why we take unwarranted risks in the face of uncertain losses. And the most famous is Loss Aversion, which shows how people are statistically more likely to act to avert a loss than to achieve an equal gain.
Kahneman later codified his research in the 2011 bestseller Thinking, Fast and Slow.3 Man, he wrote, has two systems of thought: System 1, our animal mind, is fast, instinctive, and emotional; System 2 is slow, deliberative, and logical. And System 1 is far more influential. In fact, it guides and steers our rational thoughts. System 1’s inchoate beliefs, feelings, and impressions are the main sources of the explicit beliefs and deliberate choices of System 2. They’re the spring that feeds the river. We react emotionally (System 1) to a suggestion or question. Then that System 1 reaction informs and in effect creates the System 2 answer. Now think about that: under this model, if you know how to affect your counterpart’s System 1 thinking, his inarticulate feelings, by how you frame and deliver your questions and statements, then you can guide his System 2 rationality and therefore modify his responses. That’s what happened to Andy at Harvard: by asking, “How am I supposed to do that?” I influenced his System 1 emotional mind into accepting that his offer wasn’t good enough; his System 2 then rationalized the situation so that it made sense to give me a better offer.
It was clear: if emotionally driven incidents, not rational bargaining interactions, constituted the bulk of what most police negotiators had to deal with, then our negotiating skills had to laser-focus on the animal, emotional, and irrational.
From that moment onward, our emphasis would have to be not on training in quid pro quo bargaining and problem solving, but on education in the psychological skills needed in crisis intervention situations. Emotions and emotional intelligence would have to be central to effective negotiation, not things to be overcome.
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. Psychotherapy research shows that when individuals feel listened to, they tend to listen to themselves more carefully and to openly evaluate and clarify their own thoughts and feelings. In addition, they tend to become less defensive and oppositional and more willing to listen to other points of view, which gets them to the calm and logical place where they can be good Getting to Yes problem solvers. The whole concept, which you’ll learn as the centerpiece of this book, is called Tactical Empathy. This is listening as a martial art, balancing the subtle behaviors of emotional intelligence and the assertive skills of influence, to gain access to the mind of another person. Contrary to popular opinion, listening is not a passive activity. It is the most active thing you can do.
Be A Mirror
- A good negotiator prepares, going in, to be ready for possible surprises; a great negotiator aims to use her skills to reveal the surprises she is certain to find.
- Don’t commit to assumptions; instead, view them as hypotheses and use the negotiation to test them rigorously.
- People who view negotiation as a battle of arguments become overwhelmed by the voices in their head. Negotiation is not an act of battle; it’s a process of discovery. The goal is to uncover as much information as possible.
- To quiet the voices in your head, make your sole and all-encompassing focus the other person and what they have to say.
- Slow. It. Down. Going too fast is one of the mistakes all negotiators are prone to making. If we’re too much in a hurry, people can feel as if they’re not being heard. You risk undermining the rapport and trust you’ve built.
- Put a smile on your face. When people are in a positive frame of mind, they think more quickly, and are more likely to collaborate and problem-solve (instead of fight and resist). Positivity creates mental agility in both you and your counterpart.
There are three voice tones available to negotiators:
- “The late-night FM DJ voice: Use selectively to make a point. Inflect your voice downward, keeping it calm and slow. When done properly, you create an aura of authority and trustworthiness without triggering defensiveness.
- The positive/playful voice: Should be your default 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.
- The direct or assertive voice: Used rarely. Will cause problems and create pushback.
Mirrors work magic. Repeat the last three words (or the critical one to three words) of what someone has just said. We fear what’s different and are drawn to what’s similar. Mirroring is the art of insinuating similarity, which facilitates bonding. Use mirrors to encourage the other side to empathize and bond with you, keep people talking, buy your side time to regroup, and encourage your counterparts to reveal their strategy.
Don’t Feel Their Pain, Label It
Empathy is “the ability to recognize the perspective of a counterpart, and the vocalization of that recognition. Tactical Empathyis understanding the feelings and mindset of another in the moment and also hearing what is behind those feelings so you increase your influence in all the moments follow.
Labeling is a way of validating someone’s emotion by acknowledging it. Give someone’s emotion a name and you show you identity with how that person feels. Think of labeling as a shortcut to intimacy, a time-saving emotional hack.
Labeling is a tactic, not a strategy, in the same way a spoon is a great tool for stirring soup but it’s not a recipe. /How/ you use labeling will go a long way in determining your success. Deployed well, it’s how we as negotiators identify and then slowly alter the inner voices of our counterpart’s consciousness to something more collaborative and trusting. Researcher shows that the best way to deal with negativity is to observe it, without reaction and without judgement. Then consciously label each negative feeling and replace it with positive, compassionate, and solution-based thoughts.
How to turn taking the sting out into a process and apply systematically.
Listing every terrible thing you counterpart could say about you, in what I call an accusation audit.
Every one of us has an inherent, human need to be understood, to connect with the person across the table.
Beware “YES” — Master “NO”
*There are actually three kinds of “Yes”: Counterfeit, Confirmation, and Commitment. A counterfeit “yes” is one in which your counterpart plans on saying “no” but either feels “yes” is Ann easier escape route or just wants to disingenuously keep the conversation going to obtain more information or some other kind of edge. A confirmation “yes” is generally innocent, a reflexive response to a black-or-white questions: it’s sometimes used to lay a trap but mostly it’s just simple affirmation with no promise of action. And a commitment “yes” is the real deal; it’s a true agreement that leads to action, a “yes” at the table that ends with a signature on the contract. The commitment “yes” at the table that ends with a signature on the contract. The commitment “yes” is what you want, but three types sound almost the same so you have to learn how to recognize which one is being used.
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.
“No” often opens the discussion up. The sooner you say “No,” the sinner you’re willing to see options and opportunities that you were blind to previously. Saying “No” often spurs people to action because they feel they’ve protected themselves and now see an opportunity slipping away.
“No” protects and benefits all parties in an exchange. “No” creates safety, and the feeling of control. It’s a requirement to implementable success. It’s a pause, a nudge, and a chance for the speaker to articulate what they want to do.
Trigger The Two Words That Immediately Transform Any Negotiation
5 tactics in active listening arsenal:
- Effective Pause: Silence is powerful.
- Minimal Encouragers: Besides silence, we instructed using simple phrases, such as “Yes,””OK,””Un-huh,” or “I see,” to effectively convey you are now paying full attention to the counterpart and all he/she had to say.
- Mirroring: Listen and repeat.
- Labeling: you should give the counterpart’s feelings a name and identify with how the counterpart felt.
- Paraphrase: you should repeat you held and saying back in the counterparts’ own word.
- Summarize: paraphrasing + labeling = summary
Creating unconditional positive regard opens the door to changing thoughts and behaviors. Humans have an innate urge toward socially constructive behavior. The more a person feels understood, and positively affirmed in that understanding, the more like that urge for constructive behaviors will take hold.
“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, identity, re-articulate, and emotionally affirm “the world according to ...”
Bend Their Reality
By far the best theory for describing the principles of our irrational decisions is something called Prospect Theory. Created in 1979 by the psychologists Daniel Kahenman and Amos Tversky, prospect theory describes how people choose between options that involve risk, like in a negotiation. The theory argues that people are drawn to sure things over probabilities, even when the probability is a better choice. That’s called the Certainty Effect. And people will take greater risks to avoid losses than to achieve gains. That’s called Loss Aversion.
Few prospect theory tactics you can use to your advantage:
- Anchor Their Emotions
- Let The Other Guys Go First... Most of The Time
- Establish A Range
- Pivot To Nonmonetarty Terms
- When You Do Talk Numbers, Use Odd Ones
- Surprise With a Gift
All negotiations are defined by a network of subterranean desires and needs. Don’t let yourself be fooled by the surface. Once you know that the Haitian kidnappers just want party money, you will be miles better prepared.
Splitting the difference is wearing one black and one brown shoes, 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 pint. 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 buy inaction.
Create The Illusion of Control
We learned that negotiation was coaxing, not overcoming; co-optioning, not defeating. Most important, we learned that successful negotiation involved getting your counterpart to do the work for you and suggest your solution himself. It involved giving him the illusion of control while you, in fact, were the one defining the conversation. The tool we developed is something I call the calibrated, or opened, question. What it does is remove aggression from conversations by acknowledging the other side openly, without resistance. In doing so, it lets you introduce ideas and requests without sounding pushy. It allows you to nudge.
If you don’t ever get off that dynamic, you end up having showdowns, as each side tries to impose its point of view. You get two hard skulls banging against each other, like in Dos Palmas. But if you can get the other side to drop their unbelief, you can slowly work them to /your/ point of view on the back of /their/ energy, just like the drug dealer’s question got the kidnapper to volunteer to do what the drug dealer wanted. You don’t directly persuade them to see your ideas. Instead, you ride them to your ideas. As the saying goes, the best way to ride a horse is in the direction in which it’s going. Our job as persuaders is easier than we think. It’s not to get others believing what we say. It’s just to stop them unbelieving. Once we achieve that, the game’s half-won. “Unbelief is the friction that keeps persuasion in check,” Dutton says. “Without it, there’d be no limits.” Giving your counterpart the illusion of control by asking calibrated questions - by asking for help - is one of the most powerful tools for suspending unbelief.
He who has learned to disagree without being disagreeable has discovered the most valuable secret of negotiation. — Robert Estabroook, Washington Post editor
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. But calibrated questions are not just random requests for comment. They have a direction: once you figure out where you want a conversation to go, you have to design the questions that will ease the conversation in that direction while letting the other guy think it’s his choice to take you there.
Even with all the best techniques and strategy, you need to regulate your emotions if you want to have any hope of coming out on top. The first and most basic rule of keeping your emotional cool is to bite your tongue. Not literally, of course. But you have to keep away from knee-jerk, passionate reactions. Pause. Think. Let the passion dissipate. That allows you to collect your thoughts and be more circumspect in what you say. It also lowers your chance of saying more than your want to.
The trick to “How” questions is that, correctly used, they are gentle and graceful ways to say “No” and guide your counterpart to develop a better solution. A gentle How/Now invites collaboration and leaves your counterpart with a feeling of having been treated with respect.
UCLA psychology professor Albert Mehrabian created the 7-38-55 rule. That is, only 7 percent of a message is based on the words while 38 percent comes form the tone of voice and 55 percent from the speaker’s body language and face.
The Rule of Three is simply getting the other guy to agree to the same thing three times in the same conversation. It’s tripling the strength of whatever dynamic you’re trying to drill into at the moment. In doing so, it uncovers problems before they happen. It’s really hard to repeatedly or fake conviction. The first time they agree to something or give you a commitment, that’s No.1. For No.2 you might label or summarize that they said so they answer, “That’s right.” And No.3 could be a calibrated “How” or “What” question about implementation that asks them to explain what will constitute success, something like “What do we do if we get off track?”
Any response that’s not an outright rejection of your offer means you have the edge.
3 Types of Negotiator Styles:
The Black Swan rule is don’t treat others the way you want to be treated; treat them the way they need to be treated.
Experienced negotiators often lead with a ridiculous offer, an extreme anchor. And if you’re not prepared to handle it, you’ll lose your moorings and immediately go to your maximum.
The Ackerman Model:
- Set your target price (your goal).
- Set your first offer at 65 percent of your target price.
- Calculate three raises of increments to (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, non-round numbers like, say, $37,893 rather than 38,000. It gives the number credibility and weight.
- On your final number, throw in a nonmenetarrty item (that they probably don’t want) to sho you’re at your limit.
Find the Black Swan
Four common reasons negotiators mistakenly call their counterpart crazy:
- They are ill-informed.
- They are constrained.
- They have other interests.
Every negotiation, every conversation, every moment of life, is a series of small conflicts that, managed well, can rise to creative beauty. Embrace them.