Monday, July 4, 2022

Review of Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss

This review was written by Eugene Kernes 

Book can be found in:
Genre = Economics, Behavioral
Book Club Event = Book List (07/23/2022)
Intriguing Connections = 1) Why Conflict Occurs And How To Resolve Them?
Watch Short Review


“The first step to achieving a mastery of daily negotiation is to get over your aversion to negotiating.  You don’t need to like it; you just need to understand that’s how the world works.  Negotiating does not mean browbeating or grinding someone down.  It simply means playing the emotional game that human society is set up for.  In this world, you get what you ask for; you just have to ask correctly.  So claim your prerogative to ask for what you think is right.” – Chris Voss, Chapter 1: The New Rules, Page 21

“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.” – Chris Voss, Chapter 2: Be a Mirror, Page 26

“In every negotiation, in every agreement, the result comes from someone else’s decision.  And sadly, if we believe that we can control or manage other’ decisions with compromise and logic, we’re leaving millions on the table.  But while we can’t control others’ decisions, we can influence them by inhibiting their world and seeing and hearing exactly what they want.” – Chris Voss, Chapter 4: Beware “Yes” – Master “No”, Page 74

This book provides tools and techniques of negotiation from the experience of FBI negotiations.  Which used to focus on brute force and logic, but changed to focus on the emotional aspects of the negotiation.  Changed because of the actual experiences within tense negotiations, crisis negotiations.  Discovering what worked, and rectifying what did not work with an iterative process.  The developed negotiation techniques apply to more than just the FBI, as life is full of negotiations.  

Many negotiation techniques are provided, but they would be useless without listening.  Listening is a very active activity, not a passive activity.  Listening is such a difficult task, that rather than use a negotiator, the FBI uses a team of negotiators.  Each has their own biases and distractions.  Listening is a skill that demonstrates that the counterpart is being understood and accepted.  The focus is on the counterpart, which facilitates discovery of more information.  Information with which an advantage can be gained.  There are different ways to get the information, and use the information.

Within interactions between those who want sometimes from each other, negotiation is a prominent tool.  A tool used to gather information, and influence behavior.  Societies have set up negotiation as the cultural way of getting what someone wants.  It is by playing the emotional game that someone obtains social advantages.  There is no need to like negotiation, but there is a need to get used to negotiation. 
Negotiators are decision architects using verbal and nonverbal elements to gain consent and execution.  Have to analyze the entire negotiation space, by making sure that all counterparts are known and their views are considered.  Negotiation works best with a curiosity mindset.  Seeking to discover psychological insights and more information.  Searching for the pieces of knowledge outside normal expectations.  Those discoveries reveal different ways to approach the negotiation, and provide alternative ways that can be better.  The negotiator needs to continuously adjust perception, rather than try to fit reality to their own biases and forgone conclusions.  Needs to recognize flawed versions of the situation, and then seek to rectify the understanding.  

Changing Negotiation Styles:
Before 1971, FBI negotiations were about brute force.  Talking until a way to physically incapacitate the wrong doers became possible.  Pretending to negotiate, until force became possible.  But after a series of very public mistakes, the FBI was forced to change.  Needing to actually negotiate, rather than violence as the modus operandi.  

The negotiation style was based on problem-solving.  A logic approach to the handling counterparties.  The FBI used the approach which had four aspects.  1) Separate emotions from the problem.  2) Find out the underlying reason for the claimed wants.  3) Cooperate for win-win options.  4) Evaluate options using mutually agreed-upon standards.

The problem with the logical approach, was that the situations the FBI was in, did not present themselves in a way that would make the approach possible.  Rather than logic being central within the bargaining interactions, the situations were dynamic, uncertain, emotional, and without clear demands.  This caused a change in the approach, from pure logical sequence of events, to an emotional understanding.  Creating emotional negotiating skills.  

Emotions became central to effective negotiation, rather than something to overcome.  From there, psychological tactics and strategies were sought to create an emotional understanding between the negotiator and the counterpart.  To not only calm erratic emotions, but to build trust and verbalize needs.  A set of skill sets considered tactical empathy.  

Negotiating Strategies and Tactics:
Decisions are influenced by emotions.  Emotions override logic.  Tradition held that negotiators separate the emotion from the problem, because emotions are an obstacle to the outcome.  The problem is that emotions are the problem, especially under tense situations.  Communication becomes difficult under emotions.  Figuring out how to calm emotions, and keep oneself calm, is needed for negotiation.  Controlling one’s own emotions is a prerequisite for influencing counterpart’s emotions. 

Tactical empathy uses listening as a martial art.  Combining emotional intelligence and influence skills to understand another person.  It is a way to think from their perspective, from their point of view.  To assess their state of mind, and react accordingly.  What is needed is an understanding of the counterpart’s feelings and mindset, but also to hear the meaning behind the feelings.  Giving attention to emotional obstacles, means finding alternative pathways and increases influence.  To obtain that information, require the negotiator to be silent, and wait for a response.  Silence is a skill and part of listening.  

Empathy is not about agreeing with the counterpart, it is about understanding them.  Trying to understand the counterpart’s situation, and the reasons for their claims and actions.  Knowing their reasons, provides access to what can change their behavior.  Everyone has biases.  Understanding the unspoken needs and thoughts provide information that can be used to leverage to change counterpart’s views.

Labelling an emotion gives it validity.  Giving validity signifies identification with what and how the person feels.  Labelling is difficult and can be emotional intensive.  It is not about assuming the feelings are actually true, but a way to find how the individual feels. 

Within a negotiation, the parties try to build trust with one another.  What reduces trust is when people feel they are not being heard.  Which happens when the negotiation is proceeding to fast.  Being in a hurry when negotiating risks the built trust.

People mirror each other, imitate each other, for comfort.  People sync when they mirror each other, as a way of bonding.  Mirroring can be done through a variety of human behaviors and ways of speaking.  Mirroring in a negotiating can mean something as simple as repeating what was said, even something said at the end.  This triggers mirroring in the counterpart, as the counterpart will elaborate on what was said.  Elaboration means that the counterpart is sustaining the process of connecting.

Active resistance leads to showdown.  Unbelief is active resistance.  Suspending their unbelief can be done by asking for help.  Which gives the counterpart the illusion of control.  Their control, contains them.  A way to provide the illusion of control is to ask open ended questions, calibrated questions.  Those without a fixed response.  Open ended questions give more time for the negotiator.  Questions that can be used to inform, rather than cause conflict by telling.

Need to use the perspective of the counterpart, rather than one’s own.  Treat counterparts the way they want to be treated.   Use the counterpart’s worldview to an advantage.  Embed wanted claims within their worldview.  Cannot control counterpart’s decisions, but can influence them.  Positively affirming the counterparts’ views.  People who have difference information appear to be wrong, or worse, in discussion with those who hold different information.  Supplying information when needed and discovering the information asymmetries are needed for appropriate negotiations.  

Getting to a “yes” in a negotiation might be beneficial, but most of the time, the way the “yes” comes about, is through a question in which the “yes” is meaningless.  “Yes” itself does not provide much value.  Alternatively, “no” is great for negotiations.  “No” informs what is not wanted.  Used to maintain control.  “No” provides context within which to readjust and reconsider.  Creating a context in which ‘yes’ is meaningful.  Allowing for “no” as an answer, provides for a collaborative environment.  

Win-win approaches do not always work.  Especially when negotiating with someone who has a win-lose approach.  Compromise can be ineffective and disastrous.  Compromising is easy, which is why it is usually done.  Rather, creating solutions can be better, but carry risks that most are not willing to take.

There are contradictions within some of the claims, and that culture has a role in defining how some techniques can be used.  

The title’s advice to never split the difference, can be seen as an extreme.  But it comes from considering the consequences of various compromises.  Thinking of the compromises that had negative effects, while not considering the compromises that improved the situation.  Within this book, compromises are actually used within negotiating, but are made to appear as if they are not compromises in their outcomes.  

Power dynamic is undisclosed undercurrent.  Even when the FBI was not negotiating properly, they still had a lot of power to get what they wanted as the outcome.  Better negotiating skills facilitated better outcomes, but even those skills were backed by power.  Negotiating elsewhere, still requires understanding of the distribution of power.  The book provides some references to powerless situations, in which power dynamics shift and the negotiators took advantage of the change in power dynamic.  

The book provides a lot of practice and techniques to manipulate others, and can prepare negotiators not to be manipulated in the same manner.  But if everyone reads the book, the advantage disappears.  Much like how the author practiced, got better, and gained an understanding to negotiation.  Others can do the same.  

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•Can FBI negotiation techniques be used elsewhere?
•What is negotiation used for?
•How did FBI negotiations change?
•What is listening used for?
•How to listen?
•What is the focus on the negotiation?
•How should negotiators approach negotiations?
•What is tactical empathy?
•What are some negotiation tactics to get to understand the counterpart? 
•How to calm the emotions of the counterpart?
•How is fairness used?
•What happens to those who have a reputation for always getting a lot from counterparts?
•What does it mean to be nice?
•What do deadlines do to negotiations?
•How can numbers be used influence negotiations? 

Book Details
Publisher:         Harper Business [HarperCollinsPublishers]
Edition ISBN:  9780062407818
Pages to read:   206
Publication:     2016
1st Edition:      2016
Format:            eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall           5