Welcome to today’s interview with Chris Voss, a renowned author and former FBI hostage negotiator. Chris is best known for his book “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It,” which has gained widespread acclaim for its groundbreaking strategies in negotiation and communication.
As someone who spent 24 years working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Chris Voss brings a unique perspective to the art of negotiation. From high-stakes hostage situations to international crisis management, he has honed his skills under extreme pressure, mastering the delicate balance between empathy and assertiveness.
In “Never Split the Difference,” Chris draws on his experiences and shares real-life anecdotes to provide readers with actionable techniques to succeed in negotiations. His approach challenges traditional negotiation tactics by emphasizing the importance of active listening, emotional intelligence, and unconventional methods that tap into human psychology.
With his book gaining popularity among professionals from various fields, Chris Voss has become a sought-after speaker and consultant. He has trained corporations, law enforcement agencies, and governmental organizations worldwide, helping individuals and teams navigate challenging negotiations successfully.
In this exclusive interview, we delve into the mind of Chris Voss to gain insights into his innovative negotiation strategies, explore his career as an FBI agent, and understand the principles behind his acclaimed book. So, let’s dive deep into the world of negotiation with one of the foremost experts in the field – Chris Voss.
Who is Chris Voss?
Chris Voss is a former FBI hostage negotiator, author, and speaker. He gained prominence for his expertise in negotiation strategies and techniques, particularly in high-stakes situations. Voss served as the lead international kidnapping negotiator for the FBI and was involved in numerous high-profile cases. After leaving the FBI, he co-founded the Black Swan Group, a consulting firm that specializes in negotiation training and coaching. Voss has written a book titled “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It,” which has become popular in the field of negotiation. He continues to share his knowledge through speaking engagements and workshops on negotiation tactics.
Chris has been featured in TIME, Business Insider, Entrepreneur, Inc., Fast Company, Fortune, The Washington Post, SUCCESS Magazine, Squawk Box, CNN, ABC News and more. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.
20 Thought-Provoking Questions with Chris Voss
1.Do you have any preferred parts want to share with your readers?
Yes, I thought these quotes are really helpful and they can help to better understand the book “Never Split the Difference”.
1. “In a negotiation, you’re always trying to persuade the other side to see things your way. Their thoughts and ideas are as important as yours.”
2. “The most dangerous negotiation is the one you don’t know you’re in.”
3. “Negotiation is not an act of battle; it’s a process of discovery. The goal is to uncover as much information as possible.”
4. “Listening is the cheapest, yet most effective concession we can make to get valuable information.”
5. “Empathy is not endorsement; it is understanding both sides of the table.”
6. “The single most powerful move I’ve ever used to negotiate anything is the phrase ‘How am I supposed to do that?'”
7. “No deal is better than a bad deal. Sometimes, walking away is the best option.”
8. “Your words should be tools of construction, not destruction.”
9. “Calibrated questions create momentum because they help us convince ourselves to do what we already know we should do.”
10. “Be more interested in understanding than being understood. Seek to find common ground and build from there.”
These quotes provide valuable insights into negotiation strategies and communication techniques discussed in the book.
2. Could you share a bit about your background and what led you to become an expert in negotiation?
I have over 20 years of experience as a top hostage negotiator for the FBI. During my time with the agency, I handled numerous high-stakes negotiations and crisis situations. Through these intense experiences, I gained invaluable insights into the art of effective communication and persuasion.
My interest in negotiation began when I realized that successful outcomes were not achieved solely through logic or forceful tactics. Instead, I discovered that the key to influencing others lies in understanding their underlying motivations and emotions. This realization led me to develop powerful negotiation techniques that blend empathy, active listening, and strategic communication.
Over the years, I have honed my skills by negotiating with terrorists, kidnappers, and criminals in life-and-death situations. These intense encounters taught me invaluable lessons about human behavior, decision-making, and the power of emotional intelligence in negotiation. Now, I share these insights in my book, “Never Split the Difference,” to help individuals from all walks of life achieve better outcomes in their negotiations.
3. In your book, “Never Split the Difference,” you emphasize the importance of emotional intelligence in negotiation. How can one develop their emotional intelligence to become a better negotiator?
Developing emotional intelligence is crucial for becoming a better negotiator. It involves understanding and effectively managing both your own emotions and those of the person you are negotiating with. Here are three strategies to enhance your emotional intelligence:
Self-awareness: Reflect on your own emotions and triggers. Recognize how they influence your thoughts and behaviors during negotiations. By understanding your emotional patterns, you can gain better control over them and prevent impulsive reactions that hinder effective communication.
Active listening: Pay close attention to the other party’s words, tone, and body language. Try to understand their underlying emotions and needs. Practice empathy by putting yourself in their shoes. By displaying genuine interest and understanding, you create a positive atmosphere that encourages open communication and collaboration.
Emotion labeling: Accurately identify and label the emotions expressed by both yourself and the other person. This helps create rapport and demonstrates that you understand their perspective. By acknowledging their feelings, you validate their experience, which can lead to a more constructive and cooperative negotiation process.
By investing time and effort into developing emotional intelligence, you will become better equipped to navigate difficult negotiations, build trust, and achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.
4. The concept of “tactical empathy” plays a significant role in your negotiation strategies. How can someone effectively employ tactical empathy to build rapport and gain influence during a negotiation?
Tactical empathy is a powerful tool for building rapport and influencing others during negotiations. To effectively employ tactical empathy, follow these steps:
Active listening: Listen attentively and show sincere interest in the other person’s perspective. Focus not only on their words but also on their tone, body language, and emotions. This allows you to uncover their underlying needs, desires, and concerns.
Mirror and validate: Mirroring involves subtly echoing the other person’s words or behaviors to establish rapport. By validating their emotions and experiences, you show empathy and make them feel heard and understood. For example, if they express frustration, you might say, “It seems like this situation has been really challenging for you.”
Label emotions: Skillfully label the other person’s emotions to demonstrate empathy. This involves articulating their feelings in a non-confrontational manner. By acknowledging their emotions, you provide an opportunity for them to further elaborate and clarify their position.
Inquire with curiosity: Use open-ended questions to explore their thoughts and interests. Show genuine curiosity about their perspective. This encourages them to share more information, creating a collaborative atmosphere where both parties can find mutually beneficial solutions.
Employing tactical empathy allows you to build trust and rapport, which in turn increases your influence during negotiations. When people feel understood and valued, they become more open to finding creative solutions that satisfy the interests of all parties involved.
5. In your experience, what are some common mistakes people make when negotiating, and how can they avoid them?
One common mistake people make when negotiating is being too focused on their own perspective and goals, neglecting the importance of understanding the other party’s point of view. Negotiation is about finding a mutually beneficial solution, and this requires active listening and empathy. To avoid this mistake, start by asking open-ended questions to encourage the other party to share their needs and concerns. Actively listen and seek to understand their underlying interests.
Another mistake is failing to prepare adequately. Negotiations require knowledge about the other party’s background, interests, and potential alternatives. Research and gather information beforehand to strengthen your position and anticipate possible objections or counteroffers.
Lastly, many negotiators fall into the trap of making concessions too early or too easily. Instead, focus on building rapport and trust before moving into substantive discussions. Use techniques like mirroring, labeling, and calibrated questions to gather more information and gain insights into the other party’s mindset.
6. “Black swans” are unexpected events that can significantly impact negotiations. How can negotiators effectively adapt and navigate these unpredictable situations?
Black swans are unexpected events that can disrupt negotiations. The key to effectively adapting and navigating these situations lies in maintaining flexibility and preserving relationships. When faced with a black swan event, remain calm and composed. Take a step back, assess the situation, and reevaluate your strategy.
Adaptability is crucial. Be willing to explore alternative options and consider creative solutions that accommodate the new circumstances. This might involve changing the negotiation timeline, revisiting certain terms, or redefining what success looks like.
Communication is vital during these unpredictable situations. Keep the lines of communication open and engage in transparent dialogue. Share your concerns and seek to understand the other party’s perspective on how the black swan event impacts the negotiation.
Remember, black swans can be opportunities for breakthroughs rather than obstacles. Embrace uncertainty as a chance to find innovative solutions and forge stronger relationships with the other party.
7. Your book highlights the power of mirroring and labeling techniques in negotiations. Can you explain how these tools work and why they are effective?
Mirroring and labeling are powerful techniques that can enhance communication and improve outcomes in negotiations. Mirroring involves repeating or reflecting back the last few words or key points the other party has said. This technique helps establish rapport and signals that you are actively listening and seeking to understand them. It encourages the other party to share more information and fosters a sense of empathy.
Labeling, on the other hand, involves acknowledging the other party’s emotions or concerns explicitly. By putting a label on their feelings or thoughts, you show empathy and validate their perspective. This technique allows you to defuse tension, address underlying issues, and create a more collaborative atmosphere.
Both mirroring and labeling help to build trust and encourage the other party to be more open and cooperative. They demonstrate your attentiveness and willingness to understand, which can lead to better problem-solving and mutually beneficial agreements.
8. What advice would you give to negotiators who find themselves in high-pressure situations where emotions are running high on both sides?
In high-pressure negotiations where emotions run high, it’s crucial to remain calm and focused while understanding the emotions of the other party. First, consciously manage your own emotions by practicing self-awareness and adopting a confident yet empathetic demeanor. Address any negative emotions that arise, such as anger or frustration, by taking a deep breath and reminding yourself of the goal at hand.
To effectively address emotional counterparts, practice tactical empathy. Acknowledge their feelings and concerns, repeat back their words, and validate their perspective. This empathetic approach helps establish rapport and creates an atmosphere conducive to constructive problem-solving.
Utilize open-ended questions to encourage the other party to vent and share their underlying motivations. Prompt them to elaborate on their interests and needs, allowing you to uncover areas of potential agreement. By actively listening, validating emotions, and demonstrating understanding, you can defuse tension and move towards a mutually beneficial outcome.
Remember, emotions are often disguised signals of unmet needs. By managing your emotions and empathizing with the other side, you can guide the negotiation towards a successful resolution.
9. In “Never Split the Difference,” you mention the significance of listening actively during negotiations. How can individuals improve their active listening skills and use them to their advantage in negotiations?
Active listening is a vital skill in negotiations, as it allows you to gather valuable information and build rapport. To enhance this skill, start by eliminating distractions and giving your full attention to the speaker. Maintain eye contact, nod occasionally, and use non-verbal cues to show engagement.
Empathy plays a significant role in active listening. Seek to understand the other party’s perspective and emotions by putting yourself in their shoes. Use tactical empathy techniques mentioned in “Never Split the Difference,” such as labeling emotions and paraphrasing their statements, to demonstrate your understanding and encourage further sharing.
Additionally, practice mirroring to establish rapport. Mirroring involves subtly imitating the other party’s body language and voice tone, signaling that you are on the same wavelength. This technique builds trust and encourages the speaker to open up.
To truly grasp the other party’s intentions, listen for both the words spoken and the emotions underlying them. Pay attention to any hesitations, changes in tone, or non-verbal cues that may reveal unspoken concerns or desires. By actively listening and understanding these signals, you can adapt your negotiation strategy accordingly and achieve better outcomes.
10. Negotiating with difficult or aggressive counterparts can be challenging. Do you have any specific strategies for dealing with such individuals?
Negotiating with difficult or aggressive individuals can be challenging, but it’s important not to let their behavior derail the process. Instead of responding with aggression or defensiveness, employ strategic techniques to manage their behavior effectively.
The first step is to practice tactical empathy, seeking to understand the underlying motivations and emotions of the difficult counterpart. Ask open-ended questions and actively listen to their responses, demonstrating genuine interest. By acknowledging their perspective and validating their thoughts and feelings, you can diffuse tension and build rapport.
When faced with aggression, resist the natural instinct to match it. Stay calm and controlled, using a calm demeanor and measured tone to counteract their hostility. Maintain boundaries by politely redirecting the conversation back to the negotiation agenda whenever they attempt personal attacks or distractions.
Influence their behavior positively by offering choices within an acceptable range. This strategy helps them feel in control while still moving towards a mutually beneficial outcome. Additionally, anchoring techniques and calibrated questions can help reframe the discussion and shift the focus from positions to interests.
Remember, difficult counterparts often have unmet needs or unresolved issues driving their behavior. By employing empathy, actively managing their aggression, and redirecting the conversation towards productive solutions, you can navigate these challenging negotiations more effectively.
11. The use of calibrated questions is another technique you recommend. Could you provide some examples of calibrated questions and explain how they can influence negotiations?
Calibrated questions are powerful tools in negotiation because they guide the conversation and elicit valuable information without sounding confrontational or pushy. For example, asking “How am I supposed to do that?” instead of “Can you lower the price?” prompts the other party to reconsider their position and propose alternatives. Similarly, asking “What about this doesn’t work for you?” encourages them to express any concerns or constraints, revealing underlying issues that can be addressed.
These questions influence negotiations by uncovering hidden motivations and needs while preserving the relationship. They help negotiators understand the other party’s perspective, build empathy, and foster collaboration. Calibrated questions also help frame the negotiation in a way that promotes problem-solving rather than confrontation, leading to creative solutions that benefit both sides. By encouraging thoughtful responses, these questions create an atmosphere conducive to open dialogue and mutual understanding, ultimately increasing the likelihood of reaching a satisfying agreement.
12. How important is it to establish trust during negotiations, and what steps can negotiators take to build trust with their counterparts?
Establishing trust is paramount in negotiations as it forms the foundation for productive and successful outcomes. When trust exists, parties are more likely to share information honestly, collaborate effectively, and reach mutually beneficial agreements. To build trust, negotiators should focus on three key steps: active listening, demonstrating empathy, and consistent follow-through.
Active listening involves paying full attention, seeking to understand the other party’s perspective, and acknowledging their feelings and needs. It fosters an environment of respect and genuine interest. Demonstrating empathy is essential to show that negotiators understand and appreciate the emotions and concerns of the counterpart. Validating their emotions and articulating shared goals helps establish rapport and connection.
Consistent follow-through builds trust over time. Promises made during negotiations should be upheld, deadlines met, and commitments fulfilled. Reliability and integrity are crucial components of trust-building. Additionally, maintaining open and transparent communication throughout the negotiation process helps prevent misunderstandings and enhances trust.
By diligently following these steps, negotiators can cultivate a trustworthy reputation, foster collaboration, and create an environment where both parties feel comfortable exploring options and reaching agreements.
13. Nonverbal communication often plays a crucial role in negotiations. What are some nonverbal cues that negotiators should pay attention to, and how can they leverage this knowledge to their advantage?
Nonverbal cues can reveal valuable information about a counterpart’s thoughts, emotions, and intentions in negotiations. Some key nonverbal cues to observe include body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and eye contact.
Body language is particularly significant. Crossed arms or defensive postures may indicate resistance or disagreement, while open gestures and leaning forward signal engagement and receptiveness. Facial expressions provide clues about emotions, such as raised eyebrows indicating surprise or frowns suggesting dissatisfaction. Tone of voice, including volume and speed, reveals underlying attitudes and confidence levels.
Leveraging this knowledge enables negotiators to adjust their approach accordingly. By mirroring positive body language and using a calm tone, negotiators can establish rapport and build trust. Recognizing discomfort or frustration through facial expressions allows them to address concerns effectively. Maintaining appropriate eye contact demonstrates attentiveness and sincerity.
Moreover, understanding nonverbal cues provides insights into hidden messages or unspoken objections. It enables negotiators to ask targeted questions, clarify ambiguous points, and navigate potential areas of conflict more skillfully. By paying attention to nonverbal cues, negotiators gain a broader understanding of the counterpart’s position and can adapt their strategy to reach a more favorable outcome.
14. “Anchoring” is a technique you discuss in your book. Could you explain how anchoring works and when it is most effective in negotiations?
Anchoring is a powerful negotiation technique discussed in my book, “Never Split the Difference.” It involves setting an initial reference point, or anchor, for the negotiation. This anchor serves as a cognitive bias that influences the perception of subsequent offers. By strategically setting a high or extreme anchor, negotiators can push the other party’s expectations towards their desired outcome.
To make anchoring more effective, it’s crucial to combine it with active listening and empathy. Understanding the counterpart’s needs, interests, and emotions allows us to tailor the anchor accordingly. Timing is also key; the first offer carries significant weight, so it’s essential to anchor early in the negotiation process.
Anchoring works best when it creates a contrast between the initial offer and subsequent proposals. By skillfully presenting alternatives and demonstrating their value, negotiators can gradually shift the counterpart’s perspective closer to their own position. However, it’s essential to be flexible and ready to adjust the anchor if necessary.
15. In some situations, negotiators may face ethical dilemmas. How can one navigate these situations while maintaining integrity and achieving their negotiation goals?
Negotiators often encounter ethical dilemmas when faced with conflicting interests. Balancing integrity and achieving negotiation goals requires a principled approach. Here are some strategies to navigate these situations:
Transparency: Foster open communication and disclose relevant information to build trust and credibility. Transparency helps prevent unethical behavior.
Focus on fairness: Strive for outcomes that benefit all parties involved, aiming for a win-win scenario. Ethical negotiations prioritize mutual gain rather than exploiting vulnerabilities.
Separate people from the problem: Address issues objectively, focusing on interests and needs rather than attacking individuals. Respect and empathy go a long way in maintaining integrity.
Seek common ground: Look for shared values and similarities to find solutions that align with both parties’ ethical standards. Emphasize collaboration and cooperation.
Consult ethics advisors: In complex situations, seek advice from mentors or ethics experts to ensure your actions align with ethical principles.
Remember, maintaining integrity and achieving negotiation goals are not mutually exclusive. By approaching negotiations with respect, fairness, and a focus on mutual benefit, negotiators can navigate ethical dilemmas effectively.
16. Can you share an example from your own experience where you successfully applied the principles outlined in “Never Split the Difference” to achieve a favorable outcome in a negotiation?
I had an experience where I applied the principles outlined in “Never Split the Difference” to achieve a favorable outcome. I was negotiating the purchase of a property, and the seller had initially set a high asking price. Using the anchoring technique, I strategically presented my first offer significantly lower than the asking price.
Throughout the negotiation, I actively employed tactical empathy and active listening to understand the seller’s motivations and concerns. By demonstrating understanding and validating their perspective, I built rapport and strengthened the relationship. This approach allowed me to uncover underlying needs and interests that were important to the seller.
To create further value, I introduced alternative solutions that addressed the seller’s non-monetary priorities, such as a flexible closing timeline and assistance with relocation. By expanding the negotiation beyond just the price, I shifted the focus towards a more holistic agreement.
Ultimately, by skillfully employing the strategies from “Never Split the Difference,” I achieved a favorable outcome. The final purchase price was significantly lower than the initial asking price, and both parties felt satisfied with the overall deal. This success reinforced the effectiveness of the book’s principles in real-world negotiations.
17. Negotiations can often become deadlocked. What are some strategies or approaches that can help negotiators overcome impasses and reach mutually beneficial agreements?
Negotiations can indeed reach impasses, but there are several strategies to overcome deadlocks and achieve mutually beneficial agreements. First, it’s crucial to actively listen and empathize with the other party’s perspective. By understanding their underlying concerns, you can address them effectively. Additionally, employing the “labeling” technique can be helpful. Acknowledge any negative emotions or obstacles that have been expressed, which can defuse tension and create an opening for further dialogue.
Another strategy is to introduce new information or options into the negotiation. This can help break the deadlock by broadening the potential solutions and allowing for creative problem-solving. Additionally, resetting the context can be effective. Changing the environment or taking a break can provide both sides with a fresh perspective, fostering a more productive discussion.
Lastly, it’s important to remember the power of collaboration. Instead of viewing negotiations as a win-lose scenario, aim for a win-win outcome by focusing on shared interests and seeking common ground. By exploring integrative negotiation techniques, negotiators can move beyond impasses and achieve mutually beneficial agreements.
18. How do you suggest negotiators handle situations where they must negotiate with multiple parties who have conflicting interests?
Negotiating with multiple parties who have conflicting interests can be challenging, but it presents opportunities for creative problem-solving. To effectively handle such situations, negotiators should prioritize building relationships and trust. Start by identifying common goals and areas of alignment between the parties. By emphasizing shared interests, negotiators can lay the foundation for productive discussions.
Another key approach is to facilitate open communication among all parties involved. Encourage each side to express their concerns and objectives openly. Actively listening to all perspectives enables negotiators to identify potential trade-offs or creative solutions that could satisfy multiple parties simultaneously.
Additionally, adopting a mediator role can be valuable. A skilled negotiator can act as a neutral third party, helping bridge gaps and find compromises that address the interests of all parties. Creating a collaborative atmosphere where everyone feels heard and respected is essential in navigating complex negotiations involving multiple parties with conflicting interests.
19. What advice would you give to someone who wants to improve their negotiation skills but doesn’t know where to start?
For those seeking to improve their negotiation skills, there are several steps to take. First, invest time in learning about the fundamentals of negotiation theory and techniques. Books like “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss provide practical advice and insights. Joining negotiation workshops or enrolling in online courses can also provide structured learning opportunities.
Practice is crucial for honing negotiation skills. Look for opportunities to negotiate in everyday life, such as discussing terms with service providers or resolving conflicts with colleagues. Reflect on these experiences and identify areas for improvement.
Additionally, seek feedback from others who have observed your negotiations. This can provide valuable insights into your strengths and weaknesses. Utilize role-playing exercises to simulate negotiations and develop strategies for different scenarios.
Finally, remember that negotiation is not solely about winning but creating value and maintaining relationships. Develop strong communication skills, active listening abilities, empathy, and emotional intelligence. By continuously practicing and refining these skills, anyone can become a more effective negotiator.
20. Finally, to help readers better understand and utilize the skill of negotiation, can you recommend some books to them?
Of course! Here are the three books I think are worthy to read. They provide a well-rounded understanding of negotiation, covering various aspects like strategy, psychology, and communication.
1. “Getting to Yes” by Roger Fisher and William Ury: This classic negotiation book introduces the concept of principled negotiation, emphasizing collaborative problem-solving instead of positional bargaining. It provides a framework for achieving win-win outcomes through understanding interests, exploring options, and focusing on objective criteria.
2. “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini: While not solely focused on negotiation, it delves into the psychology behind influencing others’ decisions. Understanding persuasion techniques such as social proof, reciprocity, and scarcity can greatly enhance one’s negotiation skills.
3. “Crucial Conversations” by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler: This book focuses on handling high-stakes conversations effectively. It provides tools for overcoming communication barriers, managing emotions, and fostering dialogue, all of which are essential in negotiations where tensions run high.
By studying these resources, readers can enhance their negotiation skills and thrive in different negotiation scenarios.