Never Split the Difference


Tactical empathy is the cornerstone of this book, and it is listening as a martial art. Listening is a very active process and allows you to get into the mind of the other person.

The Rabbit Hole is written by Blas Moros. To support, sign up for the newsletter, become a patron, and/or join The Latticework. Original Design by Thilo Konzok.

Key Takeaways

  1. Asking open ended questions like how am I supposed to do that? Disarms the other side and gets at the emotional hold it rather than purely logical
  2. We are hardwired to avoid conflict, but these steps, processes and tools we have developed and help you affectively navigate conflict negotiation. Don’t avoid conflict – it can’t be avoided but most people run away from it at first sight. Think of it more as an opportunity to listen. Explain and understand both what you and your counterparty wants. Learn to listen and act empathetically and you can’t help but become a great negotiator
  3. Before going into a negotiation, consider best and worst case outcomes. BATNA can lower your vision and close off opportunities for better things. Focus on your high end goal, – expect more and get more. Describe the lay of the land, how you got there, what you want, what the other side wants, non-cash considerations you’d want. The other should agree with all of it before starting
  4. Labels
    1. Understand the power of labels – it seems like you value x, it seems like you don’t want y. You think that… Then ask if that’s true. If you get this right, it makes the other side feel truly heard and if you don’t, it gives them a chance to correct you which is helpful to both sides
    2. Really listen and put yourself in your counterparty’s shoes. Don’t just listen to their words, but what their deeper preferences are. Try to understand what the other side really wants
    3. Emotions aren’t obstacles, but the means. Never ignore the other sides’ feelings. Make them feel heard and then label it. This is tactical empathy. It seems like you are worried about…
    4. You put yourself in their shoes, perceive what they’re feeling and put those feelings into words
    5. Labeling is giving an emotion a name and it shows the other side you hear and understand them
  5. Slow it down. Take the time to really listen and hear the other side. Time is one of the most important tools you have as a negotiator.
  6. It’s not only what we say or do, but how is it how we do it that matters. Never forget, tone, body language, and mannerisms make up the majority of communication
  7. 7/38/55 – 7% of a message comes from words, 38% from our tone and how we say it and 55% from our body language and face
  8. Being right isn’t the key to successful negotiation. Having the right mindset is.
  9. Jedi Mind Tricks
    1. Mirroring back 1-3 key words is incredibly effective. It’s like a Jedi mind trick. Use a deep and calm voice, say “I’m sorry…” followed by repeating the key words, then allow for silence
    2. Saying, “We just want what’s fair” is a powerful level setter
    3. When you make a mistake, own up to it clearly. “Look, I know I’m an asshole…”
    4. Getting someone to say, “That’s right” shows you’re truly on the right path
    5. The most direct path is indirect. Let the other side go first truly listen and make them feel like they are in control.
    6. This is what a great deal looks like to me
    7. I have a lousy proposition for you…
  10. The power of “no”
    1. Most people fear the word, no, but great negotiators love it. It helps establish what the other side really wants and what you really want.
    2. Aim to get an “no” early in a negotiation. This makes the other side, feel safe and in control and opens them up to other points that may be more important.
    3. You can start a negotiation by asking for all the side all the things the other side doesn’t want, seeding ‘no’ and opening up the other side
  11. While win-win is drilled into us from a young age, compromise is often disastrous. No deal is better than a bad deal. Never split the difference.
  12. Deadlines are the boogeyman of negotiation. How often has a negative result actually come about for you because of a missed deadline?
  13. Sharing your deadline is generally seen as a negative since it gives the other side information, but the author disagrees and thinks that sharing your deadline is useful
  14. Don’t overfly focus on money as this can lead to black and white negotiations. Understand other possibilities which are cheap for them but important for you (advertising, distribution, etc.). However, if you do need to use numbers, use odd and specific ones which aren’t rounded and/or give a range (and you have to be comfortable with the bottom end of the range). You can stimulate reciprocity and kindness with gifts.
  15. Understand the subconscious deep desires of your counter parties. Once you understand this, negotiating with them will become that much easier.
  16. Proper negotiation isn’t a defeat of one side vs the other, but a cooperation. You ideally have the other side do the work for you and a lot of this comes down to asking open-ended questions. You want to give the other side the illusion of control in a negotiation and much of this comes down to asking open-ended questions
  17. He who has learned how to disagree without being disagreeable has learned the key to negotiation
  18. Calibrated Questions
    1. You have to have incredible emotional control in order to be a great negotiator. The same calibrated question can be conveyed as aggressive or empathetic
    2. Ask calibrated questions that start with “how” or “what”. “Why?” generally elicits defensive explanations. You can get influence through deference which is why asking “how?” and “what?” questions leads to
  19. The deal killers are often more important than the deal maker – sometimes they’re the same person but often they aren’t. Make sure you know who they are and what their true needs are (Often the deal hinges on non financial things like status, hierarchy, self esteem)
  20. Make sure tone and body language match. If not, use labels to draw it out. I heard you say “yes”, but it sounded like you hesitated
  21. The art of the deal comes from staying focused until the end. Don’t give up on your top goal and adapt (BATNA is dangerous because it anchors you to your worst case scenario)
  22. Yes means nothing without how. Use how questions to make the other side feel like they’re in control and it gets them to negotiate against themselves
  23. Introduce yourself and humanize yourself early on to break through to people’s emotions.
  24. Knowing your negotiation style and your counterparts’ is important so you know how to proceed with your strategy. There are 3 broad categories of people – accommodators, aggressive, analysts. Each style can be effective and you need to combine to be your best. Thinking that you’re normal or average is hugely destructive. You have to understand your style, but also other people styles in order to be as effective as possible. People mistake there limits for the limits of the world. Don’t treat people the way you wanna be treated, but the way they need to be treated
    1. Analysts are methodical and diligent and want to minimize mistakes and take their time. They’re hyper sensitive to reciprocity and are very skeptical.
    2. Accommodators care about relationships more than anything and want win/win. They don’t have a great bias for action and avoid conflict.
    3. Assertive people believe time is money. Done is better than perfect. They’re blunt and to the point. They want to be heard and focus on own goals rather than people. You have to listen to them before they take the time to listen to you
    4. Time and Silence are thought about differently by each group. Time = Preparation, relationship, money, Silence = time to think, build rapport, talk
  25. Don’t allow yourself to get angry or respond emotionally. The problem is always the problem. The problem is not the other person remain levelheaded, yet assertive and confident.
  26. Positive, negative, and normative leverage.
    1. If you can give or takeaway what the other side wants, you have positive leverage.
    2. Negative leverage is based on threats.
    3. Normative leverage is using other sides values and beliefs against them. Establishing rapport and shared identity and framing things within the worldview of your counter party increases your normative leverage in substantial ways. For example, if you’re dealing with a veteran, they have certain senses of duties that others might not share. If someone is deeply religious, there are certain themes, concepts, ideas, and beliefs that carry more wait for them than others. Come to understand their worldviews, and what really matters to them in your unlock normative leverage.
  27. Discovering black swans – unknown unknowns – are heard to come by but can totally change the game
  28. Ackerman negotiation
    1. Determine your reservation price. Consider all factors influencing price.
    2. Anchor at 65% of your reservation price. This step devalues the item’s perceived worth. …
    3. Offer 85% of your reservation price. …
    4. Follow their counter with 95% of your reservation price.
    5. End at 100%
  29. Behavioral Change Stairway Model (BCSM)
    1. Active Listening
    2. Empathy
    3. Rapport
    4. Influence
    5. Behavioral Change
  30. Genuine curiosity is a hack for emotional control
  31. The best preparation is to be genuinely curious
  32. 70% of buying decisions are made to avoid a loss rather than to gain something beneficial. Figure out the loss and go from there.
  33. Replace “trust” with “predictable” or “consistent over time” and this will help put you in a more rational frame of mind

What I got out of it

  1. Learn to get what you want in a psychologically aware and effective manner

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