Negotiations happen daily, not only in business

Never Split the Difference Book by Chris Voss Review

Hi all, I don’t remember when was the last time updated hahaha. May hit me so hard with finals, assignments and a new job. Everyday was so routine-ly and boring — eat, work, gym…. I barely have the inspirations and energy to write. Now finals are over, I enjoyed a one-day semester break😂 (yes, one day) and started working again. #averyshortandrandomupdate.

As you can see from the title, I would like to share a book about negotiation -“Never Split the difference; Negotiating as if your life depends on it” by Chris Voss. You might think that negotiations usually happen in business, so… it isn’t really my business. Well, I had the same feeling too at first, specifically, I was only interested in salary negotiation🤭

This book proves you wrong, as it emphasizes how to negotiate and navigate daily conflicts that involve your family, friends, partner etc. There are no fancy techniques like BATNA (we always hear that in negotiations lol) as we, are irrational and emotional. How can we tell them theories when they are angry?

To summarize this book in two words, it would be “äctive listening”. Very clique, right? But how many of us really pay attention to what others are saying?

The book was divided into 3 parts:

  • approaches to active listening
  • setting and making offers using the Ackerman system
  • how to discover something uncovered

Negotiation is a process of discovery not a battle of argument, the goal is to uncover as much information as possible. In daily conversations, we also want to keep the interaction going. And the book mentioned a few skills we can use:

  • Mirroring by repeating the last or most important three words
  • Labeling. Imagine the bad things that others will say or potential barriers they may encounter and mention them before they even say it. This shows you acknowledge their situation and they will be more willing and open to talk.
  • Use no-oriented questions than yes to ensure they are really listening. Also, a “no” is the beginning of the negotiation but not the end.
  • Use calibrated questions, starting with “what” and “How”. Questions like “how can I do that” can push them to search for other solutions or even bid with themselves
  • ….

When dealing with offers like rent and salary, the Ackerman system (name of a former FBI negotiator who invented this) suggested we bargain price starting from 65% of the target price, then 85%, 90% and finally 100%. We can also use precise, non-round weird numbers like $233. Besides the known facts, what brings us to unexpected results are the unknown ones. There are usually 3–5 pieces of information the counterpart is holding and you don’t know. To uncover them, the book mentions a few tricks. For example, organizing face-to-face meetings instead of email as non-verbal language reveals more than verbal. The beginning and ending aka informal parts of meetings also reveal a lot of messages.

Will I recommend reading it?

Each chapter starts with an FBI story and how Voss manages to save the hostages or resolve the disputes (he is an FBI negotiator). Then he will explain the techniques he used and why it is useful with some psychology stuff and examples from his students (he teaches negotiation class as well).

It was interesting to read the stories, but the last few chapters are boring hahahha. I haven’t read other negotiation books before, so I cannot compare them. But Voss had a clear stance that BATNA, zone pricing …. will not work, so the contents shall be quite different from other books like “Getting to YES”.

The major theme is active listening which is umm, common sense. We all know that conversations are difficult to sustain if we are not paying attention to others lol. But the skills are useful though, I tried mirroring when I chatted with my sister. She kept talking and talking and didn’t think I was replying to her mindlessly. I recommend you to skim-read this book. Read the subtopics you are interested in, like negotiating a better salary for me. The stories in the first few chapters are good to read too.

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