How to Negotiate with Chris Voss

How to Negotiate

How to Negotiate with Chris Voss

You may not realize it, but you negotiate with people every single day! But if you’re like many people, you either don’t know how to negotiate, or you simply hate doing it.

Do you own a car or a home? Do you have a job? Are you married and have kids? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, then yes, you are a negotiator! No matter what you do in life, YOU negotiate. Whether you are making a decision with your spouse, your boss, or a client, you negotiate every day.

Having strong negotiation skills can be the difference between success and failure. However, it can be confusing to understand how to become a better negotiator.

In today’s interview, I speak with former FBI Hostage Negotiator Chris Voss. Chris is the author of the book Never Split the Difference. He is also the founder and principal of The Black Swan Group, which provides training to Fortune 500 companies on complex negotiation techniques.

Chris took some time to discuss the importance of strong negotiation skills, and how we can take these skills with us in our lives. As someone who saw himself as a good negotiator, I thought Chris’s message was a real eye opener. It can help you learn new ways to be a better negotiator both in and out of the office. Even if you don’t already think of yourself as a negotiator, having these skills is an important part of life.

Negotiation Involves Collaboration

A fear of confrontation is one thing that causes many people to hate negotiation. However, as Chris Voss explains, a negotiation is not a confrontation.  Listen at 6:12 to discover how negotiation is actually about collaboration. The best negotiators, both in and out of the business world, are the ones who are able to collaborate with others.

Negotiate to Win – No Matter the Stakes

Negotiation can be about more than just closing a big sale. Whether you are asking for a raise, determining the terms of a promotion, or simply getting your kids to do their homework, you are still negotiating. When the outcome is important to you, you will do all you can to win.

Tactical Empathy is key to negotiating. 

You probably already have an idea of what “empathy” means. It isn’t sympathy, compassion, or agreement, but rather a way to have a better understanding of the other person’s perspective. You can have empathy and use it even with those who you strongly disagree with. Empathy is the cornerstone of Chris’s approach to successful negotiation, and by successfully using it, you allow the other person to lower his or her defenses.

From a tactical perspective, neuroscience gives us the ability to understand how the brain works. Studies show us how electricity passes through the emotional sections of our brain. Through these studies, we are better able to use tactics to diffuse the other person’s negative thoughts, allowing us to become better negotiators in any situation.

Negotiations are based on emotion, not rational problem solving.

While working with the FBI, Chris Voss was the lead negotiator on countless kidnapping negotiations. However, he and the FBI quickly found that negotiating is actually driven by human emotions, not rational problem solving. Listen in at 11:15 to discover how the FBI changed its focus from bargaining to understanding human emotions.  Chris’ book, Never Split the Difference, starts off with a story of how Harvard Research Negotiation Project tried to trick Chris by mocking a hostage situation with his son.  Listen at 3:14 to hear Chris in action and see how he beat two of Harvard’s best negotiators, just by asking simple open-ended questions.

Never meet in the middle.

One of the worst negotiation tactics that Chris has seen in place? A negotiation where both sides are unhappy.  Listen at 16:20 to learn more about how your perception of loss can distort how you view negotiating. Chris gives an example of splitting the difference and meeting in the middle. While this is a popular negotiation tactic, it is a surefire way to ensure that neither side walks away satisfied.

Listen to Part 2

Stay tuned for part 2 of my interview with Chris Voss for more ways on how to become a better negotiator. Chris will show you how you’re addicted to the “yes,” and why striving for a “no” is how you can win the negotiation.  If you liked Chris’ interview YOU will love the others on my podcast.  Download them here.


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