Never Split the Difference:
Negotiating as if Your Life Depends on it

โญ Key Notes

  1. Active listening – make the counterpart feel heard and identify what they care about most. Listen to the emotions behind the words.
  2. Tactical empathy – empathise with the counterpart and get them to empathise with you.
  3. Mirroring – use similar language to create trust.
  4. Calibrated questions – open ended questions that start with “how” or “what” to direct the counterpart towards your problem and help solve it. For example, how am I supposed to do that?

๐Ÿ“ Chapter 1: The New Rules

  • People want to be understood and accepted.
  • Listening is the best concession we can make.
  • Intense listening demonstrates empathy and a sincere desire to better understand the other side.

๐Ÿชž Chapter 2: Be a Mirror

  • Be ready for surprises and reveal them.
  • Remain fluid emotionally open to all possibilities.
  • Negotiation is not a battle of arguments. It is a process of discovery. Uncover as much information as possible.
  • Identify what the counterpart needs and make them feel safe to talk about what they want.
  • Listen and make the conversation about the counterpart. Validate emotions and build trust.
  • Slow down. Going too fast makes the counterpart feel like they are not being heard.

Voice tones

  1. Playful voice – light and encouraging attitude. Relax and smile whilst talking. This should be the default voice.
  2. Late night radio voice – inflect your voice downward, keeping it calm and slow. Use selectively to make a point. Create an auro of authority and trustworthiness.
  3. Assertive voice – direct tone may create pushback. Use rarely.


  • Smile and adopt a positive frame of mind.
  • Positivity envokes collaboration, problem solving, and mental agility.
  • Use the negotiation to test assumptions and hypotheses.


  • Repeat the last few words of the counterpart.
  • Repetition encourages elaboration and helps to sustain a connection.
  • We fear what is different and are drawn to what is similar.
  • Familiarity facilitates bonding.
  • Encourage the other side to empathise with you.

๐Ÿท Chapter 3: Don’t Feel Their Pain, Label It

Tactical empathy

Tactical empathy – understanding the feelings, mindset, and interests of another person. What is important to the other side? What are they worried about? What rules and constraints are they attached to?

  • Neural resonance – when we closely observe a person’s face, gestures, and tone of voice, our brain begins to align with theirs.
  • Imagine that you are the other person. Visualise being in their position and circumstances.
  • Labelling validates emotion by acknowledging it. Give someone’s emotion a name.
  • Pay attention to the changes people undergo when they respond to external events, such as words.


  1. Detect the other person’s emotional state.
  2. Label the emotion aloud. Lables usually begin with it seems like, it sounds like, it looks like.
  3. Once a label has been given, be quiet and listen.
  • The presenting behaviour is what you see and hear.
  • The underlying feeling is what motivates the behaviour.
  • Address the underlying emotions.
  • Labelling can diffuse negative emotions and de-escalate angry confrontation by making the other person acknowledge their feelings.
  • The best way to deal with negativity, is to observe it.
  • List the worst things that the counterpart may say and be the first to address them.
  • Lablleing can reinforce positive emotions and solution-based thoughts.

The reasons why a counterpart will not make an agreement are more powerful than the resons to make a deal. Focus on clearing the barriers and negative influences first.

๐Ÿ™…๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ Chapter 4: Beware “Yes” – Master “No”

Meaning of “no”

  • I am not yet ready to agree.
  • I feel uncomfortable.
  • I do not understand.
  • I do not think I can afford it.
  • I want something else.
  • I need more information.
  • I want to discuss it with someone else.

Getting to “yes”

  • Ask solution based questionswhat does not work for you? What would you need to make it work? It seems like something here bothers you?
  • People are driven by two primal urges – the need to feel safe and secure, and the need to feel in control.
  • Ask the other party what the do not want.
  • Be cautious of people who are indecisive, confused, or have a hidden agenda.
  • Intentionally mislabel an emotion to trigger a no. For example, it seem like you want this project to fail? Have you given up on this?

โžก Chapter 5: Trigger the Two Words That Immediately Transform Any Negotiation

  • That’s right – creates breakthroughs.
  • Use a summary and paraphrasing to trigger a that’s right.

๐Ÿชข Chapter 6: Bend Their Reality

  • The most powerful word in negotiations is Fair.
  • Strive for a reputation of being fair.
  • Know the emotional drivers and how to frame the benefits to resontate with those drivers.
  • Persuade the other party that they have something to lose.

1. Anchor their emotions

  • Start with an accusation acknowledging all of their fears.
  • By anchoring emotions in preparations for a loss, you inflame the counterpart’s loss aversion.

2. Let the other guy go first… most of the time

  • Going first creates the initial anchor.
  • The other party may set the first offer higher than your initial expectations.
  • The other party may also set an extreme anchor to bend your reality instead.

3. Establish a range

  • Recall a similar deal to establish your “ballpark”.
  • For example, at top firms, people in this job get between X and Y.

4. Pivot to non-monetary terms

  • If anchored high, offer things that are not important to you, but important to the other party.
  • If anchored low, ask for things that matter more to you, than the other party.

5. When talking numbers, use odd ones

  • Numbers that end in 0 feel like temporary placeholders or guesstimates.
  • Odd numbers appear to be the result of thoughtful calculation.

6. Surprise with a gift

  • Establish a mood of generousity by offering an unrelated surprise gift.
  • Useful after an inevitable first rejection after staking an extreme anchor.

How to negotiate a better salary

  1. Be pleasantly persistent on non-salary terms – talking about non-salary terms makes it more likely to hear the full range of options.
  2. Salary terms without success terms is Russian roulette – once the salary is negotiated, define success for your position and metrics for the next raise.
  3. Spark their interest in your success and gain an unofficial mentor – sell yourself in a way that they can validate their own intelligence and broadcast it.

๐Ÿ”ฎ Chapter 7: Create the Illusion of Control

Calibrated questions

  • What about this is important to you?
  • How can I help to make this better for us?
  • How would you like me to proceed?
  • What is it that brought us into this situation?
  • How can we solve this problem?
  • What are we trying to accomplish here?
  • How am I supposed to do that?

Illusion of control

  • Calibrated questions make the counterpart feel like they are in charge.
  • Reugulate your emotions – bite your tongue if necessary.
  • When verbally assaulted, disarm the other party using calibrated questions.
  • When people feel that they are not in control, they adopt a hostage mentality
  • Avoid questions that can be answered with yes or tiny pieces of information.
  • Ask calibrated questions that begin with how or what to inspire the other party to speak at length.
  • Do not ask questions that start with why unless you want the other party to defend a goal that serves you.
  • Calibrate the question so that the other party solves your problem.

๐Ÿ“ Chapter 8: Guarantee Execution

  • Yes is nothing without How.
  • By making the other party articulate implementation in their own words, they become convinced that the final solution is their idea.
  • Two key questions can push the counterpart to think that they are defining success. How will we know we are on track? How will we address things if we find ourselves off track?
  • Two signs that the other party does not believe that the idea is theirs. They say you’re right. They say I’ll try.

1. 7-38-55 rule

  • 7% of a message is based on words.
  • 38% comes from the tone of voice.
  • 55% from the speaker’s body language and face.
  • Pay attention to tone and body language to make sure they align with the words. Can indicate lying or lack of conviction.

2. Rule of three

  • Get the other party to agree on the same thing three times.
  • Initial agreement. A label to summarise the previous agreement and get a that’s right. A calibrated how or what question.

3. Pinocchio effect

  • Liars use more words than truth tellers and use far more third-person pronouns.
  • Words such as him, her, it, one, they, and their. Used to create distance between the person and the lie.
  • More complex sentences are used to win over the counterpart.

4. Chris discount

  • Use your own name to create a dynamic of forced empathy.

How to get your counterparts to bid against themselves

  • Say no using how questions.
  • First no – request for help. How am I supposed to do that
  • Second no – elegant decline. Your offer is very generous. I’m sorry, that just doesn’t work for me.
  • Third no – express inability to perform. I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I just can’t do that.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Chapter 9: Bargain Hard

  • When being dragged into a haggle, detour the conversation to non-monetary issues.
  • To flip a dubious counterpart, ask why would you do that?
  • To counteract unprodutive statements, say I feel X when you Y because Z.
  • The person across the table is not the problem. The underlying issue is.

Ackerman model

  1. Set your target price.
  2. Set your first offer 65% of target price.
  3. Calculate three raises of decreasing increments – 85%, 95%, 100%.
  4. Use lots of empathy and different ways of saying no, to get the other side to counter.
  5. When calculating the final amount, use precise non-round numbers.
  6. On thew final number, throw in a non-monetary item to show that you are at your limit.

๐Ÿฆข Chapter 10: Find the Black Swan

  • Persuade the counterpart that they have something real to lose if the deal falls through.
  • Positive leverage – ability to provide or withhold something the counterpart wants.
  • Negative leverage – ability to make the counterpart suffer.
  • Normative leverage – use the counterpart’s norms and standards to advance your position. Show inconsistencies between their beliefs and their actions.

Mistake #1: they are ill-informed

  • People operating with incomplete information appear crazy to those with differnet information.
  • Discover what they do and do not know.

Mistake #2: they are constrained

  • The counterpart may have things they can not do, but are not eager to reveal.

Mistake #3: they have other interests

  • The other side may have needs and desires that you do not yet understand, a different view of the world, or their own set of rules.

Best techniques for flushing out and exploiting black swans

  • Every case is new, so remain flexible and adaptable.
  • Black swans are leverage multiplers. Remember the three types of leverage.
  • Understand the counterpart’s “religion”, life, and emotion.
  • Exploit similarity. People are more willing to concede to those with cultural similarity or common ground.

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