The Knowledge Project – The Art of Letting People Have Their Way: Negotiating Secrets with Chris Voss

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  • Chris is the former FBI lead national kidnapping negotiator 
  • He is the author of Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As Though Your Life Depended On It
  • As a kid, Chris knew he wanted to be in law enforcement
  • He was originally a police officer before he started working for the FBI
  • “How hard could it be?”
    • After hearing about the hostage negotiating position within the FBI, Chris thought this to himself
    • It’s his family motto
“Real good negotiation is real good emotional intelligence”
  • Before becoming a hostage negotiator, Chris worked as a call operator on a suicide hotline in order to better learn how to talk with people in distress
    • “Your success rate is higher once you forget about failing and focus on learning”
What surprised Chris the most about how negotiation works?
  • If you let the other side go first, it saves time
    • It’s free information
  • We tend to thing the most direct route is telling what we want first
  • If your ego is weak, don’t let the other side go first. If it’s strong and you have a good position, let them go first.
How does Chris step outside of his ego?
  • “Genuine curiosity is a hack for emotional control”
  • If you talk out loud, you are able to calm yourself down
    • Talk in a in a ‘late night FM DJ voice’
  • Calming – like the late night FM DJ
  • Assertive – direct and honest, “here’s what I want, give it to me”
  • Smile Voice – when you talk while smiling, people can tell, you can break down barriers by smiling
“Negotiation is the art of letting the other side have your way”
  • “How am I supposed to do that” – a great way to say no to something you don’t want
  • Get them talking until the other side says something that works well for both of you
    • The real issue with any deal is implementation not agreement
    • That’s why you want it to be the other side’s idea, because the implementation will go much easier if it’s their idea
Bad Recommendations for Negotiating
  • Go First and Anchor high
    • Anchoring high means starting with something more than you would walk away with, like asking for a salary of $110k for a job when you would take $90k
    • When you start off by giving an exact amount, it might be less than the employer was going to offer anyway
Negotiation One-Sheet
  • Take a completely truthful version of what the facts and circumstances are that brought you to the table
  • Consider fears the other side might have about you – maybe they see you as a bully?
    • Fear gets in the way of deals more than benefits make deals
  • Think about why they wouldn’t do business with you – that’s a deal breaker you need to eliminate
    • Articulate it and bring any issue up to dissolve them
    • If it’s lurking in the back of the other person’s mind, it’s a distraction
  • Then think about the reasons why they would take the deal with you
Calibrated Questions
  • Instead of say “What are the next steps here?” say “It seems like you might have some next steps in mind” – it’s easier to gather information
    • You eliminate the system 2 thinking by doing this and get the raw system 1 thoughts
    • Check out the book Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow for more on system 1 and system 2 thinking
  • The fear of loss is the biggest driver of human behavior
    • Look for the loss, and factor it into your thinking
Money in a Negotiation
  • Employers should pay employees at the high end of their expectations
    • If you pay someone lower than they hope for, they tend to be too anxious during their employmet and they wont do a good job
    • If you pay them more than they expected, they will take it for granted and wont be appreciative
    • Overpaying is as much a problem as underpaying
Run to Trouble
  • Work on your company’s biggest problems
    • You won’t make it any worse
    • If you succeed, you become known as a troubleshooter who really helped the company
    • This puts you in a position to get paid more, and if not, its a great resume point
Chris’s Book – Never Split the Difference
  • Has been leading the business category on Amazon since it came out
  • An example of bringing the elephant out into the room
    • When giving a talk, Chris might start by saying “Why would you listen to a hostage negotiator like me?”
    • People might then answer his questions by saying “You might know something we don’t”
      • This gets the other side/audience to say it so Chris doesn’t have to
The Most Dangerous Negotiation, is the One You Don’t Know You’re In
  • Anytime the word “yes” is in the air, you’re negotiating
  • If the phrase “I want” is in your brain, you’re in a negoiation
  • “Never be mean to someone who could hurt you by doing nothing”
  • The better your relationships, the more the other side wants to help you
There Can Be Great Power in Deference
  • People love when someone doesn’t have to be deferential but is
    • If someone perceives themself to be superior to you, they love it because they think they’re entitled to it
    • If you’re on a peer level, and you treat the other person with deference, the other person appreciates the respect
    • If you’re subordinate, and are deferential, they see you as being a very generous person
Other Key Tactics
  • Using “Labels” – Like the above
    • Instead of saying “What are the next steps here?” say “It seems like you might have some next steps in mind” – it’s easier to gather information, it opens up the floodgates
    • If your kid asks for the car – say “It seems like you don’t think you have to earn the car”
  • Getting people to say no
    • Instead of “Would you like to try this option? say “Are you against this option?”
  • Mirror
    • Repeat the last 1-3 words someone said
  • When your decision making is at its peak, your mental endurance increases, and your overall performance is that much better
  • As soon as fear drops away we can think better and make better decisions
  • People meditate to be able to maintain flow state better
  • Substitute predict for trust. When you can predict what someone can do, you can trust them.
Chris’ Advice to His Younger Self
  • Be a little nicer in how you say things
What’s the smallest habit Chris has that makes a big difference?
  • Letting the other side articulate what’s really burning on their mind, the other person will be highly appreciative and you’ll save a lot of time
  • “People find being listened to very satisfying