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Book summary Introduction

Many of the things that matter in life are a negotiation.  You want a higher salary, you want to buy the car at a lower price, you want your 3-year old to finish her vegetables…

In their book “Never split the difference” Chris Voss and Tal Raz share proven strategies used by the FBI to negotiate hostage and other intense situations, and then apply them to business situations.

Negotiation is all about asking for what you want in the right way. The authors describe several strategies for effective negotiating, including what they call “tactical empathy”…  which is listening to the other side like a martial art in order to gain access to their mind.

How does it work?

You start with active listening.  Which you can do by practicing mirroring questions.  That’s simply taking what the other side said, and turning it into a question.

This makes them feel safe and understood, and they start to trust you more.  They become less defensive and oppositional.  And then, you can disarm them by simply asking “how am I supposed to do what you’re asking for?”

Real-world example

Your boss walks in and says “let’s make two copies of all the work”.  You can respond “I’m sorry, two copies?” and pause.  Let them explain more.  “One for us and one for the client”.

You can keep questioning as if to understand better: “I’m sorry, so the client asked for a copy too?”

“Actually, let me check with the client…”  And then, perhaps you can avoid the rest of the work by asking a “how am I going to do that” type of question.

In this case, it could be “Where are we going to store this extra copy?  Do you want it in your office?”  More than likely, you won’t need to be making any copies at all!


Negotiation can be intimidating, but Voss and Raz make it clear that honest conflict is nothing to fear. In fact, it can be an opportunity to learn, grow, and form deeper connections with those around you. “Tactical empathy” is one of the 10 strategies listed in Never Split the Difference , and if you follow these strategies you might just become the kind of person who seems to always get what they want.

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