Review: Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

NeverSplitTheDifference_LgNever Split the Difference by Chris Voss

Never Split the Difference, a new book on negotiation, presents an alternative to Getting to Yes, the classic text by Roger Fisher and William Ury of Harvard. For author Chris Voss, the use of rational tools and techniques is not the most effective approach for negotiations. Instead, the key to success, especially in very dangerous negotiations, is tactical empathy, which he describes as “emotional intelligence on steroids.”

As reflected in the title of his book, Voss, the former lead international kidnapping negotiator for the FBI, did not develop his theories on negotiation in the halls of academia. An education that began as a beat cop on the mean streets of Kansas City continued as he joined the FBI and eventually traveled the world as the agency’s chief negotiator in the most dangerous situations. Somewhat surprisingly, one of the most valuable lessons he learned was not in a jungle negotiating with ruthless terrorists, but in the streets of Pittsburgh.

A drug dealer had kidnapped the girlfriend of another drug dealer. As Voss listened to the tapes of the two drug dealers talking, he heard the aggrieved dealer ask the kidnapper, “Hey, dog, how do I know she’s alright?” The kidnapper paused and then said, “Well, I’ll put her on the phone.”

Already an experienced negotiator, Voss recognized the power of that question. It was the prototype of what he would eventually call the “calibrated question,” a highly impactful tool because it gives the other side a sense of control even if they are doing what you want them to do. If the drug dealer had said, “Put her on the phone!” the other dealer would either have refused — because he didn’t want be controlled — or demanded
something in return. When responding to the question, “How do I know she’s alright,” the kidnapper feels in control because he is making the decision to put the hostage on the phone.

Calibrated questions reflect the philosophy of emotional intelligence on steroids. Never Split the Difference is filled with compelling, often harrowing stories that further illustrate the empathy-based techniques and approaches that Voss advocates.

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Executive Edge on Negotiating Strength

As one Soundview staffer put it the other day, “2011 is officially the Year of the Protest.” It does seem as though every day brings more and more headlines of people gathering together in an attempt to effect change. Whether the reasons are economic, political or religious in nature, protests of all sorts have been greatly aided by social technology. The use of mass collaboration has enabled people to organize, assemble and solidify their efforts in a way that the Founding Fathers or, more recently, Baby Boomers could never have imagined.

However, in many situations, real change is decided between smaller groups of individuals. These are instances where the ability to be a strong negotiator is an essential skill. The business applications of negotiation can make a significant difference in a person’s career as well as his or her ability to garner more and better opportunities for his or her company. What are some of the most important aspects of strong negotiation?

Concentrated Knowledge Corporation (the parent company of Soundview Executive Book Summaries) is exploring some of these ideas right now in its new online training publication CKC’s Executive Edge. The latest edition shows you how to negotiate from a position of strength. It’s full of ideas from thought-leaders on the subject and includes skill-building tips that will help you the next time you’re seated at the bargaining table.

If you haven’t seen Executive Edge™ yet, you’ve got to check it out. Unlike a lot of other training tools for executives that try to cover a dozen subjects at a time, Executive Edge™ focuses on one skill per issue. That means you get comprehensive coverage of a skill, enabling you to learn and retain more information.

Visit Soundview’s Web site Summary.com or click here to learn more about how you can strengthen your negotiating skills with Executive Edge.