As part of a sales and design team at an office furniture company, we often see ourselves as negotiators. After we book a furniture order, we go from one form of negotiation to the next. On one end we are communicating with the client, and on the other end we are communicating with the architect, broker, building owner, manufacturing partners, and trades. Our goal is to ensure that our clients get their furniture in beautiful condition, on time, without any surprises. In a hectic city like Manhattan, this isn’t always easy. Life is about communicating with people. Being professional negotiators and expert listening ensures what we set out to do is possible.
Our team decided to read ‘Never Split the Difference’ to sharpen our negotiating skills. The author, Chris Voss, is a 20+ year FBI veteran, who worked as an international hostage negotiator and is considered one of the best practitioners/ teachers of negotiating skills in the world. His book distills negotiation tactics from his two decade’s long experience and shows how they can be applied in ordinary life. He emphasizes psychological skills like emotional intelligence, establishing rapport and gaining trust, and tactical empathy as the differentiators in providing one with a competitive edge—no matter what your job title might be.
The main ideas Voss emphasizes in his book include 1) Decision making is emotionally driven, and establishing rapport and trust is the necessary condition for a real conversation to begin. 2) Being an active listener and using mirroring tactics can help the other side empathize and bond with you. 3) Tactical empathy brings attention to the emotional obstacles and opens up potential pathways to reaching an agreement. 4) Emotional labelling can help you get closer to someone without asking about the external factors of a situation. 5) Saying “No” creates a great opportunity for you and the other party to clarify what you want, by eliminating what you don’t want.
Voss bring up real situations and scenarios he experienced as a hostage negotiator to demonstrate how he applied his own strategies (while also, getting you into the exciting step-by-step process of seeing a real-life hostage negotiation in practice). He demonstrates that negotiation is a universal skill, and that being able to negotiate is to understand being human. Negotiation, like many aspects of life, begins first with establishing rapport and trust, and ends with a best-possible scenario established between two parties. This is critical, especially when performing day to day business transactions, and working with people with different motivations and emotional states.
Our Rating of ‘Never Split the Difference’: 5/5
We enjoyed reading ‘Never Split the Difference.’ In our own experience, working in an office furniture company, from the very beginning of a project to its competition, we are negotiating all the way. Negotiation for us, is not one-sided.. We know there are multiple sides in a negotiation process, and what we are looking for is how we can reach the best possible solution.
What particularly stood out for us in ‘Never Split the Difference’ is Voss’s emphasis on emotional intelligence, active listening, and tactical empathy. In a world facilitated by strict deadlines, there is always pressure to make the impossible possible. When operating in the real world, negotiation helps to bring out a concrete solution between two conflicting parties. It helps manage expectations, provide relief between two different sides, and overall promotes better long-term business relationships. Voss pulled together these ideas and demonstrated the best way to negotiate. The book is a riveting read all the way through, and we highly recommend it!