Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life depended on It

 "Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life depended on It" by Christopher Voss is a great little book about practical negotiations. At the very least, it provides an excellent overview of some basic skills for successful negotiations, and ends by briefly examining one of the most common mistakes people make in negotiations - failing to bring your A game to the table. But more importantly, this book makes an important point about empathy during the negotiation process: In order to be truly effective at negotiation, you need to bring your A game to the table. While some people argue that you can negotiate better with just the gut instinct or a "glass full of courage," without emotion and empathy, you won't get very far.

The basic lesson of Never Split the Difference is that unless you are emotionally intelligent, you can't successfully negotiate. Empathy is key to successful negotiations because without it, you're likely to make many mistakes. That's because emotions have an impact on how we think and our decisions. Emotionally intelligent people are also more aware of other people's needs and concerns than others are. Thus, they are capable of addressing those needs and concerns in negotiations in a way that others cannot.

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The key thing to remember when reading the book is that you don't have to follow every single bit of advice in this book, but instead you should develop a sense of "calibrated expectation." That means that whatever voss is telling you to do, you should feel like you would be able to do. For instance, in chapter seven, Voss says to get into the room, sit down, and feel the other party's discomfort and anger. That doesn't mean you have to do it, but if you "feel" the other party's discomfort and anger, then you will be more likely to make concessions.

In chapter eight, Voss recommends using the "tough love" negotiation strategy: telling the other person, "This isn't good enough for me. I want you to know that I will not negotiate a better deal with you if you continue to refuse to cooperate with me." However, you don't have to tell that person exactly what you will not do, just say it flat out, and then add, "but if you can't cooperate with me, I will not agree to any terms that you come to us with."

The "calibrated questions" Voss mentions in the later chapters help you be more sensitive to your counterparts' needs and concerns. One set of calibrated questions involves the words you say to one another. "So," you might say to your other side, "we've come to an agreement about the price of the house, but you are still refusing to sell." You might add something like, "So, we've agreed on the price but you are still refusing to sell." The key here is sensitivity. This is not the time for over-the-top negotiation; this is the time for measured, calibrated communication.

Calibration is the second step to negotiating successfully, and you should practice it when you're having a discussion with a person other than your counterpart. The more you can focus your attention on the other person's needs and concerns without becoming fixated on your own goals and preferences, the better your chances of success. Calibration also helps you get into a truly state of awareness: awareness of exactly what's going on in the moment, and an awareness of the other person's needs as well. The next time you face a difficult or sticky situation, remember: keep these two words in your mind: Never Split the Difference.

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