I must have been browsing my library’s audiobook section to look for something to listen to while driving when I stumbled upon Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It (2016) by Chris Voss with Tahl Raz. I honestly can’t remember now when I first saw it or why I decided to read it. I’m guessing the FBI hostage stories were what drew me in.
Chris Voss is a former FBI hostage negotiator, so he has a lot of experience in high-stakes negotiations. He’s gathered this knowledge into a book, so others can learn from his years of experience and mistakes.
On the whole, this book kept my interest. The stories of real life hostage situations, how they were negotiated, and how they were resolved were gripping. Usually, Voss was able to tie a real hostage negotiation back to some lesson he wanted to teach. It made the book much more interesting and memorable. However, this book does seem to be geared towards business people and/or business students. Maybe its because I’m conflict averse, but the thought of playing it tough over a contract or salary is wholly unappealing. [Fortunately, my salary is determined between my employer and my union, so I don’t have to get into that kind of thing.] And having a job with constant, tough negotiations sounds miserable to me.
The information that Voss presents does seem useful: be emotionally intelligent; try to understand where the other party is coming from; find out if someone or something else may be changing the other party’s goals; ask how/what questions in order for the other party to start thinking of solutions; say ‘no’ without literally saying ‘no’; make ‘it seems’ statements to see where the other party is coming from without putting them on the defensive. In addition, Voss said to not be afraid of confrontation, go after what you want, and compromising can be worse than no deal at all. I’m sure there were other lessons as well, but those were the ones that stuck with me. I appreciate that Voss mentions that it’s not a good idea to go into a negotiation trying to take advantage of people. You’ll get the reputation as someone people don’t want to do business with, so even if you get one good deal out of it, it won’t help you in the long run.
Although Voss was able to hit on many guidelines for effective negotiation, I imagine that it takes much more than reading a book to develop competency in negotiation. I always wanted more specifics, more examples to really see what he meant. I can’t imagine strolling into a negotiation now and being remotely prepared. However, I do wish I could have tried a couple of these tactics out when I bought my new car.
One complaint I have is that Voss threw in some bad mouthing of Obama (an unnecessary quote from a hypothetical person during a negotiation story) that was clearly avoidable and seemed purposeful. It felt gratuitous–especially in a book that was apolitical–so it made Voss seem like a partisan hack. He lost a little credibility at that point.
CBR15Bingo: “Guide” for attempting to teach readers how to successfully negotiate.