Never Split the Difference, Chris Voss (9/10)

An easy read on the various psychological tricks and techniques for persuasion and negotiation

Never Split the Difference, Chris Voss (9/10)

Rating: 9/10
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🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. An easy read on the various psychological tricks and techniques for persuasion and negotiation
  2. A fun read packed with real life examples and practical use-cases drawing from the author’s career as a hostage negotiator for the FBI
  3. The highest value per minute read book on negotiation/persuasion

🎨 Impressions

I really enjoyed reading this book and drew a lot of key learnings from it. It was a very easy and entertaining read that I completed in only two days despite taking comprehensive notes throughout. The real life examples and practical use cases, for me, made it quite a page turner. As with all books on persuasion and psychology, sometimes I feel like a bit of a psycho reading them - but this book struck quite a nice balance and focuses on reaching solutions. The fact it’s written by a hostage negotiator (i.e. someone who’s delivering and creating real good and value for the world) rather than a cold hearted author or business person certainly helps the cause and narrative.  

For me, the key learnings were:

  • Negotiation is not a tit-for-tat. It’s a slow process of empathising with your counterpart and the broader situation, context and environment.
  • Ideally, your counterpart must do the thinking themselves and suggest the solution. Help them feel in control and focus on defining the conversation.
  • Getting your counterpart to begin with a ‘no’. This instils comfort and safety. And then progress them towards a yes. Immediately selling them and starting with a “yes” should not be the objective.
  • Use calibrated questions, mirroring, labelling and other techniques to achieve your goal.
  • To get leverage, persuade your counterpart they have something to lose if the deal falls through
  • Use association audits and acknowledge your counterparts fears - it will comfort them.
  • For salary negotiations, use ranges, anchor them high, and consider non-financial items like chips. Ensure you define what success is for the position, how this will be tracked, measured, etc.
  • The word “Fair” is incredibly powerful - use it when required in a measured way… i.e. “let’s reach a fair agreement”
  • Getting “yes” is nothing without implementation, i.e. “how”. Ask “How will we know we’re on track?” and “How will we address things if we find we’re off track?”. When they answer, summarise their answers until you get “That’s right.” Then they bought in.
  • Consider best and worst outcomes. Covering both ends helps you prepare for anything. Don’t waste time or energy thinking about others - there’s more info to gather during the negotiation. Never be so sure of what you want that you wouldn’t take something better

😄 Who Should Read It?

I’d recommend this book to pretty much anyone, as there are applications to day-to-day life. That being said, it’s best for business owners and service-based professionals like bankers and lawyers who operate in a high-pressure, high-politics environment.

💬 My Favourite Quotes

  • “He who has learned to disagree without being disagreeable has discovered the most valuable secret of negotiation.”
  • “If you approach a negotiation thinking the other guy thinks like you, you are wrong. That's not empathy, that's a projection.”
  • “Negotiate in their world. Persuasion is not about how bright or smooth or forceful you are. It’s about the other party convincing themselves that the solution you want is their own idea. So don’t beat them with logic or brute force. Ask them questions that open paths to your goals. It’s not about you.”
  • “Negotiation is not an act of battle; it’s a process of discovery. The goal is to uncover as much information as possible.”

📒 Summary + Notes

Chapter 2

Voices. There 3 tones of voice available to negotiators:

  • Late-night DJ voice. Use to convey you’re in control, e.g. in a contract negotiation when an item isn’t up for discussion. Inflect your voice downward and speak slowly and clearly.
  • Positive/playful voice. Use most of the time. Relax and smile while talking.
  • Direct/assertive voice. Only for extreme cases - rarely use.


  • Mirroring is imitation. We copy each other to comfort and instil trust.
  • Can be done with speech patterns, body language, vocab, tempo, tone of voice.
  • Negotiators focus on words only. By repeating back what people say, you trigger an instinct for your counterpart to elaborate on what was just said and sustain the process of connecting.

Confront without confrontation

  1. Use the late-night DJ voice
  2. Start with “I’m sorry”
  3. Mirror
  4. Silence. >4 seconds for the mirror to work
  5. Repeat

Chapter 2 Key Lessons

  • Prepare for possible surprises, but aim to reveal surprises you are certain to find.
  • Don’t commit to assumptions; instead, view them as hypotheses and test them with the negotiation.
  • Negotiation is not an act of battle; it’s a process of discovery. The goal is to uncover as much information as possible.
  • Make your sole focus the other person and what they have to say.
  • Slow. It. Down. If we’re in a hurry, people can feel they’re not being heard. You risk undermining the rapport and trust you’ve built.
  • Put a smile on your face. When people are in a positive frame of mind, they think more quickly, and are more likely to collaborate and problem-solve (instead of fight and resist). Positivity creates mental agility in both you and your counterpart.
  • Mirrors. Repeat the last three words (or the critical 1-3 words) of what someone has just said. Mirroring is the art of insinuating similarity, which facilitates bonding. Use mirrors to encourage the other side to empathise and bond with you, keep people talking, buy your side time to regroup, and encourage your counterparts to reveal their strategy.

Chapter 3


  • Labelling helps validate someone’s emotion by acknowledging it. It gives emotions a name and shows them you identify with how a person feels.
  • First detect the other person’s emotional state. Pay close attention to changes people undergo when they respond to external events - most often, your words.
  • Labels can be phrased as statements or questions. The only difference is whether you end the sentence with a downward or upward inflection.
  • Labels almost always begin with roughly the same words: It seems like . . . It sounds like . . . It looks like . . .

Chapter 3 Key Lessons

  • Imagine yourself in your counterpart’s situation. Acknowledge their situation. This immediately conveys you are listening, and now they may tell you something that you can use.
  • Why a counterpart will not make an agreement is often more powerful than why they will. First focus on clearing any barriers to agreement.
  • Pause. After you label a barrier or mirror a statement, let it sink in. Don’t worry, the other party will fill the silence.
  • Label your counterpart’s fears to diffuse their power. Don’t just talk about happy stuff - the faster you interrupt the amygdala (generates fear in the brain), the faster you can generate feelings of safety, well-being, and trust.
  • List the worst things they could say about you and say them first. Performing an accusation audit in advance prepares you to head off negative dynamics. Because these accusations often sound exaggerated when said aloud, speaking them encourages the other person to claim the opposite is true.
  • Remember you’re dealing with a person who wants to be appreciated and understood. Use labels to reinforce and encourage positive perceptions and dynamics.

Chapter 4 Key Lessons

  • Break the habit of attempting to get people to say “yes.” Being pushed for “yes” makes people defensive.
  • “No” is not a failure. It usually just means “Wait” or “I’m not comfortable with that.” Learn how to hear it calmly. It is the beginning of the negotiation.
  • “Yes'' is your final goal. Don’t aim for it at the start.
  • Saying “No” makes the speaker feel safe, secure, and in control, so trigger it. By saying what they don’t want, they define their space and gain the confidence and comfort. “Is now a bad time to talk?” is always better than “Do you have a few minutes to talk?”
  • Sometimes the only way to get them to listen and engage is forcing a “No.” That means intentionally mislabeling an emotion or desire or asking a ridiculous question—like, “It seems like you want this project to fail”.
  • Negotiate in their world. Persuasion is about the other party convincing themselves that the solution you want is their own idea. Don’t beat them with logic or brute force. Ask them questions that open paths to your goals.
  • If a potential business partner is ignoring you, contact them with a clear and concise “No”-oriented question that suggests you are ready to walk away. “Have you given up on this project?” works wonders.

Chapter 5 Key Lessons

  • Creating unconditional positive regard opens the door to changing thoughts and behaviours. Humans have an innate urge toward socially constructive behaviour. The more a person feels understood and positively affirmed, the more likely that urge for constructive behaviour will take hold.
  • “That’s right” is better than “yes.” Strive for it. Reaching “that’s right” in a negotiation creates breakthroughs.
  • Use a summary to trigger a “that’s right.” The building blocks of a good summary are a label combined with paraphrasing. Identify, rearticulate, and emotionally affirm “the world according to . . .”

Chapter 6


  • Deadlines are often arbitrary, almost always flexible, and hardly ever trigger the consequences we think—or are told—they will.

Bend their reality

  • It’s not enough to show that you can deliver what they want. To get real leverage, you must persuade them they have something concrete to lose if the deal falls through.

1. Anchor their emotions. Start with an accusation audit acknowledging all their fears. By anchoring their emotions in preparation for a loss, you inflame their loss aversion and they’ll jump to avoid it.

2. Let them go first… most of the time. Going first is not necessarily best. The real issue is that neither side has perfect information. This often means you don’t know enough to open with confidence.

3. Establish a range. While going first rarely helps, one way to make an offer is alluding to a range. If you offer a range expect them to come in at the low end.

4. Pivot to non-monetary terms. Don’t deal with numbers in isolation. It leads to bargaining and a series of rigid positions defined by emotional views of fairness and pride. Instead, pivot to non-monetary terms. After you’ve anchored them high, make your offer seem reasonable by offering things that aren’t important to you but could be important to them. Or if their offer is low you could ask for things that matter more to you than them.

5. When you talk numbers, use odd ones. Every number has psychological significance. Some numbers appear more immovable than others. Anything less rounded—say, $37,263—feels like a result of thoughtful calculation, serious, and permanent. Use them to fortify offers.

6. Surprise with a gift. You can get your counterpart into a mood of generosity by staking an extreme anchor and then, after their inevitable first rejection, offering them a wholly unrelated surprise gift. Unexpected conciliatory gestures are hugely effective because they introduce reciprocity. They suddenly increase their offer or look to repay your kindness in the future.


1. Be pleasantly persistent on non-salary terms

  • Pleasant persistence is a kind of emotional anchoring that creates empathy and builds the right psychological environment for constructive discussion.
  • The more you talk about non-salary terms, the more likely you are to hear the full range of options.
  • If they can’t meet non-salary requests, they may counter with more money.

2. Salary terms without success terms is Russian Roulette

  • Once you’ve negotiated a salary, define success for your position and metrics for your next raise.
  • It gets you a planned raise and, by defining your success in relation to your boss’s supervision, it leads into the next step...

3. Spark their interest in your success and gain an unofficial mentor

  • Figure out what the other side is buying. When selling yourself to a manager, sell yourself as more than a body for a job; sell yourself, and your success, as a way for them to validate their own intelligence and broadcast it to the company.
  • Make sure they know you’ll act as a flesh-and-blood argument for their importance. Once you’ve bent their reality to include you as their ambassador, they’ll have a stake in your success.

Chapter 6 Key Lessons

  • All negotiations are defined by desires and needs. Don’t let yourself be fooled by the surface.
  • Don’t compromise. Meeting halfway often leads to bad deals for both sides.
  • Deadlines make people rush the negotiation and do impulsive things against their best interests.
  • “Fair” is an emotional term people usually exploit to put the other side on the defensive and gain concessions. If your counterpart uses “Fair”, don’t get suckered into a concession. Ask them to explain how you’re mistreating them.
  • Bend your counterpart’s reality by anchoring their starting point. Before you make an offer, emotionally anchor them by saying how bad it will be. When you get to numbers, set an extreme anchor to make your “real” offer seem reasonable, or use a range to seem less aggressive.
  • People take more risks to avoid a loss than to realise a gain. Make sure your counterpart sees that there is something to lose by inaction.

Chapter 7

  • Negotiation is coaxing, not overcoming; co-opting, not defeating.
  • Successful negotiation involves getting your counterpart to do the work for you and suggest your solution himself.
  • The calibrated question aggression from conversations. They let you introduce ideas and requests and remove hostility.
  • They turn “You can’t leave” into “What do you hope to achieve by going?
  • How/What questions are normal and natural questions, not requests for facts. They engage because “how/what” asks for help.
  • Calibrated questions avoid verbs or words like “can,” “is,” “are,” “do,” or “does.” These are closed-ended questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no.”
  • Instead, start with “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “why,” and “how.” They inspire your counterpart to think and speak expansively.
  • “What” and “how” can be used to calibrate nearly any question.
  • “Does this look like something you would like?” becomes “How does this look to you?” or “What about this works for you?”
  • “Why did you do it?” becomes “What caused you to do it?” which takes away the emotion and makes the question less accusatory.
  • Use calibrated questions early and often.
  • “What is the biggest challenge you face?” is one you will use at the beginning of nearly every negotiation. It gets the other side to teach you something about themselves, which is critical because all negotiation is an information-gathering process.

Other great standbys are:

  • What about this is important to you?
  • How can I help to make this better for us?
  • How would you like me to proceed?
  • What is it that brought us into this situation?
  • How can we solve this problem?
  • What’s the objective? / What are we trying to accomplish here?
  • How am I supposed to do that?

This script hits on all the best practices of negotiation:

  1. A “No”-oriented email question to reinitiate contact: “Have you given up on settling this amicably?”
  2. A statement that leaves only the answer of “That’s right” to form a dynamic of agreement: “It seems that you feel my bill is not justified.”
  3. Calibrated questions about the problem to get him to reveal his thinking: “How does this bill violate our agreement?”
  4. More “No”-oriented questions to remove unspoken barriers: “Are you saying I misled you?” “Are you saying I didn’t do as you asked?” “Are you saying I reneged on our agreement?” or “Are you saying I failed you?”
  5. Labelling and mirroring the essence of his answers if they are not acceptable so he has to consider them again: “It seems like you feel my work was subpar.” Or “. . . my work was subpar?”
  6. A calibrated question in reply to any offer other than full payment, in order to get him to offer a solution: “How am I supposed to accept that?”
  7. If none of this gets an offer of full payment, a label that flatters his sense of control and power: “It seems like you are the type of person who prides himself on the way he does business—rightfully so—and has a knack for not only expanding the pie but making the ship run more efficiently.
  8. A long pause and then one more “No”-oriented question: “Do you want to be known as someone who doesn’t fulfil agreements?

Chapter 7 Key Lessons

  • Don’t force your opponent to admit you are right. Aggressive confrontation is the enemy of constructive negotiation.
  • Avoid questions that can be answered with “Yes” or tiny pieces of information. These require little thought and inspire the human need for reciprocity; you will be expected to give something back.
  • Ask calibrated questions that start with “How” or “What.” By asking the other party for help, these questions give your counterpart an illusion of control and inspire them to speak at length, revealing important information.
  • Don’t ask questions that start with “Why” unless you want your counterpart to defend a goal that serves you. “Why” is always an accusation, in any language.
  • Calibrate your questions to point your counterpart toward solving your problem. This will encourage them to expend their energy on devising a solution.
  • Bite your tongue. When you’re attacked in a negotiation, pause and avoid angry emotional reactions. Instead, ask your counterpart a calibrated question.
  • There is always a team on the other side. If you are not influencing those behind the table, you are vulnerable.

Chapter 8

“Yes” is nothing without “How”

  • Calibrated “How” questions keep negotiations going. They put the pressure on your counterpart to come up with answers and to contemplate your problems when making demands.
  • They are gentle and graceful ways to say “No” and guide your counterpart to develop a better solution
  • “I’d love to help,” she said, “but how am I supposed to do that?”
  • Besides saying “No,” the other key benefit of asking “How?” is it forces your counterpart to consider and explain how a deal will be implemented. A deal is nothing without good implementation.
  • By making them articulate implementation, your “How” questions will convince them the final solution is their idea. People always make more effort to implement a solution when they think it’s theirs.
  • Two key questions will push them to think they are defining success: “How will we know we’re on track?” and “How will we address things if we find we’re off track?”
  • When they answer, summarise their answers until you get a “That’s right.” Then you’ll know they’ve bought in.

How to get them to bid against themselves. You can usually express “No” four times before actually saying the word.

  1. The first is: “How am I supposed to do that?” Deliver it in a deferential way, so it becomes a request for help and invites them to participate in your dilemma and solve it with a better offer.
  2. After that, some version of “Your offer is very generous, I’m sorry, that just doesn’t work for me”. This avoids making a counteroffer, and the use of “generous” nurtures them to live up to the word. The “I’m sorry” also softens the “No” and builds empathy.
  3. Then you can use “I’m sorry but I’m afraid I just can’t do that.” It’s a little more direct, and the “can’t do that” does great double duty. By expressing an inability to perform, it can trigger the other side’s empathy toward you.
  4. “I’m sorry, no” is a slightly more succinct version for the fourth “No.” If delivered gently, it barely sounds negative at all.
  5. If you have to go further, of course, “No” is the last and most direct way. Verbally, it should be delivered with a downward inflection and a tone of regard; it’s not meant to be “NO!”

Chapter 8 Key Lessons

  • “Yes” is nothing without “How.” Asking “How,” knowing “How,” and defining “How” are all part of the effective negotiator’s arsenal.
  • Ask calibrated “How” questions again and again. They keep your counterparts engaged but off-balance. Answering the questions gives them the illusion of control and also leads them to contemplate your problems when making their demands.
  • Use “How” questions to shape the negotiating environment. You do this by using “How can I do that?” as a gentle “No.” This pushes them to search for other solutions—your solutions. And very often gets them to bid against themselves.
  • Don’t just pay attention to people you negotiate with directly; always identify the motivations of players “behind the table.” You can do so by asking how a deal will affect everybody else and how on board they are.
  • Follow the 7-38-55 Percent Rule by paying close attention to tone of voice and body language. Incongruence between the words and nonverbal signs will show when your counterpart is lying or uncomfortable with a deal.
  • Is the “Yes” real or counterfeit? Test it with the Rule of Three: use calibrated questions, summaries, and labels to get your counterpart to reaffirm their agreement 3+ times. It’s really hard to repeatedly lie or fake conviction.
  • A person’s use of pronouns offers deep insights into their relative authority. If you’re hearing a lot of “I,” “me,” and “my,” the real power to decide probably lies elsewhere. Picking up a lot of “we,” “they,” and “them,” it’s more likely you’re dealing directly with a savvy decision-maker keeping his options open.
  • Use your own name to make yourself a real person and get your own personal discount. Humour and humanity are the best ways to break the ice and remove roadblocks.

Chapter 9 - Bargain Hard

There are three types of negotiators:

  1. Analyst. Methodical and diligent; need time to go over facts and consider the options.
  2. Accommodator. Builds rapport through a continuous free-flowing exchange of information; not necessarily focused on the desired outcome.
  3. Assertive. Direct and candid; getting it done quickly is more important than spending more time on getting it done right.

Bargain Hard

  1. “I can pay $30,000. And I can pay it up front, all cash. I’ll write a check today for the full amount. I’m sorry, I’m afraid I just can’t pay any more.”
  2. “It’s a beautiful truck. Really amazing. I can’t tell you how much I’d love to have it. It’s worth more than what I’m offering. I’m sorry, this is really embarrassing. I just can’t do that price.”
  3. “Wow, your offer is very generous and this is the car of my dreams. I really wish I could do that. I really do. This is so embarrassing. I simply can’t.”
  4. “I am so grateful. You’ve been very generous, and I can’t thank you enough. The truck is no doubt worth more than my price. I’m sorry, I just can’t do that.”

Negotiating a rent cut after receiving notice of an increase.

  • “Even though your building is better in terms of location and services, how am I supposed to pay $200 extra?”
  • “I fully understand, you do have a better location and amenities. But I’m sorry, I just can’t. Would $1,730 a month for a year lease sound fair to you?”
  • “Okay, so please help me understand: how do you price lease renewals?”
  • “Let me try and move along with you: how about $1,790 for 12 months?”
  • “I ran the numbers, and believe me this is a good deal,” the agent started. “I am able to offer you $1,950 a month for a year.”
  • “That is generous of you, but how am I supposed to accept it when I can move a few blocks away and stay for $1,800? A hundred and fifty dollars a month means a lot to me. You know I am a student. I don’t know, it seems like you would rather run the risk of keeping the place unrented.”
  • “It’s not that,” the agent answered. “But I can’t give you a number lower than the market.”
  • Mishary made a dramatic pause, as if the agent was extracting every cent he had.
  • “Then I tell you what, I initially went up from $1,730 to $1,790,” he said, sighing. “I will bring it up to $1,810. And I think this works well for both.”
  • “Finally, he looked up at the agent and said, “I did some numbers, and the maximum I can afford is $1,829.”
  • The agent bobbed his head from side to side, as if getting his mind around the offer. At last, he spoke. “Wow. $1,829,” he said. “You seem very precise. You must be an accountant. [Mishary was not.] Listen, I value you wanting to renew with us and for that I think we can make this work for a twelve-month lease.”

Chapter 9 Key Lessons

  • Identify your counterpart’s negotiating style - are they an Accommodator, Assertive, or Analyst? This helps you approach them correctly.
  • Prepare, prepare, prepare. When the pressure is on, you don’t rise to the occasion; you fall to your highest level of preparation. Design an ambitious goal and plan your labels, calibrated questions, and responses.
  • Set boundaries, and learn to take a punch or punch back, without anger. The guy across the table is not the problem; the situation is.
  • Prepare an Ackerman plan. Before you bargain, plan an extreme anchor, calibrated questions, and well-defined offers. Remember 65, 85, 95, 100 percent. Decreasing raises and ending on non-round numbers gets them to believe they are squeezing you for all you’re worth.

Chapter 10 Key Lessons

  • Let what you know guide you but not blind you. Every case is new - remain flexible and adaptable.
  • Black Swans are leverage multipliers. Remember the three types of leverage: positive (the ability to give someone what they want); negative (the ability to hurt someone); and normative (using your counterpart’s norms to bring them around).
  • Work to understand the other side’s “religion.” Dig into worldviews inherently implies moving beyond the negotiating table and into life, emotional and otherwise. That’s where Black Swans live.
  • Review everything you hear from your counterpart. You will not hear everything the first time, so double-check. Compare notes with team members. Use backup listeners whose job is to listen between the lines. They will hear things you miss.
  • Exploit the similarity principle. People are more apt to concede to someone they share a cultural similarity with, so dig for what makes them tick and show that you share common ground.
  • When someone seems irrational or crazy, they most likely aren’t. Faced with this situation, search for constraints, hidden desires, and bad information.
  • Get face time. Ten minutes often reveals more than days of research. Pay special attention to their verbal and nonverbal communication at unguarded moments—at the beginning and end of the session or when someone says something out of line.

Appendix - Prepare A Negotiation One Sheet

Negotiation is a psychological investigation. You can gain a measure of confidence going into such an investigation with a simple preparatory exercise. It’s a list of the primary tools you anticipate using, such as labels and calibrated questions, customised to the particular negotiation.


Think through best/worst-case scenarios but only write down a specific goal that represents the best case. You’ll know what you cannot accept and have an idea about the best-case outcome, but keep in mind that since there’s information yet to be acquired from the other side, it’s quite possible that best case might be even better than you know.

Now, while I counsel thinking about a best/worst range, when it comes to what actually goes on your one-sheet, just stick with the high-end goal, as it will motivate and focus your psychological powers, priming you to think you are facing a “loss” for any term “that falls short.

Here are the four steps to set your goal:

  • Set an optimistic but reasonable goal and define it clearly.
  • Write it down.
  • Discuss your goal with a colleague (this makes it harder to wimp out).
  • Carry the written goal into the negotiation.


Summarise and write out in just a couple of sentences the known facts that have led up to the negotiation. You must have something to talk about beyond a self-serving assessment of what you want. And prepare to respond with tactical empathy to your counterpart’s arguments.

Get on the same page at the outset. You must clearly describe the lay of the land before acting in its confines. Why are you there? What do you want? What do they want? Why? You must be able to summarise a situation in a way for them to respond with “That’s right.” If they don’t, you haven’t done it right.


Prepare 3-5 labels for an accusation audit. Anticipate how they feel about these facts. Make a concise list of any accusations they may make—no matter how unfair or ridiculous. Then turn each into a list of less than five labels and spend time role-playing it.

There are fill-in-the-blank labels for nearly every situation to extract information from your counterpart, or defuse an accusation:

  • It seems like _________ is valuable to you.
  • It seems like you don’t like _________.
  • It seems like you value __________.
  • It seems like _________ makes it easier.
  • It seems like you’re reluctant to _________.

EG: If you’re trying to renegotiate an apartment lease to allow subletters and you know the landlord is opposed to them, your prepared labels would be on the lines of “It seems as though you’re not a fan of subletters” or “It seems like you want stability with your tenants.”


Prepare 3-5 calibrated questions to reveal value to you and your counterpart and identify and overcome potential deal killers.

Effective negotiators look past their counterparts’ stated positions (what the party demands) and delve into their underlying motivations (what is making them want what they want). Motivations are what they are worried about and what they hope for, even lust for.

“There will be a small group of “What” and “How” questions that you will find yourself using in nearly every situation. Here are a few of them:

  • What are we trying to accomplish?
  • How is that worthwhile?
  • What’s the core issue here?
  • How does that affect things?
  • What’s the biggest challenge you face?
  • How does this fit into what the objective is?


When the decision is made by a group, the support of that group is key. You must tailor your calibrated questions to identify and unearth the motivations of those behind the table:

  • How does this affect the rest of your team?
  • How onboard are the people not on this call?
  • What do your colleagues see as their main challenges in this area?


Internal negotiating influence often sits with the people who are most comfortable with things as they are. Change may make them look as if they haven’t been doing their job. Your dilemma in such a negotiation is how to make them look good in the face of that change.

You’ll be tempted to concentrate on money, but put that aside for now. A surprisingly high percentage of negotiations hinge on something non-financial, e.g. self-esteem, status, autonomy, etc.

Think about their perceived losses. Never forget that a loss stings at least twice as much as an equivalent gain.


  • What are we up against here?
  • What is the biggest challenge you face?
  • How does making a deal with us affect things?
  • What happens if you do nothing?
  • What does doing nothing cost you?
  • How does making this deal resonate with what your company prides itself on?

It’s often very effective to ask these in groups of two or three as they are similar enough that they help your counterpart think about the same thing from different angles. Choosing the right mix will lead them to reveal information about what they want and need—and simultaneously push them to see things from your point of view.

Be ready to execute follow-up labels to their answers to your calibrated questions. This allows you to quickly turn your counterpart’s responses back to them, which keeps them feeding you new and expanding information. Again, these are fill-in-the-blank labels that you can use quickly without tons of thought:

  • It seems like __________ is important.
  • It seems you feel like my company is in a unique position to __________.
  • It seems like you are worried that __________.


Prepare a list of valuable non-cash items possessed by your counterpart. Ask yourself: “What could they give that would almost get us to do it for free?” Think of the anecdote I told a few chapters ago about my work for the lawyers’ association: My E.g. if their interest is to pay as little cash as possible in order to look good in front of their board. They could pay in part by publishing a cover story about you in their magazine. This is low-cost for them and advances your interests.