Never Split the Difference Review: An Empowering Read

Writing a Never Split The Difference review feels timely as a self-proclaimed bookworm and entrepreneur constantly working to improve myself and my communication skills. This book, by former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss, outlines a negotiation approach unlike any I’ve encountered. I wanted to share this Never Split The Difference review because this book gave me tools and tactics to reach more mutually beneficial agreements in both my business and personal life.

If you’re an entrepreneur, a business leader, or just someone who wants to improve their communication, Never Split the Difference is for you.

My Review of “Never Split the Difference”

Chris Voss, with Tahl Raz, wrote this book to share his experiences as an FBI hostage negotiator. Although these scenarios seem incredibly stressful, this book taught me a lot about staying calm and thinking clearly to get what you need in all facets of your life. Some of my favorite sections of Never Split the Difference included tactical empathy, the rule of three, calibrated questions, using “no” as a starting point, mirroring, and labeling. As a woman building her career, I found that Never Split the Difference had the biggest impact on me by helping me negotiate as a woman in business.

Negotiation as a Woman in Business

Let’s be honest, negotiating can feel awkward or scary as a woman. Sometimes we shy away from voicing our worth. I felt unsure and inexperienced and frequently undervalued my skill set. This hurt my finances early in my career. Looking back, learning effective negotiation tactics in my twenties would have helped me immensely.

Chris Voss’s approach to negotiating prioritizes collaboration over cutthroat strategies, which I find empowering. I’ve noticed that clients are often disarmed when you shift a negotiation from a battle for concessions into a genuine conversation. This builds a sense of partnership from the beginning. This helps each side walk away feeling good about the deal they made.

Negotiating assertively as a woman isn’t about being aggressive; it’s about advocating for your worth. This book helped me do this by shifting my mindset from one of concession into a partnership from the very beginning of the conversation.


What I Wish I Had Known Sooner

One of my favorite things to share with entrepreneurs is knowledge about anchoring bias, and anchoring in negotiation is one of Voss’s tactics. People give disproportionate weight to the first number offered in a negotiation.

To benefit from this bias, Voss suggests that you don’t immediately share a proposal. Try to get the other party to make their offer first. This is helpful for freelancers and contractors working with large clients on unknown budgets. I’ve managed to consistently get higher project pricing thanks to Never Split the Difference.

Another tactic relevant to entrepreneurs (and everyone on the planet) is to strive for “no”. Voss believes that a non-committal “yes” may just be someone wanting to exit the negotiation. A “no” allows your counterpart to set boundaries. This creates a space where they feel safe and are more likely to tell you why something doesn’t work for them. This puts you in a better negotiating position. I think this tactic is especially helpful for independent business owners working directly with large corporate legal teams.

The 7-38-55 rule surprised me. But looking back, it explains why my in-person conversations are more productive than emails. This communication model was developed by psychology professor, Albert Mehrabian. It describes the relative importance of verbal and non-verbal messages. He found that only 7% of your message comes from spoken words, 38% from tone of voice, and 55% from body language.

never split the difference review

I’ve implemented many more negotiation techniques from the book but wanted to share these because they feel super relevant to my work as an entrepreneur.

Other Valuable Tools

In his book, Never Split the Difference, Chris Voss outlines a set of tools that can make navigating negotiations feel smoother. Let’s delve deeper into these insightful tactics.

Tools for Effective Negotiating From Never Split The Difference:

1. Mirroring: You’re probably already familiar with this conversational mirroring technique from your therapist, even if unconsciously. It just means repeating the last three words of what someone says to get them to elaborate without becoming defensive or closing themselves off to you.

2. Labeling: Voss suggests this communication tool to quickly defuse an angry situation or build empathy. Label emotions by acknowledging someone’s emotional state with simple validating phrases such as; “It seems like you’re angry about this,” or “It sounds like you feel frustrated,”.

3. Calibrated questions: Using calibrated questions nudges someone toward your way of thinking without seeming controlling. It allows you to take control while the other person still feels in control. Some examples of open-ended calibrated questions include: “What about this doesn’t work for you?” or “How am I supposed to do that?”. This approach forces your counterpart to consider your position, promoting collaborative solutions.

4. Black Swans: In prospect theory, Black Swans are defined as unknown unknowns — pieces of information we were previously unaware of. You never know when some surprising detail will drastically alter the power dynamic in a conversation. This principle stresses how important it is to be aware, flexible, and adaptable in negotiations.

5. Tactical Empathy: Voss uses tactical empathy throughout Never Split the Difference, making it a fantastic guide. Tactical empathy refers to the practice of understanding your counterparts’ emotional states, motives, and points of view. Use it to establish a rapport before proceeding with the negotiation. This tactic encourages authentic collaboration based on the other person’s needs.

6. Accusation audit: This involves proactively addressing your counterpart’s potential negative perceptions or assumptions about you. Before getting into details, address their perspective to defuse a contentious scenario and lead to honest discussions.

7. Late-night FM DJ voice: Voicing ideas in a late-night FM DJ Voice keeps a smooth, measured cadence. Avoid confrontational word choices and encourage calmness when emotions are high. Your counterpart is more likely to remain open and collaborative in this setting.

8. Loss aversion: Loss aversion is the idea that people experience a stronger psychological response to a potential loss than a potential gain. In Never Split the Difference, Voss frames offers to focus on what they might lose by not accepting. This increases your chances of getting what you need.

9. Ackerman model: This six-step system was developed by a former labor union negotiator. The Ackerman model will dramatically enhance your negotiation success. You’ll start by establishing your extreme target price. Set your first offer at 65% of the target price. Offer three decreasing increments, like: 85%, 95%, and 100%. Allow flexibility for non-monetary accommodations.

These negotiation skills helped me achieve goals and improve communication in my professional and everyday life. By understanding and implementing these principles, I’ve been able to cultivate stronger relationships and achieve more favorable outcomes.

never split the difference review

Here’s an example table to outline the six steps involved when implementing the Ackerman model:

Step Description Example
1. Set Your Target Price: Establish your extreme target, even if it seems impossible. A used car is valued at $5,000 – my target is $3,000 (60%) because there is clearly some work it will need soon.
2. Set Your First Offer: This should be 65% of your Target Price. Start by offering $1,950 for the car, a reasonable and unexpected price (65%).
3. Set Three Increments Create the impression you’re moving toward their desired outcome. This creates what Voss calls “number credibility”. Have increments of $2,187 (85%), $2,418 (95%), and $2,650 (100%), making you appear increasingly generous.
4. Allow Room for Concessions: Show that you’re compromising. Don’t get anchored by focusing solely on these numbers, incorporate non-monetary concessions, like repair assistance or included tires in the negotiations. Instead of focusing entirely on my original final price of $2,650 for that used car. I will ask if they can include a brand new set of tires as well.
5. Use Labels & Calibrated Questions: Weave labels into every interaction and ask well-thought-out, open-ended, calibrated questions. To get a win-win, find points of compromise. In addition to my final car offer, I’ll ask “It sounds like good tire traction in winter conditions is really important to you, and including these tires makes sure we both walk away feeling great about this purchase, right?”
6. Walk Away if Needed: Voss highlights how crucial it is to have a plan beforehand. Never walk into a negotiation without deciding on a BATNA, the “Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement”. My BATNA, If that negotiation doesn’t pan out, is a car for sale by the owner for $3,000 which also has new brakes in addition to great tires, although it has higher mileage.

Never Split The Difference Should Be Taught Earlier In Life

Negotiation isn’t a skill reserved solely for boardroom dealmaking. It weaves into all facets of life. We’re frequently left unprepared for handling high-stress communication scenarios until late adulthood. Whether discussing curfews with teens or settling household chores, negotiation is vital.

Introducing the core principles in Never Split the Difference, in an age-appropriate way, would empower students early on. Teaching this in primary education will equip kids for future personal and professional endeavors. Even women building careers in their 20s could benefit. Sadly, learning in many societies feels geared more towards winning at all costs.



FAQs about Never Split The Difference

What is one of the 5 principles of Never Split the Difference negotiations?

One principle is to use tactical empathy. This refers to understanding your counterparts’ motives, points of view, and emotional states in real time. Never Split the Difference emphasizes establishing a real connection before focusing on solutions or concessions.

Should I read Never Split the Difference?

“Never Split the Difference” is valuable if you want to learn to communicate better, find common ground with others, advocate for your worth, and handle communication scenarios calmly. It’s a particularly helpful resource if you want to find collaborative solutions instead of being adversarial.

What is the rule of 3 in Never Split the Difference?

Getting your counterpart to say “that’s right” three times to an accurate summary of their needs makes them significantly more likely to move towards your position. Using the rule of three helps you identify and meet their true needs. This sets the stage for agreements where both parties feel good.

How long does it take to read Never Split the Difference?

Never Split The Difference has just over 288 pages. If you’re a voracious book reader, this won’t take you too long. You could complete it in several sittings or an intense single reading session. The Audible Audiobook Edition has a listening time of around 7 hours. However, listening time will depend on your chosen playback speed.

never split the difference review


Never Split The Difference gave me many easy-to-understand negotiation tactics that you can implement almost immediately. In this Never Split the Difference review, I shared how this book changed how I handle stressful, emotional, or difficult communications. It helped me move toward more confident, assured dialogues. By implementing Chris Voss’s tools, I finally moved into more respectful, collaborative dialogues in negotiations.


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