In his book, “Never Split the Difference” Chris Voss set out to answer the question, “How do you make hostage negotiation principles work in the business world?” In this special episode exchange, Mark Raffan—the host of the Negotiations Ninja podcast—and Chris Voss discuss some of the principles from this book. Don’t miss it!
The prevailing theory is that to close a deal, you should be getting little “yeses” throughout a negotiation. Chris thinks that ideal is awful. Instead, he emphasizes that you need to shoot for “no.” Why?
The little yeses—i.e. “Tie-downs” or “commitments” are a complete violation of human nature. He believes that it is the #1 reason you have long negotiations that go nowhere. After all, it’s “Not a sin to not get the deal. The sin is to take a long time to not get the deal.” He also notes that it’s the biggest toxin for relationships. People will stop responding to you entirely.
Humans are so tired of being trapped by “yes” that they can’t help but react negatively. They start to think: Where’s this going? What’s the trap? What’s the hook? Why is it important for someone to be able to say no?
Chris points out that people feel protected and safe when they can say no. Kids have learned that a “no” can be changed to a “yes.” Why? Because after saying no, you’re more willing to listen. “No” is almost always followed by “And…” which you must take advantage of. What comes after the “and?”
The widespread lie is that “You need to separate emotion and empathy in negotiation.” Yes, you need to be in control of your own emotions—while empathizing with the other party. Chris notes that people used to think emotions were something that could be turned on and off. Now we know that emotions are hard-wired into all decision-making. Neuroscience has shown that without emotions, you can’t make decisions.
If you want the other side to make a decision, their emotions must be engaged. But how? You have to avoid negative emotions because they slow down the thinking process. Positive emotions make you smarter, so you want to enhance them while eliminating the negative ones. Which emotions do you like? Which are hurting you? You must separate the emotions and put the person on a different path of decision-making.
How each word feels depends on what side of it you’re on. When you hear “yes” you get a shot of dopamine. Hearing it makes you happy. But you forget how uncomfortable the other person feels when forced to say “yes.”
Anchoring is strongly advocated by most people: i.e. “go first and go high.” It’s called the zone of possible agreement. The problem is that it makes deals go away that you otherwise should have made. Chris sees it regularly and he also negotiates regularly. He will NOT high-anchor. They make more deals consistently without anchoring.
If you high-anchor, you hit the occasional home-run—but you don’t get up to bat as much. Or worse, the other side stops pitching to you. It makes potential deals vanish. Those that survive? They’ll be a great deal. But the long-term loss is high. Chris emphasizes that by the time you realize it’s killing your business it will be far too late.
According to Chris, compromise and splitting the difference are horrible. Compromise ruins everything. People are either trying to be fair—or they’re a poor judge of distance. What does that mean? People who tell Chris they like “win-win” are high-anchor high-demand people trying to move a goal-line. “Splitting the difference is a mercenary's tool to make you feel like you got treated fairly when they got what they wanted all along...It’s amazing what people will agree to when they feel like they’ve been treated fairly.” If they feel it’s unfair? You’ll get a no.
Chris—now older and wiser—would tell his younger self to continue to be assertive but do it nicely. Don’t compromise on what you’re trying to get done but be nice. That’s the #1 thing that Chris would change. He was once told by a fellow hostage negotiator, “Dealing with you is like getting hit in the face with a brick.”
He equated being “nice” to being “weak.” He embraced the mantra of “You may not like me—but you’ll respect me.” There’s a difference between being assertive and being a straight shooter. You want to be a straight shooter—not a blunt-force brick that people have to fend off.
You can’t just be cold, data-driven, and analytical. If you’re cold and distant, it will infect the other side and they’ll be less emotional. When you’re in a positive frame of mind, salespeople make 37% more deals. You’ll leave money on the table if you’re striving for neutral.
Chris and Mark cover so much more in this episode. Be sure to listen to the whole episode—and subscribe!
The Negotiations Ninja podcast, is the number one negotiation podcast on Google Play. On the Negotiation Ninja podcast host Mark Raffan interviews FBI negotiators, influential executives, world leading sales guru’s, legal masterminds and expert communicators to draw out what works in negotiation and what doesn’t work and what we can do better.
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