Chris Voss (@vossnegotiation) retired as the lead international kidnapping negotiator for the FBI, is CEO of the Black Swan Group, and is the author of the national bestseller Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as If Your Life Depended on It.

What We Discuss with Chris Voss:

  • How you can be a more effective negotiator for anything by using the FBI’s own field-proven hostage negotiation techniques.
  • How to determine which of the three archetypes of negotiator you’re dealing with: The Analyst, The Assertive, or The Accommodator.
  • Who has the real leverage in a kidnapping or hostage scenario — and how this applies to your own lower-stakes negotiations.
  • What it takes to subtly convince someone to have it your way.
  • The Black Swan Rule: Treating others not the way you want to be treated, but the way they want to be treated.
  • And much more…

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Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as If Your Life Depended on It by Chris Voss and Tahl RazLike networking, the thought of negotiating can give even the most socially robust among us cold sweats. The stakes can be as low as a cheaper head of cabbage at the local farmers’ market or as high as the future of your career when you’re trying to get a significant raise at your annual performance review, but negotiation for most of us never reaches a point where lives are on the line — unless you’re today’s guest.

In this episode we talk to Chris Voss, who retired as the lead international kidnapping negotiator for the FBI, is CEO of the Black Swan Group, and is the author of the national bestseller Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as If Your Life Depended on It. From our conversation, you may be surprised to discover that the tactics for negotiating business deals and the safe release of hostages are startlingly similar. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

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More About This Show

Chris Voss is CEO of the Black Swan Group and author of the national best-seller Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as If Your Life Depended on It, which was named one of the seven best books on negotiation by Geoffrey James at Inc. A 24-year veteran of the FBI, Chris retired as the lead international kidnapping negotiator.

Drawing on his experience in high-stakes negotiations, his company specializes in solving business communication problems using hostage negotiation solutions. Their negotiation methodology focuses on discovering the “black swans,” small pieces of information that have a huge effect on an outcome. Chris and his team have helped companies secure and close better deals, save money, and solve internal communication problems.

But what might surprise most is that the tactics behind negotiating your way through a business deal and negotiating with a barricaded gunman for the lives of his hostages are pretty similar — and governed more by human emotion and cognitive bias than logic.

“I can hear what negative emotions are driving you and I know how to turn them down,” says Chris. “I will listen for what those positives might be and I know how to turn those up. And as soon as I start getting a read of where you are, there’s a buffet of choices I didn’t have. I can get proactive and start to get out in front of something.

“You’re barricaded — you’re mad at your wife. Instead of saying, ‘Do you want to get out of this alive?’ or ‘Do you want to see your kids again?’ or ‘Do you want to live?’ Those are all ‘Yes’ oriented questions. If you’re really mad at your wife, I might say, ‘Do you want your wife to win?’ The answer to that is ‘No!’

“I know from my experience that when you say ‘No,’ you feel in control. It’s five times as good as a ‘Yes’ will ever be — across the board, in all circumstances.

“In a business deal, I lay a proposal in front of you. Instead of saying, ‘Will this work for you?’ I’ll say, ‘Is this ridiculous to think this might work for you?’ If there are problems with it, you [can] say ‘No, it’s not ridiculous, but here are the problems,’ If I say, ‘Will this work for you?’ You can’t say, ‘Yes, but here are the problems.’ You’re scared to say ‘Yes’ because you think you just agreed to the deal. When you’ve already said ‘No’ to something, you don’t feel the obligations that go along with it.

“I said, ‘No, it doesn’t work. Here are the problems. I never said I’d agree if I laid the problems out. If I lay the problems out and you fix them, I will agree. But since I never felt like I said that, in point of fact, if I fix all those problems, I now have a tailor-made solution that you felt in control.”

Listen to this episode in its entirety to learn more about why hostage negotiators don’t try to think more than three moves ahead, the number one problem smart people commonly encounter during a negotiation, why a ‘no’ reaction is five times better than a ‘yes’ during any kind of negotiation, how negotiators work in teams to overcome individual cognitive biases, the one key difference between business and hostage negotiation, and much more.

Make sure to download Chris’ free guide outlining the three negotiator archetypes here so you can better understand the needs of your opponents when negotiating with the Black Swan Rule!


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