Never Split the Difference

February 5, 2021

Negotiation is everywhere from finalizing a time and location to meet with friends to buying a gym membership at a reasonable price. This is a self help book for anyone who wants to hone their negotation skill.

Negotitaion = Information Gathering + Behavior Influence

Great negotiation is when you win but make it seem like your counterpart won. Great negotiation is about great collaboration.

Chapter 1: The New Rules

Book starts with a very niche technique to consider during negotiation to get out of a tight spot. Below is an excerpt from the book which illustrates the technique.

“C’mon. Get me the money or I cut your son’s throat right now,” Mnookin said. Testy. I gave him a long, slow stare. Then I smiled. “How am I supposed to do that?”

, Open-ended questions

Such open-ended questioning gives your counterparts illusion of control. They start thinking that they possess the key to this negotiation. All this gives you one of the most important thing during negotiation the time to think.

“I’m sorry, Robert, how do I know he’s even alive?” I said, using an apology and his first name, seeding more warmth into the interaction in order to complicate his gambit to bulldoze me. “I really am sorry, but how can I get you any money right now, much less one million dollars, if I don’t even know he’s alive?”

, Hey I have a problem, solve it for me friend!

Presenting the problem with the terms of negotition in question form (and not straight away pointing out the issue) may compels your counterparts in negotitaion to understand the unreasonable nature of the terms.

Apologetic tone coupled with friendly use of words during address eases the conversation. This technique can be used when you aren’t getting any authority in negotiation. This technique will give you some chances to steer the negotitaion your way.

Both of the above examples correspond to tactics called calibrated questions: queries that the other side can respond to but that have no fixed answers. Main purpose of this tactics to buy you some time to think.

Answering such question demand that you possess deep emotional strength i.e you need to keep aside your emotions and your feeling about what other side means and from my point of view, you could even raise a counter question, like what seems to be the problem with which you think I can help you. This will give us insights into line of thinking of your counterpart about why he/she needs time to think through our offer or what bothers him/her. Once you get the information which your counterpart is hiding like the motive of negotitaion or even some small information which can help with your terms, you can gain authority without letting the other party know.

In negotiation, one should follow a strict sequence of actions (like in Banta & Zopa) rather play around as per the psychology and nature of your counterpart.

Other mistake in negotiation is to think that your counterpart is fully rational and selfish and is not affected by emotions, rather its found in studies that emotion plays a very important role in negotiation which has the power to influence the rational thinking and logical mind. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

Fisher and Ury’s approach Talked about in the book getting to say yes. was introduced with acceptance of the above stated idea, and to mitigate or remove these emotions from the negotiation to collectively solve the problem in a more rational manner. The core principle of the approach was:

  1. Seperate the emotions in negotiation
  2. Not to target the what they are asking for and rather look for why they are asking for it
  3. Work in co-operation to reach a win-win deal
  4. Establish some standards for the negotiation which should be agreed by both parties

Decision made by people can be influenced by \(n\) number of ways. One of which is framing effect. It is a proven technique showcasing that people respond differently to same question framed in different way - positive or negative connotations; e.g. as a loss or as a gain. People tend to avoid risk when a positive frame is presented but seek risks when a negative frame is presented. Such behaviour is caused due to people being more sensitivity towards loss than for gain when things are uncertain. [Loss Aversion] but when the loss becomes more and more uncertain people tend to take more risks.

Example: Bet, if I win, you give me $10 and if you win I give you $10. This will be decided with a flip of coin. Most people avert the risk and decline to play. But when same experiment is conducted with more number of trials coupled more payoff when you win, say I give you $20 but when you lose you only give $10 on each trail, people tend to take interest. This is due uncertainity of loss mathematically. \(P(heads) = 0.5\) and \(P(tails) = 0.5\). So mathematically speaking, you will win in 50% of cases and get paid with $20.

From the above experiment, it quite evident that people are not fully rational and rely on their gut feeling or lets say emotion to make decision. So developing a positive relationship with your counterpart is important to influence their emotions.

It all starts with the universally applicable premise that people want to be understood and accepted. Listening is the cheapest, yet most effective concession we can make to get there.

, Active Listening

When people think they are being listened attentively they listen to themselves in much more constructive manner lower their defenses on their point of view and become willing to accept other’s opinion. This whole technique is refered as Tactical Empathy. This technique imparts the power of influence while balancing the emotions of your counterpart during a negotiation.

Chapter 2: Be a Mirror

Good negotiators, going in, know they have to be ready for possible surprises; great negotiators aim to use their skills to reveal the surprises they are certain exist.

, Surprise Surprise

The moment seasoned negotiators enters a negotiation, they start forming various hypothesis about various factors affecting the negotiation. Then they use their secret weapons, i.e listening, calibrated questioning or mirroring, and narrow down the variables in negotiation. Here listening not only removes element of surprise from your counterpart’s end but also gives you enough intel to form your own arsenal of surprise.

You should engage the process with a mindset of discovery.

, Explore then exploit

You try forego any bias and explore uncharted territories of your counterpart’s mind as farther as you can. This is a systematic approach so never delve in any negotiation with preconcieved notions or conclusions. You can only form conclusions once you know what and who are dealing with.

Great negotiators are able to question the assumptions that the rest of the involved players accept on faith or in arrogance, and thus remain more emotionally open to all possibilities, and more intellectually agile to a fluid situation.

, Assumptions are big no.

You come across an assumption, next time question it right away. Extract intel, get to the your counterparts basis of assumption, what that assumption accomplish. For example. You are at a basketball court and the maintainance staff says its maintainance day. Its normal to assume that its under maintainance, but if you really want to play question them and ask if its undergoing maintainance at the very moment. If that is case, wish good bye and walk home and if not then politely ask, “can you play for sometime until they start with work?”, giving them sence of authority. You can always persist and extract more information with “How am I supposed to do that, we walked 3-5miles to come here” yada yada yada. You get my point.

until you know what you’re dealing with, you don’t know what you’re dealing with.

, Know better

Apart from the content and context of mind set revealed by your counterpart during your covert interogation, do not just relax with you copy pen in hand, try and match content with tone of voice, body language as they might be trying to through you off feeding you false information. You dont help the one you want to make a deal with by assuming pieces of information make his story consistent for you brain. In short. Look for inconsistencies.

state of schizophrenia: everyone just listening to the voice in their head.

, Am I schizophrenic

Its quite often the case that once you get hold of some key information which can act as pivot for your argument we go on to solidify it in our head. Essentially converting the negotiation an incomplete and futile assault towards your way. You dont indulge in such pedastrian tactics. You go steps and steps untill your counterpart has nothing else to give you. You dont attack early, you have secrets use then when you are certain of a win.

Wants are easy to talk about, representing the aspiration of getting our way, and sustaining any illusion of control we have as we begin to negotiate; needs imply survival, the very minimum required to make us act, and so make us vulnerable. But neither wants nor needs are where we start; it begins with listening, making it about the other people, validating their emotions, and creating enough trust and safety for a real conversation to begin.

, I want to listen

The above excerpt really sums up why to listen. Start with listening, breach thier defences, let them reveal, dont stop them, let them reveal, punch when you have weak points.

Going too fast is one of the mistakes all negotiators are prone to making.

, Fast & Furious

You go on fast, you feel everything is under control. Stop! The very thing letting it be under control is the rapport you have established with your counterpart listening to him and investing time. Keep things slow and calm.

My job was to find a way to keep him talking. I switched into my Late-Night, FM DJ Voice: deep, soft, slow, and reassuring.

, Legendary FM DJ Voice

FM DJ Voice is a downward lilt voice. It’s best employed when establishing points of negotiation that are immovable. It is to be used in conversation no more than 20% of the time. This maintains integrity of its effect and let it convey the immovable points in arguments.

“Hey, what happened to Joe?” I said, “Joe’s gone. This is Chris. You’re talking to me now.” I didn’t put it like a question. I made a downward-inflecting statement, in a downward-inflecting tone of voice.

, Its not up for discussion

Above is an excerpt from the book depicting the effect of FM DJ Voice. But for major part of the conversation try to be more playful and accomodating. This helps in taking negotation forward. Try to radiate good emotions, this will make your counterpart assume that emotion. Just like when we wave and say good morning to a by stander at bus stop they replicate your emotion and action. This is how you control emotions apart from usual conversational aspects. This will get you through people of different cultures as emotions are same across the earth.

There is another tone called assertive. This voice is declarative, straight up, and delivered like a punch in the nose. And it converts negotiation in boxing. Dont use it until and unless absolutely necessary. It breaks more than it makes.

“The other vehicle’s not out there because you guys chased my driver away . . .” he blurted. “We chased your driver away?” I mirrored. “Well, when he seen the police he cut.” “We don’t know anything about this guy; is he the one who was driving the van?” I asked.

, You answer, I question.

Mirroring is where you try to comfort your counterpart by imitating Humans copy each other to comfort each other. We can copy content like using their words on them as a question or imitate their body language or tone. them.

As per FBI, you repeat last one to three words of what someone has just said to create a mirror. This gives you superpower to seem agreeable while disagreeing to someones point.

Now you might be thinking how to deal with someone who is just throwing punches, talking assertive. Obviously, you can’t mirror him there. So you first of all summon your Late Night FM DJ Voice. Then do following:

  1. Start with apology to comfort
  2. Mirror
  3. Be silence, 3-4 seconds to let mirror have effect
  4. Repeat

Below is a small conversation on how to take on assetive person.

“Let’s make two copies of all the paperwork.” boss said
“I’m sorry, two copies?” she mirrored in FM DJ voice + inquisitive tone (meaning to ask for help)
“Yes,” her boss responded, “one for us and one for the customer.”
“I’m sorry, so you are saying that the client is asking for a copy and we need a copy for internal use?” She asked
“Actually, I’ll check with the client—they haven’t asked for anything. But I definitely want a copy. That’s just how I do business.” boss replied
“Absolutely,” she responded. “Thanks for checking with the customer. Where would you like to store the in-house copy? There’s no more space in the file room here.” She asked
“It’s fine. You can store it anywhere,” he said, slightly perturbed now.
“Anywhere?” she mirrored again, with calm concern.
“As a matter of fact, you can put them in my office,” he said, with more composure than he’d had the whole conversation.
“I’ll get the new assistant to print it for me after the project is done. For now, just create two digital backups.” Boss said

, Sorry but I will mirror

Use mirrors to create a bond, keep people talking, buy time, and encourage your counterparts to reveal their strategy.

Last updated: February 10, 2021
Never Split the Difference - February 5, 2021 - Ujjwal Upadhyay