34 Quotes from Never Split the Difference book by Chris Voss

Hello friends. This post is a collection of quotes from the book - Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss.

Never Split the Difference has been described as a book that takes you inside the world of high-stakes negotiations and into Voss' head, revealing the skills that helped him and his colleagues succeed where it mattered most: in saving lives.

Chapter 1-3 Quotes

Without a deep understanding of human psychology, without the acceptance that we are all crazy, irrational, impulsive, emotionally driven animals, all the raw intelligence and mathematical logic in the world is little help in the fraught, shifting interplay of two people negotiating. [...] No matter how we dress up our negotiations in mathematical theories, we are always an animal, always acting and reacting first and foremost from our deeply held but mostly invisible and inchoate fears, needs, perceptions, and desires. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 1

Kidnappers are just businessmen trying to get the best price. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 1

People want to be understood and accepted. Listening is the cheapest, yet most effective concession we can make to get there. By listening intensely, a negotiator demonstrates empathy and shows a sincere desire to better understand what the other side is experiencing. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 1

Allow me to let you in on a secret: Life is negotiation. [...] Your career, your finances, your reputation, your love life, even the fate of your kids - at some point all of these hinge on your ability to negotiate. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 1

Negotiating does not mean browbeating or grinding someone down. It simply means playing the emotional game that human society is set up for. In this world, you get what you ask for; you just have to ask correctly. So claim your prerogative to ask for what you think is right. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 1

Effective negotiation is applied people smarts, a psychological edge in every domain of life: how to size someone up, how to influence their sizing up of you, and how to use that knowledge to get what you want. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 1

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. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 2

In negotiation, each new psychological insight or additional piece of information revealed heralds a step forward and allows one to discard one hypothesis in favor of another. You should engage the process with a mindset of discovery. Your goal at the outset is to extract and observe as much information as possible. Which, by the way, is one of the reasons that really smart people often have trouble being negotiators - they're so smart they think they don’t have anything to discover. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 2

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. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 2

It's really not that easy to listen well. We are easily distracted. We engage in selective listening, hearing only what we want to hear, our minds acting on a cognitive bias for consistency rather than truth. And that’s just the start. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 2

Going too fast is one of the mistakes all negotiators are prone to making. If we're too much in a hurry, people can feel as if they're not being heard and we risk undermining the rapport and trust we've built. [...] When you slow the process down, you also calm it down. After all, if someone is talking, they're not shooting. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 2

Instead of denying or ignoring emotions, good negotiators identify and influence them. They are able to precisely label emotions, those of others and especially their own. And once they label the emotions they talk about them without getting wound up. For them, emotion is a tool. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 3

You can learn almost everything you need - and a lot more than other people would like you to know - simply by watching and listening, keeping your eyes peeled and your ears open, and your mouth shut. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 3

Chapter 4-7 Quotes

We've instrumentalized niceness as a way of greasing the social wheels, yet it's often a ruse. We're polite and we don't disagree to get through daily existence with the least degree of friction. But by turning niceness into a lubricant, we’ve leeched it of meaning. A smile and a nod might signify "Get me out of here!" as much as it means "Nice to meet you." - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 4

Once you understand that subterranean world of unspoken needs and thoughts, you'll discover a universe of variables that can be leveraged to change your counterpart's needs and expectations. From using some people's fear of deadlines and the mysterious power of odd numbers, to our misunderstood relationship to fairness, there are always ways to bend our counterpart’s reality so it conforms to what we ultimately want to give them, not to what they initially think they deserve. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 6

I'm here to call bullshit on compromise right now. We don't compromise because it's right; we compromise because it is easy and because it saves face. We compromise in order to say that at least we got half the pie. Distilled to its essence, we compromise to be safe. Most people in a negotiation are driven by fear or by the desire to avoid pain. Too few are driven by their actual goals. [...] Creative solutions are almost always preceded by some degree of risk, annoyance, confusion, and conflict. Accommodation and compromise produce none of that. You've got to embrace the hard stuff. That's where the great deals are. And that's what great negotiators do. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 6

Deadlines are often arbitrary, almost always flexible, and hardly ever trigger the consequences we think - or are told - they will. Deadlines are the bogeymen of negotiation, almost exclusively self-inflicted figments of our imagination, unnecessarily unsettling us for no good reason. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 6

We're all irrational, all emotional. Emotion is a necessary element to decision making that we ignore at our own peril. Realizing that hits people hard between the eyes. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 6

In a tough negotiation, it's not enough to show the other party that you can deliver the thing they want. To get real leverage, you have to persuade them that they have something concrete to lose if the deal falls through. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 6

We all were still suffering under the notion that negotiation was a wrestling match where the point is to exhaust your opponent into submission, hope for the best, and never back down. [...] We learned that negotiation was coaxing, not overcoming; co-opting, not defeating. Most important, we learned that successful negotiation involved getting your counterpart to do the work for you and suggest your solution himself. It involved giving him the illusion of control while you, in fact, were the one defining the conversation. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 7

All negotiation, done well, should be an information-gathering process that vests your counterpart in an outcome that serves you. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 7

Whether we like to recognize it or not, a universal rule of human nature, across all cultures, is that when somebody gives you something, they expect something in return. And they won't give anything else until you pay them back. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 7

The first and most basic rule of keeping your emotional cool is to bite your tongue. Not literally, of course. But you have to keep away from knee-jerk, passionate reactions. Pause. Think. Let the passion dissipate. That allows you to collect your thoughts and be more circumspect in what you say. It also lowers your chance of saying more than you want to. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 7

Chapter 8-10 Quotes

The point here is that your job as a negotiator isn't just to get to an agreement. It's getting to one that can be implemented and making sure that happens. Negotiators have to be decision architects: they have to dynamically and adaptively design the verbal and nonverbal elements of the negotiation to gain both consent and execution. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 8

Truly effective negotiators are conscious of the verbal, paraverbal (how it's said), and nonverbal communications that pervade negotiations and group dynamics. And they know how to employ those subtleties to their benefit. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 8

Superstar negotiators - real rainmakers - know that a negotiation is a playing field beneath the words, where really getting to a good deal involves detecting and manipulating subtle, nonobvious signals beneath the surface. It is only by visualizing and modifying these subsurface issues that you can craft a great deal and make sure that it is implemented. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 8

Now, bargaining is not rocket science, but it's not simple intuition or mathematics, either. To bargain well, you need to shed your assumptions about the haggling process and learn to recognize the subtle psychological strategies that play vital roles at the bargaining table. Skilled bargainers see more than just opening offers, counteroffers, and closing moves. They see the psychological currents that run below the surface. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 9

There is one basic truth about a successful bargaining style: To be good, you have to learn to be yourself at the bargaining table. To be great you have to add to your strengths, not replace them. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 9

Prepare, prepare, prepare. When the pressure is on, you don't rise to the occasion; you fall to your highest level of preparation. [...] That way, once you're at the bargaining table, you won't have to wing it. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 9

We must let what we know - our known knowns - guide us but not blind us to what we do not know; we must remain flexible and adaptable to any situation; we must always retain a beginner's mind; and we must never overvalue our experience or undervalue the informational and emotional realities served up moment by moment in whatever situation we face. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 10

Remember, negotiation is more like walking on a tightrope than competing against an opponent. Focusing so much on the end objective will only distract you from the next step, and that can cause you to fall off the rope. Concentrate on the next step because the rope will lead you to the end as long as all the steps are completed. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 10

Threats can be like nuclear bombs. There will be a toxic residue that will be difficult to clean up. You have to handle the potential of negative consequences with care, or you will hurt yourself and poison or blow up the whole process. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 10

In any negotiation, [...] it's not how well you speak but how well you listen that determines your success. Understanding the "other" is a precondition to be able to speak persuasively and develop options that resonate for them. There is the visible negotiation and then all the things that are hidden under the surface. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 10

Remember, pushing hard for what you believe is not selfish. It is not bullying. It is not just helping you. Your amygdala, the part of the brain that processes fear, will try to convince you to give up, to flee, because the other guy is right, or you're being cruel. But if you are an honest, decent person looking for a reasonable outcome, you can ignore the amygdala. - Never Split the Difference, Chapter 10

Cited Quotes

He who has learned to disagree without being disagreeable has discovered the most valuable secret of negotiation. - Robert Estabrook, as quoted in Never Split the Difference, Chapter 7 

Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. - Mike Tyson, as quoted in Never Split the Difference, Chapter 9

Leave a comment

Related Posts