Best Lessons of 2019: Never Split the Difference

A hand holding a needle prepares to pop a bright red balloon labeled "emotion."

Compromise is commonly taught as a virtue.
Sometimes, we get ahead by going along. We avoid confrontation. We cave in instead of standing up for ourselves. We fail to speak up. We “go along to get along.”
Sometimes compromise means that everyone loses.A portrait of author Chris Voss in a grey sport coat.
Chris Voss is an ex-FBI hostage negotiator. His book “Never Split the Difference” was an exciting read. But more importantly, it was directive: We took away several specific scripts to use in hard conversations.
Here’s one:
When you’re having a tough conversation (for example, you’re about to raise prices on your monthly membership), you have to remove emotion from the discussion first.
So sit down with the person affected by the rate increase.
Imagine his or her emotions are a big balloon between the two of you. Neither can see the other clearly through the balloon. You need to empty the balloon. So you pop it with a pointed question:
“So, you’re upset about the rate increase?”
Then you have to let the air out. Let the person vent. Let him or her talk for 10 minutes straight.
And then you have to do it again. You have to make sure the emotion is gone. So you ask another pointed question:
“You’re worried that your family won’t be able to afford the extra $20 per month?”
And you let the person vent again.
If necessary, poke the balloon a third time. Only when all of the emotion has been let out can you approach the problem logically.
The next step is to lay out the problem you’re trying to solve.
“Well, here’s where we are. I don’t think I have a choice. Do you?”
You’ll have to consider the next step in the conversation because many clients have opinions about business without any context or true knowledge. Like, “If you cut your rate in half, you’ll get twice as many people in here!” But they only have the consumer’s perspective. You don’t want to get into an argument. So you should tell them:
“Here’s the problem I’m facing. This is the only solution that will work. Can I count on your support?”
The cover of the book "Never Split the Difference" by Chris Voss.Voss wasn’t the only author to release a negotiation book in the last couple of years. He wasn’t even the only former hostage negotiator to release one! But Voss’ book is infinitely valuable because it’s directive. And that’s why I love it.
It’s also the reason Chris Voss will be our keynote speaker at the 2020 Two-Brain Summit in June.
Voss will arrive on Friday night and come with me to a meet-and-greet for entrepreneurs in our Tinker mastermind.
On Saturday, he’ll deliver the keynote to the 400+ attendees at the Summit. And after the keynote, Chris and I will do a live Q+A with the audience. Bring your questions!

Other Articles in This Series

Best Lessons of 2019: The Alter Ego Effect
Best Lessons of 2019: The Power of Nice
Best Lessons of 2019: The Queen Bee Role

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