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Welcome to this summary of the book “Never split the difference” by Chris Voss.

I can say that this book was personally a “multi-orgasmic book” with lots of insights.

Honestly speaking, I couldn’t help but keep smiling while discovering new techniques and tips on negotiation

never split the difference summary


Imagine that a group of terrorists got your son and they ask for 1 million dollars or he dies; what would you do?

In never split the difference, Chris Voss starts with this little anecdote which didn’t really happen but was a simple test made by Harvard Law School negotiating professors.

As the author had to answer, he used several techniques he’s been using for more than twenty years in the FBI, including fifteen years negotiating hostage situations from New York to the Philippines and the Middle East.

He would for example reply to Robert, one of the negotiating professors: ““I’m sorry, Robert, how do I know he’s even alive?” The author used here an apology and the professor’s first name, seeding more warmth into the interaction in order to complicate his maneuver to demolish him.

Then he would repeat “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?”

We can see here that “the frame of the conversation had shifted from how Chris would respond to the threat of his son’s murder to how the professor would deal with the logistical issues involved in getting the money.”

The author of “never split the difference” also uses tactic calibrated questions: queries that the other side can respond to but that have no fixed answers. It buys you time. It gives your counterpart the illusion of control.

Old school negotiation

The old school model as the author qualifies it is based on the thought that we have a rational mind. This approach was initiated by Roger Fisher and William Ury who wrote the book “Getting to Yes”; a treatise on negotiation that the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the FBI would implement.

The central tenet of their approach is that a rational brain overcomes the emotional and irrational one.

An emotional mind

Daniel Kahneman won a Nobel Prize by showing that man is a very irrational beast. Kahneman later codified his research in the 2011 bestseller Thinking, Fast and Slow.

Man, Kahneman wrote, has two systems of thought: System 1, our animal mind, is fast, instinctive, and emotional; System 2 is slow, deliberative, and logical. And System 1 is far more influential. In fact, it guides and steers our rational thoughts.

Now think about that: under this model, if you know how to affect your counterpart’s System 1 thinking, his inarticulate feelings, by how you frame and deliver your questions and statements, then you can guide his System 2 rationality and therefore modify his responses.

If you believed Kahneman, conducting negotiations based on System 2 concepts without the tools to read, understand, and manipulate the System 1 emotional underpinning was like trying to make an omelet without first knowing how to crack an egg

The FBI gets emotional

In his career, Chris Voss noticed a clear breakdown between the theory in the book “Getting to yes” and the everyday law enforcement experience. It was impossible to handle complex hostage situations using their theory based on the “rational mind”.

It was clear that most incidents were driven by emotions, not by rational bargaining situations.

Chris Voss argues that emotions and emotional intelligence would have to be central to effective negotiation, not things to be overcome.

As he said “What we needed were simple psychological tactics and strategies that worked in the field to calm people down, establish rapport, gain trust, elicit the verbalization of needs, and persuade the other guy of our empathy. We needed something easy to teach, easy to learn, and easy to execute.”

The whole concept, which you’ll learn as the centerpiece of this book “never split the difference”, is called Tactical Empathy. This uses listening as a martial art, balancing the subtle behaviors of emotional intelligence and the assertive skills of influence, to gain access to the mind of another person.


“The language of negotiation is primarily a language of conversation and rapport: a way of quickly establishing relationships and getting people to talk and think together.”

You shouldn’t view negotiation as a battle of arguments. If you do this, people will become overwhelmed; they will feel unsafe and insecure. Instead, think of negotiation as a process of discovery. The goal is to uncover as much information as possible.

As shared in “never split the difference”, Chris Voss highlights that one of the things you can do is to put a smile on your face.

People in a positive frame are more likely to collaborate and problem-solve. It’s important to slow. It. Down.

The most fundamental need of any human being is to be heard, to be understood; and going too fast will leave an impression that we were not heard enough. You’ll risk undermining the rapport and trust you’ve built.

The voice

According to the author, your most powerful tool in any verbal communication is your voice. You can use your voice to intentionally reach into someone’s brain and flip an emotional switch. Distrusting to trusting. Nervous to calm.

For example, when we radiate warmth and acceptance, conversations just seem to flow. When we enter a room with a level of comfort and enthusiasm, we attract people toward us. Smile at someone on the street, and as a reflex they’ll smile back.

There are three voice tones available to negotiators as explained in “never split the difference”:

  1. The late-night FM DJ voice: Use selectively to make a point. Inflect your voice downward, keeping it calm and slow. When done properly, you create an aura of authority and trustworthiness without triggering defensiveness.
  2. The positive/playful voice: Should be your default voice. It’s the voice of an easygoing, good-natured person. Your attitude is light and encouraging. The key here is to relax and smile while you’re talking.
  3. The direct or assertive voice: Used rarely. Will cause problems and create pushback.


Of the entirety of the FBI’s hostage negotiation skill set, mirroring is the closest one gets to a Jedi mind trick. Simple, and yet uncannily effective.

It’s almost laughably simple: for the FBI, a “mirror” is when you repeat the last three words (or the critical one to three words) of what someone has just said.

It’s a phenomenon (and now technique) that follows a very basic but profound biological principle: We fear what’s different and are drawn to what’s similar.

As the saying goes, birds of a feather flock together.

Mirroring, then, when practiced consciously, is the art of insinuating similarity. “Trust me,” a mirror signals to another’s unconscious, “You and I —we’re alike.”

All things considered, we can mirror someone using body language, accent, or tones.

But a negotiator should focus solely on mirroring her counterpart’s words.

How to confront and get your way without confrontation

Mirroring also gives you the ability to disagree with someone without being disagreeable.

The author doesn’t recommend what he calls “the pit bull approach” where two people become aggressive, feeling unsafe, either attacking or withdrawing.

Here’s a better approach as explained in never split the difference:

It’s just four simple steps:

  1. Use the late-night FM DJ voice (Inflect your voice downward, keeping it calm and slow)
  2. Start with “I’m sorry . . .”
  3. Mirror.
  4. Silence. At least four seconds, to let the mirror work its magic on your counterpart.
  5. Repeat

Remember, a negotiator mirrors by using the last three words of his counterpart.


In the old school negotiation, the rational brain prevails over the emotional one. The adepts of this system often said: ““Separate the people from the problem” was the common refrain.”

But in “Never split the difference”, Chris Voss disagrees “How can you separate people from the problem when their emotions are the problem? Once people get upset at one another, rational thinking goes out the window”

We shouldn’t deny or ignore emotions; good negotiators identify these emotions 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. Emotions aren’t the obstacles, they are the means.”

Tactical empathy

To understand tactical empathy, we first need to talk about empathy itself.

Empathy is more than the ability to recognize emotion in others; it requires understanding the impact of emotions on the person experiencing them. At the core of empathy is knowing what it would be like to feel the same way, or experience the same emotions as someone else.

To the author, “empathy is “the ability to recognize the perspective of a counterpart, and the vocalization of that recognition.” That’s an academic way of saying that empathy is paying attention to another human being, asking what they are feeling, and making a commitment to understanding their world.”

“Tactical empathy is “understanding the feelings and mindset of another in the moment” and also hearing what is behind those feelings so you increase your influence in all the moments that follow. It’s bringing our attention to both the emotional obstacles and the potential pathways to getting an agreement done. It’s emotional intelligence on steroids.”

Empathy works and as the author emphasizes, it will help you what Sun Tzu called “the supreme art of war”: to subdue the enemy without fighting.

Never split the difference: Labeling

We employ tactical empathy by recognizing and then verbalizing the predictable emotions of the situation. It doesn’t only consist of putting oneself into someone else’s shoes. It is about spotting the counterpart’s feelings and turning them into words, verbalizing them. It’s also about calmly and respectfully repeating the emotions back to our counterpart. In a negotiation, it’s called labeling.

Labeling is a way of validating someone’s emotion by acknowledging it. Give someone’s emotion a name and you show you identify with how that person feels.

Using labeling

To never split the difference, the author shares 3 steps for using labeling.

The first step is detecting the other person’s emotional state

Once you’ve spotted an emotion you want to highlight, the next step is to label it aloud. Labels can be phrased as statements or questions. The only difference is whether you end the sentence with a downward or upward inflection. But no matter how they end, labels almost always begin with roughly the same words:

  •         It seems like . . .
  •         or “It sounds like” . . .
  •         It looks like . . .

The last rule of labeling is silence. Once you’ve thrown out a label, be quiet and listen.

Neutralize the negative, reinforce the positive

In basic terms, people’s emotions have two levels: the “presenting” behavior is the part above the surface you can see and hear; beneath, the “underlying” feeling is what motivates the behavior.

What good negotiators do when labeling is address those underlying emotions. Labeling negatives diffuses them (or defuses them, in extreme cases); labeling positives reinforces them.

Anger from a girlfriend is for example the presenting behavior. But maybe the underlying emotion is sadness or loneliness. Instead of addressing her angry behavior, you acknowledge her sadness in a nonjudgmental way.

Labeling is a helpful tactic in de-escalating angry confrontations, because it makes the person acknowledge their feelings rather than continuing to act out.

Research shows that the best way to deal with negativity is to observe it, without reaction and without judgment. Then consciously label each negative feeling and replace it with positive, compassionate, and solution-based thoughts.


For good negotiators, “No” is pure gold. That negative provides a great opportunity for you and the other party to clarify what you really want by eliminating what you don’t want.

Never split the difference: “No” starts the negotiation

“No” is the start of the negotiation, not the end of it. “No” is often a decision, frequently temporary, to maintain the status quo. Change is scary, and “No” provides a little protection from that scariness.

Jim Camp in his book, Start with NO recommends the reader to give their counterpart permission to say “No” from the outset of a negotiation. He observes that people will fight to preserve their right to say “No”. The idea behind is to give your counterpart that right. The negotiating environment will become more constructive and collaborative almost immediately.

People want to preserve their need for autonomy; we all want to feel in control. Giving them the permission to say “no” calm people down and it opens up new opportunities to negotiate.

Saying “No” makes the speaker feel safe, secure, and in control, so trigger it. Great negotiators seek “No” because they know that’s often when the real negotiation begins.

Never split the difference: persuade in their world

Good negotiators know that their job is to gently guide their counterpart to discover their goal as his own.

We are not going to logically convince people that they’re safe, secure or in control. Being nice in the form of feigned sympathy for example would be unsuccessful because it will get them defensive.

Instead of getting inside with logic or feigned smiles, we get there by asking for “No.” It’s the word that gives the speaker feelings of safety and control.

While “yes” is the final goal of a negotiation, don’t aim for it at the start. An early “Yes” is often just a cheap, counterfeit dodge. Asking someone for “Yes” too quickly in a conversation —“Do you like to drink water, Mr. Smith?”—gets his guard up and paints you as an untrustworthy salesman.

“No” starts conversations and creates safe havens to get to the final “Yes” of commitment.


In Never split the difference, Chris Voss emphasizes that “the sweetest two words in any negotiation are actually “That’s right.” Here’s why.

Consider this: you probably experienced this before. Whenever someone is bothering you what do you say to tell them to shut up and go away? “You’re right”. It works every time. Tell people “you’re right” and they get a happy smile on their face and leave you alone for at least twenty-four hours. But you haven’t agreed to their position. You have used “you’re right” to get them to quit bothering you.

When you counterpart says “that’s right”, they feel understood. The moment you’ve convinced someone that you truly understand her dreams and feelings (the whole world that she inhabits), mental and behavioral change becomes possible, and the foundation for a breakthrough has been laid.

When your counterparts say, “That’s right,” they feel they have assessed what you’ve said and pronounced it as correct of their own free will. They embrace it.

Before you convince them to see what you’re trying to accomplish, you have to say the things to them that will get them to say, “That’s right.

Never split the difference: How to get your counterpart to say “that’s right”

Use a summary to trigger a “that’s right.” A good summary is the combination of rearticulating the meaning of what is said plus the acknowledgment of the emotions underlying that meaning

You can use all the previously mentioned techniques such as effective pauses, mirroring, labeling, paraphrasing and summarize.

The building blocks of a good summary are a label combined with paraphrasing. You’ll need to identify, rearticulate, and emotionally affirm “the world according to your counterpart”

Summary = paraphrasing + labeling


All negotiations are defined by a network of subterranean desires and needs. Don’t let yourself be fooled by the surface.

In never split the difference, Chris Voss recounts how kidnappers in Haiti asked for $150,000 but ended up receiving $4,751 and a new portable CD stereo. It was discovered that such kidnappings weren’t politically motivated. The kidnappers mostly wanted to party through the weekend. Once you know that the Haitian kidnappers just want party money, you will be miles better prepared.

Don’t compromise

Never split the difference because compromise can lead to terrible outcomes. Compromise is often a “bad deal” and a key theme we’ll hit in this chapter is that “no deal is better than a bad deal.

If you want to wear black shoes with your suit but your partner wants you to wear brown ones; compromise will end with you wearing one black and one brown shoe. That’s the worst possible outcome.

Deadlines: make time your ally

Time is one of the most crucial variables in any negotiation.

Deadlines regularly make people say and do impulsive things that are against their best interests, because we all have a natural tendency to rush as a deadline approaches.

What good negotiators do is force themselves to resist this urge and take advantage of it in others.

Approaching deadlines entice people to rush the negotiating process and do impulsive things that are against their best interests.

As you enter a negotiation, don’t be rushed by it because a deadline is never static; it can be changed and be argued against.

The F-word: why it’s so powerful, when to use it, and how

The most powerful word in negotiations is “Fair.” We are easily moved by how much we feel we have been respected. We are likely to comply with agreements if we feel that we’ve been treated fairly. On the contrary we’ll lash out if we didn’t.

The word “Fair “is an emotional term people usually exploit to put the other side on the defensive and gain concessions. When your counterpart drops the F-bomb, don’t get suckered into a concession. Instead, ask them to explain how you’re mistreating them.

Three uses of the “fair” word

First, the word fair can be used manipulatively in a negotiation. For example, when one’s counterpart says “we just want what’s fair” almost unconsciously, you’ll increase your bid when you hear this complaint.

The second use of the F-bomb is more evil. In this one, your counterpart will basically accuse you of being dishonest by saying, “We’ve given you a fair offer.” It’s a terrible technique to distract your attention and manipulate you into giving in.

And finally, the last use of the F-word is the author’s favorite because it’s positive and constructive. It sets the stage for honest and empathetic negotiation. Here’s how he uses it: Early on in a negotiation, he will say, “I want you to feel like you are being treated fairly at all times. So please stop me at any time if you feel I’m being unfair, and we’ll address it.”

As a negotiator, you should strive for a reputation of being fair. If you have a bad reputation of being unfair, your reputation will precede you and no one will deal with you.

Bend their reality

Anchor their emotions: You can bend your counterpart’s reality by anchoring his starting point. Before you make an offer, emotionally anchor them. If the kidnappers for example asked for $150,000, you can start by saying how no more than $1000 you can give, how much you struggle financially for now etc…

Let the other guy go first . . . most of the time: Never bid first until you have the perfect information. It might end up with a loss, you’ll pay far less than the counterpart was ready to pay. You might say “I want 100$” although your boss was ready to pay 200$.

Establish a range: When you get to numbers, set an extreme anchor to make your “real” offer seem reasonable, or use a range to seem less aggressive. In a recent study, Columbia Business School psychologists found that job applicants who named a range received significantly higher overall salaries than those who offered a number, especially if their range was a “bolstering range,” in which the low number in the range was what they actually wanted.

When you do talk numbers, use odd ones: numbers that end in “0” feel like guesstimates that can easily be negotiated. If you say for example $ 47,234, it feels as you came to it from a thoughtful calculation. Such numbers feel serious and permanent to your counterpart, so use them to fortify your offers.

Use loss aversion: 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. People will take more risks to avoid a loss than to realize a gain. Make sure your counterpart sees that there is something to lose by inaction.


You will have control in a conversation if you listen more than you talk. The talker reveals information while the listener directs the conversation towards his own goals.

The tools presented here in “never split the difference” in summary are all listeners’ tools.

In his career, the author learned that negotiation was coaxing, not overcoming; co-opting, not defeating. Most importantly, he 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.

Calibrated questions

The tool developed here is something that Chris Voss calls the calibrated, or open-ended, question. What it does is remove aggression from conversations by acknowledging the other side openly, without resistance. In doing so, it lets you introduce ideas and requests without sounding pushy. It allows you to nudge.

Instead of saying “you can’t leave”, a better approach using the open-ended calibrated question would be: “what do you hope to achieve by going?”

Conversely, avoid questions that can be answered with “Yes” or tiny pieces of information. These require little thought and inspire the human need for reciprocity; you will be expected to give something back.

Never split the difference: How to use a calibrated question

During a kidnapping in Pittsburgh, a drug dealer kidnapped another drug dealer’s girlfriend. As everything was recorded, Chris Voss watched the video in which the drug dealer suddenly asks: “Hey dog, how do I know she’s all right?” The kidnapper went silent and after ten seconds, completely aghast he responded: “Well, I’ll put her on the phone”.

The drug dealer in this move got the kidnapper to volunteer to put the victim on the phone. Instead of asking some closed-ended question with a single correct answer, he’d asked an open-ended, yet calibrated one that forced the other guy to pause and actually think about how to solve the problem.

Best of all, he doesn’t owe the kidnapper anything. The guy volunteers to put the girlfriend on the phone: he thinks it’s his idea. The guy who just offered to put the girlfriend on the line thinks he’s in control.

To calibrate a question, start with the words “How” or “What.”. By implicitly asking the other party for help, these questions will give your counterpart an illusion of control and will inspire them to speak at length, revealing important information.

The author gives examples such as: “How can we solve this problem? What’s the objective? / What are we trying to accomplish here? How am I supposed to do that?

The importance of self-control and emotional regulation

Whenever you enter a negotiation with your calibrated question, there’s a critical element you’ll need to master: self-control.

If you can’t control your emotions, how can you expect to influence the emotions of another party?

A negotiator who can’t stay calm and rational would fail, even with a script that would normally work.

To remain rational in a negotiation, therefore to never split the difference, Chris Voss suggests keeping away from passionate reactions. You’ll need to pause. Think. Let the passion dissipate.

Another simple rule is, when you are verbally assaulted, not to counterattack. When you’re attacked in a negotiation, pause and avoid angry emotional reactions. Instead, disarm your counterpart by asking a calibrated question.


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.

“Yes” is nothing without “How.”

Asking “How,” knowing “How,” and defining “How” are all part of the effective negotiator’s arsenal. He would be unarmed without them.

Never split the difference: “Yes” is nothing without “how”

Calibrated “How” questions are a guaranteed way to keep negotiations going. They put the pressure on your counterpart to come up with answers, and to contemplate your problems when making their demands.

The trick to “How” questions is that, correctly used, they are gentle and graceful ways to say “No” and guide your counterpart to develop a better solution—your solution. A gentle How/No invites collaboration and leaves your counterpart with a feeling of having been treated with respect.

Besides saying “No,” the other key benefit of asking “How?” is, quite literally, that it forces your counterpart to consider and explain how a deal will be implemented. A deal is nothing without good implementation. Poor implementation is the cancer that eats your profits.

Remember: “Yes” is nothing without “How.” So keep asking “How?” until you succeed.

Influencing those behind the table

Beware of the “behind the table” or “Level II” players—that is, parties that are not directly involved but who can help implement agreements they like and block ones they don’t.

The deal killers often are more important than the deal makers.

In summary, don’t just pay attention to the people you’re negotiating with directly; always identify the motivations of the players “behind the table.” You can do so by asking how a deal will affect everybody else and how on board they are.

Spotting liars, dealing with jerks, and charming everyone else

It’s crucial to learn how to spot and interpret the subtleties of communication –both verbal and nonverbal- that reveal the mental states of your counterparts.

Truly effective negotiators are conscious of the verbal, paraverbal (how it’s said), and nonverbal communications that pervade negotiations and group dynamics.

The 7-38-55 percent rule: Only 7 percent of a message is based on the words while 38 percent comes from the tone of voice and 55 percent from the speaker’s body language and face. Pay very close attention to tone and body language to make sure they match up with the literal meaning of the words. If they don’t align, it’s quite possible that the speaker is lying or at least unconvinced.

The rule of three: there are three kinds of “Yes”: Commitment, Confirmation, and Counterfeit. The problem is that many people get very good at the Counterfeit “Yes. “ One great tool for avoiding this trap is the Rule of Three. The Rule of Three is simply getting the other guy to agree to the same thing three times in the same conversation.

Pay attention to their usage of pronouns: In never split the difference, Chris reveals that a person’s use of pronouns offers deep insights into his or her relative authority. If you’re hearing a lot of “I,” “me,” and “my,” the real power to decide probably lies elsewhere. Picking up a lot of “we,” “they,” and “them,” it’s more likely you’re dealing directly with a savvy decision maker keeping his options open.

Be human: Use your own name to make yourself a real person to the other side. Humor and humanity are the best ways to break the ice and remove roadblocks.


Skilled bargainers see more than just opening offers, counteroffers, and closing moves. They see the psychological currents that run below the surface.

What type are you?

Negotiation style is a crucial variable in bargaining.

Your personal negotiation style—and that of your counterpart—is formed through childhood, schooling, family, culture, and a million other factors; by recognizing it you can identify your negotiating strengths and weaknesses (and those of your counterpart) and adjust your mindset and strategies accordingly.

There are three types: analyst, accommodator and assertive.

Analyst: Analysts are methodical and diligent. They are not in a big rush. Their motto: As much time as it takes to get it right. Analysts like to pause to think.

Accommodator: They like to build relationships. Their goal is to be on great terms with their counterpart. They love win-win. Accommodators want to remain friends with their counterpart even if they can’t reach an agreement. If they’re your counterpart, be sociable and friendly.

Assertive: Assertives are fiery people who love winning above all else, often at the expense of others. They have an aggressive communication style and they don’t worry about future interactions. Their view of business relationships is based on respect, nothing more and nothing less.

Taking a punch

Experienced negotiators often lead with a ridiculous offer, an extreme anchor. And if you’re not prepared to handle it, you’ll lose your moorings and immediately go to your maximum. It’s human nature. So prepare your dodging tactics to avoid getting sucked into the compromise trap

Punching back: using assertion without getting used by it

You can use real anger, threats without anger, and strategic umbrage: expressions of anger increase a negotiator’s advantage and final take. Anger shows passion and conviction that can help sway the other side to accept less. when someone puts out a ridiculous offer, one that really pisses you off, take a deep breath, allow little anger, and channel it—at the proposal, not the person—and say, “I don’t see how that would ever work.”

Have a no neediness-attitude, a ready-to-walk mindset: Once you’re clear on what your bottom line is, you have to be willing to walk away. Never be needy for a deal.


There are known knowns for example one plus one equals two. And there are known unknowns, we know that we don’t know what’s on the other side of a black hole, and finally, there are unknown unknowns, things that we never thought of exist.

These three categories also apply to negotiation. In never split the difference, Chris Voss calls the “unknown unknowns” Black Swans. These are the “things we don’t know that we don’t know, pieces of information we’ve never imagined but that would be game changing if uncovered. Maybe our counterpart wants the deal to fail because he’s leaving for a competitor.”

In any negotiation, the author says that you should let what you know—your known knowns—guide you but not blind you.

He takes the example of William Griffin who took hostages on June 17, 1981.

Griffin already killed many people that same day before he took nine bank employees as hostages. The FBI thought Griffin was a simple hostage taker, someone who would have demands. But he didn’t.  The things that the FBI didn’t know was that Griffin wanted to die and he wanted the police to do it for him. That single piece of information could’ve helped the FBI avoid the situation to worsen.

Uncovering unknown unknowns

To uncover these unknowns, we must interrogate our world, must put out a call, and intensely listen to the response. Ask lots of questions. Read nonverbal clues and always voice your observations with your counterpart

Black Swans are leverage multipliers. Remember the three types of leverage: positive (the ability to give someone what they want); negative (the ability to hurt someone); and normative (using your counterpart’s norms to bring them around).

Know their religion

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.

Access to this hidden space very often comes through understanding the other side’s worldview, their reason for being, and their religion.

Once you’ve understood your counterpart’s worldview, you can build influence.

Work to understand the other side’s “religion.” Digging into worldviews inherently implies moving beyond the negotiating table and into the life, emotional and otherwise, of your counterpart. That’s where Black Swans live.

The similarity principle

People trust those who are in their in-group. Belonging is a primal instinct. And if you can trigger that instinct, that sense that, “Oh, we see the world the same way,” then you immediately gain influence.

When our counterpart displays attitudes, beliefs, ideas—even modes of dress—that are similar to our own, we tend to like and trust them more. Similarities increase rapport.

Exploit the similarity principle. Basically, people are more apt to concede to someone they share a cultural similarity with, so dig for what makes them tick and show that you share common ground.

It’s not crazy, it’s a clue

We might think that the counterpart acts in a “crazy manner” or behaves illogically. When someone seems irrational or crazy, they most likely aren’t. The author argues that they always have underlying motivation. To understand and then influence them, you can face the situation, search for constraints, hidden desires, and bad information.

Get face time

The last tip is to find the information you need by sitting face-to-face with your counterpart. Ten minutes of face time often reveals more than days of research. Pay special attention to your counterpart’s verbal and nonverbal communication at unguarded moments—at the beginning and the end of the session or when someone says something out of line.

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