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Chris Voss: “Never Split the Difference” | Talks at Google

Everything we’ve previously been taught about negotiation is wrong: people are not rational; there is no such thing as ‘fair’; compromise is the worst thing you can do; the real art of negotiation lies in mastering the intricacies of No, not Yes. These surprising tactics—which radically diverge from conventional negotiating strategy—weren’t cooked up in a classroom, but are the field-tested tools FBI agents used to talk criminals and hostage-takers around the world into (or out of) just about any scenario you can imagine.

In NEVER SPLIT THE DIFFERENCE: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, former FBI lead international kidnapping negotiator Chris Voss breaks down these strategies so that anyone can use them in the workplace, in business, or at home.

This talk was moderated by Mairin Chesney.


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  1. Anyone notice his weird comments like "your introduction makes me sound like I can't keep a job" and "thanks for giving me a chair". Who says thanks for giving me a chair. He's setting her up. Anyone care to offer analysis of why?

  2. Interviewer needs to actually converse and listen. She's not really hearing what he is saying and more absorbed with her own questions. Didn't like that he keeps knocking Getting To Yes.

  3. Kids can listen to the mechanics of anything and learn little and not be at fault. This topic requires years of results-based interpersonal experience to become an effective negotiator. A couple basics: 1. It's more productive to negotiate with another negotiator. 2. Always be empathetic toward your negotiating partner's position because it's the situation (and not some mutual career path) that found you both. -Murphy

  4. I hate these kinds of people who instead of focusing on the issue and the person in front of them they are in their minds trying to figure out weird tricks to ignore you or make you feel guilty.  With the chair story the "no chair" guy was doing a bad job, and she was just lucky the guy went the way he did – a lot of people won't, including "gate keeper" people who have some power in an organization  and derive their identity from that.  She got lucky with the chairs … and why would a group that is responsible for chairs tell he they cannot get her a chair?  Silly story.

  5. The metric of "emotional intelligence" is merely a construct of those who are high in (the big five trait of) agreeableness, and is a reflection of their desire to project their paradigm onto the rest of us.

    tl;dr: "Emotional intelligence" is hooey.

  6. 1:38
    I wonder how you'd feel about how this concept applies to men getting a "no" from a woman they're trying to persuade flirtatiously…

    I guess this is mainly called out as a uncomfortable when a man is too blunt in his approach and un-nuanced in his perception of cues and ability to adapt and respond in ways which gives confidence.
    But just on principle, this optimism of "an initial no doesn't always mean No" is typically condemned
    (at least in the culture around where this talk was held.)

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