36 pages 1 hour read

Chris Voss

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as If Your Life Depended on It

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2016

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Summary and Study Guide


Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as If Your Life Depended on It is a 2016 nonfiction book cowritten by Chris Voss, an international hostage negotiator turned business consultant and professor, and journalist Tahl Raz. In this book, which straddles the line between the business and self-help genres, Voss shares principles gleaned from decades of experience in high-stakes negotiations. Citations in this guide correspond with the first edition published by Harper Collins. Although Raz is credited as a coauthor, the book is written in first person from Voss’s perspective, so the summary portions of this guide refer to Voss when expressing authorial intent.

Never Split the Difference is divided into 10 chapters; each chapter opens with a story illustrating its main theme, and all but the first conclude with a bulleted summary of the chapter’s important points. Voss opens Chapter 1 with a story that leads into a discussion of historic and academic approaches to negotiation, as well as the emotional awareness that sets Voss’s method apart. Chapter 2 introduces mirroring as a foundational technique for extracting information from the other party in a negotiation. The third chapter adds labeling emotion as a way to get past negative factors that might prevent success. Chapters 4 and 5 shift the focus to eliciting and interpreting the most meaningful responses from a negotiating partner, including “no” and “that’s right,” respectively.

The next few chapters offer concrete tips for subtly influencing the psychological state of the person you’re negotiating with. Chapter 6 lays out a process for redefining what is fair and realistic in a negotiation to suit your desired outcomes. Chapter 7 highlights a technique for coaxing counterparts closer to your solution while making them think that they are in control. Chapters 8 and 9 offer instructions to ensure plans, once agreed upon, are carried out, along with strategies for coming out ahead in head-to-head haggling.

In the last and longest chapter, Voss adopts a more theoretical tone. He explains that black swans, or unknown pieces of information that, if discovered, can shift an entire negotiation, are everywhere to be found. He shares pointers for uncovering and leveraging such critical data points, then concludes with an invitation for readers to overcome their fears and embrace negotiation.