"Never split the difference" book notes

Published at 2023-04-01T20:00:17+03:00

These are my personal takeaways after reading "Never split the difference" by Chris Voss. Note that the book contains much more knowledge wisdom and that these notes only contain points I personally found worth writing down. This is mainly for my own use, but you might find it helpful too.

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Tactical listening, spreading empathy

Be a mirror, copy each other to be comfy with each other to build up trust. Mirroring is mainly body language. A mirror is to repeat the words the other just said. Simple but effective.

Mirror training is like Jedi training. Simple but effective. A mirror needs space. Be silent after "you want this?"

Mindset of discovery

Try to have multiple realities in your mind and use facts to distinguish between real and false.

Try: to put a label on someone's emotion and then be silent. Wait for the other to reveal himself. "You seem unhappy about this?"

More tips

"No" starts the conversation

When the opponent starts with a "no", he feels in control and comfortable. That's why he has to start with "no".

Get a "That's right" when negotiating. Don't get a "you're right". You can summarise the opponent to get a "that's right".


Win-win is a naive approach when encountering the win-lose counterpart, but always cooperate. Don't compromise, and don't split the difference. We don't compromise because it's right; we do it because it is easy. You must embrace the hard stuff; that's where the great deals are.

On Deadlines

Analyse the opponent

The person on the other side is never the issue; the problem is the issue. Keep this in mind to avoid emotional issues with the person and focus on the problem, not the person. The bond is essential; never create an enemy.

Use different ways of saying "no."

I had paid my rent always in time. I had positive experiences with the building and would be sad for the landlord to lose a good tenant. I am looking for a win-win agreement between us. Pulling out the research, other neighbours offer much lower prices even if your building is a better location and services. How can I effort 200 more....

...then put an extreme anker.

You always have to embrace thoughtful confrontation for good negotiation and life. Don't avoid honest, clear conflict. It will give you the best deals. Compromises are mostly bad deals for both sides. Most people don't negotiate a win-win but a win-lose. Know the best and worst outcomes and what is acceptable for you.

Calibrated question

Calibrated questions. Give the opponent a sense of power. Ask open-how questions to get the opponent to solve your problem and move him in your direction. Calibrated questions are the best tools. Summarise everything, and then ask, "how I am supposed to do that?". Asking for help this way with a calibrated question is a powerful tool for joint problem solving

Being calm and respectful is essential. Without control of your emotions, it won't work. The counterpart will have no idea how constrained they are with your question. Avoid questions which get a yes or short answers. Use "why?".

Counterparts are more involved if these are their solutions. The counterpart must answer with "that's right", not "you are right". He has to own the problem. If not, then add more why questions.

Prepare 3 to 5 calibrated questions for your counterpart. Be curious what is really motivating the other side. You can get out the "Black Swan".

The black swan

What we don't know can break our deal. Uncovering it can bring us unexpected success. You get what you ask for in this world, but you must learn to ask correctly. Reveal the black swan by asking questions.


Establish a range at top places like corp. I get... (e.g. remote London on a project basis). Set a high salary range and not a number. Also, check on LinkedIn premium for the salaries.

Slow.... it.... down....

E-Mail your comments to paul@nospam.buetow.org :-)

Other book notes of mine are:

2023-03-16 "The Pragmatic Programmer" book notes
2023-04-01 "Never split the difference" book notes (You are currently reading this)
2023-05-06 "The Obstacle is the Way" book notes
2023-07-17 "Software Developmers Career Guide and Soft Skills" book notes
2023-11-11 "Mind Management" book notes
2024-05-01 "Slow Productivity" book notes
2024-07-07 "The Stoic Challenge" book notes

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