Book Club: Never Split the Difference

Never Split the Difference is the single most consequential book I’ve read that’s grown my own business. I can directly attribute tens of thousands in incremental revenue to employing tactics in the book. 

Chris Voss, formally the FBI’s lead international hostage negotiator, wrote Never Split the Difference to teach people how to negotiate a pay raise, the price of a new car, contracts, and navigate arguments. 

The overarching lesson Voss tries to convey is simply being a better listener will you negotiate better deals.

You’d be surprised how shutting up and listening can lead to the other person revealing key pieces of information (also known as “Black Swans”) or making concessions in your favor. 

Here is a quick run down on some of the book’s most important lessons and tactics: 


“Be A Mirror”:


Chris Voss instructs people to use “mirroring” as a way to gain more information, be an active listener, and force your counterpart to be on the defense. 

Mirroring is simply repeating either the last three words or key parts of someone’s sentence with a downward inflection. 

Once mirrored, your counterpart will go on to explain in greater detail what they were talking about or even cause them to talk themselves into conceding something to you. 

By repeating back certain phrases or words you also demonstrate that you were listening to the other party and are interested in learning more. 


Don’t be afraid of “No”:


We all dread hearing the word “no” when we are negotiating with someone. Voss, recommends you find opportunities for your counterpart to tell you no. 

The word no, empowers the other party to explain in greater detail why they don’t agree with a contentious part of a contract, makes them feel safe, and reveals information of why a negotiation is stuck in place. 

You can also use “no questions” as a method to have your counterpart explain why your offering is good. For instance, if your client is happy with your results but doesn’t seem willing to budge on agreeing to a budget increase ask, “Are you unhappy with the results we’ve generated so far?”

The answer is no, but now they can talk through how they are in fact happy with your results and provide you with the reasons as to why they are saying no. 

Find opportunities to ask questions you suspect could lead to a no and use them to your advantage.


Be weary of false “yes” agreements:


We all want to hear the word “yes” in our negotiations. 

However, any salesperson can tell you they’ve landed verbal yes’ that turn out to be rejections. 

Many people will give someone a pretend yes in order to peacefully leave a negotiation without hurting anyone’s ego. It’s up to you to create real agreements by confirming how a “yes” will play out. 

Voss suggests getting your counterpart to say yes three times in order to confirm you indeed have a yes. You can do this by having the individual answer different questions on how they will execute the agreement:

“That sounds great! So to confirm, you are comfortable with the $5,000 agreement?”

“Excellent. If I send over the agreement via DocuSign will you sign it by close of business on Thursday?”

“Seems like we have a plan here. I’m excited. I can count on you to advocate to the rest of the team to sign this week, correct?” 

In the event you sense you have a weak yes agreement, I’ve found these questions to work well:

“If I don’t hear back from you on all of this, when should I check in?” TIP: Don’t leave a meeting/call with a prospect without booking the next meeting.

“How does everyone else on the team feel about this agreement?” 

“I want you to feel confident with this agreement. If you feel there’s something you ought to say no to or think a team member should weigh in, let’s’ discuss. Are there any hesitations?”

Most of Chris Voss’s questions simply come down to asking your counterpart to explain how you can solve the problem. 




Labeling, much like mirroring, is a powerful method to demonstrate you’ve listened to your counterpart and value their perspective. This time, we are labeling the emotions we are able to identify while speaking with each other.

“It seems like you feel a big responsibility to your staff and want to make sure they are taken care of first.”

“It sounds like trust is one of the most important qualities you value in a business partner.” 

Once you’ve labeled an emotion of theirs, you’ll often hear, “that’s right!”

People have a desire to be understood and appreciated. Labeling can also help address any negative feelings someone may have and allow you to breakthrough a sticking point in the negotiation.


Why should you read this book?


All of us are in negotiations each and every day with our business partners, clients, customers, vendors, or our spouse. 

By asking a few questions, listening, and making the other party feel valued, we can make better deals. 

Never Split the Difference has had a massive impact on Optimize Consulting and the negotiations we have on behalf of our clients. 

As a salesperson, business partner, fundraiser, or President you can learn how to better negotiate to create greater results for your organization or company. 


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