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  • Writer's pictureJagriti Luitel

Book Reflection: Never Split the Difference

How do you disagree without becoming disagreeable? What is the cost of conflict aversion versus the upside of embracing it head-on? What are some of the underlying drivers that drive us mostly irrational human beings? What does getting something you want every time even entail?

These are some of the critical questions this book tries to address. However, before delving into the specifics, I believe that it is vital to examine our underlying desires in the first place. Is what we're pursuing truly even worth negotiating for? I feel like it is easy to look at a book that would make one more powerful and helplessly surrender to the urge of using it in a manipulative and deceptive manner. But the notion of power does not always have to be inherently negative. Power can also enable empowerment.

At least I am hopeful it can.

The moral aspect is vital, requiring negotiation with the self before engaging with others. If the answer to the initial question is affirmative, the book equips readers with tools.

Authored by Chris Voss, a Former FBI Top Hostage negotiator, the book cites gripping accounts of high-stakes situations such as terrorism, kidnapping, and bank robbery as well as the practical use of tactical empathy. I found these stories to be the most compelling aspect of the book. Learning a tool and then having it applied in real-life situations drove home the points the author was trying to make.

The central thesis hinged on him proving that there is a translational feature to this specific knowledge. That it can be applied to business deals, maintaining healthy relationships, and more generally to what we want in our everyday lives. As I was reading through the book, I did get a sense that I am learning about information that would make me quite dangerous. If I were to apply a scarcity mindset to this, I would feel like no one else should read this so that they are not aware of these tools. However, I think the border message of the book urges an abundance mindset where we want as many people as possible to be equipped with these tools so we can all win. Together.

Further, one of the more pivotal takeaways for me was understanding the challenge of maintaining the presence of mind during negotiations. To not be distracted and hypnotized by my preconceptions, intimidation by my counterpart, fears, doubts, and insecurities. Specifically, the tools such as active listening, mirroring, and labeling all require an enormous degree of absolute attention to the details.

Also, as someone who is quite conflict-averse, some of his more aggressive techniques shocked me.

Would I really be able to pull this off?

I think the initial framing of the book with a deep and scientific preface on behavioral psychology and human rationality did convince me that it is logically sound. So, I am excited to find out how I might apply it to my personal life moving forward.

One thing I did notice throughout the book and repeatedly questioned was how big of a role someone's gender, race, age, or other pre-existing contexts play in any given negotiation. Maybe it is because I am a young woman of color, I have wondered if the effectiveness of the tactics would get skewed only because "I" am using them. He is also someone who I have a difficult time identifying with which can be because of his gender or race or it could also be that it takes a special type of person to be able to handle his job. It could very well just be the personality and the psychological predisposition differences. Since I will never know but still do understand that belief plays a huge part in a successful negotiation, I will give him the benefit of the doubt.

Out of all the points, however, I liked how he ended on "black swans" a concept to uncover the unknown unknowns. His character of humility as a human being shone through in this chapter because he hints at the proposition that no one; not even experts should get too comfortable with their craft. Reemphasizing his trustworthiness, he explained how the unexpected should often be expected in any negotiation and the ability to improvise must be embraced.

I have usually been the type of person that "splits the difference"; accepting only part of what I originally wanted when making an agreement with someone. But as Chris has suggested in his book title to "never" do it, I have wondered about what that means for me. After some thought, I have concluded that it means that I should live life all in. To not "compromise" on what I am deserving of. And although I have speculated above that minorities might have a hard time relating to some of his arguments, I think it is precisely we that need these lessons the most.

To always back ourselves up. To have an empathetic yet fearless approach to conflict. To not compromise on what we deserve. To enable empowerment.

To Negotiate As If Our Life Depends On It.


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Hi, thanks for stopping by!

When I first read the epic of Gilgamesh and his quest for immortality, it sowed a seed of curiosity in me. Is it really possible to be immortal? Turns out, it is. 

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