Auto Ads by Adsense

Friday, November 16, 2018

Review: Never Split the Difference

People occasionally pay me to negotiate their pay packages. As such, Never Split the Difference came to my attention and I read it looking for tips and advice that I can use to help my clients.

Chris Voss was an FBI negotiator, (the kind of person who tries to get hostages out of kidnappings) and then ended up starting his own company to help negotiate business deals. There are a number of good tips in the book, as well as great stories:

  • Whenever possible, the FBI and the police negotiate in teams. One person does the talking, but two or three people listen in and look for clues. This explains why despite my book (with its own chapter on negotiation) being easy to read and follow, some people still paid me to do the negotiation: it's hard to listen while you're talking!
  • The goal of listening is to extract information. This can be information about constraints (e.g., its another member of the team/business that's making decision), deal-breakers (e.g., the person has a religion and you need to frame the situation in religious terms to make the sale), and other hurdles necessary to reach your goal.
  • You can't extract information with simple Yes/No questions. You need to first establish rapport with the other person (Voss goes over mirroring as a way to simulate sympathy even when you don't have sympathy for the kidnapper/terrorist), and then ask calibrated and open-ended question. In a recent negotiation for a client, I told the engineer to ask the hiring director the following question: "In the past, I feel that I've missed opportunities because I wasn't attuned to the company culture. What can you do to help me avoid that mistake at your company?" The company ended up assigning a high level executive mentor to the engineer. Open-ended questions recruit the person you're negotiating with into using their contacts/brain power to help your cause, and setting that as your goal will make you a more successful neogiator.
  • Look and try to recognize situations you've not encountered before. Voss calls these a "Black Swan" event. I'm not sure the nomenclature is correct, but basically, when you recognize a situation that changes the deal (e.g., the hiring manager is under a time constraint), then you have leverage you might not have had otherwise.
All through the book, there are plenty of stories that depict situations that I wouldn't want to  be a negotiator for: kidnappings, murders, bank heists, and suicide bombers. As a result of that, the book is fun reading, but a lot of the good tips are hidden under the stories. The book could easily have been much more organized and useful.

Nevertheless, even someone who negotiates way more than than typical Silicon Valley engineer learned something from this book, so I'd recommend that.

No comments: