The Art of Negotiation (Chris Voss): Summary & Review

the art of negotiation cover image

The Art of Negotiation is an online Masterclass course on negotiation principles and techniques in which Chris Voss, the teacher, makes the case that negotiation should be done using empathy coupled with a collaborative approach to the situation at hand.

Full Summary

About The Teacher: Christopher “Chris” Voss is an American businessman, author, and academic. Voss is a former FBI hostage negotiator, where he persuaded terrorists, bank robbers, and kidnappers to see things his way. Now, he’s the CEO of The Black Swan Group Ltd, and co-author of the bestselling book Never Split the Difference.

*All quotes from this point forward are quoted from Chris Voss’s words.

Negotiation Concept/Theories

1. Tactical Empathy (AKA: Emotional Intelligence)

“Empathy is becoming completely aware of the other side’s perspective, their point of view, their take on things, how they see it, and what they feel. It’s not agreement in any way. It’s not compassion. It’s not sympathy.”

Tactical empathy is the act of taking what you know to be the case from understanding and empathizing with the other side (as a person) and applying it in the interaction.

2. Mirror(Ring)

“Mirroring. The hostage negotiator’s mirroring. It’s just the simple repetition of one to three words—one, two three-ish words. Typically, it’s the last one to three words of what somebody said. But, when you get good at mirroring, you could pick one to three words from anywhere in the conversation.”

This is basically the act of taking the last one to three words said by the other side and turning it into a question. Then, you ask that question with genuine curiosity and interest in what they mean. This process can be performed on literally any sentence.

Lucio: “Allies empower, enemies disempower.”

You: “Enemies disempower?”

The following would be an example of mirroring one to three words from any part of their sentence when you get really good as Voss mentions.

Your Friend: “Yo, do you think I could borrow a dollar for the vending machine?”

You: “Borrow a dollar?”

3. Labeling

The act of verbally identifying or “giving a voice” to the other side’s feelings.

4. Trust-Based Influence

“So, my labels are going to do several things simultaneously. They’re going to build the relationship and they’re going to help me gather information. And, since both of those things are happening, then my influence with you is going to increase…this is what I call trust-based influence.”

“It’s the lowest-maintenance, most durable type of influence there is.”

Negotiation Principles/Strategies

This is a list of the strategies highlighted in “The Art of Negotiation”:

1. Mirror to Gather Information

“[When you use mirroring] the other person feels listened to. It tends to connect their thoughts in their head. Part of the message it sends to the other person is ‘I heard every word you said word for word and I’m proving it because I just repeated it back to you. But, it’s not enough. I still don’t get it.’ And, when people go on with a further explanation, they’re going to add more words. They’re going to change their terms.”

Him: “Hey, can I borrow your notebook?”

You: “Borrow my notebook?”

Him: “Yea, your notebook. I want to check my work to make sure I did the homework right.”

You: “My notebook?”

Him: “Dude. Yes. Your notebook. Or…actually, wait. You call it a binder, right?”

You: “Oh, my binder. Yea, here you go.”

Here, you used mirroring to gather more information on what exactly the other side was talking about. In this case, you cleared up the miscommunication of what they were referring to.

2. Mirror to Build Rapport

“Mirroring is also a rapport-building relationship process. People love to be mirrored. They love to be encouraged to go on. There’s an old saying, ‘Interesting people are interested.’ If you mirror, you will be ridiculously interesting to other people because you’re interested in them and [as a result] they’re going to love talking to you.”

When you’re mirroring, show a genuine interest and curiosity in order to build rapport. “Genuine curiosity is a great trigger to get people to keep talking. And a mirror that finishes with a tone of voice of genuine curiosity is compelling. It’s powerful. People are drawn to it. They want to say more.”

“…you’re genuinely curious about the other person, you’re interested, you’re looking forward to hearing what they have to say. You want to learn from them. You’re positive about it. You’re not judgemental. You’re interested.”

3. Mirror Confrontational People

Let’s say someone is coming at you in a very confrontational manner in a business setting.

Him(verbally aggressive) Your price is too high!

You(pauses, looking into their eyes calmly) “Our price is too high?”

Him(confrontational) “Yeah! You know, we can’t pay that. You know, we’ve got a limited budget here.”

You(with calm and genuine interest) “You got a limited budget?”

Him(noticeably upset) Yeah. Well, you know, we’ve got other things that we have to worry about. There’s a lot of things that we’re trying to accomplish here.”

“They’re going to go on and on and they’re going to elaborate and they’re going to give me [you] context. And they’re going to feel like I’m working with them. They’re not going to feel me fighting.”

“It takes two to fight. I’m going to change this wrestling match into a dance. And, if I refuse to engage in the wrestling, but I still want to engage, then that changes into a collaboration almost immediately.”

4. Silence Is Golden

“The recipe for mirroring, first of all, is just, you know, the last one to three words of what someone just said. But, then the critical issue afterward is to shut up. You know, effective pause or dynamic silence…Let the other person think. Let your skill [the mirroring] sink into their head. Let it have its intended effect and go silent which also lets the person know that you really want to hear and you’re going to shut up until they do [respond].”

5. Label It!

“The steps to labeling. The first step is you simply being aware of the emotion or the dynamic from the other side…Becoming aware of what your gut instinct is picking up is the first step. Then, the second step after that is to simply label it. That starts out with ‘it seems like’, ‘it sounds like’, ‘it looks like’, ‘it feels like’. Those are the first few words of a label. And then, just fill in the blank.”

*Note: This is similar to the approach that you take when you’re using the “framing buffet” frame control technique after being accused. Instead of saying “I” (which causes you to appear as though you’re taking ownership of the issue), you keep the issue and negativity with them (the other side) by refraining from using the word “I” and, instead, choosing to label in response. So, instead of, “I would never do that man,” you label by saying, “It seems like you take this sort of thing very seriously.”

6. Reinforce Positive Emotions

One way to reinforce positive emotions in the other side is by lowering their negative emotions. Labeling a negative (emotion) diffuses the negative.

In a lot of circumstances, you’re probably going to have to label more than once in order to completely deactivate the negative. “A lack of response to a negative label is a good sign that you’re on the right track. Just keep going. Label it some more.”

An example of a negative label would be, “It seems like you really want this project to fail.” Labeling that emotion calls it out into the open and calls it into question in their mind, which lowers that negative if it’s what they’re feeling. After using a negative label like that, getting silence from the other side is a good sign that you’re on the right track and that you should keep labeling.

*Note: This definitely doesn’t sound like a one size fits all approach to negotiation or dealing with people in general. Depending on who you’re talking to, if it’s a hothead meathead that’s already had a long day, you may be starting a fire with a negative label like this since it could be perceived as an arrogant (or at the very least annoying) accusation. However, I still like the idea and strategy of labeling, just not the risk that comes with certain labels that have the potential to incite confrontation such as this one.

Another way of reinforcing a positive emotion (and the more direct way) is by labeling it as well. Labeling a positive (emotion) reinforces the positive.

Voss: “You may be in conversation with a customer service person for an airline and they’re short-tempered. They’ve been beaten up all day. And you didn’t call them to congratulate them on doing a good job anyway. You don’t call customer service to congratulate them on what a great job the airline’s doing. They know that [you’re calling about a problem and they’re expecting you to be mad about it]…Now, here’s the crazy part. Their impatience, their empathy, their perspective on this is that if you’re lucky to be talking to them at all, they’re actually being generous with their time [since they’ve been beaten up all day and are now short-tempered]! That’s their bizarro worldview. Again, empathy is not the truth. It’s not the reality. It’s the other side’s point of view. So, a great positive to reinforce here is to say to them…”It feels like you’re being really generous with me right now.”

7. Mirror and Label in Tandem

“After a great label, they may have given you a lot of information and there may be a part of that that you want to expand on. So, whatever their response is to the label, you can mirror one or two or three words out of that response and get a lot more information afterward.”

Here’s an example of how mirroring after a label might play out:

Voss(label) “It sounds like this deal is making you upset.”

You: “Well, it’s not making me upset. What it really is is we got some real implementation problems here on the other side because we’ve had trouble with this in the past.”

Voss(mirror) “Trouble in the past?”

You: “Yeah, well, you know, it happened to us with another company. It was actually the vendor we had before you guys came in and they gave us a lot of problems. But, we’re really worried that you guys are doing the same thing. We realize that you’re different but, you know, we’re not sure yet because we’re still early in the relationship.

Voss(mirror) “Early in the relationship?”

After saying, “Early in the relationship?”: “But any one of those selected mirrors is going to tease a lot of information out about exactly what I’m after.”

Negotiation Quick Tips

Avoid competitive frames

“The stereotype about negotiation is that it’s about being the biggest jerk in the room. That it’s who’s the loudest, who’s the most aggressive, who takes the most at the other person’s expense. The stereotype is that ‘I win means you got to lose. And I beat you.’ That is not the case. Great negotiation is about great collaboration.”

Know Your (True) Enemy

“The adversary is not the person across the table. The adversary is the situation. The person across the table is a counterpart that’s struggling with some aspect of the same problem that you are [facing / dealing with]. You work with them and solve that problem together and you’re both better off.”

In other words, the problem is not the person you’re negotiating with. The problem is the situation. Once you solve the situation, you’ll realize that the real problem goes away as well as the person across the table. This is because all that person was looking for is a solution to the same problem that you’re having because you’re both in the same situation together. Now, the best way to make that problem go away is to work with the person you’re negotiating with instead of trying to solve the problem (situation) all by yourself, or worse, work against the person you’re negotiating with.

As an example, Chris Voss couldn’t go into hostage negotiations believing that the kidnapping terrorist was the problem. He had to believe that the hostage situation itself was the problem and work with the hostage-taker to achieve solving that problem (situation). To achieve getting the hostage-taker to do what he wants (let go of the victim), he couldn’t try solving the situation all by himself, or worse, work against the hostage-taker or he’d risk failing. Similarly, you shouldn’t do any negotiation in business or in life seeing the other person as the problem. The problem is the situation and you want to work with the other person to find a solution that works for everyone.

Negotiation for Goal-Achievement

“You should aim to achieve your goals through collaboration and the use of tactical empathy that creates trust-based influence.”

This may be a slower way to achieve your goals since it takes time to understand the other side and empathize with them for more influence over them. However, this is the most sure-fire way to achieve getting what you want in any situation involving another individual.

Know their “rules” to know how to persuade them

“…the human nature rules that apply to all people…if you can really get at what’s driving someone, you can change their outlook and you can change their decision-making. You have to understand what their rules are. I have to understand what your rules are and I have to respect those. I don’t necessarily have to adopt those rules, but I’ve got to understand and respect what they are.”

Let the other side have your way

“The common misconception about negotiation is that you have to ‘make your case’. You have to make your argument. You need to come prepared with the reasons why the other side should make the deal—your value proposition if you will—and you need to lay all that out. That is not the case. You need to find out what’s possible and you need to engage the other side in what their thoughts are so that they feel involved in the process and, consequently, they want the deal to happen [to give you your way].”

How NOT to Label

  1. Avoid all use of the first-person pronoun “I”. Doing this will communicate that you’re more interested in your perspective than theirs.
  2. Avoid the urge to explain a label or to add some follow up (or to talk at all, actually) after using a good label.

Good labels must have the chance to sink in for it to have its effect. If you explain or follow up after a label, you’re stepping on it [the label you just used] and decreasing its persuasive power/ability to influence.

Bullet Summary

  • There are human nature rules that apply to everyone regardless of if you’re a terrorist or a businessman. You can leverage those rules using empathy to get the other side to give you what you want.
  • “Great negotiation is about great collaboration.” Ditch the competitive frames.
  • To get what you want, focus less on making good, principled arguments, and focus more on building rapport. Trust-based influence is a more sure way to get what you want than making the case that your request is fair.

Negotiation Concept/Theory: Voice

*Assertive (= “Analyst” Voice + Regular Speech Rate)

“This voice is declarative, straight up, and delivered like a punch in the nose.” This voice is always counterproductive in negotiations.


“This voice is a bearer of truths delivered gently. It promotes collaboration. This should be your go-to voice in negotiations.”

*Late-night FM DJ

“This voice is straightforward with a soothing, downward lilt.”

In addition to the three tones of voice, master these two essential inflections:

*Inquisitive → “Playful/Accommodating” Voice
Speak with an upward inflection, as if you’re asking a question. This tone should convey genuine curiosity and interest in the other person’s point of view. This
should be your default inflection.

*Declarative → “Analyst” Voice
Speak with a downward inflection, as if you’re stating a fact. It’s best employed when establishing points of negotiation that are immovable.

Negotiation Concept/Theory: Mirror Neurons

Mirror neurons are neurons in the brain that “mirror” (reflect) the behavior of another person. In other words, if your best friend opens up to you while you’re talking with them and they begin to sob, cry, and seem depressed, you’re likely to begin to feel your mood lower as well. This is due to them hitting your mirror neurons with their behavior causing you to respond involuntarily with the same (unhappy) behavior.

Negotiation Principles/Strategies:

Manipulate Their Mirror Neurons

“So, if you can see me or you can hear me, I can hit the mirror neurons in your brain. So, if I’m angry, I’m going to hit your mirror neurons [by behaving angrily such as yelling and shouting], you’re going to get angry too. It’s an involuntary response.”

You can also speak using the late-night FM DJ voice which is soothing, deep, and slow to hit their mirror neurons which will slow their brain down as an involuntary response to your slow, calm voice. If you use this technique to calm down your counterpart, it’s far more effective than trying to facilitate a change of mood from them by telling them to “just calm down”. And, that’s because “calm down” is an order, so they’re going to hate that (especially if they’re already upset). Instead, slow their brain down using the late-night FM DJ voice to calm them down.

By smiling when you talk to people, you are also triggering their mirror neurons in a positive way (since smiles are positive and value-adding).

For example, you can go for what most people might do:

The Other Side(with an angry, frustrated energy) No!

You(with an assertive tonality) Calm down please.

The Other Side(grows more angry)


The Other Side(with an angry, frustrated energy) No!

You(with a slow speech rate, deep voice, and soothing, empathetic tonality) You seem upset.

The Other Side(aggressive energy begins to fall)

Negotiation Concept/Theory: The 7/38/55 Rule

The three components of communication are the content, tonality (with which the content is delivered), and body language. When delivering a message, 100% of that message is divided into these three parts. 7% of that message is observed and considered by the other side in terms of content, 38% in terms of voice tonality, and 55% in terms of body language.

Negotiation Principles/Strategies:

Use the 7/38/55 Rule to Detect Lies

“One great way for getting a sense of whether or not somebody is being genuine ties back to the 7/38/55 rule. Does their delivery and their body language line up with the content of the words that’s being spoken? If one of those is out of line, which one of those am I going to expect to be the most reliable? I’m going to look hard at body language and tone of voice when it’s out of line with the words [content]. And, then I’m going to use a label to identify the dynamic. And, I could say something as clear as, I heard you say yes, but I also heard something in your tone of voice that made you hesitate.”

Watch the Sidelines to Detect Lies

“In many cases, you’re going to be negotiating in a group setting. They’re going to have people on the other side of the table that are listening, that are dialed in, especially if they’re concealing [information]. And, they know they’re concealing. And, maybe they’re concealing out of defensiveness. The people who are going to be ridiculously unguarded are going to be the people that you’re not talking directly to…the people that are not being spoken to are going to be insanely honest in their physical reactions.”

“The people that are off the point of focus are going to be ridiculously unguarded in their body language because they’re not used to being paid attention to. They’re used to having all eyes on the person that’s being spoken to [the primary point of contact]. So, you’re going to get some really honest, some really accurate body language off the [sidelined] people…”.

So, for example, let’s say you own a blog and you want to hire a content creation company to post content on your blog for you. This content creation company is owned by a father and his son, who are both in business together. But, the father does all of the talking since he has the majority of the business experience. When the father says the rate that he usually charges his clients, you notice that the body language of the son begins to shift where the son appears uncomfortable. It’s a good thing you kept an eye on the sidelines…chances are the father isn’t telling the whole truth here.

Identify Baselines and Spot Deviations to Detect Lies

“…for a negotiator, it’s a lot more important to know when somebody is telling the truth than when they’re lying because if you tell the truth, you have one way you tell the truth. You may have a bunch of different ways that you lie…and I’m trying to gain a feel for what your baseline is for telling the truth.”

“It’s the same way a polygraph works. You go on a polygraph, a good polygrapher is going to ask you the “control questions”, the questions that are the truth. What day is it? Where are you? What’s your name? What was your dog’s first name? You know, any of the things that you tell the truth on. They’re going to get a line on what you look like when you’re telling the truth. And then, when you lie, it doesn’t matter how you lie, it just matters that you’ve come out of it [possibly with displacement signals]…whatever you do, you didn’t do it when you were telling the truth. That’s an indicator that you’ve come out of your baseline. You’re probably lying. You’re at least thinking about lying.”

When you see those displacement signals. When you see that they’ve come out of telling the truth and slipped into lying (or are thinking about lying), use tactical empathy to make them feel more comfortable.

Negotiation Concept/Theory: The Pinocchio Effect

“It’s when someone uses more words than is necessary to give you an answer. If someone is lying to you, they know they’re lying. And, they’re worried about it. And, consequently, they’re going to [feel the need] to work harder to convince you. So, the more effort that they go to convince you that they’re telling the truth, the more likely it is that they’re lying.”

It’s just as Lucio says:

Lucio: “Another persuasion mistake: when you try too hard to convince people, people will always wonder why you are trying so hard. And they immediately think: maybe because they need lots of effort to hide the truth?”

Negotiation Principles/Strategies:

How To Deal with A Lie (Like an FBI Hostage Negotiator)

“If I sense you’ve come out of truth-telling, I can say, ‘Well, I heard you say you’re OK with the deal but, seems like something’s bothering you? Seems like there’s something here I missed? Seems like there more here than meets the eye?’ Each one of these labels are designed to have the maximum chance of success of bringing you out of the lie. They’re not accusatory. The tone of voice is curious. The tone of voice is collaborative. The tone of voice is interested.”

“What does it tell you about yourself if somebody is lying to you? Well, first, it tells you that they are scared to tell you the truth. They perceive you as potentially being a threat. Now, that doesn’t mean that you are a threat…it tells you that their assessment of the situation is that they’ve got their guard up.”

To deal with this, revert to the late-night FM DJ voice. As Voss recommends, “Use a voice that the other side finds reassuring, be predictable, be nonjudgmental. Be predictable in that you’re not going to attack them. You’re not going to try and corner them. You want to be steady. You want to be accountable…you continue to show them that you’re worthy of being unguarded and they’ll drop their guard.”

Negotiation Principles/Strategies:

Ask “How” And “What” Questions

“[A] calibrated question is what we used to refer to as an open-ended question…And, we calibrate it to make the other side feel in charge. The secret to gaining the upper hand in a negotiation is giving the other side the illusion of control. And, we’re going to calibrate our questions mostly with the words ‘what’ and ‘how’ because people love to be asked what to do. People love to be asked how to do something…They feel in charge. They feel in control. We’ve got to say it with deference.”

“Instead of ‘why do you need delivery in three weeks of the product’…change your ‘why’ to a ‘what’ and you say, ‘what makes it necessary to get it delivered in three weeks?”

In business today, we’re often told to find the other side’s “why”—to discover their motivations, pain points, goals, and fears. But, when we search for their why by asking them questions using the word “why”, it interferes with the relationship and rapport because the word “why” is accusatory. The word “why” creates defensiveness.

Ask Questions To Force Empathy

“Forced empathy is when you force the other side to have empathy with you, and the idea behind empathy–we’re trying to trigger reciprocity. We’re looking to demonstrate empathy because it’s good for us, but we want empathy in return. And, reciprocity may not always kick in. So, we may have to say something at some point in time that forces the other side to take a hard look at our situation before they move forward. And, our classic phrase to force empathy into a situation is simply to say to somebody, ‘How am I supposed to do that?”

For example, there was a woman who had done a tremendous amount of work for a company. The company kept promising her follow-on business as a result of it and she was afraid of being denied the follow-on business. So, they owed her a lot of money and they weren’t paying, yet they kept sending her more and more work.

One day, when they called her and asked for more work, she said:

Her: “How am I supposed to do that?”

Them: “You’re right. You can’t. I know we haven’t been paying you. We’ve actually had some real internal problems and the person that’s responsible for paying you has changed. I will get in touch with that person. They’ll reach out to you and we’ll settle up the bill before we move forward on anything else.”

Use Calibrated Questions To Shape Thinking

“The question, ‘How am I supposed to do that?’ is designed to shape the other side’s thinking. Shape it around empathy, shape it around thinking about us, trigger slow, in-depth thinking. And, in many cases, you probably want to combine your ‘how’ and ‘what’ questions to basically ask up to three questions. They’re just worded differently. And, it might be, ‘How am I supposed to do that? What’s going to happen if I do that? How do I overcome the challenges that I have here?’ Those are all basically asking exactly the same question in a different fashion. If you ask that question three different ways, then a person you’re talking to will think about it from three different angles, and they’ll give it more thought, and they’ll give you a better answer.”

Avoid Triggering Reciprocity

Right now, this is one of my favorites since it ties into the fundamental concepts of the law of social exchange and social capital, but through the lens of one of the world’s top FBI hostage negotiators.

“Reciprocity [the law of social exchange] is a natural human dynamic that exists in us because we’re humans and some people are very guarded about it. So, we have to be careful about how we trigger it. If we ask, we tend to owe. People are often worried about asking us because they don’t want to owe. So, it’s a common dynamic that people are more or less sensitive to at all times.”

In other words, when you ask for something, and the other side gives you what you asked for, they gain social credit for that deed and their social capital goes up. Using their increased social capital, they can ask for something back from you and, of course, you’ll feel more obligated to give them what they’re now asking for (since it’s in exchange for what they’ve just given you).

So, if you don’t want to have to give anything but you still want to receive, you have to be careful about how you ask for things, especially in a negotiation where the stage is already set to be transactional.

“In a hostage negotiation, instead of saying, ‘I want proof of life,’ which would trigger reciprocity [increase his social capital if he provides that value], he says, ‘How do I know she’s alright?’ And, the kidnapper spontaneously does what he wants [he puts the girl on the phone, providing proof of life] because he did it on his own and feels like it was his idea.”

In other words, “value” is anything that makes or has the potential to make you better off. That means that for that value to actually be valuable to you, it has to solve or have the potential to solve some problem in your life. In this hostage negotiation, the negotiator had the opportunity to say, “I want proof of life.” But, that would signal to the kidnapper that proof of life is something that the negotiator would find valuable and would solve a problem for him (after all, if it didn’t, why would he want it?).

So, if the kidnapper would’ve provided proof of life after the negotiator had already directly asked for it, the kidnapper would then be in a position of higher social capital. In other words, he can take the position of, “I’ve given you something. Now, I want something in return,” which can be a dangerous position for any negotiator to be in, especially when negotiating with a kidnapper.

So, instead of framing his request as an ask, he frames it as a legitimate question. “How do I know she’s alright (alive)?” By phrasing your request that way, the problem that you wanted to solve with value from the other side suddenly becomes their problem. That’s because it’s up to them to answer that question since it’s legitimate and, possibly, prove to you that their answer is the truth. Then, when they provide you with that value (an answer along with proof they’re telling the truth), you don’t owe them anything because you didn’t technically ask them for anything. It was their choice to prove to you that they were telling the truth when they answered your legitimate question.

Ask Legitimate Questions

“You’re not looking for proof of life, but you’re really looking for legitimacy. Proof that you’re in a good faith as opposed to a bad faith negotiation. And, what are the natural [legitimate] questions? ‘How are we going to move forward if we make this deal? How do I know that you’re not just looking for free consulting? How have you worked with people like me in the past? How have you made this deal in the past?”

“You can ask them at the table because they’re legitimate questions. That’s why we never had a problem with any terrorist, any sociopath, any kidnapper anywhere in the world when we said, ‘How do we know our hostage is alive?’ They had to admit to themselves, it’s a legitimate question.”

Negotiation Concept/Theory: The Accusations Audit

An accusations audit is: “…a comprehensive list of all the negative assumptions, thoughts, and feelings you think the other side may be harboring against you.” Voss calls these negative factors, “the elephant in the room”.

“Your goal is to list all the possible negative emotions and get out ahead of them. You want the other side to come back and say, “Hold on, you’re being too hard on yourself.” And, that’s because those negative feelings, thoughts, and assumptions the other side might be harboring against you is the elephant in the room. And, as Voss says himself, “The elephant in the room doesn’t go away by pretending it’s not there. The elephant in the room doesn’t go away by you saying, ‘There’s not an elephant in the room.’ The elephant in the room is diminished and eventually goes away by you saying, ‘Hey, there’s an elephant in the room.’ And, then people go, ‘Yeah. That’s not that bad.”

Negotiation Principles/Strategies:

Frame the Accusations Audit by Relationship Longevity

“So, you can frame the accusations audit a couple of different ways. If you’ve been in the relationship for a while, just the straight label. ‘It seems like you’re not getting all the information out of us that you want. It probably feels like we’re wasting your time. It feels like, that we’re not being honest with you…”.

“At the very beginning [of the relationship], you can be a little more speculative, a little more tentative with it, a little more just recognizing what might probably happened. So, at the beginning, you might say, ‘You’re probably going to ask yourself why you’re taking this meeting. It probably feels like, that I might seem like everybody else that’s in this line of work and that there’s no difference between me and anybody else. You may even think like, that the people on your side of the table are going to think you’re getting pushed around.’ You can be more speculative in those observations because you’re converting to the other side that you’re being attentive, and you’re being speculative, but you’re being careful about it the entire time, and they’re going to appreciate your approach. This gets back to being a straight shooter.”

Get Ahead of the Negatives

You can negotiate for what you want by getting ahead of the negatives. And, you can get ahead of the negatives by anchoring the other side’s expectations of the magnitude of the negative significantly higher than the negative’s size actually is.

Voss(calling from his hotel room) I need a late checkout.

Hotel Clerk: No, we can’t give it to you. You’ve got to check out at 11 AM…

(Voss leaves his hotel room and walks down to the front desk up to the hotel clerk)

Voss(accusations audit) I’m getting ready to make your day ridiculously difficult.

(Hotel Clerk begins to worry and imagine the worst possible thing Voss could have done to their hotel room)

(Voss continues to stay silent, letting worries marinate while waiting to be given permission to go on)

Hotel Clerk(worriedly gives permission to go on) What is it?

Voss: I need a late checkout.

Hotel Clerk(relieved) Oh, my God. Okay, sure. What do you need? 2:00, 3:00, 4:00? What do you need?

Negotiation Quick Tips:

Be Exhaustive and Fearless

“How exhaustive should you be in your list of accusations that you’re compiling? I’m here to tell you if you don’t feel like you’re laying it on thick, you’re not laying it on thick enough…And, a great way to test that is, as you’re laying out your accusations audits, read the other side’s reaction all along the way. If you’ve got a list of 15 things and you’ve gone through the first three, and they say, ‘Oh, you’re being too hard on yourself,’ you know you’ve done your job…because when somebody says that, they have stepped to your side of the table. You have forced empathy into the situation and that’s exactly what your objective is.”

Acknowledge the Danger of “Yes”

“Yeah, ‘yes’ is horrible…”. There are three kinds of ‘yes’s: confirmation, commitment, and counterfeit.


“My confirmation ‘yes’ is if you’ve asked me a simple question where you’re trying to simply confirm that something is true. My confirmation ‘yes’ is going to be pretty concise…the more concise and the more curt my tone of voice is, the more likely it is that it’s a legitimate confirmation ‘yes’.” Examples include a short “yeah”, “sure”, or “OK”.


“But, a commitment ‘yes’ is an agreement. It’s ‘I agree. I’ll go along with it. I will do this. I have agreed that I will do this.’ That I’m good with what we’re talking about and that I am in agreement with it. And, commitment ‘yes’ is going to be fairly curt and concise as well. But, it’s really going to be driven by the context and what I’ve said leading up to that and how our conversation has gone.”


“The counterfeit ‘yes’ is the ‘yes’ I’m going to give you when I’m starting to feel trapped by your questions. I don’t trust you, I want to find out how soon this is going to be over. [But] Maybe I want to know more. So, I’m going to give you the counterfeit ‘yes’ because I’ve already decided that I don’t trust you and it’s OK because I feel like you’re trying to trap me.”

“The counterfeit ‘yes’ it’s typically not terribly succinct. It’s not short.” A counterfeit yes is typically exaggerated and drawn out, such as saying, “Suuuurre.” That’s because most of the time, a real “yes” is actually a “maybe” or a “no”/rejection in waiting (waiting to be persuaded into a “yes”).

Value the Power of “No”

“A ‘no’ is so much more valuable than a ‘yes’…People feel safe and protected when they say ‘no’. This is another one of these human nature laws of gravity…instead of saying, ‘Do you agree with this?’ I’ll say, ‘Do you disagree?’ Instead of saying, ‘Is this a good idea?’ I’ll say, ‘Is it a ridiculous idea?”

“When you say ‘no’, you feel safe and protected. You feel like you’ve made no commitment at all. So, you’re going to give me a lot more information…[after the ‘no’] the additional information is what’s more important. ‘How is this going to be implemented? What’s this going to look like? What haven’t we thought of?”

“If I said to you, ‘Does this look like something that would work for you? ‘If you say ‘yes’ to that, but you want to give me additional information, you’re going to feel like every additional piece of information commits you before you’re ready to commit…you feel like everything that comes out of  your mouth reduces your autonomy.”

This is because frames are the rule system of relationships. When you say “yes” to a frame, you are agreeing to and buying into that frame which sets you up to have to play by the rules set by that frame. And, that commitment to the frame you agreed to by saying “yes” reduces your freedom.

“But, if you say ‘no’, having said ‘no’, you feel there’s no commitment afterward. You can share a lot of information with me. You won’t have second thoughts. You won’t have commitment fears. And, the information you share with me is going to be very accurate…you’re much more likely to lay out what the issues really are because you’re going to feel like you can share them with no commitment whatsoever.”

Negotiation Principles/Strategies:

The “No”-Oriented Question

About two years ago, Chris Voss was introduced to Robert Herjavec (you may recognize him from “Shark Tank”).

Through this introduction, Herjavec invites Voss to lunch. Voss says it was his favorite kind of lunch at a steakhouse and that Herjavec paid (WIIFT win!)

So, Voss is spending 90 minutes with Herjavec at lunch which all started off as an email introduction. Herjavec is building out a sales team and is wondering if Voss’s company that teaches negotiation, The Black Swan Group, teaches an approach that is good for his salespeople.

Voss’s company happens to have a negotiation training session coming up in New York, so Voss offers Herjavec a free ticket. Herjavec’s response is, “How many can I buy?”

So, what ensues is Voss’s company and Herjavec’s company going back and forth on how many tickets Herjavec is going to buy and Voss’s team isn’t getting a clear commitment out of Herjavec as to how many people he’s going to send to this training session.

Voss’s team calls Voss on the phone and says, “We’re getting ready to sell out. And, if Herjavec and his people don’t buy now they’re not getting any. They’re not even getting their free ticket.” (Voss says this is because: “…the tickets to our events are expensive and my team is mad at me for giving away anything for free. They don’t care who it is, even if it’s a famous guy from TV.”)

So, at 5:03 PM on a Monday, realizing he’s going to sell out by tomorrow and Herjavec needs to buy now, Voss sends Herjavec a two-line email.

Voss’s Email:

“Are you against committing to three tickets now?

Is it a ridiculous idea for you to pay for the tickets before the business day starts in New York tomorrow?”

And, at 5:04 PM on this Monday, Voss gets an email back from Herjavec saying:

Herjavec’s Reply:

“No, we’ll make the commitment for three tickets now.

No, we got no problem paying for them right now. My assistant will be in touch with you within the hour.

Send her a link and we’ll pay.”

Voss sent the link and they made the payment by 5:23 PM that same day.

Move From “No” to “How”

“What you’re really trying to get is an authentic commitment. And, even with that [authentic commitment], ‘yes’ is nothing without ‘how’.”

In other words, even if you get a genuine, honest, truthful “yes” confirmation from the other side, it means nothing if you don’t know how you want to proceed with the other side.

“So, how do we transition into ‘how’? Remember, the key to negotiation is always using deference…So, it’s with a [humbly submissive and respectful] tone of voice. And, if they haven’t given you a way to proceed, then your first question is, ‘How should we proceed? What are the next steps? How would you like to proceed?’ Use ‘how’ or ‘what’ to begin to pave your way into how you’re going to proceed…then, think in advance a little bit because there are always going to be implementation problems. So, in some anticipation of that, you want to ask some ‘how’ and ‘what’ questions to deal with implementation problems in advance…Put [on] the safety valves of ‘How do we know if we’re on track?’ and ‘How are we going to deal with it if we’re off track?’ and you’ll take care of your implementation.

Negotiation Concept/Theory: Bending Their Reality

“I refer to losing something—loss aversion—as ‘bending reality’. Fear of loss and what people lost completely distorts their perception so much that it effectively bends their reality. You have to take that into account, and you have to find out how they feel they are losing because that’s going to be the single dominating factor in their decision-making. What are they going to lose if they don’t make the deal?”

This is also referred to by John B. Ullmen as pain/gain framing. For example, let’s say that you’re a company that can make another company 23% more money. You can say:

You: “Work with us and you’ll make 23% more money. There will be a 23% gain. The return on your investment will be 23%.”

Or, you can say:

You: “Choose not to work with us, stay where you are, don’t change anything, and it’s going to cost you 23% every day. While you sleep, not working with us is going to cost you 23% day in and day out.”

“Fear of loss is what keeps people up at night. Nobody loses sleep—nobody gets insomnia because life is good and they’re making money and tomorrow is going to be more profitable than today was. They sleep like a baby over gains. Fear of loss is what keeps people up at night…and that’s why it’s on of the dominating factors in human decision-making.”

Negotiation Principles/Strategies:

Appeal to Their Sense of Fairness

Voss refers to the word “fairness” as the “F” word or the “F-bomb”.

“…people will destroy deals if they feel they’ve been treated unfairly. Intentionally destroy deals and walk away with nothing. On the other hand, people are much more likely to make a deal if they feel the process was fair, and they might take a bad deal or a less than optimal deal if they feel they were treated fairly. So, fairness is really the issue that makes or breaks deals.”

Responding to the F-Bomb

Once again, Voss refers to the “F-bomb” as the word “fairness”.

“Here’s the way the counterpart will try to use ‘fair’ to their own advantage. Let’s say, ‘I’ve given you a fair offer.’ Or, they might say, ‘I just want what’s fair‘. In either instance, they’ve accused you of being unfair in a very subtle way. If you don’t take that deal or if you don’t make the deal that they want, you are being unfair. Your fairness as a human being has been called into question. It’s a great way to manipulate you short-term and you will react because you don’t want to be unfair. So, it’s going to have an effect on you [especially] if you don’t see it coming.”

So, when the other side uses that tactic on you, you respond by saying:

You: “I’m happy to be shown how I’ve been unfair. Show me the information. I’m open to learning. Let me see what it is.”

“They are either not going to have it or they know they don’t have it.”

“So, how do you use the F-bomb positively? How do I [Chris Voss] use it?”

Voss recommends that at the beginning of a negotiation, you say to the other side:

You: “It’s my intention to treat you fairly. If at any point in time I’ve been unfair, let me know. We’ll go back and address it and fix it.”

Negotiation Concept/Theory: Deadlines Are Meaningless

“Somebody setting a deadline is an attempt to kick some progress into gear. And, if it’s a real deadline, there’s probably less time than they actually gave you anyway. But, deadlines are designed to get progress started. Every once in a while, in extreme circumstances, a deadline is a hard deadline. Very rarely…the rest of the time it wasn’t real. It was something put into the situation by one side in order to kick some progress into gear. And, if people are making substantive progress on what they’re trying to accomplish, deadlines go away. So, any time a deadline comes up, shift your thought from the deadline to, ‘How do we make progress to work together towards a goal.’ And, the vast majority of times, the deadline will go away.”

Negotiation Principles/Strategies:

Responding to Deadlines

“Two of the techniques that we’ve covered already are great ways to respond to deadlines.”

Respond Using Labels

The first way is labeling.


You: “It seems like you’re under a lot of pressure here, it seems like you’re trying to get things done by a certain time. It seems like this is an involved process. It seems like the world’s going to end if we don’t meet that deadline?”

“You know, that’s either an accurate label or a mislabel, but you’re going to cause the kind of thinking that you need from the other side. And, also, it makes them think about how hard they feel the deadline really is anyway.”

Respond Using Calibrated Questions

“The other way to respond to deadlines is with calibrated questions, ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions.”

You: “What happens if we don’t get this done in time? How do we get back on track if we fall behind schedule? How do we pull victory from the ashes of defeat if we don’t meet the deadline?”

Negotiation Quick Tips:

Leave A Lasting Impression

“When you’re feeling attacked, the things that you really want to say…are probably wrong [negative and value-taking]. You know, we’re giving in to an aspect of our natural human nature that wants to get back…that wants to feel like we’ve gotten the last word in. When the last word is a cheap shot…the last impression is a lasting impression. The last impression seeds the next interaction. When you begin to talk about it like that—that it seeds the next interaction—you begin to realize how you can really get the upper hand by making the last words positive.”

So, to leave a great last impression that establishes you as someone they would want to collaborate with in the future, take what you would say at the beginning of a negotiation in order to open it positively and simply put it at the end.


How You Would Open A Negotiation Positively:

You: “Look, you know, we’re here because we want to make a deal. We’re here because long-term relationships matter to us. We’re here because we want our partners to be profitable.”

How You Would Use That As A Positive Lasting Impression:

You: “You know, we’re–we’re here because we’d love to have a great long-term relationship. We’d love for our partners to prosper from doing business with us. Let us know how we can proceed. How do you want to proceed?”

“…make the last point you made to be inarguably positive and collaborative, and the last impression will be the lasting impression, and it’ll see the next interaction in a very positive way.”

Negotiation Concept/Theory: The Ackerman System (Bargaining)

“The Ackerman System is a bargaining model…basically, you have a target price that you want to come to. Once you’ve picked out your target price, you’re going to come in at 65% of that price. You’re going to plan on making three raises to get to the price that you wanted. And, the first raise is going to be 20% raise, the next raise is going to be 10%, the last raise is going to be 5%. Each one of your raises are decreasing increments by half. And then, when you get to the very last number, you make sure you throw out an odd number and you also throw in some non-monetary object that you know the other side doesn’t want, but it makes them feel like they’ve really tapped you out. They’ve taken every last dime. You know, they’ve fought you tooth and nail. They’ve felt the decreases in increments. They still feel like they’re winning. You come in with the last number. It’s an odd number. It seems like that you scratched for every penny. And, consequently, they worked so hard to get you there [invested so much social effort], that they want to cut the deal. They’re not going to renege.”

So, it goes:

Your Set Target Price (How Much You Want to Pay)

1. 65%

2. + 20%

3. +10%

4. +5%

5. Odd Number (+ Non-Monetary Object)

Negotiation Principles/Strategies:

Use The Ackerman System (Bargaining)

Here’s an example of this negotiation strategy in action. Let’s say that Voss is trying to buy a coffee table for $100. And, that’s what he wants to pay. The seller is asking for between $150 and $250.

1. First, Voss finalizes his decision on how much he wants to pay for this coffee table. He decides he is willing to pay $100. This will be his set target price since that’s now the price he is aiming for.

2. Next, Voss calculates his initial price.

Initial Price = 65% x 100 = $65

3. Before throwing out his initial price to the seller, Voss anchors the expectations of the seller very low as far as what he thinks his initial price will be. (Voss calls this “emotional anchoring”).

Voss: “Look, you know, I got a price. I’ll give you the price, but you’re not going to like it. I mean, it’s going to be low. It’s really going to be low. And, I got a feeling that when I give you this price, it’s going to make you really angry, and the last thing I want to do is offend you. So, I’m scared to give you the price.”

“…you’re getting their permission…They’re going to imagine something [a price] that’s worse than what you would ever throw out.”

4. The seller gives Voss permission to give him the price.

5. Voss continues his emotional anchoring.

Voss: “No, it’s going to make you angry. You know, I’m scared. And, I’m afraid to give you this number.”

According to Voss, by this point, they’ll “almost beg you to give them the number”.

6. Voss, very apologetically, says to the seller, “$65.00”.

“They’re not going to be happy with that price, but they asked you for it.”

“They’re not going to get angry because you told them they were going to get angry and that diffused it.”

And, you were deferential the whole time so they feel powerful. They feel bad for you.

7. The seller says, “You know, that’s not what I had in mind. You gotta do better than that. I mean, that’s ridiculous.”

8. In response, Voss uses tactical empathy and gives the seller an apology.

Voss: “I’m so sorry. You know, it’s horrible. I can see that I’ve offended you. And, you’re asking a reasosnable price and I’m being ridiculous.”

9. Voss continues to hit the seller with different versions of empathy while gauging his reaction.

10. Voss does NOT budge off of his number until the seller budges off of his.

11. The seller comes off his number.

It doesn’t matter what number they were willing to adjust their price to. What matters here is that they were willing to adjust it all.

12. Voss shows gratitude by telling the seller he appreciates it, that he’s generous, and congratulating him.

“Whatever amount of money they come off of their number, then you’ve got to be grateful…You’ve got to enhance the positive emotions. You know, they feel like they’ve given in. You don’t want them to regret giving in.”

13. Voss moves from $65 to his next number: $85.

65% + 20% = 85%

85% x 100 = $85

“They’re going to feel like that’s still not where they want to be, but they’re going to feel a sense of accomplishment that you’ve come from $65 to $85.”

14. Voss continues to make the seller feel like he’s really squeezing him for every penny.

Voss: “I’d like to give you another number. I mean, I’ve worked really hard for this. It’s been difficult for me to get to this. You know, as a matter of fact, I gotta go back and check my finances before I get this numner. I gotta check with the people. I’m not sure I can cover this.”

They’re still disappointed (remember, this coffee table costs between $150 and $250), but now they feel hungry because they’re making progress. And, as Voss says, “As long as people are making progress, it enhances their ability to stay in the deal.”

15. Voss moves from $85 to his next number: $95.

85% + 10% = 95%

95% x 100 = $95

“Now, they’re going to feel a sense of accomplishment. But, they’re going to know that that last move that you made was smaller than the first one. Always increase by decreasing segments [e.g. +20%, +10%]. Always. You’ve got to manage the raises.”

16. Voss cycles his way back through the whole “dramatic” scenario again. He begins applying more empathy, recognizing that they were generous and voices that he recognizes that he’s probably making them angry.

17. Finally, Voss moves from $95 to his final number—the number he’s actually willing to give based on his set target price of $100. (This final number must be an odd number.) Voss comes in at $97.43.

He “sells” it dramatically. He asks the other side for a pen and paper and starts jotting down numbers.

“Make a show that you’re working really hard. You’re tapping the resources where they’re going to feel like they worked really hard for it. They’re going to feel like they’ve tapped into your last dime.”

18. The seller makes one last move to try and get Voss off of his final number.

19. Voss offers a non-monetary object: his jacket.

Voss: “Ah, you know, ah…You know, I got a really nice jacket. Would you like my jacket?”

“…you’re playing into the human nature aspects here which is a bit of a drama play. I realize [that], but these are people with emotions on the other side. Even sociopaths have emotions. So, whoever’s on the other side, you need to make them feel a sense of accomplishment, that this was a victory [for them]. A hard-won victory. They got you there every step of the way…And, if they’re going to make the deal, they’ll make it because they worked so hard for it.”

Pivot to Non-Monetary Terms (Bargaining)

“A lot of people are told, ‘Go first and go high.’ I think that’s a bad idea because it’s forgoing the opportunity to gather information first…So, if you go first, I get information on you. You haven’t gotten any information on me. If somebody is really pushing you to go first, it’s also an opportunity to pivot the terms.”

When asked to give the price first, Voss recommends you say:

Voss: “Alright, so, I’ll be happy to give you a number. Let’s set that aside for a few minutes and let’s talk about what it’s going to take to make a great deal. I mean, what looks like a great deal to you? What else do you have to have in order to make any price that I give you a good price?”

*Note: This is similar to Barry Nalebuff’s technique: Expand the Pie As A First Resort.

“It’s always good to prepare some things beforehand so that you’re not caught off guard in the moment trying to think of what those things might be.”

Voss also recommends that when making this list you view it as a “brainstorming list” to trigger some thoughts from the other side. That’s because by engaging in collaborative brainstorming you can come up with ideas that will maintain a good deal when the other side throws in things that you didn’t know they have (which happens in nearly every negotiation according to Voss).

And, setting the price aside to focus on the terms is a great move because, “The price will break the deal, but the deal is made on the terms.”

Provide a Range (Bargaining)

“Well, setting a range is a great way to not exactly name a price first also. You can do a range of what’s going on in the market. You can do a range of what you might be willing to pay.”

“Understand that whenever you throw out a range, the other side is going to settle on the one that most favors them. They’re not going to compromise and meet you in the middle of that range…You’d better be willing to accept that. If you come off of that, then they’re going to be able to accuse you of bad faith bargaining for good reason because you gave [them] the impression [that] if you threw that number, that you’d take it.”

Negotiate Price With Terms

*Note: This is also similar to Barry Nalebuff’s technique: Expand the Pie As A First Resort.

“A [price] range is going to be dictated by two things: what’s going on in the market and what you can pay. What you can pay may not line up with what’s going on in the market. And, there’s always a possibility that other terms still might make your number work. And, that’s why the brainstorming with your counterpart is extremely important because there may be something really valuable that you could do [for them] that’s not reflected in the market.”

Anchor Emotions, Not Dollars

“An anchor is a price that you throw out that’s quite some distance from where you expect to land…gives me a lot of room to manoeuver. Makes you feel like you won when you get me to my actual price.”

Voss says that a lot of people will tell you to anchor extreme because they’ll say that that will give you better deals. But, what that’s really going to do is make a lot of deals go away because “the terms make the deal”.

“I’m more concerned with the emotional anchor, the emotional reaction to my price. Negative reactions leave a toxic residue that, by and large long-term, are bad for relationships.”

Voss says you want them to actually be relieved when you give them your number. So, you can say:

Voss: “Look, my number is high. Don’t expect anything other than that to be high. It’s going to be higher than you expect, probably more than you plan to pay, maybe more than you have.”

“Now, by the time I drop that number, you’re not going to overreact to the number. It may still be more than you plan to pay, but you’re not going to be mad about it.”

Negotiation Concept/Theory: The Black Swan Concept

“The black swan is [the] something that nobody expected would happen, but in hindsight, changed everything as soon as it was revealed.”

“So, this is what great negotiation is about. Discovering the black swan. Discovering the piece of information that nobody expected that would change all the outcomes.”

Black Swans In Business

“If you’re negotiating a for a salary, you might not know that behind the scenes of the company, that the person that you’re going to work for is going to leave in a year. You don’t know what opportunities are coming in conjunction with that job that the company’s already forecasted and budgeted out. You don’t know who’s planning on moving on. You don’t know all the things that are going on behind the scenes. All you know is they’ve offered you this job within these parameters. But, they already know, have a very good idea of the dynamics that they hope to change in the company over the next year. Finding out those dynamics behind the scenes could either make it a wonderful place for you to work or a horrible place. And, it has nothing to do with the job description at the moment. The things that they know that  you don’t know are the black swans.”

There’s also a chance that you have value (possibly in the form of a valuable sill set) that fills a specific strategic need in their company that they don’t know you have yet. If you are in talks with them about a salary increase and they don’t know that this value is something you bring to the table, that’s an example of a black swan that you bring to the negotiation.

Negotiation Principles/Strategies:

Find the Black Swans

“So, the idea is to start the communication and for me to start getting the information flowing from you so that I can find out what those black swans are and I can change the outcome.”

Negotiation Quick Tips:

Open Yourself to the Unknown

“Since I don’t know what you’re hiding and you don’t know what I’m hiding, there’s stuff in that overlap that we really don’t know is there at all…The real black swans are where the unknowns overlap, and there’s some crazy stuff in there. You can’t tell yourself, ‘Ah, I understand the situation, I understand all about it.’ You can’t tell yourself that. That’s to close your mind in advance. And, there isn’t anybody anywhere that says a closed mind is an advantage. So, open your mind and be curious. Be interested. Wonder about it. Don’t be afraid of being surprised. Actually, hope to provoke surprises…because it’s not possible to know everything [about the negotiation].”

Negotiating for a Raise

1. Step One: Prepare To Get Ahead of Your Employer’s Negatives (The Accusations Audit)

Make a comprehensive list of all the negative assumptions, thoughts, and feelings you think the other side (your employer) may be harboring against you. This will be your accusations audit.

Later, you’ll use the accusations audit negotiation technique to get ahead of these negatives.

2. Step Two: Walk Into Your Boss’s Office

3. Step Three: Gather Information

“[As an employer] how much do you know about my ability to pay you? [When you’re just starting out] you presume it’s there. But you don’t know. And, you don’t know how to make yourself more valuable [so you can justify more money]. So, how do you do that in a job negotiation? You got to come in, first of all, and find out, ‘Am I living up to expectations? How have I done? How do I negotiate my success [in the company] for the future?’ Then, you start talking about what that success is worth [to them]. But, terms make the deal in any negotiation. Especially in a job.”

4. Step Four: Disarm Their Negative Emotions (The Accusations Audit)

A lot of employers might see employees as being selfish. So, disarm that by treating it like it’s the elephant in the room and addressing it.

You: “Look, I don’t want you to think I’m selfish. I’m gonna have a conversation with you where I’m gonna seem very selfish.”

Here might also be where you want to throw out any other negatives you feel your employer may be harboring against you.

And, a quick reminder on the extensiveness of your accusations audit: “How exhaustive should you be in your list of accusations that you’re compiling? I’m here to tell you if you don’t feel like you’re laying it on thick, you’re not laying it on thick enough…And, a great way to test that is, as you’re laying out your accusations audits, read the other side’s reaction all along the way. If you’ve got a list of 15 things and you’ve gone through the first three, and they say, ‘Oh, you’re being too hard on yourself,’ you know you’ve done your job…because when somebody [your employer] says that, they have stepped to your side of the table. You have forced empathy into the situation and that’s exactly what your objective is.”

5. Step Five: Start Negotiating For What You Want

Use the labeling, mirroring, and other negotiation techniques to reach your desired outcome.

6. Step Six: Find the Black Swans in Business

“If you’re negotiating a for a salary, you might not know that behind the scenes of the company, that the person that you’re going to work for is going to leave in a year. You don’t know what opportunities are coming in conjunction with that job that the company’s already forecasted and budgeted out. You don’t know who’s planning on moving on. You don’t know all the things that are going on behind the scenes. All you know is they’ve offered you this job within these parameters. But, they already know, have a very good idea of the dynamics that they hope to change in the company over the next year. Finding out those dynamics behind the scenes could either make it a wonderful place for you to work or a horrible place. And, it has nothing to do with the job description at the moment. The things that they know that  you don’t know are the black swans.”

There’s also a chance that you have value (possibly in the form of a valuable sill set) that fills a specific strategic need in their company that they don’t know you have yet. If you are in talks with them about a salary increase and they don’t know that this value is something you bring to the table, that’s an example of a black swan that you bring to the negotiation.

“So, the idea is to start the communication and for me to start getting the information flowing from you so that I can find out what those black swans are and I can change the outcome.”

7. Step Seven: Move For The Close (Move From “No” To How)

Once again, “What you’re really trying to get is an authentic commitment. And, even with that [authentic commitment], ‘yes’ is nothing without ‘how’.”

So, once you’ve reached a point in the negotiation where the deal is more of a win-win, you need to seal the deal. And, if they haven’t given you a way to proceed finalize the deal), you can ask:

You: “How should we proceed? What are the next steps? How would you like to proceed?”

“Use ‘how’ or ‘what’ to begin to pave your way into how you’re going to proceed.”

8. Step Eight: Anticipate Implementation Problems In Advance (Move From “No” To How)

“[Once you’ve finalized the deal]…think in advance a little bit because there are always going to be implementation problems. So, in some anticipation of that, you want to ask some ‘how’ and ‘what’ questions to deal with implementation problems in advance.

You: “How do we know if we’re on track? How are we going to deal with it if we’re off track?”

9. Step Nine: Leave A Lasting Impression

To leave a great last impression that establishes you as someone they would want to collaborate with (give another raise) in the future, take what you would say at the beginning of a negotiation in order to open it positively and simply put it at the end.

You: “You know, I’m–I’m here because I’d love to have a great long-term relationship. I’d love for you to prosper from working with me. Let me know how we can proceed. How do you want to proceed?”

Real-Life Applications

If I had to remind you of one principle, it would be this:

1. Labeling and Mirroring for Building Emotional Intelligence

Using labeling and mirroring in tandem is a great exercise for learning more about the receiver as well as a personal challenge to empathize more with that person. What else can you tell about them that you can label? The more great labels you can come up with, the more you’re empathizing with the receiver, and the more your emotional intelligence develops.

Any time you run out of labels in your head, you can just mirror their last couple of words to draw out more information that will help you find another good label. A wonderful exercise to develop your emotional intelligence and, as we know, emotional intelligence is an important trait to become a high-quality man :).


  • All video

The fact that this course is all video means rewinding multiple times to fully internalize Voss’s teachings and having to guess at what time stamp in each lesson he gives a certain piece of information if I only want to review one of the points he makes. That’s time that could be put towards more learning and practicing.

  • Mislabeling of some techniques

The Masterclass team made a few mistakes in terms of accidentally labeling techniques in the mock negotiations wrong and defining certain definitions in the workbook incorrectly. Yet, this made the lessons more fun as I challenged myself to think critically, second-guessing what Masterclass said each technique was and seeing if I could spot the correct ones on my own.

  • Overly submissive at times

Voss’s negotiation style relies on being deferential so the other side feels like they have all of the decision-making power in the negotiation. This way, they don’t even realize they’re being subtly persuaded to give you your deal. But, this can have its cons with anyone who can see through this game or anyone who gets the impression you’re not worth collaborating with because you seem too powerless.


  • The Principles Are the Real Deal 

Voss’s approach to negotiation in terms of mindsets makes the course twice as valuable on its own. In nearly every situation, collaboration is superior to competition and Voss emphasizes that in a way that helps the student feel like collaboration is worth the possible added social and mental effort.

  • Live Example Training Exercises

There are included video lessons that contain full breakdowns of how to negotiate your salary using these techniques, how to negotiate with a kidnapper, how to negotiate with your teenager as a parent, and so much more. This got me excited to try out his teachings in the field myself.

  • Genuine Analytical Content

This course may be all video, but it uses that as an advantage when showing Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator, use all of the strategies, techniques, and principles in his past real hostage negotiations right before your eyes.

  • Workbook Is Included

I appreciated that this course came with a professional-looking workbook. It not only made me feel like I should take this course more seriously which made me more productive, but the workbook almost worked to make up for the fact that the course is all video. The workbook contains summaries, definitions, and reviews of the course content that I can look back at any time which I found very handy in more ways than one.


Really good stuff.

I wanted to take this course because I felt like it would be a good supplement to the knowledge I gained in Yale’s online negotiation class. Yale’s class is all about principled arguments that successfully express that your deal is fairer than theirs (and, if you’re not going to play fair, why should we do a deal together in the first place?). Voss’s class is all about using empathy to better connect with the other side so they will want to listen to you because you’ve already listened to them while showing that you were listening. By making them feel listened to and then continuing to propose your offer/deal, the expectation is that they’ll feel that your deal is what they actually want because you’ve built up a level of trust-based influence.

Together, I felt like this was the perfect combination for any negotiation because I could alternate between listening, empathizing, and rapport-building and using principle-based counter-arguments to move closer to a truly win-win deal in any situation.

One thing’s for sure, his principles are sound and are sure to help build a better, deeper connection if followed correctly.

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