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Book Review: Never Split The Difference by Chris Voss

Chris Voss gives negotiating lessons, learnt from years in the field.

The Fortune Book Club Book Review: Never Split The Difference.

This is a guest review from TheFortuneBook.Club member Niall Bunting. Over the last few years Niall has mainly been reading non-fiction focusing on Business and Psychology. He then takes what he’s learnt and attempts to apply it in his day job with varying amounts of success.

Summary

Title: Never Split The Difference
Author: Chris Voss
Publisher: Random House Business
Publication date: 23 Mar. 2017
Pages: 288
ISBN-10: 1847941494
Rating: 5/5

Synopsis

Never Split The Difference outlines the nine key principles of negotiation that have succeeded in the most extreme of scenarios – hostage taking. Supported with detailed explanations and numerous real-life examples, Chris Voss shares the skills and techniques he’s learnt throughout his career in order to give you the edge in any negotiation.

Review

When the pressure is on, you don’t rise to the occasion – you fall to your highest level of preparation.

Chris Voss is a former FBI hostage negotiator and he has written (along with Tahl Raz) Never Split The Difference to display and explain his repertoire of negotiation techniques. These techniques have been developed through trial and error in the field where peoples lives are on the line, meaning they quickly honed the effective techniques. These techniques learnt ‘on the job’, were also tested at Harvard Law School and to spoil the secret, worked very well.

He provides multiple techniques throughout the book and each tool is well explained alongside many examples of use and what outcomes you should expect. One example is the ‘How am I supposed to do that?’ line, designed to get the other person thinking about your problem, and make concessions as they try to solve the problem for you.

Voss encourages you throughout the book to experiment with techniques as they arise. As such, I have experimented with a few of the techniques in conversation and they weren’t awkward, as my initial expectations thought they may be. People often don’t even realise that any techniques are being used – as mentioned in the book.

The book is easy to follow, and often includes you (or your brain) in the narrative. Voss uses exciting stories of hostage negotiation along with the resolution in order to demonstrate techniques, keeping you on the edge of your seat. One story that I won’t forget is that hostages are often taken on a Monday so that the hostage takers could get paid by Friday and party that weekend; armed with this knowledge it allows him to adapt his technique and better resolve the situation. This makes great reading as it allows you to better learn the techniques outlined in the book.

It may look like there are only two people in a conversation, but really it’s more like four people all talking at once.

One of downsides that arises from having so many different techniques however, is that you can’t create one cohesive ‘tool’ in your mind which makes it hard to remember them all. To counter this, you could take notes or use the handy guide in the back of the book, to refresh yourself before any negotiation.

Moreover, despite some of the hyperbole, this is not a silver bullet to negotiation, with even the author himself saying that some negotiations have not gone to plan and that’s with teams of expert negotiators!

Never split the difference is a great read to help step up your negotiating game or to use as a reference before starting an important negotiation. This book, used in the right way, could change the outcome of the various negotiations you encounter throughout life and as such is a great resource to have in your arsenal. To sum up my overall opinion of this book; although I originally borrowed this book from the library, after finishing I quickly bought my own copy. – 5/5.

Mentioned Reading

  • Bargaining With The Devil – Robert Mnookin
  • Getting To Yes – Roger Fisher
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman
  • Lessons of Waco – Philip B. Heymann
  • Start With No – Jim Camp
  • You Can Negotiate Anything – Herb Cohen
  • Descartes’ Error – Antonio R. Damasio
  • How To Become A Rainmaker – Jeffery J. Fox
  • Split-Second Persuasion – Kevin Dutton
  • Silent Messages – Albert Mehrabien
  • Legal Negotiations And Settlements – Gerald R. Williams
  • Fooled By Randomness – Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • The Black Swan – Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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