Ben Williams with a coffee cup in front of his face

Ben I Williams

biwills.com

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It

By Chris Voss

How to Become the Smartest Person . . . in Any Room

foolish. I was employing what had become one of the FBI’s most potent negotiating tools: the open-ended question.
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calibrated questions: queries that the other side can respond to but that have no fixed answers. It buys you time. It gives your counterpart the illusion of control—they are the one with the answers and power after all—and it does all that without giving them any idea of how constrained they are by it.
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I’d answer with some variation of “How am I supposed to do that?”
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They seemed to insinuate that the other side was being dishonest and unfair. And that was enough to make them falter and negotiate with themselves
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without a deep understanding of human psychology, without the acceptance that we are all crazy, irrational, impulsive, emotionally driven animals, all the raw intelligence and mathematical logic in the world is little help in the fraught, shifting interplay of two people negotiating.
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What was the difference between bank robbers who took hostages and CEOs who used hardball tactics to drive down the price of a billion-dollar acquisition? After all, kidnappers are just businessmen trying to get the best price.
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the greatest inspiration for institutional change in American law enforcement came on an airport tarmac in Jacksonville, Florida, on October 4, 1971. The United States was experiencing an epidemic of airline hijackings at the time; there were five in one three-day period in 1970
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economist Amos Tversky and the psychologist Daniel Kahneman. Together, the two launched the field of behavioral economics—and Kahneman won a Nobel Prize—by showing that man is a very irrational beast. Feeling, they discovered, is a form of thinking.
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words, “[I]t is self-evident that people are neither fully rational nor completely selfish, and that their tastes are anything but stable
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Framing Effect, which demonstrates that people respond differently to the same choice depending on how it is framed (people place greater value on moving from 90 percent to 100 percent—high probability to certainty—than from 45 percent to 55 percent, even though they’re both ten percentage points)
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Loss Aversion, which shows how people are statistically more likely to act to avert a loss than to achieve an equal gain.
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System 1, our animal mind, is fast, instinctive, and emotional; System 2 is slow, deliberative, and logical. And System 1 is far more influential. In fact, it guides and steers our rational thoughts.
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We react emotionally (System 1) to a suggestion or question. Then that System 1 reaction informs and in effect creates the System 2 answer.
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under this model, if you know how to affect your counterpart’s System 1 thinking, his inarticulate feelings, by how you frame and deliver your questions and statements, then you can guide his System 2 rationality and therefore modify his responses
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What were needed were simple psychological tactics and strategies that worked in the field to calm people down, establish rapport, gain trust, elicit the verbalization of needs, and persuade the other guy of our empathy
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It all starts with the universally applicable premise that people want to be understood and accepted
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Listening is the cheapest, yet most effective concession we can make to get there. By listening intensely, a negotiator demonstrates empathy and shows a sincere desire to better understand what the other side is experiencing
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Psychotherapy research shows that when individuals feel listened to, they tend to listen to themselves more carefully and to openly evaluate and clarify their own thoughts and feelings. In addition, they tend to become less defensive and oppositional and more willing to listen to other points of view, which gets them to the calm and logical place where they can be good Getting to Yes problem solvers.
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The whole concept, which you’ll learn as the centerpiece of this book, is called Tactical Empathy. This is listening as a martial art, balancing the subtle behaviors of emotional intelligence and the assertive skills of influence, to gain access to the mind of another person
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While the Ivy League taught math and economics, we became experts in empathy. And our way worked.
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Negotiation serves two distinct, vital life functions—information gathering and behavior influencing—and includes almost any interaction where each party wants something from the other side
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Getting what you want out of life is all about getting what you want from—and with—other people
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it’s useful—crucial, even—to know how to engage in that conflict to get what you want without inflicting damage.
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The first step to achieving a mastery of daily negotiation is to get over your aversion to negotiating. You don’t need to like it; you just need to understand that’s how the world works. Negotiating does not mean browbeating or grinding someone down. It simply means playing the emotional game that human society is set up for. In this world, you get what you ask for; you just have to ask correctly. So claim your prerogative to ask for what you think is right
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Effective negotiation is applied people smarts, a psychological edge in every domain of life: how to size someone up, how to influence their sizing up of you, and how to use that knowledge to get what you want.
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step out of your ego and negotiate in your counterpart’s world, the only way to achieve an agreement the other side will implement
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the Ackerman system, the most effective process the FBI has for setting and making offers.
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How to Quickly Establish Rapport

one of the reasons that really smart people often have trouble being negotiators—they’re so smart they think they don’t have anything to discover.
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Great negotiators are able to question the assumptions that the rest of the involved players accept on faith or in arrogance, and thus remain more emotionally open to all possibilities, and more intellectually agile to a fluid situation.
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In one of the most cited research papers in psychology,1 George A. Miller persuasively put forth the idea that we can process only about seven pieces of information in our conscious mind at any given moment. In other words, we are easily overwhelmed.
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time). It may look like there are only two people in a conversation, but really it’s more like four people all talking at once.
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The goal is to identify what your counterparts actually need (monetarily, emotionally, or otherwise) and get them feeling safe enough to talk and talk and talk some more about what they want. The latter will help you discover the former
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Going too fast is one of the mistakes all negotiators are prone to making. If we’re too much in a hurry, people can feel as if they’re not being heard and we risk undermining the rapport and trust we’ve built
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When deliberating on a negotiating strategy or approach, people tend to focus all their energies on what to say or do, but it’s how we are (our general demeanor and delivery) that is both the easiest thing to enact and the most immediately effective mode of influence
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When we radiate warmth and acceptance, conversations just seem to flow. When we enter a room with a level of comfort and enthusiasm, we attract people toward us
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a smile on your face, and in your voice, will increase your own mental agility.
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Talking slowly and clearly you convey one idea: I’m in control. When you inflect in an upward way, you invite a response. Why? Because you’ve brought in a measure of uncertainty. You’ve made a statement sound like a question
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Mirroring, also called isopraxism, is essentially imitation. It’s another neurobehavior humans (and other animals) display in which we copy each other to comfort each other. It can be done with speech patterns, body language, vocabulary, tempo, and tone of voice. It’s generally an unconscious behavior—we are rarely aware of it when it’s happening—but it’s a sign that people are bonding, in sync, and establishing the kind of rapport that leads to trust
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If you take a pit bull approach with another pit bull, you generally end up with a messy scene and lots of bruised feelings and resentment. Luckily, there’s another way without all the mess. It’s just four simple steps:         1.      Use the late-night FM DJ voice.         2.      Start with “I’m sorry . . .”         3.      Mirror.         4.      Silence. At least four seconds, to let the mirror work its magic on your counterpart.         5.      Repeat.
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Mirroring will make you feel awkward as heck when you first try it. That’s the only hard part about it; the technique takes a little practice
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■    People who view negotiation as a battle of arguments become overwhelmed by the voices in their head. Negotiation is not an act of battle; it’s a process of discovery. The goal is to uncover as much information as possible.
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How to Create Trust with Tactical Empathy

Once people get upset at one another, rational thinking goes out the window.
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instead of denying or ignoring emotions, good negotiators identify and influence them
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a soothing voice, close listening, and a calm repetition of the words of your “patient” can get you a lot further than a cold, rational argument.
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empathy is “the ability to recognize the perspective of a counterpart, and the vocalization of that recognition.
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empathy is paying attention to another human being, asking what they are feeling, and making a commitment to understanding their world.
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Tactical empathy is understanding the feelings and mindset of another in the moment and also hearing what is behind those feelings so you increase your influence in all the moments that follow
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Most of us enter verbal combat unlikely to persuade anyone of anything because we only know and care about our own goals and perspective. But the best officers are tuned in to the other party—their audience. They know that if they empathize, they can mold their audience by how they approach and talk to them.
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If you want to increase your neural resonance skills, take a moment right now and practice. Turn your attention to someone who’s talking near you, or watch a person being interviewed on TV. As they talk, imagine that you are that person. Visualize yourself in the position they describe and put in as much detail as you can, as if you were actually there.
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empathy is not about being nice or agreeing with the other side. It’s about understanding them
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Empathy helps us learn the position the enemy is in, why their actions make sense (to them), and what might move them.
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We spotted their feelings, turned them into words, and then very calmly and respectfully repeated their emotions back to them.
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Think of labeling as a shortcut to intimacy, a time-saving emotional hack.
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when people are shown photos of faces expressing strong emotion, the brain shows greater activity in the amygdala, the part that generates fear. But when they are asked to label the emotion, the activity moves to the areas that govern rational thinking
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Labeling is a simple, versatile skill that lets you reinforce a good aspect of the negotiation, or diffuse a negative one
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Notice we said “It sounds like . . .” and not “I’m hearing that . . .” That’s because the word “I” gets people’s guard up. When you say “I,” it says you’re more interested in yourself than the other person, and it makes you take personal responsibility for the words that follow—and the offense they might cause.
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when you phrase a label as a neutral statement of understanding, it encourages your counterpart to be responsive. They’ll usually give a longer answer than just “yes” or “no.” And if they disagree with the label, that’s okay. You can always step back and say, “I didn’t say that was what it was. I just said it seems like that.”
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Once you’ve thrown out a label, be quiet and listen. We all have a tendency to expand on what we’ve said, to finish, “It seems like you like the way that shirt looks,” with a specific question like “Where did you get it?” But a label’s power is that it invites the other person to reveal himself.
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As an emotion, anger is rarely productive—in you or the person you’re negotiating with. It releases stress hormones and neurochemicals that disrupt your ability to properly evaluate and respond to situations. And it blinds you to the fact that you’re angry in the first place, which gives you a false sense of confidence.
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Try this the next time you have to apologize for a bone-headed mistake. Go right at it. The fastest and most efficient means of establishing a quick working relationship is to acknowledge the negative and diffuse it
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Look, I’m an asshole” to be an amazingly effective way to make problems go away.
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the faster we can interrupt the amygdala’s reaction to real or imaginary threats, the faster we can clear the road of obstacles, and the quicker we can generate feelings of safety, well-being, and trust.
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Once they’ve been labeled and brought into the open, the negative reactions in your counterpart’s amygdala will begin to soften.
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labels help to uncover and identify the primary emotion driving almost all of your counterpart’s behavior, the emotion that, once acknowledged, seems to miraculously solve everything else. DO
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the beauty of going right after negativity is that it brings us to a safe zone of empathy
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These tools, then, are nothing less than emotional best practices that help you cure the pervasive ineptitude that marks our most critical conversations in life. They will help you connect and create more meaningful and warm relationships. That they might help you extract what you want is a bonus; human connection is the first goal.
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Imagine yourself in your counterpart’s situation. The beauty of empathy is that it doesn’t demand that you agree with the other person’s ideas (you may well find them crazy). But by acknowledging the other person’s situation, you immediately convey that you are listening. And once they know that you are listening, they may tell you something that you can use.
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How to Generate Momentum and Make It Safe to Reveal the Real Stakes

Pushing hard for “Yes” doesn’t get a negotiator any closer to a win; it just angers the other side.
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“No” is the start of the negotiation, not the end of it. We’ve been conditioned to fear the word “No.” But it is a statement of perception far more often than of fact
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your invitation for the other side to say “No” has an amazing power to bring down barriers and allow for beneficial communication.
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■    I am not yet ready to agree;          ■    You are making me feel uncomfortable;          ■    I do not understand;          ■    I don’t think I can afford it;          ■    I want something else;          ■    I need more information; or          ■    I want to talk it over with someone else.
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People have a need to say, “No.” So don’t just hope to hear it at some point; get them to say it early.
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I’ll let you in on a secret. There are actually three kinds of “Yes”: Counterfeit, Confirmation, and Commitment.
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In every negotiation, in every agreement, the result comes from someone else’s decision. And sadly, if we believe that we can control or manage others’ decisions with compromise and logic, we’re leaving millions on the table. But while we can’t control others’ decisions, we can influence them by inhabiting their world and seeing and hearing exactly what they want.
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Though the intensity may differ from person to person, you can be sure that everyone you meet is driven by two primal urges: the need to feel safe and secure, and the need to feel in control. If you satisfy those drives, you’re in the door.
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feigned smiles, then, we get there by asking for “No.” It’s the word that gives the speaker feelings of safety and control. “No” starts conversations and creates safe havens to get to the final “Yes” of commitment. An early “Yes” is often just a cheap, counterfeit dodge
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Saying “No” gives the speaker the feeling of safety, security, and control
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Good negotiators welcome—even invite—a solid “No” to start, as a sign that the other party is engaged and thinking. Gun for a “Yes” straight off the bat, though, and your counterpart gets defensive, wary, and skittish
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if you’re trying to sell something, don’t start with “Do you have a few minutes to talk?” Instead ask, “Is now a bad time to talk?” Either you get “Yes, it is a bad time” followed by a good time or a request to go away, or you get “No, it’s not” and total focus.
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Getting to the point where you’re no longer horrified by the word “No” is a liberating moment that every negotiator needs to reach
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So let’s undress “No.” It’s a reaffirmation of autonomy
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No” has a lot of skills.          ■   “No” allows the real issues to be brought forth;          ■    “No” protects people from making—and lets them correct—ineffective decisions;          ■    “No” slows things down so that people can freely embrace their decisions and the agreements they enter into;          ■    “No” helps people feel safe, secure, emotionally comfortable, and in control of their decisions;          ■    “No” moves everyone’s efforts forward.
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read Jim Camp’s book Start with NO in my class and began to wonder if “No” could be a tool to boost donations
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No”—or the lack thereof—also serves as a warning, the canary in the coal mine. If despite all your efforts, the other party won’t say “No,” you’re dealing with people who are indecisive or confused or who have a hidden agenda. In cases like that you have to end the negotiation and walk away. Think of it like this: No “No” means no go.
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Break the habit of attempting to get people to say “yes.” Being pushed for “yes” makes people defensive. Our love of hearing “yes” makes us blind to the defensiveness we ourselves feel when someone is pushing us to say it.
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■    “No” is not a failure. We have learned that “No” is the anti-“Yes” and therefore a word to be avoided at all costs. But it really often just means “Wait” or “I’m not comfortable with that.” Learn how to hear it calmly. It is not the end of the negotiation, but the beginning.
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Asking someone for “Yes” too quickly in a conversation—“Do you like to drink water, Mr. Smith?”—gets his guard up and paints you as an untrustworthy salesman.
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Saying “No” makes the speaker feel safe, secure, and in control, so trigger it. By saying what they don’t want, your counterpart defines their space and gains the confidence and comfort to listen to you. That’s why “Is now a bad time to talk?” is always better than “Do you have a few minutes to talk?”
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Sometimes the only way to get your counterpart to listen and engage with you is by forcing them into a “No.” That means intentionally mislabeling one of their emotions or desires or asking a ridiculous question—like, “It seems like you want this project to fail”—that can only be answered negatively.
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It’s about the other party convincing themselves that the solution you want is their own idea. So don’t beat them with logic or brute force. Ask them questions that open paths to your goals. It’s not about you.
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How to Gain the Permission to Persuade

Behavioral Change Stairway Model (BCSM). The model proposes five stages—active listening, empathy, rapport, influence, and behavioral change—that take any negotiator from listening to influencing behavior.
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American psychologist Carl Rogers, who proposed that real change can only come when a therapist accepts the client as he or she is—an approach known as unconditional positive regard
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As you’ll soon learn, the sweetest two words in any negotiation are actually “That’s right.”
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Consider this: Whenever someone is bothering you, and they just won’t let up, and they won’t listen to anything you have to say, what do you tell them to get them to shut up and go away? “You’re right.” It
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Sleeping in the same bed and dreaming different dreams” is an old Chinese expression that describes the intimacy of partnership (whether in marriage or in business) without the communication necessary to sustain it.
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That’s right” is better than “yes.” Strive for it. Reaching “that’s right” in a negotiation creates breakthroughs.
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How to Shape What Is Fair

The win-win mindset pushed by so many negotiation experts is usually ineffective and often disastrous. At best, it satisfies neither side. And if you employ it with a counterpart who has a win-lose approach, you’re setting yourself up to be swindled.
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The real problem with compromise is that it has come to be known as this great concept, in relationships and politics and everything else. Compromise, we are told quite simply, is a sacred moral good
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I’m here to call bullshit on compromise right now. We don’t compromise because it’s right; we compromise because it is easy and because it saves face. We compromise in order to say that at least we got half the pie. Distilled to its essence, we compromise to be safe.
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So don’t settle and—here’s a simple rule—never split the difference. Creative solutions are almost always preceded by some degree of risk, annoyance, confusion, and conflict. Accommodation and compromise produce none of that
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You’ve got to embrace the hard stuff. That’s where the great deals are. And that’s what great negotiators do.
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Time is one of the most crucial variables in any negotiation. The simple passing of time and its sharper cousin, the deadline, are the screw that pressures every deal to a conclusion.
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Deadlines are often arbitrary, almost always flexible, and hardly ever trigger the consequences we think—or are told—they will.
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is, “No deal is better than a bad deal
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Increasing specificity on threats in any type of negotiations indicates getting closer to real consequences at a real specified time. To gauge the level of a particular threat, we’d pay attention to how many of the four questions—What? Who? When? And how?—were addressed
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You Can Negotiate Anything,1 negotiation expert Herb Cohen tells the story of his first big business deal
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When the negotiation is over for one side, it’s over for the other too.
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Deadlines are almost never ironclad. What’s more important is engaging in the process and having a feel for how long that will take. You may see that you have more to accomplish than time will actually allow before the clock runs out.
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If you approach a negotiation thinking that the other guy thinks like you, you’re wrong,” I say. “That’s not empathy; that’s projection.”
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