Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It
My guess is around 70% of my purchases are made on Amazon: it's a lot of stuff, both for home and for my company. This is the first item (across all categories) that I've written a review for. I'm compelled because this book has changed my life, and I suspect it can change yours — What do you have to lose by reading it?
I thought I’d learned what I needed to know about negotiation. I went to a prestigious business school and took their negotiation class, learning all about Getting Yes, BATNA, and other fancy acronyms. I’d also had to bargain my share in both work and personal life. Yet, I felt like the tools I’d been given were meant for some alternate reality where people are totally dispassionate, rational robots, doing math in their heads to get to logical outcomes. The negotiations I’d been in with were instead with passionate, irrational (including myself) humans, sometimes getting angry or sad, often making decisions that didn’t “make any sense” (to me). I was pretty sure the negotiation outcomes we were getting to were subpar, both for me and for them: a lot of splitting the difference, mostly to make the negotiations — which felt uncomfortable for all parties — stop.
Note, when I mean “negotiation”, I’m speaking pretty broadly: from “negotiating" with my fiancée on who should walk the dog tonight, to negotiating with an employee on why this feature needed to be built urgently, to negotiating with an angry customer who’d called me angry about something, to negotiating with my parents on wedding plans, the list goes on. Each negotiation tougher and more emotional than the next, yet with tools that told me emotions didn’t matter. Huh?
I don’t remember how I came across Never Split the Difference, but man, am I glad I did. The book exposed me to a whole different way of negotiating, questioning the rational toolkit I’d been given in business school and replacing it with a more human set of tools. This set based on psychology and understanding of normal human emotions. It builds on empathy and active listening skills, layers on ways to label emotions and ask open-ended calibrated questions. It includes polite ways to say “no” without offending the other party, and many more. Most importantly it builds a framework that lets you deeply understand what the other party needs, wants, and desires, and work with them to achieve an outcome where you get your goals met — without ever “splitting the difference” again.
And it has worked wonders. Since reading this book, I have:
- Forged a better relationship with my fiancée by actively listening to her before jointly finding solutions
- Negotiated successful resolutions to emotionally charged topics with parents and friends
- Brought angry customers — who felt we had failed them — back from the brink to trusting us again
- Forged a better relationship with my business partners by understanding how they value time, silence, relationships, surprises, etc…
- Gotten discounts on things that I didn’t think could be discounted, just by using my name
- Gotten to the front of the waiting line at busy restaurants
- Said no to bad deals, because no deal is better than a bad one
- the list goes on.
I warn you that this book is the start of a rabbit hole that you might want to keep digging down. I’ve recommended this book to anyone who will listen, personally bought it 29 times as a gift for friends & coworkers alike, taken an online class (taught by the author’s son, a brilliant negotiator in his own right), etc...
Negotiation, in the broadest sense as described above, is something I want to become an expert in, because I now understand that every conversation is a negotiation. This is likely the most useful skill you can learn and apply.
It all started with this book. Are you too busy to read it?