Never split the difference

Never split the difference

Bert Bleyen

Bert Bleyen


After a recommendation from Jan Farasyn, one of our ORMIT’ers, I started reading ‘Never split the difference’ from Chriss Voss. The book presents sev­er­al tech­niques every ne­go­tia­tor should know, enriched with ex­am­ples from the author's own ex­pe­ri­ence as an FBI hostage ne­go­tia­tor, pro­fes­sor and con­sul­tant.
I have to say I was a bit skeptical when reading the title (and tagline: 'negotiating as if your life depended on it'). “Another smooth, polished book about negotiation tactics: batna, zopa’s, sneaky way of influencing, using power in the battle, convincing arguments and lists, ... ” was what I thought. Well, I was wrong 😊

To me, the title ‘never split the difference’ is kind of misleading. The book mostly talks about how to create an atmosphere of trust, how to have a discovery/curious mindset, how to establish rapport and persuade the other of your empathy. The core message is found a bit further: No deal is better than a bad deal.

The most creative solutions arise when there is ‘conflict’ and perhaps a bit of irritation

We are taught that finding a ‘compromise’ is always a good thing: it makes sure everyone is satisfied. But is that really true? Imagine my wife wants me to put on black shoes, and I prefer the orange ones (for those of you wondering: yes I have orange shoes). A compromise would mean that I put on one shoe each, resulting in a horrible outcome.

A compromise is often the easy solution, however it’s not always the best one. The most creative solutions arise when there was ‘conflict’ and perhaps a bit of irritation. For this to happen you can’t chicken out, or throw in the towel, or go for the quick compromise.

My take-away? Encourage yourself to take position for your interests and open up to the interests and perspectives from the person sitting on the other side of the table.

Other key learnings from the book:

  • Top negotiators are able to challenge their own assumptions, and in this way stay (emotionally) open to new insights/perspectives
  • The most effective tool during negotiations is the passage of time. Don’t be held hostage by self-imposed timings or deadlines: slow is fast.
  • When you label an emotion during a negotiation or a difficult conversation, you decrease its intensity
  • The art of active listening and empathically listening: how do you know that you did well? Try to summarize in your own words, and when your conversation partners says “that’s right”, you know you are on the right track. Don’t confuse with “you’re right”: this is a sentence often used when people want to get rid of you and when ego is playing…

My main resolutions after reading this book:

  • Even the most rational thinkers can be driven by irrational thoughts and emotional choices. The book gives a very nice exercise that is proving that, and that I will definitely try out during an ORMIT training
  • Especially in these Covid-19 context, where remote working is often the standard, I want to use my ‘Radio FM late night DJ Voice’! To find out what this means, you will have to read the book yourself 😊