These are my personal notes on Chris Voss’ book Never Split The Difference.


If you’d like to read the book yourself and support the author, you can buy it on Amazon.

United States:

Overall Thoughts

This was one of the most useful books that I have ever read. No, seriously, just yesterday I used the knowledge from this book in a negotiation meeting that I had with a potential client and it went super!!!!
I loved the way this book is structured, covering all the major theories that the author personally vouch for, in a recurring way. With brilliant examples to prove each hypothesis, the author has made a plethora of contributions for the readers. I would highly recommend this book to anyone, literally anyone, who is alive.

After reading this book, you will only land up in a better place!!!


Almost everything that I read in this book was new to me. So basically, I have a huge, huge amount of takeaways. TBH, at this point, I can’t even structure and write them all. But I soon will be updating this section for people who are just looking for them.

I hope you find this read useful. And I would surely love to read your takeaways from this. Don’t forget to mention them in the comments below!!👇

Book Notes

Italicized lines are my own thoughts. I hope you get something out of this. Feel free to comment on whatever you like!

Chapter 1 | The New Rules

Here comes the first mention of calibrated questions. You’ll meet them multiple times during this read!!

Calibrated Questions: Open-ended questions that the other side can respond to but has no fixed answers. Buys you time and sets up an Illusion of control in the mind of the counterpart.

Listening is the cheapest, yet most effective concession we can make in a negotiation.

Chris Voss

By listening intensely, one shows empathy and a sincere desire to better understand the counterparts viewpoints.

The first step to achieving 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!

Chris Voss

Strive for a “That’s right” instead of a “Yes”

All of the things mentioned in the 1st Chapter are explained in great detail in the further sections.

Chapter 2 | Be A Mirror

True, active and avid listening is the best way to stop the voice in your head and prioritizing the argument. It is the only way in and out of the negotiation.

It is about making the conversation about them. Validating their emotions and creating enough trust so that the real conversation can begin!

Going too fast is one of the mistakes all negotiators are prone to making.

Chris Voss

The easiest and immediately effective mode of influence that people tend to overlook is the general demeanor and delivery of words. Late-night FM Dj voice works best to set up control and authority over the situation and make a point. Inflect your voice downward, keeping it calm and slow.


Simply put, it is a way to repeat the last words of the last dialogue delivered by the counterpart. This lets them speak and elaborate more expressing more information. Best part about this is that it isn’t offensive like “What? I didn’t understand!”, “Why?”, etc. Other way around puts the counterpart in a defensive mode hiding valuable information.

Remember!! The intention behind the mirror should be—”Please, help me understand.” rather then “What do you mean by that?”


If you take a pit bull approach with another pit bull, you generally end up with a messy scene. There are 4 single steps to get your way—without confrontation.

  1. Use the late-night FM Dj Voice
  2. Start with “I’m sorry…” and then
  3. Mirror. Let them elaborate and get their intentions out.
  4. Silence. At least four seconds, to let the mirror work its magic on your counterpart
  5. Repeat

Mirroring will make you feel awkward as fuck when you first try it.

Key Lessons

  • Use your skills to listen and dig up the real conversation.
  • Don’t commit to assumption. Keep verifying your hypothesis.
  • Seek to understand.
  • Slow it down: Build rapport and trust.
  • Put a smile on your face: This literally eases up the interaction even on a phone call.

We fear what’s different and are drawn to what’s similar

Chris Voss

This is the reason why mirrors works like a charm.

Chapter 3 | Don’t Feel Their Pain, Label It

Tactical Empathy

The ability to recognize the perspective of a counterpart, and the vocalization of that recognition.

Chris Voss

To increase your neural resonance skills, practice turning your complete attention to someone who’s talking, visualize your self in their position and put in as much detail as you can.

This simply leads to one goal and that is understanding the position of your counterpart and learning why their actions/decisions matter to them, and also what might move them.

Empathy is the tool that lets you exercise the supreme art of war.

“The supreme art of war”: to subdue the enemy without fighting

Chris Voss

Empathetic listening is really a super power as almost all of the time people are looking for just one opening to let our their sorrows and problems out to someone who can understand them. It’s true, seriously try this!!


Excerpt from one incident from the book

We didn’t just put ourselves in the fugitives’ shoes. We spotted their feelings, turned then into words, and then very calmly and respectfully repeated their emotions back to them.

Chris Voss

Labeling is a way of validating someone’s emotion by acknowledging it

Chris Voss

Labeling in simple terms is just applying rational words to fear. The moment a deep hidden intense fear is addressed, its intensity decreases.

So fucking true!!!

The trick to find these fears is to observe very carefully at the reactions or changes people undergo on different stimulus(Most of the time, your words).

Labels almost begins with roughly the same words:

  • It seems like…..
  • It sounds like….
  • It looks like…..

Rule of thumb: Never start a label with an “I” sentence. Eg: “I am hearing that…”, etc. This drops the complete responsibility of the content of the label on your shoulders. And also, it portrays that the conversation is about you (Though, it’s not).

The last rule of labeling is SILENCE

After the label has been thrown, silence from your side should follow. The whole purpose of label is to let your counterpart open up and become the speaker.

Neutralize the Negative, Reinforce the Positive

Labeling negatives diffuses them; labeling positives reinforces

Chris Voss

The fastest and the most efficient way to build a quick working relationship is to acknowledge the negative and diffuse it.

According to certain researches, the best way to deal with negativity is to observe it, without reaction and without judgment. Then labeling each negative feeling and replacing it with positive, compassionate, and solution-based thoughts.

Empathy is a powerful mood enhancer

Chris Voss

Do an accusation audit

According to author in accusation audit you are to list every terrible thing your counterpart could say about you.

When you start a hard negotiation that is probably going to upset the counterpart. The best way is to go through an accusation audit prior to the negotiation.

When all the underlying bad feeling and accusation are addressed aloud by you, they loose their intensity even in your counterparts heart.

Negotiation plan till now

Listen; Mirror; Listen; tactical empathy; label; then only make a request.

This was explained by the author using a brilliant example of a person who got a seat with a special upgrade on a sold-out flight, just by listening and empathizing with the gate agent.

Key Lessons

  • “The reason why a counterpart will not make an agreement with you are often more powerful than why they will make a deal.” So focus on clearing those barriers first.
  • Pause. Silence after the label is crucial.
  • The accusations addressed by you anyway sound exaggerated and encourage the counterpart to claim quite the opposite.
  • Diffuse the Negative and Reinforce the Positive

Chapter 4 | Beware “Yes”—Master “No”

For good negotiators, “No” is pure gold.

Chris Voss

“No” starts the negotiation.

A trap into which many fall is to take what other people say literally.

Chris Voss

Example reply to a “No”:

  • “What about this doesn’t work for you?”
  • “What would you need to make it work?”
  • “It seems like there’s something here that bothers you”

Persuade in their world

Three kinds of “Yes”
  • Counterfeit: Counterpart plans to say “No” but says “Yes”. This is suppressive and suppression never works for long term
  • Confirmation: Just a yes. Agreement to a thought. No promise of action.
  • Commitment: This is the real deal. Promise of action. Total agreement.

An early “Yes” is often just a cheap, counterfeit dodge.

Chris Voss

Look for a “That’s right” not a “You’re right”

Almost everyone 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.

“No” is protection

“No” gives the speaker the feeling of safety, security, and control.

Chris Voss

A solid “No” is the sign that your counterpart in engaged in the conversation and is evaluating your words wisely. It begins the process of negotiation.

So, preferred methods to start a conversation if you are a telemarketer can be: “Is now a bad time to talk?” rather than “Do you have a few minutes to talk?” The former one is answered mostly with a “No” and the later one other way around.

Features of “NO”
  • allows the real issues to be brought forth;
  • protects people from making—and let them correct—ineffective decisions;
  • slows things down so that people can freely embrace their decisions and the agreements they enter into;
  • helps people feel safe, secure, emotionally comfortable, and in control of their decisions;
  • moves everyone’s efforts forward.

In a nut shell turn almost all your build up questions upside down just like the example of the telemarketer☝

Ways to bring out “No”

  • Intentionally mislabel one of the other party’s emotions or desires. For instance, “So it seems that you really are eager to leave your job!”—REPLY: “No, that’s not it, This ……. is it”
  • Directly ask your counterpart to the things they would say “No” to related to the matter.

Key lessons

  • “No” is not a failure. It is rather “I am not comfortable with that”. So make it comfortable!
  • “Yes” is the final goal!
  • Persuasion is not about how bright or smooth or forceful you are. 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 path-ways to your goals. It’s not about you!
  • Email Magic: If you are being ignored on emails. Go for this: “Have you given up on this project?” Most of the time you’ll receive a quick “No!!!”

Chapter 5 | Trigger The Two Words That Immediately Transform Any Negotiation

“That’s right!!”

Chris Voss

Trigger a “That’s right” with a summary


  1. Effective Pause: Silence is powerful at the right moments.
  2. Minimal Encourages: “Yes”, “OK”, “Uh-huh”, “I see”, etc.
  3. Mirroring: Refer☝
  4. Labeling: Refer☝
  5. Paraphrase: Repeating what is being heard in your own words. This ensures the counterpart that you are not just parroting but literally they are being heard.
  6. Summarize: Paraphrasing + Labeling

The end result has is most likely a “That’s right” response.

Driving toward “that’s right” is a winning strategy in all negotiations. But hearing “you’re right” is a disaster.

Chris Voss

And all of my fucking life, I have been going for a “you’re right!!”

The use of summary is exemplified by the author as

Back story: Author’s son, Brandon, is/was an America Football player, playing as lineman(Supposed to block the linebreakers) for a long time. When he was moved to being a linebreaker(supposed to dodge the lineman and score), he was on a constant spree of hitting rather than dodging the lineman. After repetitive attempts from the author and Brandon’s coach, they only got a “you’re right” reply. But then……

“You seem to think it’s unmanly to dodge a block”—paraphrasing. “You think it’s cowardly to get out of someone’s way that’s trying to hit you”—labeling. And the author got a “that’s right” reply! This magically changed his course.

Key lessons

  • Creating unconditional positive regard opens the door to changing thoughts and behaviors.
  • “That’s right” is better than “Yes”
  • Use summary.

Chapter 6 | Bend The Reality

There’s always leverage. Negotiation is never a linear formula: add X to Y to get Z. We all have irrational blind spots, hidden needs, and undeveloped notions.

Chris Voss

Don’t Compromise

Never split the difference

Creative solutions are almost always preceded by some degree of risk annoyance, confusion, and conflict!

Chris Voss

No deal is better than a bad deal.

Chris Voss

If that mantra can truly he internalized, and you understand that you have all the time you need. Your patience becomes a formidable weapon.


Deadlines cut both ways. For instance, car dealers give away best offers at the end of the month/year. In this case, knowing the deadline of the car dealer works best for you! On the flip side, by revealing your deadline you could receive benefits in two ways.

  1. It reduces the risk of non-agreement
  2. The “real” conversation/deal starts early off.

Using the word “Fair”

We make decisions/choices just to get ‘Fair’ with the world.

Chris Voss

We are generally guiding ourselves through life and making crucial decisions based on the current state of the world around us. Just to make it simple, everyone has this urge to be better than someone and have what most people have.

Reference from the book: “Iran has screwed itself out of its chief source of income—oil and gas revenue—in order to pursue an energy project with little expected pay off.—Just because it’s not fair that global powers—which together have several thousand nuclear weapons—should be able to decide if it can use nuclear energy.”

  • “We just want what’s fair” this is perfect to rattle your counterpart.
  • Just BTW response to such a statement can be “Let’s stop everything and go back to where I started treating you unfairly and we’ll fix it.”
  • Use “F” on “F”
  • “I want you to feel like you are bring treated fairly at all times. So please stop me at any time if you feel I’m being unfair, and we’ll address it.”

The hidden emotional desires

If you can unravel the deeply hidden problem, pain, and unmet objective, you can actually figure out what your counterpart is actually buying. This becomes the opportunity to present your proposal as the perfect solution.

Bend the reality

To get leverage, you have to persuade them that they have something concrete to lose if the deal falls through.

Chris Voss
Anchor their emotions
  • An accusation audit can be used to address you counterpart’s fears and anchor their emotions to rile up their loss aversion.
  • For instance: “I got a lousy proposition for you—By the time we get off the phone, you’re going to think I’m a lousy businessman. You’re going to think I can’t budget or plan. You’re going to thing Chris Voss is a big talker. Hist first big project ever out of the FBI, he screws it up completely. He doesn’t know how to run an operation. And he might even have lied to me.”—Address all the fears and lowered the expectations. “Still, I wanted to bring this opportunity to you before I took it to someone else,”—Every one of em’ took the deal!!!!!
Let the other guy go first…most of the time.

Let the counterpart anchor the monetary negotiations. This gives you a perspective to put forward you offer! The only thing to mind is, if the other person is an expert then prepare yourself mentally for an extream anchore.

Anchor and Adjustment

Chris Voss
Establish a range.
  • Go for an extreme anchor and with a range. Expect them to fall to the lowest value in the range, though!
Pivot to nonmoneytary terms

If the offer is low, you could ask for things that matter more to you than to them

When you do talk numbers, use ODD one

$37,263—feels like a figure that you came to as a result of mathematical deduction.

Suprise with a gift

To portray the feeling of being out of money(In terms of negotiating a kindnap), offer nonmonetary things with an odd number. $4751 with a CD Stereo is an example.

Negotiating a better salary

  • Be pleasantly persistent on non-salary terms: For eg. an extra vacation beyond normal release by the company for a specific reason. Something like this is generally compensated by a salary raise.
  • Salary terms without success terms is russian roulette: Make sure to define success for your position + metrics for your next raise. This is meaningful and free for you boss.
  • Spark their interest in your success and gain an unofficial mentor: Rather than just selling yourself as a body for the job, sell your success as a way they can validate their own intelligence and broadcast it to the rest of the company. The key here is, If someone gives you guidance, they expect you to follow. You’ve just recruited your first unofficial mentor.

Key lessons

  • All negotiations are defined by a network of subterranean desires and needs.
  • Spliting the difference is wearing one black and one brown shoe, so don’t compromise.
  • Approaching deadlines force people to act impulsively against their best interest
  • Use a high anchor with a range to seem less aggressive
  • Ignite their Loss aversion

Chapter 7 | Create The Illusion Of Control

What negotiations are not: A wrestling match where the point is to exhaust your opponent into submission, hope for the best, and never back down. eg: “You can’t leave”

What negotiations actually are: Getting your counterpart to do the work for you and to let them suggest your solution themselves. It involves giving them the illusion of control while you, in fact, are the one defining the conversation. eg: “I understand that you’re pissed off. I just want to understand what do you hope to achieve by going?”

The best way to ride a horse is in the direction in which it is going

Chris Voss

Don’t persuade your counterpart to see your idea. Instead lead them to your idea.

Open ended questions

These questions allow you to introduce ideas and requests without sounding overbearing or pushy.

He who has learned to disagree without being disagreeable has discovered the most valuable secret of negotiation

Robert Estabrook

Use “how”

“How am I supposed to do that?” is the best way to disagree as you are actually asking for there help. They feel in control. Your counterpart will do the thinking in your shoes, and thus making your solution more and more acceptable

Reporter’s questions

Avoid: “can”, “is”, “are”, “do”, or “does”—Can be answered with a simple Yes/No

Use: “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, “why”, “how”—Encourage your counterpart to think and speak expansively. P.S- Avoid “why”.

  • “Does this look like something you would like?” —> “How does this look to you?” or “What about this works for you? or “What about this doesn’t work for you?”
  • “Why did you do it?” —> “What caused you to do it?”

All negotiation is an information-gathering process

Chris Voss
  • What about this is important to you?
  • How can I help to make this better for us?
  • How would you like me to proceed?
  • What is it that brought us into this situation?
  • How can we solve this problem?
  • What’s the objective?/What are we trying to accomplish here?
  • How am I supposed to do that?

The implication of any well-designed calibrated question is that you want what the other guy’s wants but you need his intelligence to overcome the problem.

Chris Voss

This really appeals to very aggressive or egoistical counterparts☝

Regulate your emotions

Even with all the best techniques and strategies, you need to control your emotions if you want to have any hope of coming out on top.

When you are assaulted, don’t counterattack. Instead, disarm your counterpart by asking a calibrated question.

In such cases the best option is to turn your state into somewhat more positive and lowering the hostage mentality in your counterpart by asking a question or even offering an apology—”You’re right. That was a bit harsh”

How to not get paid


  1. “No”-oriented question: “Have you given up on settling amicably?”
  2. That’s right: “It seems that you feel my bill is not justified.”
  3. Calibrated question: “How does this bill violate our agreement?”
  4. “No”-oriented question: “Are you saying I misled you?” “Are you saying I didn’t do as you asked?” “Are you saying I failed you”
  5. Labeling and mirroring: “It seems like you feel my work was subpar”
  6. To say no to an offer lower than expected: “How am I supposed to do accept that?”
  7. Extreme case: Label to flatter their sense of control and power: “It seems like you are the type of person who prides himself on the way he does business—rightfully so—and has a knack for not only expanding the pie but making the ship run more efficiently.”
  8. Extreme case: Long pause and “No”-oriented question: “Do you want to be known as someone who doesn’t fulfill agreements?”

Key lessons

  • Listener has more power than the speaker. Harness the talker’s energy for your own ends.
  • Don’t try to force
  • Use calibrated question
  • Avoid angry emotion reactions
  • There is always a team on the other side. If you are not influencing those behind the table, you are vulnerable

P.S-Try to include people who are responsible for the final decision but not present while the negotiation. Eg: “I wonder what the board members think about this deal”, “How does this affect the rest of your team?”, “How on board are the people not on this call?”, “What do you colleagues see as their main challenges in this area?”

Chapter 8 | Guarantee Execution

“Yes” is nothing without a “How”

Chris Voss

So plan and guarantee the execution after getting the “Yes”

Forced empathy

Your tone plays a major role when it comes to this. This introduces a positive dynamic to the conversation, where your counterpart feels your pain. This is even more powerful if their fears are labelled by you already (You’ve already been empathic)

Negotiations are often called: “The art of letting someone else have your way.”

Chris Voss

Dealing with jerks and spotting liars

It is best not to go chin to chin with aggressive one. Fall back to calibrated question. Main focus is better to stay on the strategy of dodge and weave.

The 7-35-55 Percent Rule

7-Words 35-Tone 55-Body Language

Chris Voss

Pay attention to the tone and body language, if it doesn’t aligns with the words. Your counterpart is probably lying.

The Rule of three

Get your counterpart to agree three times in the same conversation.

  1. “Yes” on first commitment
  2. “That’s right” on hearing you summarize.
  3. Answer to a “how” or “what”

Liars tend to speak in complex sentences in an attempt to win over their suspicious counterpart.

Chris Voss


Using your own name and your counterpart’s name turn the conversation more polite and comfortable

Humanize your self. Use your name to introduce yourself. Say it in a fun, friendly way. Let them enjoy the interaction, too.

How to get you counterparts to bid against themselves

It is usually possible safe to say “No” four times before you actually say it

  1. “How am I supposed to do that?”
  2. “Your offer is very generous, I’m sorry, that just doesn’t work for me”
  3. “I’m sorry but I’m afraid I just can’t do that”
  4. I’m sorry, no”

Remember: The art of closing a deal is staying focused to the very end. Remain focused on the goal and don’t let your mind wander. There are crucial points to the finale where you must stay focused

Key lessons

  • Make the illusion of control using calibrated question.
  • Follow the 7-35-55 rule
  • Get “Yes” three times
  • Humanize yourself
  • Respectfully disagree with calibrated questions and the use forced empathy.

Chapter 9 | Bargain Hard

Author writes about a bargaining experience that got him a $36,000 Toyota 4Runner in $30,000

  1. Right timing
  2. Humanizing
  3. Forced empathy
  4. Calibrated question to decline the offer
  5. Staying focused till the end

The whole conversation was based on these 5 points

What type are you?

  1. Analyst
    Motto: As much time as it takes to get it right
    Response to calibrated questions: Delayed. They would need time to think and come up with the right answer
  2. Assertive
    Motto: Time is money
    Best way to deal with them is to listen to them. Once they feel the are being understood, they will listen to you.
  3. Accommodators.
    Motto: Time should be spent building relationships
    If they’re your counterpart, be sociable and friendly
    Response to calibrated questions: Quick because they love to talk about their ideas

Don’t treat others the way you want to be treated; treat them the way they need to be treated.

Chris Voss

Link to know more about the 3 types:

Taking a punch and punching back

Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth

Mike Tyson

Take a deep breath, allow little anger, and channel it—at the proposal, not the person—and say, “I don’t see how that would ever work” or decline using calibrated questions “What else could you do to make this a good deal for me?”

And sometimes to stir up the momentum of the negotiation it is okay to hit them in the face with a high anchor.

The person across the table is never the problem. The unsolved issue is. So focus on the issue and never create an enemy

Chris Voss

Ackerman Bargaining

The systematized and easy-to-remember process has only 6 steps:

  1. Set your target price (your goal)
  2. Set your first offer at 65% of your target price
  3. Calculate three raises of decreasing increments (to 85, 95, and 100%)
  4. Use lots of empathy and different ways of saying “No” to get the other side to counter before you increase your offer.
  5. When calculating the final amount, use precise, non-round numbers like, say $37893 rather than $3800. It gives the number, credibility and weight
  6. On your final number, throw in a non-monetary item (that they probably don’t want) to show you’re at your limit.

You fall to your highest level of preparation

Chris Voss

Key lessons

  • Identify your counterpart’s negotiating style
  • Prepare, prepare, prepare!!
  • Be ready to take a punch
  • Punch back without getting angry at the person
  • Use Ackerman technique

Chapter 10 | Find The Black Swan

The unknown unknowns are Black Swans

Chris Voss

Uncovering unknown unknowns

Every situation is new. So enter every negotiation with a beginners mindset to learn about the situation and your counterpart. Don’t overvalue your experience and learning. This will let you uncover the unknown unknowns.

What you don’t know can kill you or your deal

Chris Voss

Eg. We didn’t tell Steve jobs that we wanted an iPad: he uncovered our need, that Black Swan, without us knowing the information was there.

  • Ask a lot of questions
  • Observe carefully
  • Challenge you assumptions

Three types of leverage

“Leverage is the ability to inflict loss and withhold gain.” To get leverage, you have to persuade your counterpart that they have something real to lose if the deal falls through.

Positive Leverage

“Ability to provide—or withhold—things that your counterpart wants.” Use calibrated questions to uncover their hidden desire. Once you know it, you control what they want.

Negative Leverage

It’s a negotiator’s ability to make his counterpart suffer
Negative leverage delivery example: “It seems like you strongly value the fact that you’ve always paid on time.” or “it seems like you don’t care what position you are leaving me in”

Normative Leverage

Using the other party’s norms and standards to advance your position. No one likes to look like an hypocrite, So if you manage to show conflict between their norms and actions. You got the leverage.

Tackling the impossible

The reason why a lot of people reach the level of you declaring their counterpart “Crazy” is because of these missing or unaddressed issues

  1. They are ill-informed: When both parties aren’t on the same page, it certainly becomes hard for them to see each other’s perspective.
  2. They are constrained: They are literally tied up in a bad place
  3. They have other interests: They have needs and desire that you don’t yet understand.


  1. Get Face time
  2. Observe unguarded moments: Pay close attention to your counterpart’s verbal/non-verbal response to external situations (Your questions majorly)

Don’t avoid honest, clear conflict

Chris Voss

Thank you for reading✌

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