It is exceedingly rare that you are given something you do not ask for, be it a date, promotion a higher salary. You must ask for it, otherwise it is unlikely that you will get it. But how do you ask for it? And what happens when you need to negotiate the terms? And what about when you wish to buy or sell something? You need to negotiate the terms.

Life is negotiation, “they” say. And if you think about it, they are right. But what if you could read a book that would make you a better negotiator? Doesn’t that mean you would have an advantage in life?


Never Split the Difference is a book written by a former FBI Hostage Negotiator Chriss Voss and a Journalist Tahl Raz. During his career at the FBI, the Author, Chris Voss was involved in many hostage negotiations and was the lead International Kidnapping Negotiator. He discovered that many techniques he employed during his years at the FBI are applicable in everyday situations and worked not only on murderers and kidnappers but on everyone.

After retiring from FBI, he founded a company called The Black Swan Group which teaches negotiation skills to businesses.

In this book he combines real-life stories from those negotiations together with practical advice and techniques to make us better negotiators.

Key lessons

Here’s a short preview of some of the lessons you will find in this book. If you decide to read it, you will find out how to implement them.

No is the beginning, not the end

This is not only meant in a “they didn’t say YES, so we now have to negotiate” way, but it is a technique meant to start the negotiation or even a sales pitch. In the authors experience, the most used technique – to get them to say yes is dead-wrong.

For me this was the biggest lesson I took from this book as it just clicks to me – precisely because it flies in the face of the established, conventional “wisdom” – that getting to yes should be the goal at all costs. Yet the author is right – we intuitively feel when we are being herded towards a yes and all we wish to say is no, just to stop feeling manipulated. Instead, we should attempt to get our counterpart to say no and make them feel they are in control.


This one is a more traditional technique, but it is good to have a former FBI Hostage Negotiator validate its usefulness as well. You know the theory – we love what is similar and are afraid of what is different. So, by mirroring your counterpart’s body language, speech patterns and intonation, you establish rapport and make them trust you,

Tactical Empathy & Labels

Emotions are not something to be ignored in a negotiation, instead they are something that should be harnessed. By having empathy and listening you will understand the problems your counterpart has. After you understand their feelings, you can say them aloud – repeat their emptions back to them.

That shows them that you understand how they are feeling. This brings people closer. This makes them responsive.


There are, of course, a lot of other techniques, tips, and tricks about negotiating & bargaining, along with tutorial how to bring it all together so that everything is more effective. But how is everything written and put together and is it easily understandable?

I love how the book is structured and written, as each chapter shows a new technique, and many times builds on the technique from the previous chapter. Chapters, in principle, start with a real-life negotiation story, sometimes its bank robbery, sometimes is kidnapping, sometimes is a business negotiation and then transition from that situation into the description of techniques used in that situation and how to apply them.

I am not a neuroscientist, and I am not exactly sure of which writing style makes us remember most of the content, but from a subjective perspective, I enjoyed this style. And I feel that potential benefits – like staying focused and motivated to read the book (because of the stories which keep you interested) – outweigh any potential issues with this style – like selective memory of only the “fun” stuff. I feel that even the techniques and the stuff you should be remembering are explained simply enough not to feel tiresome.

And, if you are really interested in something, you should be taking notes anyway. I think here you will feel motivated to do so.

Even if you are not interested in negotiating for yourself but are simply curious about how is it done in the FBI or in high-stakes business scenarios, even then you should read this book, if for no other reason, then to learn something in general or even just to have fun, as the stories the book contains are actually very good and almost a good reason, of itself, to read this book.

Just another word about the fact that a lot of people say that these sorts of tactics feel like manipulation. Sure, I can see why you feel like that at first, but the truth is – you do not want to be taken advantage of. You do want to be prepared for what life presents you with. And this book is not sleazy – it does not attempt to teach you to humiliate your opponent, but more how to solve the situation. I do think that hostage negotiation is a good analogy to what the book does. The hostage negotiator’s job is not to keep the bad guys talking until the hostages can be freed by force, but it is to solve the situation with no loss of life. Just as hostage negotiator attempts to solve the situation, so should you, in business and private life, as well. This is the negotiation style the book teaches and to me there’s nothing sleazy about that.


Never Split The Difference Audiobook

I did find the book worthy enough to get the Audiobook as well. This way I could listen to it while working out or walking through nature, for example.

I do like the Audiobook a lot, especially for a book of this type. I found it cute, yet useful that the speaker used the same tone of voice the author was writing about. So, for example, when the book is talking about using upward or downwards intonation, the speaker would switch to that to demonstrate. I loved the “Late Night FM DJ Voice”.

I am not sure that the audiobook would be enough by itself, though, as I often do other things while listening to books, but if you can concentrate only on listening and have an Audible membership anyway, for example, it’s certainly worth one credit. If it is either-or for you – either the real book or the audio book, it’s a decision I leave to you – you should know yourself enough to know if you can learn from audio books.

But if the question is if you should give this book any time at all, then my answer is yes, you should definitely read it or at least listen to it.