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The Art of Negotiating

I want to recommend a book about negotiating: Never Split the Difference, Negotiate as if Your Life Depended on It. by Chris Voss.

What is unique about this book is Chris’s perspectives derived from his experience as an FBI hostage negotiator. When you are negotiating for the lives of hostages, you don’t get to follow typical negotiating rules such as “be prepared to walk away,” or “split the difference” (hence the title).

You cannot “strive for a win-win outcome.” You’ve got to win the negotiations. Letting terrorists keep half the hostages and release the others is not an option.

Chris Voss effectively throws many of the tried and true negotiating tactics out the window as he introduces some new ideas designed to place the negotiator in a better situation to always win when negotiating.

Never Split the Difference

The five big ideas from this book are.

  1. Negotiation begins with listening, making it about the other people, validating their emotions, and creating enough trust and safety for a real conversation to begin.
  2. Use mirrors to encourage the other side to empathize and bond with you, keep people talking, buy your side time to regroup, and encourage your counterparts to reveal their strategy.
  3. Tactical empathy brings our attention to both the emotional obstacles and the potential pathways to getting an agreement done.
  4. Giving someone’s emotion a name, otherwise known as labeling, gets you close to someone without asking about external factors you know nothing about.
  5. “No” provides a great opportunity for you and the other party to clarify what you really want by eliminating what you don’t want.


Negotiating is the lifeblood of business owners. We need every tool at our disposal to position us to negotiate better deals. Does the question then be what is a better deal?We must decide before negotiating what our strategy is. If our strategy is to win everything we can, such as in saving hostages, then that needs to be our mantra from the beginning.We need to understand that when winning at all costs, there is an actual cost. Possible business relationships end, we become labeled as a relentless and ruthless negotiator, and future negotiating chances become fewer.On the other hand, if striving for a win-win, building a partnership, not an enemy, or using honey over vinegar is our strategy, then we need to follow that idea throughout all negotiations. We may spend a little extra money, give a few concessions, and get the reputation as an easy negotiator. But, in the end, we will have plenty of future negotiating opportunities.

The Bible

Throughout the Bible are many examples of negotiating styles. Abraham and Jacob negotiated with God, Solomon negotiated the construction of God’s temple, and Daniel negotiated on behalf of his captors, the Babylonians.

A common denominator in all these negotiations is several biblical principles. The first of which is to trust in the Lord. Proverbs 16:20 says.

Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers,
and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.

Our Lord’s ways are always better than ours, His wisdom is always deeper, His steps are always better, and His spirit is always stronger.

The second biblical principle is to maintain your integrity. Colossians 4:6 says.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Regardless of which negotiating style you choose, always follow the biblical precepts to trust God and maintain your integrity. By following those two principles, regardless of the negotiation’s outcome, you will be successful.