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Home Ben Greenfield Corner Master Negotiation Like an FBI Agent: Top-Secrets from Chris Voss
Ben Greenfield Corner

Master Negotiation Like an FBI Agent: Top-Secrets from Chris Voss


From podcast: https://bengreenfieldlife.com/podcast/chris-voss-neversplit/

[00:00:00] Introduction

[00:01:15] Who is Chris Voss?

[00:03:01] Coming up with the title of the book

[00:05:44] How did Chris learn the negotiation tactics?

[00:09:30] What made Chris good at his job?

[00:12:21] What does a typical negotiation look like?

[00:15:55] The biggest mistakes that people make when negotiating

[00:18:02] Tactical empathy, accusation audit, and labeling

[00:28:27] The problem with the phrase “I’m telling myself right now that you’re frustrated”

[00:31:08] What is a calibrated question?

[00:35:46] People saying “no” and using it to your advantage

[00:39:30] The importance and accuracy of body language

[00:43:22] The do’s and don’ts of digital interaction

[00:47:51] The impact of the type of education on developing negotiation skills

[00:50:24] 60 seconds or she dies simulation

[00:52:58] The Black Swan Group

[00:54:41] The 3 books that have been most informative for Chris

[00:57:03] End of Podcast

[00:58:04] Legal Disclaimer

Ben:  My name is Ben Greenfield. And, on this episode of the Ben Greenfield Life podcast.

Chris:  The closer you are to somebody, the longer your history, the more times you’ve inadvertently wounded them, the higher their expectations are of you, and the more accurate they want you to be. Particularly, when somebody’s with you all the time, your life is intertwined in theirs. 

Empathy is what the other person is saying to themselves. So, if you got an issue with your significant other, what they’re saying to themselves is, “You’re a lunkhead. You haven’t been paying attention and your words don’t follow up with your actions.” So, your statement to them is “Clearly, I’ve been an idiot. Clearly, I’ve offended you. Clearly, you’re upset with me because my words haven’t been following my actions.” What’s the other side’s point of view really and are you afraid of? And, empathy is about being fearless about it.

Ben:  Fitness, nutrition, biohacking, longevity, life optimization, spirituality, and a whole lot more. Welcome to the Ben Greenfield Life show. Are you ready to hack your life? Let’s do this.

Well, folks, I was on an airplane and I don’t typically watch many movies or much TV on airplanes, but I was a little bored. I had about a four-hour flight and I’m surfing through the entertainment screen and I came across this MasterClass. I’m surveying all these MasterClasses like how to build your own personal wine library and how to write a book. And, I came across this MasterClass about negotiation. I think it was called Tactical Empathy, I believe, was the name of the MasterClass. And, it was with this guy named Chris Voss. And, I played the first scene of the MasterClass, which was a series of, I don’t know, around 15 modules, each about 10 or 15 minutes in length, and I was glued to the screen in terms of this vast amount of information about negotiation mirroring and labeling and body language. I finished the entire MasterClass on the flight, literally just binge-watched the whole thing on the flight. Came home, bought this book, and this was about probably four or five months ago, “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss.

My sons and I went through the MasterClass again together and annoyed Mom as we sat around the kitchen table mirroring and labeling each other and making insider negotiation jokes. And, it turns out that Chris was gracious enough to come on the show. He’s a former FBI negotiator and now he teaches a lot of these tactics in classes and obviously MasterClasses and clinics all over the world, I believe. But, Chris, thanks so much for coming on the show today. I’m excited to talk.

Chris:  Yeah, Ben, my pleasure. Thanks for having me on.

Ben:  So, I got a question for you. Why’d you call the book “Never Split the Difference?” What’s the idea behind that?

Chris:  It’s the basic theme, “Never Split the Difference.” The co-writer, the guy who actually wrote the book–I’m not a writer. I remember hearing a long time ago the best way to do a book is go pick the book in the bookstore out that you love the most you want to write, hire that guy. And, that guy was Tahl Raz. Tahl Raz, best business book writer on the planet, had previously co-authored “Never Eat Alone” with Keith Ferrazzi.

Ben:  Oh, yeah. I know Keith.

Chris:  Yeah. So, we started the book and we had a working title, “Killer Deals,” was the working title that we sold originally in a book proposal and Tahl said, “You know, that ain’t the title while we’re writing this, somewhere along the line. The perfect title for this book is going to occur to me and I’ll tell you what it is.” And, I’m like, “Alright.” Tahl’s a genius at this. And, we’re about halfway through and he says, “The title of the book is ‘Never Split the Difference’ because that’s the theme of what you guys say, ‘Never Split the Difference.’” Compromise is bad. There’s nothing good about compromise. It’s lose-lose. Splitting the difference is lose-lose. And, why would you want to engage in lose-lose negotiations?

Ben:  I think I heard you say somewhere you actually don’t even like that phrase, not lose-lose but the opposite of, a win-win. Is that true? Do you have something against the idea of a win-win? Because I find myself, by the way, typing that in emails and I’ve been catching myself since I heard you say that when I’m responding to some advisory agreement or something somebody sends me. I say, “Hey, let’s make a win-win here.” But, what is it about win-win that you don’t like?

Chris:  Well, it’s the use of the phrase, not the concept. And, it short shifts, whatever the word is, the process. Typically, if somebody’s talking about win-win, they’re worried about themselves winning. And, the concept that we should be collaborative is a good idea. The concept that we should collaborate together to find a better outcome in effect becomes a win-win negotiation. But, in point of fact, what defines a win? What defines a win is really how involved people feel in a process.

Ben:  Okay. So, when we’re talking about a win-win, it’s not necessarily not coming to an agreeable solution, what you’re talking about more is if you’re typing that phrase you might be putting yourself into a situation where you might compromise what it is you want.

Chris:  You or the other side. And, let’s do the hard work upfront.

Ben:  Right, right.

So, as far as these tactics go, how did you actually begin to learn all this? Is this stuff they teach you as you become an FBI negotiator? What was your path to get into all this?

Chris:  Well, at first, when I wanted to become an FBI negotiator, I got rejected because I had no history, no resume, no credentials, no education. There’s a phrase, “Never take advice from somebody you wouldn’t trade places with.” So, I’m talking to the head of the hostage negotiation team for the FBI in New York. I said, “What should I do?” She said, “Go volunteer on a suicide hotline.” So, volunteering on that crisis hotline was really the beginning of where I started to learn, just emotional intelligence, intentional application of emotional intelligence to get people to a better place. And, that’s really where I started the journey and then I was fascinated by it. So, yeah, they teach it to you in the FBI, but the real issue is, do you continue to learn? Do you stay after it? Are you fascinated by it? Because it’s not riding a bike. Emotional intelligence is not riding a bike. It’s not a skill that you acquire and then you keep. It’s like a human performance skill which requires attention, otherwise, it atrophies. So, I always kept at it.

Ben:  I’ve read some books like “How to Win Friends & Influence People” or “The 48 Laws of Power” and it seems like there’s some threads of that in your book and your approach. I’m curious if you were a devote of a lot of these books that go into communication skills and body language or if those type of things are just kind of taught as you learn FBI negotiation?

Chris:  Well, we should separate out body language entirely from communication skills. And, what you find is great connection, great human communication. You’re going to see the theme start to pop up in different places. It’s sort of the Elon Musk philosophy. I heard a long time ago that Elon Musk, his brother said that he was young, he read several completely different books at the same time looking for the universal principles in both books knowing if they showed up in different places it’s going to be true. And so, yeah, you’re going to find stuff in “How to Win Friends & Influence People.” That’s going to resonate with what I’m talking about because anybody that’s focused on long-term effective relationships, the stuff is going to pop up.

Robert Greene stuffed “The 48 Laws of Power,” is fascinating. He’s a little bit less of a practitioner than he is a philosopher, but I find his stuff very fascinating to read.

Ben:  So, for you, was a lot of this stuff, tactics that you just learned in the streets practicing on the suicide hotline and then on forward into FBI negotiation?

Chris:  Well, yeah, learning in the streets versus being taught it in the program at the crisis hotline and then applying it in the streets. That’s what you got to do. Education is about trying to learn, take the lessons that somebody’s already learned, distilling them down, and then actually applying them in your life to see how they stand up. And, when I was under crisis hotline, they told us when we first got there, “You’ll never be on a phone for anybody longer than 20 minutes. You got a 20-minute time limit.” And, I remember thinking like, “That’s crazy. Somebody’s legitimately suicidal. They’re legitimately in crisis, I’m going to spend 20 minutes on a phone? It should take a few hours.” And, they said, “No, as a matter of fact, if you’re doing it right, it’ll take less time than that.” And, that’s when I learned that this was an accelerator of communication. And so, I thought, “Well, should this just be the hotline?” And, I started using it in all aspects of my life to accelerate relationships and trust. And, by the time I got trained as an FBI agent negotiator, I remember being at the training thinking like, “I’ve been doing this for two years, I just didn’t have a SWAT team outside.”

Ben:  Yeah, yeah. So, what made you good? Were you a standout or did something kind of make you one of the better negotiators or anything like that as far as the way you’re wired up?

Chris:  Yeah. No, I think what makes me good is I take initiative and instruction. I’m coachable and I work hard. Those are the two critical factors to being good at anything. Are you coachable, which is do you resist ideas or are you willing to try them out even if they seem counterintuitive? And then, do you work hard at it? And, I think I’m both. I think I’m coachable and I think I’m hardworking. And, because I was fascinated by it, found it immensely rewarding. I’ve never stopped learning about it. I mean, me and my company, we’re learning stuff on a regular basis. We’re constantly innovating within what we’re talking about. The stuff that we’re applying this year, we didn’t even realize was true last year, we just keep getting better at it.

Ben:  Yeah. I subscribed to your Black Swan newsletter. It’s one of the fewest newsletters I subscribed to that I actually read when it comes out because every single week, there’s these new tips about communication, negotiation. It’s fantastic. But, for you as far as this concept of being autodidactic or a lifelong learner, are you a books guy or what’s the primary way that you stay on top of the information regarding negotiation and communication?

Chris:  There’s so much out there to learn. And so, I read and I probably got three or four books going simultaneously, different books, “Man’s Search for Meaning” is one of them, “Chip Wars” is another. Depending upon the type of reading it is. I lean a little more towards entertaining reading in the evening and straight information early in the day. I listen to podcasts, Andrew Huberman and Lex Fridman for very different reasons or a couple that I listen to on a regular basis. When you start finding good sources of information, it’s like being in a candy store that you just can’t keep up.

Ben:  Yeah, it’s definitely changed my workouts, my hikes, cleaning the garage. I’m always just listening to podcasts and audiobooks. Are you spending much time in the gym or working on your fitness as you’re going through these things?

Chris:  Well, yeah. The podcast time, I’m usually in the sauna. Although sauna time is not bad meditation time, it’s usually when I listen to a podcast. And, everybody’s trying to find the most effective health mechanism, so.

Ben:  I don’t know, man. If you’re a Huberman, Fridman guy, you’re in the sauna for three hours.

Chris:  Yeah. Yeah, I’m definitely working on trying to keep up with that. But, I hit the gym trying to maximize the effectiveness of my time spent there also.

Ben:  Yeah, yeah. Okay.

Well, I’m just fascinated about this FBI negotiation. I want to ask some questions that are obviously relevant to go beyond just FBI negotiation. But, how’s that actually go down? Can you describe to me what a typical negotiation looks like? Do you get a phone call? You go somewhere, you got to figure out how to connect with the person inside holding people hostage or how’s it actually go down?

Chris:  That’s kind of it, yeah. Crisis negotiators whether they’re with the FBI or some of the law enforcement. The thing is already in play. The game is a foot as you will, if you will before you get there. It could be spontaneous. It could be planned. It could be prepared for. There’s three types of sieges: spontaneous, planned and prepared for. They all take different amounts of time and are in different types of locations. So, you get alerted, you get a call. When I did the Chase Manhattan Bank Robbery, I was in the office and buddy came up, Charlie, and said, “Hey, there’s a bank robbery in Brooklyn with hostages. Let’s go.”

By the time we got there, the bank robbery, the hostage siege was already two hours old. So, you’re never going to get to a hostage siege sooner than an hour after initiation, which means the good guys got the place surrounded, there’s been some communication. You got to figure out what’s been said by whom, what’s true and what’s a lie.

Ben:  And, is the communication, by the way, going on with the person you’re negotiating with via a cell phone or is there a phone inside the compound where they’re at? How is the communication taking place?

Chris:  Yeah. All of the above. I mean, as soon as the SWAT guys get the play surrounded, they can start hollering inside, try to get the guy to come out because they want to finish and go home. So, if they can talk them out before you get there, voice to voice, they will. There are going to be cell phone calls. You’re going to do what you can to isolate the communication inside, so there’s only one line of communication coming out to you. With cell phones these days, that’s harder and harder to do. Ultimately, you’re going to get on the phone with the distressed person inside and become his therapist.

Ben:  What’s the hardest negotiation you ever had to do you think?

Chris:  Yeah. Well, when they ain’t coming out. I mean, there’s high-risk indicators of all types of negotiations, whether the person may talk to you but have no intention of making a deal. It happens in business all the time. It happens in law enforcements called suicide by cop. They’re trying to orchestrate their own murder. So, you got to figure out if that’s what’s going on especially if there’s hostages inside. Because if the bad guy is in intent to get himself killed, and sometimes they are, it has very distinct behavior profile. If you don’t kill them, they’re going to kill hostages till you do. So, you have to realize that that’s the case.

Ben:  So, is there a specific incident that you went through in your negotiation that you think was one of the toughest?

Chris:  Well, I had some kidnappings that went bad. I mean, it’s impossible to be perfect. And, there was a period of time that Al-Qaeda had wanted to look like that they were in 2004 timeframe. They wanted to look like they were talking when they weren’t. They were orchestrating murders. And, when you’re working at kidnapping, you’re working very closely with the family. And, when it looks like an orchestrated murderer and you’re still trying to communicate in a way that’ll save the person’s life although you know the chances are almost zero that it’s going to make any difference. Those are tough cases.

Ben:  Yeah, yeah, interesting.

So, as far as taking this idea of negotiation into so-called real world, what are the biggest mistakes that you see people making? Let’s say I’m going to go, I don’t know, buy a used car or I’m going to negotiate with someone about an agreement or a contract, what do you think people do right now that are the biggest pet peeves of yours or the biggest mistakes?

Chris:  We’re not really listening to the other side. I mean, you’re going to soften the other side up by listening to them, actually listening, not keeping your mouth shut while they’re talking, and making them feel heard. That’s the accelerator for everything. Very few people know how to do that. Very few people know how to actually listen. And, the fascinating thing is none of us have any tolerance for somebody who doesn’t listen to us. And yet, we hate nobody listens, which is what empathy is about. A communication can be a vastly different experience for two people in the same communication. And then, also assuming it’s a one-off assuming that you got to beat the other side.

I got a great deal. In my book, there’s a story about me buying a red Toyota 4Runner, which I still have. I got a phenomenal deal on it on that truck. I mean, I killed them. And, there was no latitude for me at all on follow on service after I got the truck.

Ben:  And, this wasn’t private party, this was a dealership negotiation?

Chris:  Yeah, it was with a car and exactly the point that you were talking about buying a car. Most of the time you’re buying a car from a dealer.

Ben:  So, in terms of the actual car, what was it that made that a successful deal for you?

Chris:  I threw out a price, which was significantly lower than what they were asking. And then, I never threw out another price and just kept using tactical empathy to get him to lower the price. He lowered and he lowered and he lowered and he lowered. I never budged off my price. I was just really nice about it. And finally, he gave me the exact price that I had quoted him when I walked on the door.

Ben:  Okay, that’s the second time that term has come up, “tactical empathy.” We should probably define that. How do you define tactical empathy?

Chris:  Well, let’s break it down into two parts. First of all, empathy is the demonstration of understanding. It’s not sympathy. It’s not agreement. You don’t even got to like the other side to be completely empathic, to be able to articulate how they see things. Now, knowing how they see it is not enough. You could know how they see it, but they still don’t feel like that you know until you lay it out. And so, then tactical empathy is realizing how the brain is wired, which is mostly negative because you’re human. Everybody’s default wiring, survival mode is our default wiring, is largely negative. That’s how the caveman stayed alive. We’ve all inherited it.

Ben:  Right.

Chris:   Success mode is positive, but you got to work to keep yourself in a positive frame of mind. Because if you let it go, you wake up in the morning defensive. That’s why people work out. That’s why people do gratitude exercise. That’s why your physical well-being is part of your mental hygiene because you got to resist going back into the negative mindset. Being aware of that in a communication means I got to be more concerned about your negative thoughts than your positive thoughts.

Ben:  Yeah. Is that part of the accusation audit that you talk about anticipating in advance the negative things that someone might be thinking about you?

Chris:  Exactly. Accusations order is probably the single most powerful strategy within everything that we teach, it just disarms people so quickly and accelerates things so quickly.

Ben:  Can you describe it in a little more detail to people?

Chris:  Yeah. Alright, so the definition of “accusations audit.” Do an audit of all the accusations they might make against you. Not yours to them, theirs to you, all the negative thoughts that they could, might be thinking, what are they saying about you behind your back when they’re drinking with friends, how they characterizing it, really focusing on all the actual negatives, all the speculative negatives, all the crazy negatives. Make a list and then start out by calling them out. Don’t deny any of them. You don’t get rid of the elephant in a room by saying, “There’s no elephant in a room. I don’t want you to think there’s an elephant in a room.” You get rid of the elephant in the room by saying, “Yeah, there’s an elephant. It’s right there.” You probably don’t trust me. You probably wonder if I’m wasting your time. You probably feel that I’m greedy. You probably think that this is a one-off. And, I’m just looking to pick your pocket. If you’re in sales, say you’re probably thinking of me as just another slimy used car salesperson. You call it out. It deactivates and it inoculates.

Ben:  Yeah. So, the biases and perceptions that you know are out there. You’re basically putting that elephant out in the room right away and naming it so people know you’re aware of it and they’re also almost not able to use it as a weapon against you, for example.

Like, if I’m on stage and I’m giving a speech and I’m wear out, I’m like, right now I’m wearing a hoodie and shorts, right? If I were to get up on stage, I could say, “You guys might think I look like some punk teenager right now in a hoodie and shorts. Maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about,” et cetera, et cetera, just name that right away.

Chris:  Yeah. And then, the critical issue there after you name it is to let go dead silent. You don’t say but, here’s why that’s not true. You just stand there and face it fearlessly. That makes you look like a straight shooter and everybody loves straight shooters.

Ben:  Yeah, that makes sense. So, that’s part of the empathy component. You also mentioned another mistake that people make besides not being empathetic or putting themselves in the other person’s shoes in a tactical way is not listening. Are there things you can do during a negotiation to show that you’re listening besides just saying aha and yeah or little interjections like that?

Chris:  Yeah. Well, we got nine skills in a Black Swan method, and they’re all about mirroring, repeating back with somebody just said one to three words. Paraphrasing. Paraphrasing what they said. Labeling. Labeling how they felt about what they said. And then, you take those three things, what they said and how they felt about it, you throw it together for a summary to make somebody feel just really completely understood. And, those are about half the skills are really designed to make the other side feel hurt.

Ben:  Mirroring and labeling are probably the two most useful and immediately kind of practically applicable things that I picked up from your book in your MasterClass. So, mirroring, you briefly described as paraphrasing what someone says to you, but how’s that actually look? You give some examples.

Chris:  Yeah. Well, there’s a difference mirroring and paraphrasing at two different skills. Paraphrasing is taking what they said and putting it in your own words. And, mirroring is repeating almost exactly, word for word, anywhere from one to three, no more than five words. You can mirror one word. You can mirror three words. And, it’s a great way to really examine what somebody just said instead of saying, “What did you mean by that?” or “Could you tell me more about that?” The mirror lets people know that you heard the words and you need them to paraphrase. And consequently, when you mirror somebody, when you repeat one to three words, they’re going to expand on it and give you a lot more insight into what they just said.

Ben:  I’m not very good at small talk, and when I learn this mirroring and the labeling concept, the very first event that I was at, that’s all I did at the cocktail party and the dinner because I just have a hard time sometimes coming up with stuff to say. And, I found that people would just open up and talk and talk and talk. They’d finish a sentence about, I don’t know, “This wine is fantastic. This is probably one of the best red wines I’ve ever had.” And, I would just say back to them, “Really, one of the best red wines you’ve ever had?” And then, they just keep going and going. 

And, it’s very interesting and it seems a little different though than, honestly, Chris, something that kind of grinds me, this idea, I think it comes from motivational interviewing, where you’ll say something and people will look deeply into your eyes and they’ll say, “So, what I heard you say is…” What do you think about that style of, I don’t know if that even counts as mirroring or whatever you’d call it?

Chris:  No, it’s a psychologist therapist lazy person’s attempt at labeling or paraphrasing. And so, breaking down the components of what somebody just said, every word has an emotional impact, every word. So, when I say “I,” it’s very self-centering. And, when I say “You,” I hit you emotionally in a different way. So, I could say, “I hear you’re frustrated,” I’m really kind of communicating to you that I’m more interested in my perception. When I say, “You sound frustrated,” I’m communicating to you that I’m interested in your feelings. And, that subtle 180-degree shift is massive in communications. So, the word “I” is very self-centering, you got to be careful about it. There are moments when you could use it and moments when it’s counterproductive and saying, well, what I’m hearing you saying is one of those counterproductive times when I’m more fascinated with me than I am with you.

Ben:  Yeah. So, that style of mirroring or that style of conversation, I suppose, like “You sound frustrated,” to me that comes across as a little bit more of labeling. If I’m talking to a parent and they’re like, “Well, Jimmy never listens to me. It gets so frustrating. He doesn’t do anything I say.” Well, mirroring would be something like, “Jimmy never listens to you?” Whereas, labeling you’re saying would be something more like, “You sound really frustrated about Jimmy.”

Chris:  Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Ben:  What are some other examples of labeling? I don’t recall from the book, but I think you say some like sounds like, feels like, looks like, something like that.

Chris:  Yeah. That’s a basic fundamental level. You’re just labeling, throwing a verbal label on an emotion that you’re picking up. And, you pick it up, you perceive sound, by taste, touch, feel. And, each one of us kind of has a primary way of picking it up. I principally pick stuff up via sound. So, I’ll say you sound angry. But, every now and then, I’ll ask myself my gut, “What’s my gut telling me about what’s going on here?” And, I’ll say, “It feels like this just doesn’t work for you. It feels like there’s something hesitate causing you to hesitate.” It’s really great way to draw things out. 

Now, when you get really good at this and the people in my team, I got to tell you something. We’ll get through an entire negotiation only labeling because you get good at it. It’s the most flexible skill. I can ask you any question via a label, you’re more likely to answer than a typical question. I can make some real hard observations. For example, a guy that used to do $100 million contracts for Google, dude named Meric, phenomenal negotiator. He’s trying to approach the CEO via the gatekeeper, the secretary, and he literally says, “It feels like you’re blowing me off.” And, she was, but by him just throwing it out there that gently, he struck her differently. She felt that this is not a bamboozler, this ain’t a hustler, this is somebody who’s genuine. I’ll let him through the gateway and he ended up getting the appointment with the CEO because of this empathic observation, which in point of fact was an accusation. She was blowing him off and he was calling it out, but he put it out in such a way that felt so gentle that it completely changed her attitude towards him and he got the appointment.

Ben:  Do you think there’s never a time when you’re labeling to use that eye perspective? “I feel like you’re frustrated,” instead of, “Sounds to me like that was very frustrating for you.” The reason I asked that is I was reading a relationship book a couple weeks ago, and this guy said, “Well, when you’re talking with your wife and you feel some type of, let’s say, frustration that you want to share with her, then a good way to lead into that would be the story I’m telling myself right now is that you’re frustrated about XYZ or we’re not seeing eye-to-eye about ABC.” What do you think about that lead in the story I’m telling myself right now?

Chris:  I think it’s horrible.

Ben:  Really?

Chris:  Yeah. So, empathy is how does the other side see things. And, especially the closer you are to somebody, the longer your history, the more times you’ve inadvertently wounded them, the higher their expectations are of you, and the more accurate they want you to be. Particularly, when somebody’s with you all the time, your life is intertwined in theirs. You don’t want to say the story I’m telling myself as you’re frustrated. Their perception is, “That’s a story you’re telling yourself? You’re telling yourself that? Are you out of your freaking mind? How is it not obvious to you that you’ve been an idiot and you’ve been pissing me off for the last five years?” Empathy is what’s the other person saying themselves. 

So, if you got an issue with your significant other, what they’re saying to themselves is, “You’re a lunkhead. You haven’t been paying attention and your words don’t follow up with your actions.” So, your statement to them is, “Clearly, I’ve been an idiot. Clearly, I’ve offended you. Clearly, you’re upset with me because my words haven’t been following my actions.” What’s the other side’s point of you really and are you afraid of it and empathy is about being fearless about it.

Ben:  Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. It sounds to me like the story that I’m telling myself lead is almost just a fancier version of “I could be wrong but…” it’s almost a little bit of a copout lead in a way.

Chris:  In a lot of ways, yeah. I’d go at it much harder. I mean your counterparts, your spouses, your significant others, they deserve empathy as much as other people do. But, what is it really? How do they really see things? Don’t be afraid of knowing how they really see it.

Ben:  Yeah, yeah, that makes sense.

Now, how about the calibrated questions. What’s the calibrated question?

Chris:  Calibrated question is designed to induce thinking more than it’s designed to get an answer. I want you to think about something if your actions don’t line up with what you said you were going to do. I might say, “When you told me this before, what did you want me to think?” Now, I put you in a place with that “what” question, and essentially, “I’m confronting you with what you said, but I’m doing it in a very deferential manner, respectful. I’m not making any accusations, I’m just pointing out that you told me differently than what you said. And, I’m actually curious as to what you wanted me to think when you said it.” The calibrated question is designed to shift your thinking to a certain place and get you to Danny Kahneman, Nobel Prize winner, behavioral economics, author of the book “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” Slow thinking is in-depth thinking. I want to give you a stop you in your tracks question that causes you to stop and think about that. That’s the primary objective. How you answer it is secondary, but primarily what I’m trying to do is I’m calibrating your thinking.

Ben:  Now, the calibrated question it seems to me there could be a little bit of an illusion of power or control that you’re giving someone. Meaning, if my wife–I don’t know why I keep coming back to my wife, we have a great relationship, by the way. We’ve been married 21 years. We’re happy as a clam, but let’s say she says, whatever, you’re not doing the dishes and the kitchen is a mess and I need you to clean that up right away. A calibrated question like, “How am I supposed to do that right now?” Is that kind of an example of something that will put her in a position where she’s able to dictate and have kind of an illusion of power or something like that? It might be a bad example but that’s the one I’m thinking off the top of my head.

Chris:  Yeah. The secret to gaining the upper hand in a negotiation is giving the other side the illusion of control. It’s not in your interest to make people feel out of control. Out of control makes them anxious, makes them not want to follow through with agreements, makes them not collaborative, takes away trust, takes away the effectiveness of the long-term relationship. I mean, it’s not in your long-term interest to have somebody feel out of control. You might think you win in the moment, but long term the deal is not going through. So, it’s not in your interest to make somebody feel out of control. And, if they feel safer, if they feel in control, they’re more likely to think with you, they’re more likely to own the interaction, which consequently invests them in the outcome that the two of you have talked about.

Now, how questions are specifically most designed to collaboratively create implementation. When you ask me about the calibrated questions, there’s really two kinds mostly what and how. What is about identifying obstacles. What’s the biggest challenge you face? What are we up against here? What happens if we do nothing? How do you want to proceed? How do you want to overcome this? How do we know we’re on track? How are we going to adjust if we’re off track? How is mostly about implementation? And, how am I supposed to do that is really depending upon how you say it, meant to be a collaborative question.

Ben:  Now, is there any logic to the idea of instead of saying something like, “How am I supposed to do that?” Putting yourself on the same team as a person that you’re negotiating against by phrasing your calibrated question as a we question. “How are we supposed to do that?” or “What are we trying to accomplish together here?” instead of, “How am I supposed to do that?” or “What are you trying to accomplish here?”

Chris:  Yeah, there’s certain situational aspects to it. You’re going to adapt to the situation. You’re going to probably want to demonstrate some understanding the how and what questions. The how question, in particular, can be very assertive and empathy should precede assertion so that your assertion is more effective. So, if you want to get people to think it helps them that you already know what they’re talking about that you’ve demonstrated some empathy before you jump into that.

Ben:  Yeah. Okay, that makes sense.

So, when I was watching your MasterClass on the airplane, I remember I did this in the airport on a phone call. It might have been a text prior to the phone call actually, but I would love to hear your take on this tip that you including the book, which is when it’s getting later in the day, I think the idea is people are more likely to say no, like no, no, no to certain things. But, you could phrase your questions in such a way that no gets them to a yes. For example, I think the one that I used was instead of saying, “Could we talk right now?” Obviously, someone if they are getting towards the end of the day and they have decision-making fatigue, whatever, they’re going to say no. And so, I phrase it as, “Would this be a horrible time to talk right now?” Or, very similarly during, for example, a business call I might say something like, “Would it be a horrible idea to XYZ? What’s the idea though behind this concept of people being more likely to say no and figuring out a way to use that to your advantage in a negotiation?”

Chris:  Well, it’s a little bit of a Pavlov’s dog response. And, people have learned over and over again that when they say the word “no,” it’s a safe word. So, you feel safe and protected when you say no. Your kid says, “Dad, can I?” You go, “No” before you’ve even heard him out. But then, after having said no, you feel safe and protected from any outcomes. You’re more likely to hear your child out. It’s not that children learn not to take no for an answer from parents, children learn that human beings once they’ve said no tend to clear their head no matter how tired they are and tend to think things through much more easily. Because saying yes makes you anxious. What have I let myself in for? What are the traps? Where’s the hook here? The act of saying yes, we’ve all been conditioned that there’s usually a hook on the way or somebody’s trying to tie me down. The yes momentum is called micro agreements or tie-downs. And, that makes people feel anxious, especially when you’ve got decision fatigue. So, it’s much easier to say “No, don’t do that, do this, no matter how tired you are. No, it’s not a bad time, I can do that right now.” The Pavlovian response to know is that we feel safer and more protected and it’s easier for us to think after we’ve said the word “no.”

Ben:  Yeah, it’s such a simple subtle trigger. There’s going to be a few kids who are listening in who are going to be asking their parents if it’s a horrible idea to go get ice cream tonight after the show. I’m sure.

Chris:  Yeah, why not?

Ben:  But, there’s the book, what’s the name of the book, “Getting to Yes.” There’s books like that that talk about getting to yes. Maybe that falls in the same category as win-win. I don’t know. What do you think about a book like that?

Chris:  Well, yeah, I knew Roger Fisher. I met him in Harvard and his emotional intelligence is through the roof, one of the co-authors of that book. But, the book is an academic read. It’s trying to learn a language by reading the dictionary. There’s nothing technically wrong with the language in a dictionary and you’re not going to learn how to speak the language by reading the dictionary. It’s academically rigorous, which is the environment that Fisher and Ury came from, an academically rigorous environment. And, the idea it really is about getting agreement. I’ve never met anybody that didn’t read “Getting to Yes” and thought, “This makes sense” and been completely unable to apply it in the real world. It’s kind of fascinating.

So, yeah, that was where those guys were coming at that point in time. They had to write an academically rigorous book and human beings are not academically rigorous is where that book really falls short.

Ben:  The body language thing, you differentiated between body language and negotiation early on in our conversation, but how much you actually pay attention to body language? I even think you have a breakdown in your book about body language versus tone versus the actual words that people are using.

Chris:  Yeah. Well, there’s a lot of information from body language, but the problem is reading body language is highly inaccurate. And, I’m listening to a psychologist talk about this on one of Huberman’s podcasts recently and she said, “Alright, somebody’s got a really angry look on her face while they’re listening to you. A third of the time, they’re actually angry. And, if you speculate a third of the time, that’s a high percentage.” But, in point of the fact, two-thirds of the time you’re wrong on your body language unless you follow up what’s going on behind the head. And so, oh, they got their arms folded, they’re scowling, they’re angry. She said they could be angry, they could have gas.

Ben:  Yeah. They could be cold. They could have a furrowed brow and be concentrating, right?

Chris:  Yeah. Well, I got to tell you something. When I listen intently, I refer to it as I have a resting serial killer face.

Ben:  Yeah.

Chris:  If I’m really listening to you, you think I’m plotting, chopping you up in a woodshed, but I’m actually just listening. I’ve had people tell me that I frighten them because I listen so intently. And so, what’s behind the body language, think of it as an affect, an expression of something. And then, what happens is you label it. If somebody’s frowning at you, you can look at them and you could say, “Seems like I’ve upset you?” And, they’re going to, “Yeah, you have” or they’re going to say, “No. As a matter of fact, I’m just listening to you. I want to hear more.” So, you label the body language because whatever you think it is, you’re probably wrong and you just can’t take those kind of chances. So, you want to label the body language to find out what’s going on.

Ben:  I actually thought about this when I was watching your MasterClass, you’re doing a negotiations with Pam, I think her name is. Is that her name, Pam? The actress that you brought in to do some mock negotiations. And, I thought about that as you were listening to her because a few times you had that serial killer concentrated look and I’m self-consciously asking you this, Chris, because you’re the godfather of this stuff. But, why wouldn’t you kind of lean forward and have a little smile like a disarming smile and turn the corners of your lips up even when you’re concentrating like train yourself to do something like that?

Chris:  Well, what’s your intent, what’s your purpose is the real issue. All the things we’re talking about here in communication are neutral skills. The scalpel in one person’s hand saves a life and another person in its hands, it’s a murder weapon. So, for me, I could manipulate you short term and you’re eventually going to find out, and then our trust is going to be gone long term. It’s going to cost me more. 

There was a Goldman Sachs executive a long time ago who said “Greedy yes but long-term greedy.” People trusting you not being manipulated puts more money in your bank account than the big score, the big win in the moment because you start to collect enemies and people start to line up against you once they found out that they were manipulated. So, I am going to smile or put a smile in my voice because I want you to think with me and you’re 31% smarter in a positive frame of mind. Now, could I smile to try to disarm you and make you vulnerable? Yeah, I could use my powers for evil as easily as I can use them for good. Problem is using them for negative purposes is going to cost me the long term and I’m going to make a lot more money. One of our clients actually told me this two years ago. He said, “I’ve made more money being collaborative than I ever thought of making being cut from.”

Ben:  It’s interesting because as you’re telling me this about body language, it really gets me thinking about the conversation you and I are having right now. We’re on a digital platform and I believe there’s even data that shows that the primary thing that people look at during say a Zoom conversation is themselves. I’ve probably seen you. Just opening the kimono on this for my listeners, I’ve probably actually seen you three times during this conversation, Chris, because I’m looking at the camera because I want this to look as though I’m looking at the listener, looking at you, but I’m not looking at myself or you at all. Do you or have you looked into how some of this stuff can be implemented in digital interaction scenarios like a Zoom call? Are there certain dos or don’ts when it comes to digital interactions?

Chris:  Yeah. Well, digital interactions is a person on the other side. Are they being spoken to? Are they multiple people in a call? Do they leave the camera on? What are they looking at? If their camera is off, they’re multitasking.

Ben:  Yeah.

Chris:  Which means they are not paying attention. Multitasking is one of the worst things you could possibly do for your life. It’s just horrible.

Ben:  There’s one exception to that rule, by the way. And so, I apologize for the interruption. I will often because I’m walking out on treadmill while I’m talking to you right now, right? I will often take phone calls with clients outside in my backyard with my phone in my pocket. So, sometimes I think for somebody who’s just trying to get some steps or movement in, that might be an exception to the rule. But, I agree, if somebody’s on audio, you can almost hear if they’re dinking around and doing other stuff.

Chris:  Right.

Ben:  Versus just walking.

Chris:  Right. Yeah. Yeah. Well, walking is a great way to think. There’s a lot of data that says that you will process information better while you’re walking. And, I think that’s why a lot of times people want to take calls while they’re walking or take it while they’re driving. You got to have enough time and the conversation’s got to go slow enough because your brain is shifting back and forth between different things and the movement of walking or riding a bike or driving is a great way to process information.

Now, if there’s too much information coming at you and you need time to process, that means you’re going to miss a lot. So, how do you manage your brain so that you soak in the information as much as you possibly can. Give yourself enough time. A lot of the skills of tactical empathy are really about going back over the ground to pick up what you may have missed. And, even if you’re not doing anything at all if I say something to you that you find utterly interesting, you’ll stop and think about it, which means you’re going to miss what I say over the next 30 to 60 seconds because you’re thinking so hard about something I just said.

Ben:  Yeah. Yeah. It’s interesting because I think if you’re sitting at a computer or a desk doing a call, to me, it’s almost worse than walking because there’s an inevitable book nearby to pick up or an email that came through or the notification pops up on message. It’s so much easier to pay attention to that stuff when you’re sitting in front of your desk on of call versus if you’re just, I don’t know, walking down a gravel road and the only thing you have is your steps and that person on the other line.

Chris:  Managing your attention and understanding what’s distracting is critical to focus. Absolutely.

Ben:  Yeah. When you’re on a Zoom call, where do you look?

Chris:  Well, on this podcast, I’m looking straight at the camera the whole time. Now, when I’m on a Zoom call and we got multiple people interacting, I’ll look at the person who’s not talking because their body language is going to be the most unguarded and that’s where the real information is going to come up. The multi-party Zoom calls are fantastic for picking up unguarded body language of the person who’s not speaking because they assume everybody’s looking at the person that’s speaking.

Ben:  Yeah, yeah.

Chris:  And you watch the team on the other side, the person that’s speaking, somebody on their side just rolls their eyes. You’re like, “Okay, we got to go back over this.” The speaker will never do that, but the people on their team will and they’re going to be very unguarded. So, always, always have a tendency to look at the people that are not talking.

Ben:  Well, I don’t think it’s just because I follow you now after having seen you on the air airplane, read the book and subscribed to your newsletter. It’s kind of like I see you a lot now. You come across my plate just about every week. I would imagine that that’s not isolated to me that you’re growing in popularity. It says more than two million copies sold on the cover of your book. Do you think that the mass dissemination of a lot of these negotiation and tactical empathy tactics has resulted in people kind of realizing and possibly an awkward sense when you are mirroring them or labeling them or asking calibrated questions? Do you think people are just implementing this more and kind of catching on to these whatever you want to call them sneaking negotiation tactics that others are using?

Chris:  Well, it’s prevalent in the top performers in the middle of the bell curve the people that are not interested and listening are never going to pick it up. You think negotiators or lawyers would study negotiation. And, I’m on a Zoom call with a lawyer earlier today and the person says, “Never Split The Difference,” what’s that about?” And, I’m like, “Okay, you’re not teaching yourself communication skills, you’re practicing lawyer for 30 years and you’re doing nothing to learn communication.”

Ben:  Yeah.

Chris:  And, in point of fact that the middle of the bell curve, the people are just middle and the bottom half, they’re just not learning.

Ben:  Yeah. I’m curious and this is possibly a little bit of a juicy or controversial question, but when it comes to kids or maybe some of the teenagers or young college students you come across in your clinics and your classes, do you find that children who have been raised in a certain way from an educational standpoint are better at negotiating or implementing these tactics? Say, I don’t know, homeschooling versus Montessori versus private versus public schooling. You ever paid attention to anything like that?

Chris:  Yeah, I don’t know. I think that’s a great question. I mean, I would imagine the bell curve is kind of the same regardless of the environment. The top performers are going to want to learn no matter where they were taught.

Ben:  Yeah, yeah. I sometimes wonder if the idea of not thinking outside the box or putting a square peg in a square hole or round peg in a round hole like you see with a lot of, I guess, the traditional public schooling model with rope memorization and test-taking might inhibit someone from having more dynamic thought patterns during a conversation or negotiation. I could be totally off track but it just came across my mind.

Chris:  Yeah, it’s an interesting question.

Ben:  Yeah. So, you have this very entertaining part of your MasterClass and you do this on your podcast. You got a great YouTube channel, by the way, too. For those of you listening, check out Chris’s YouTube channel. You do the 0 to 60. I think it’s called 0 to 60 or something like that.

Chris:  60 seconds or she dies.

Ben:  Yeah, 60 seconds or she dies. Describe that to me. And, I’m actually curious what some of the more entertaining scenarios have been like when you’ve done that in your live courses or online or anything like that.

Chris:  Well, it’s a simulation of a hostage negotiation when point of fact is a type of negotiation you’re in every day when you either can’t or shouldn’t give the other side what they want right away and where you really need to dive into why they want it, what’s driving them, what their real motivations are. And, we do it in a very intense way because if we train you, we need to train you for the toughest negotiation you’ll ever be in. If the stuff you’re countering every day is harder than what we gave you in training, then what good are we? So, we like to crank up the intensity right away, show you how humans react with neuroscience as opposed to speculation on psychology. Some psychology is good, a lot of it is horrible. But, neuroscience is pretty much of a hard science and we started introducing to you right away about the way the brain is wired, how you actually think under pressure, how you actually think when you’re being attacked, and how dumber you are when you counterattack. And, there’s no way to learn other than feeling it. So, the 60 seconds or she dies is a great exercise and we have a lot of fun with it.

Ben:  And so, that’s basically where you’re simulating a mock phone call in the hostage. What do you call the person you’re negotiating with? I don’t even know the right word.

Chris:  Yeah. Hostage taker or the bank robber.

Ben:  Hostage taker or the bank robber, whatever. They say 60 seconds or she dies or I need a car in 60 seconds or she dies or something like that and then you’ve got a one-minute countdown to somehow make her dying not happen.

Chris:  Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And then, you got to find out, does he want to die or is he just using it as a means? And, if he’s using it as a means, what’s the real issue and how do you get into it without talking about the car at all?

Ben:  Of all the negotiation tactics that you have, what’s the most successful one you think that works in a scenario like that repeatedly?

Chris:  Labeling, ultimately. When you get really good at it, labeling gets you a long way. Really understand, putting a label on what’s really driving somebody because it’s game-changing. It’s astonishing, the instantaneous changes that take place.

Ben:  This Black Swan Group that you have, why is it called the Black Swan Group? 

Chris:  Well, because the Black Swan is the impact of the highly improbable, the tiny little things that make all the difference in the world. So, what are the pieces of information that change everything? What are the tiny little behaviors that are invisible that change everything? These are all black swans.

Ben:  And, these clinics that you teach, how do those actually work because I know that some people are going to listen and be interested in attending or doing this live? I’ve actually been interested in it myself since going through your book and stuff. But, how do those actually happen? Is it a couple of days or one day?

Chris:  Yeah. Well, we’ve got our two-day. It’s immersive training. It’s like being immersed in a language and being immersed with people that are thinking the same way you are. So, our two-day training is a diamond training where we’re really laying down what’s going to make you different, what’s going to make you better, how much can we give you. Then, we’ve got one-day trainings that we call specialized topics. I borrowed a phrase from law enforcement, sensitive compartmented information. It’s really high-level stuff in a one-day stuff. And, you go through the diamond training, you get a great basis, a great foundation, and then you get some of the SEI training after that.

Ben:  Is the demographic primarily people in sales?

Chris:  Entrepreneurs. If you’re an entrepreneur or an entrepreneurial thinker, it’s really–entrepreneurs are adaptive. They want to learn. They’re ambitious. So, if you’re ambitious and curious, and then it cuts across all demographics.

Ben:  Alright. I’ll put a link in the shownotes, by the way. If you guys go to, I don’t know what the link is, I should look it up here, BenGreenfieldLife.com/NeverSplit, I’ll link to Chris’s book and also to these clinics.

Chris, I got one more question for you. You established early on that you’re a voracious consumer of content and education. Besides your book, of course, what are the top three books that have been most formative for you?

Chris:  Well, I really got started knowing hostage negotiation would apply to business negotiation based on a business negotiation book called “Start with No.” Jim Camp wrote it in 2002. I learned a lot from that. It was enlightening in a lot of ways. I like Jim’s work in a lot of ways. So, “Start with No” is a great book.

And then, books about life. I got to tell you something. Skills and life and luck in general just because it’s top of mine, “Molly’s Game,” about Molly Bloom is a great book too.

Ben:  “Molly’s Game.” I’ve never heard of this one. Okay. What’s that one about?

Chris:  Molly ran a bunch of poker games and it’s her experience of running poker games in the basement of the viper club for an entertainment executive to her time in New York when she got arrested by the FBI. And, it’s a great book about human nature. It’s fascinating. Molly is actually the movie by the same name. She’s a professional speaker and a personal friend.

Ben:  Oh, my gosh. Okay. So, “Molly’s Game” might be my bedtime reading. Like you, I save the entertaining books for bedtime. So, “Molly’s Game,” “Getting to No,” if you had a third, you can’t say the Bible is cheating, what would your third be?

Chris:  I like “The Rise of Superman” Steven Kotler’s book about the science of flow and just–yeah, Steven’s a great guy and his stuff is worth reading.

Ben:  Yeah. He has the other book, what’s it called, “Capture the Rapture” or something like that. It’s also fantastic.

Well, look, Chris, this book’s fantastic. Again, I’ll hold it up for people, “Never Spit the Difference,” fantastic. If you go to the MasterClass website, I actually think the MasterClass, to be honest with you, is really good to accompany the book because there’s something about seeing this stuff done live. And, like I mentioned earlier, Chris sits down with an actress and practiced some of this stuff in mock negotiation. I took my sons through it. They’re 15 and they came out of it as great little negotiators for better and worse for Mom and I. So, the shownotes, I’ll link to all this stuff, are going to be at BenGreenfieldLife.com/NeverSplit. Chris, thanks so much, man.

Chris:  Ben, it was my pleasure. Thanks for having me on.

Ben:   Alright. I’ll talk to you later.

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