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My Notes

Chapter 1: New Rules

One of the FBI’s most potent negotiating tools: the open-ended question.

I just ask the same three of four open-ended questions over and over and over. They get worn out answering and give me everything I want.

In my short stay, I realized that without a deep understanding of psychology, without the acceptance that we are all crazy, irrational, impulsive, emotionally driven animals, all the raw intelligence and mathematical logic in the world is little help in the fraught, shifting interplay of two people negotiating.

System 1, our animal mind, is fast, instinctive, and emotional; System 2 is slow, deliberate, and logical.

If you know how to affect your counterpart’s System 1 thinking, his inarticulate feelings, by how you frame and deliver your questions and statements, then you can guide his System 2 rationality and therefore modify his responses.

Emotions and emotional intelligence would have to be central negotiation, not things to overcome.

By listening intensely, a negotiator demonstrates empathy and shows a sincere desire to better understand what the other side is experiencing.

When individuals feel listened to, they tend to listen to themselves more carefully and to openly evaluate and clarify their own thoughts and feelings.

Tactical Empathy: this is listening as a martial art, balancing skills of influence, to gain access to the mind of another person.

Life is negotiation.

The majority of interactions we have at work and at home are negotiations that boil down to the expression of a simple, animalistic urge: I want.

Negotiation serves two distinct, vital life functions – information gathering and behavior influencing – and includes almost any interaction where each party wants something from the other side.

Getting what you want out of life is all about getting what you want from – and with – other people.

In this world, you get what you ask for; you just have to ask correctly.

Chapter 2: Be a Mirror

Experience will have taught them that they are best served by holding multiple hypotheses – about the situation, about the counterpart’s wants, about a whole array of variables – in their mind at the same time.

You should engage the process with a mindset of discovery. Your goal at the outset is to extract and observe as much information as possible.

Great negotiators are able to question the assumptions that the rest of the involved players accept on faith or in arrogance, and thus remain more emotionally open to all possibilities, and more intellectually agile to a fluid situation.

We are easily distracted. We engage in selective listening, hearing only what we want to hear, our minds acting on cognitive bias for consistency rather than truth.

Instead of prioritizing your argument – in fact, instead of doing any thinking at all in the early goings about what you’re going to say – make your sole and all-encompassing focus the other person and what they have to say.

In that mode of true active listening – you’ll disarm your counterpart. You’ll make them feel safe. The voice in their head will begin to quiet down.

The goal is to identify what your counterparts actually need (monetarily, emotionally, or otherwise) and get them feeling safe enough to talk and talk and talk and talk some more about what they want.

needs imply survival, the very minimum required to make us act, and so make us vulnerable.

But neither wants nor needs are where we start; it begins with listening, making it about the other people, validating their emotions, and creating enough trust and safety for a real conversation to begin.

Going too fast is one of the mistakes all negotiators are prone to making. If we’re too much in a hurry, people can feel as if they’re not being heard and we risk undermining the rapport and trust we’ve built.

When you slow the process down, you also calm it down.


Late-Night, FM DJ Voice: deep, soft, slow and reassuring.

When deliberating on a negotiating strategy or approach, people tend to focus all their energies on what to say or do, but it’s how we are (our general demeanor and delivery) that is both the easiest thing to enact and the most immediately effective mode of influence.

On a mostly unconscious level, we can understand the minds of others not through any kind of thinking but through quite literally grasping what the other is feeling.

When we radiate warmth and acceptance, conversations just seem to flow.

When we enter a room with a level of comfort and enthusiasm, we attract people toward us.

That’s why your most powerful tool in any verbal communication is your voice. You can use your voice to intentionally reach into someone’s brain and flip an emotional switch.

Most of the time, you should be using the positive/playful voice. It’s the voice of an easygoing, good-natured person. The key here is to relax and smile while you’re talking.

When people are in a positive frame of mind, they think more quickly, and are more likely to collaborate and problem-solve (instead of fight and resist).

Talking slowly and clearly convey one idea: I’m in control.

When you inflect in an upward way, you invite a response.


Mirroring, also called isopraxism, is essentially imitation. It’s another neurobehavior humans (and other animals) display in which we copy each other to comfort each other.

It can be done with speech patterns, body language, vocabulary, tempo and tone of voice.

It’s generally an unconscious behavior – we are rarely aware of it when it’s happening – but it’s a sign that people are bonding, in sync, and establishing the kind of rapport that leads to trust.

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

Mirroring, then, when practiced consciously, is the art of insinuating similarity. “Trust me,” a mirror signals to another’s unconscious, “You and I – we’re alike.”

As negotiators a “mirror” focuses on the words and nothing else.

for the FBI, a “mirror” is when you repeat the last three words (or the critical one to three words) of what someone has just said.

By repeating back what people say, you trigger this mirroring instinct and your counterpart will inevitably elaborate on what was just said and sustain the process of connecting.

Being right isn’t the key to a successful negotiation – having the right mindset is.


  1. Use the late-night FM DJ voice.
  2. Start with “I’m sorry….”
  3. Mirror.
  4. Silence. At least four seconds, to let the mirror work its magic on your counterpart.

The intention behind most mirrors should be “Please, help me understand.” Every time you mirror someone, they will reword what they’ve said.


The language of negotiation is primarily a language of conversation and rapport: a way of quickly establishing relationships and getting people to talk and think together.

  • A good negotiator prepares, going in, to be ready for possible surprises; a great negotiator aims to use her skills to reveal surprises she is certain to find.
  • Don’t commit to assumptions; instead, view them as hypotheses and use the negotiation to test them rigorously.
  • Negotiation is not an act of battle; it’s a process of discovery. The goal is to uncover as much information as possible.
  • To quiet the voices in your head, make your sole and encompassing focus the other person and what they have to say.
  • Slow. It. Down.
  • Put a smile on your face.
  • The late-night FM DJ voice -> use selectively to make a point.
  • The positive/playful voice -> should be your default voice.
  • Repeat the last three words (or the critical one to three words) of what someone has just said.

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

Once people get upset at one another, rational thinking goes out the window.

That’s why, instead of denying and ignoring emotions, good negotiators identify and influence them.

You can learn almost everything your need – and a lot more than other people would like you to know – simply by watching and listening, keep your eyes peeled and your ears open, and your mouth shut.

The more you know about someone, the more power you have.

Tactical empathy is understanding the feelings and mindset of another in the moments and also hearing what is behind those feelings so you increase your influence in all the moments that follow.

Empathy is a classic “soft” communication skill, but it has a physical basis. When we closely observe a person’s face, gestures, and tone of voice, our brain begins to align with theirs in a process called neural resonance, and that lets us know more fully what they think and feel.

Turn your attention to someone who’s talking near you, or watch a person being interviewed on TV. As they talk, imagine that you are that person. Visualize yourself in that position they describe and put in as much detail as you can, as if you were actually there.

Empathy is not about being nice or agreeing with the other side. It’s about understanding them.


Labeling is a way of validating someone’s emotion by acknowledging it. Give someone’s emotion a name and your show you identify with how that person feels.

Think of labeling as a shortcut to intimacy, a time-saving emotional hack.

Labeling an emotion – applying rational words to fear – disrupts its raw intensity.

The first steps to labeling is detecting the other person’s emotional state.

The trick to spotting feelings is to pay close attention to changes people undergo when they respond to external events. Most often, those events are your words.

Once you’ve spotted an emotion you want to highlight, the next step is to label it aloud.

It seems like …

It sounds like …

It looks like …

When your phrase a label as a neutral statement of understanding, it encourages your counterpart to be responsive.

If they disagree with the label, that’s okay. You can always step back and say, “I didn’t say that was what it was. I just said is seems like that.”

The last rule of labeling is silence. Once you have thrown out a label, be quiet and listen.


How you use labeling will go a long way in determining your success.

People’s emotions have two levels: the “presenting” behavior is the part above the surface you can see and hear; beneath, the “underlying” feeling is what motivates behavior.

What good negotiators do when labeling is address those underlying emotions.

Labeling negatives diffuses them; labeling positives reinforces them.

Labeling is a helpful tactic in de-escalating angry confrontations, because it makes the person acknowledge their feelings rather than continuing to act out.

The fastest and most efficient means of establishing a quick working relationship is to acknowledge the negative and diffuse it.

Research shows the best way to deal with negativity is to observe it, without reaction and without judgment. Then consciously label each negative feeling and replace it with positive, compassionate, and solution-based thoughts.


The faster we can interrupt the amygdala’s reaction to real or imaginary threats, the faster we can clear the role of obstacles, and the quicker we can generate feelings of safety, well-being, and trust.

We do that by labeling fears.

Once they’ve been labeled and brought into the open, the negative reactions in your counterpart’s amygdala will begin to soften.

Empathy is a powerful mood enhancer.

By digging beneath what seems like a mountain of quibbles, details, and logistics, labels help to uncover and identify the primary emotion driving almost all of your counterpart’s behavior, the emotion that, once acknowledged, seems to miraculously solve everything else.


The first step in doing so is listing every terrible thing your counterpart could say about you, in what I call an accusation audit.

The beauty of going right after negativity is that it brings us to a safe zone of empathy. Every one of us has an inherent, human need to be understood, to connect with the person across the table.


In any interaction, it pleases us to feel that the other side is listening and acknowledging our situation.

Creating an emphatic relationship and encouraging your counterpart to expand on their situation is the basis of healthy human interaction.

  • Imagine yourself in your counterpart’s situation. By acknowledging the other person’s situation, you immediately convey that you are listening. And once they know you are listening, they may tell you something that you can use.
  • Focus first on clearing the barriers to agreement. Denying barriers or negative influences gives them credence; get them into the open.
  • After you label a barrier or mirror a statement, let it sink in. Don’t worry, the other party will fill the silence.
  • Label your counterpart’s fears to diffuse their power.
  • List the worst things that the other party could say about you and say them before the other person can.
  • Remember you’re dealing with a person who wants to be appreciated and understood. So use labels to reinforce and encourage positive perceptions and dynamics.

Chapter 4: Beware “Yes” – Master “No

“Yes” is often a meaningless answer that hides deeper objections (and “Maybe” is even worse). Pushing hard for “Yes” doesn’t get a negotiator any closer to a win; it just angers the other side.

“No” is pure gold. That negative provides a great opportunity for you and the other party to clarify what you really want by eliminating what you don’t want.


“No” is the start of the negotiation, not the end of it.

“No” is often a decision, frequently temporary, to maintain the status quo.

Jim Camp, in his excellent book, Start with NO, counsels the reader to give their adversary (his word for counterpart) permission to say “No” from the outset of the negotiation.

It comes down to the deep and universal need for autonomy. People need to feel in control.

When you preserve a person’s autonomy by clearly giving them permission to say “No” to your ideas, the emotions calm, the effectiveness of the decisions go up, and the other party can really look at your proposal.

Train yourself to hear “No” as something other than rejection, and respond accordingly.

Rethink the word in one of its alternative – and much more real – meanings:

  • I am not ready to agree;
  • You are making me feel uncomfortable;
  • I do not understand;
  • I don’t think I can afford it;
  • I want something else;
  • I need more information; or
  • I want to talk it over with someone else.

Ask solution-based questions or simply label their effect: “What about this doesn’t work for you?”


There are actually three kinds of “Yes”: Counterfeit, Confirmation and Commitment.

  • Counterfeit – one in which your counterpart plan on saying “no” but either feels “yes” is an easier escape route or just wants to disingenuously keep the conversation going to obtain more information or some other kind of edge.
  • Confirmation – generally innocent, a reflexive response to a black-or-white question; it’s sometimes used to lay a trap but mostly it’s simple affirmation with no promise of action.
  • Commitment – the real deal; it’s a true agreement that leads to action, a “yes” at the table that ends with a signature on the contract.

Good negotiators know that their job isn’t to put on a great performance but to gently guide their counterpart to discover their goals as his own.

Using all your skills to create rapport, agreement and connection with a counterpart is useful, but ultimately that connection is useless unless the other person feels that they are equally as responsible, if not solely responsible, for creating the connection and the new ideas they have.

In every negotiation, in every agreement, the result comes from someone else’s decision.

But while we can’t control others’ decisions, we can influence them by inhabiting their world and seeing and hearing exactly what they want.

Everyone you meet is driven by two primal urges: the need to feel safe and secure, and the need to feel in control.

Instead of getting inside with logic or feigned smiles, then, we get there by asking for “No”. It’s the word that gives the speaker feelings of safety and control. “No” starts conversations and create safe havens to get to the final “Yes” of commitment.


Good negotiators welcome – even invite – a solid “No” to start, as a sign that the other party is engaged and thinking.

If you’re trying to sell something, don’t start with “Do you have a few minutes to talk?”

Instead ask, “Is now a bad time time talk”

Either you get “Yes, it is a bad time” followed by a good time or a request to go away or you get “No, it’s not” and total focus.

The sooner you say “No”, the sooner you’re willing to see options and opportunities that you were blind to previously.

“No” creates safety, security, and the feeling of control. It’s a requirement to implementable success.

Another way to force “No” in a negotiation is to ask the other party what they don’t want.


You provoke a “N” with this one-sentence email.

Have you given up on this project?

The “No” answer the email demands offers the other party the feeling of safety and the illusion of control while encouraging them to define their position and explain it to you.

Just as important, it makes the implicit threat that you will walk away on your own terms.


That’s death for a good negotiator, who gains their power by understanding their counterpart’s situation and extracting information about their counterpart’s desires and needs.

Extracting that information means getting the other party to feel safe and in control.

The way to get there is by getting the other party to disagree, to draw their own boundaries, to define their desires as a function of what they do not want.

  • Break the habit of attempting to get people to say “yes”. Being pushed for “yes” makes people defensive.
  • “No” is not a failure. It often means “Wait” or “I’m not comfortable with that.”
  • “Yes” is the final goal of negotiation, but don’t aim for it at the start.
  • Saying “No” makes the speaker feel safe, secure and in control, so trigger it.
  • Sometimes the only way to get your counterpart to listen and engage with you is by forcing them into a “No.”
  • Negotiate in their world. 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.

Chapter 5: Trigger the Two Words that Immediately Transform Any Negotiation

Behavioral Change Stairway Model (BCSM) proposes five stages: active listening, empathy, rapport, influence and behavior change.

Real change can only come when a therapist accepts the client as he or she is – an approach known as unconditional positive regard.

If you successfully take someone up the Behavioral Change Stairway, each stage attempting to engender more trust and more connection, there will be a breakthrough moment when unconditional positive regard is established and can begin exerting influence.

The two sweetest words in any negotiation are actually “That’s right.”

Before you convince them to see what you’re trying to accomplish, you have to say the things to them that will get them to say, “That’s right.”


Active listening arsenal:

  1. Effective Pauses: Silence is powerful.
  2. Minimal Encouragers: “Yes”, “OK”, “Uh-huh” or “I see”
  3. Mirroring: repeat back.
  4. Labeling: give feelings a name and identify with how he felt.
  5. Paraphrase: say back in your own words.
  6. Summarize: re-articulating the meaning of what is said plus acknowledgment of the emotions underlying that meaning (paraphrasing + labeling = summary). The only possible response for anyone faced with a good summary, would “that’s right.”

When your adversaries say, “That’s right,” they feel they have assessed what you’ve said and pronounced it as correct of their own free will. They embrace it.


The moment you’ve convinced someone that you truly understand her dreams and feelings (the whole world that she inhabits), mental and behavioral change becomes possible, and the foundation for a breakthrough has been laid.

Chapter 6: Bend Their 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.

Once you understand that subterranean world of unspoken needs and thoughts, you’ll discover a universe of variables that can be leveraged to change your counterpart’s needs and expectations.


The win-win mindset pushed by so many negotiation experts is usually ineffective and often disastrous.

Compromise – “splitting the difference” – can lead to terrible outcomes.

“No deal is better than a bad deal.”

Next time you want to compromise, remind yourself of those mismatched shoes.

We don’t compromise because it’s right; we compromise because it is easy and because it saves face.

We compromise to be safe.

So don’t settle – never split the difference.

Creative solutions are most always preceded by some degree of risk, annoyance, confusion, and conflict.

Accommodation and compromise product none of that. You’ve got to embrace the hard stuff.


The simple passing of time and its sharper cousin, the deadline, are the screw that pressures every deal to a conclusion.

Deadlines regularly make people say and do impulsive things that are against their best interests, because we all have a natural tendency to rush as a deadline approaches.

Deadlines are often arbitrary, almost always flexible, and hardly ever trigger the consequences we think – or are told – they will.

Hiding your deadlines dramatically increases the risk of an impasse. That’s because having a deadline pushes you to speed up your concessions, but the other side, thinking that is has time, will just hold out for more.

While we may use logic to reason ourselves toward a decision, the actual decision making is governed by emotion.

Chapter 7: Create the Illusion of Control

Chapter 8: Guarantee Execution

Chapter 9: Bargain Hard

Chapter 10: Find the Black Swan