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If you would like to find out how to successfully negotiate your way towards achieving the outcomes you would prefer in life, listen in to today’s show. Michael’s guest, Chris Voss, used to be the leading International Kidnapping Negotiator for the FBI and learn from the Real Deal.

Chris Voss is the founder, and CEO of Black Swan Group, a consulting firm that teaches Fortune 500 companies how to be better negotiators. Chris has written a book called Never Split The Difference. It’s one of Michael’s favorite books of all time. Prior to 2008, Chris worked for the FBI as their International Kidnapping Negotiator and also as their Hostage Negotiation Representative for the National Security Council’s Hostage Working Group. During his career with the government, Chris represented the US as an expert on kidnapping at two international conferences, which were sponsored by the G8. On today’s show, Chris talks to Michael about his book and how it can help you to develop the skills to negotiate your way to success, in life and in business.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • Great negotiators never split the difference and you can learn what they do instead. (6:45)
  • How to use calibrated questions rather than basic questions. (9:38)
  • Negotiating like a pro by getting people to say ‘no’ first in order to get them to say ‘yes’ later. (13:53)
  • Why master negotiators can say ‘no’ and still keep the negotiation going. (18:32)
  • The single best question that you can ask to get them to give you a number first. (47:00)
  • Hostage negotiation skills work well in business because they give you leverage. (58:03)
  • Using specific numbers, and how they can help you close the deal by winning the negotiation. (1:02:45)

Learn more about Chris Voss here.

0:00:00 Michael Port: Welcome to Steal the Show with Michael Port. This is Michael. Today’s guest is Chris Voss, and I have been on pins and needles waiting for this interview since the moment I booked it. Chris wrote a book called, “Never Split the Difference,” and it is one of my favorite books of all time. I really think it is one of the best books, if not the best book on negotiation, period. See, Chris is not just the founder and the CEO of Black Swan Group, which is a consulting firm that teaches fortune 500 companies how to be better negotiators. He was, prior to 2008, the lead international kidnapping negotiator for the FBI, as well as the FBI’s hostage negotiation representative for the National Security Council’s hostage working group. The government always has very long names for things. But during his government career, he also represented the US government at two international conferences sponsored by the G8 as an expert in kidnapping. And prior to becoming the FBI lead international kidnapping negotiator, Chris served as the lead crisis negotiator for the New York City division of the FBI.

0:01:15 Michael Port: He was a member of the New York City joint terrorist task force for 14 years, and he was the case agent on such cases as TERRSTOP; T-E-R-R-S-T-O-P, the Blind Sheik case, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, the TWA flight 800 catastrophe. And he negotiated the surrender of the first hostage taker to give up the Chase Manhattan Bank robbery hostage take. This guy, it’s crazy the stuff that this guy has done, and of course, many kids, especially guys have this fantasy of being an FBI guy and we watch them on TV, but here’s the real deal. And he’s got so much to teach us that I wanna get right into it, ’cause his bio is very, very long, I could go on for hours, but you can learn more about him at And without further ado, here we go. Hey Chris.

0:02:16 Chris Voss: Michael.

0:02:17 Michael Port: Okay, so listen, your book, “Never Split the Difference” is by far my favorite book of 2016 and maybe beyond.

0:02:27 Chris Voss: Thank you.

0:02:28 Michael Port: I write books, so I read a lot of books but I haven’t been reading as many books in the non-fiction business space lately. But man, yours just punched me right in the face.

0:02:40 Chris Voss: Wow.

0:02:40 Michael Port: It did, because I had a very negative association with negotiating. I never saw myself as somebody who was good at it. I don’t like confrontation, I don’t wanna seem like I’m cheap. Then I had this major realization reading the book that one of the reasons I think that I had this negative association with it and this perception that if I negotiated that meant I was cheap, is because I grew up around wealthy folks, but I wasn’t. You see, so…

0:03:08 Chris Voss: Ah, interesting.

0:03:09 Michael Port: Yeah, so that if I was negotiating then I’d seem cheap and poor while there everybody else has money. It was this weird thing. You develop these strange ways of seeing the world based on your experiences when you’re young, so that had a huge effect on me. And I realized that I can negotiate based on my personality, who I am, the way I see the world, and be in absolute integrity when doing it. So thank you for this book.

0:03:37 Chris Voss: Wow. Yeah. My pleasure, you’re welcome. I’m really happy that you see it like that, which is really the intent of the book. Interesting.

0:03:46 Michael Port: So, I’ve read it twice and I’ve listened to the book on tape, the audio book, first. And any time I think you resonate with some intellectual property or some sort of educational material, you should read it a number in order to try to produce a mastery in it. And I was reading it on the way to negotiate… Excuse me, I was listening to it in the car on the way to negotiate for a new boat.

0:04:11 Chris Voss: Alright.

0:04:12 Michael Port: Yeah. So, we have two boats. This is a smaller boat, it’s our fishing boat. And the price that they offered was really pretty good, I could’ve just walked in and said, “Here’s a price,” and I would have been okay about it. But I said, “You know what? I’m gonna try some of these things.” Now, I hadn’t mastered it, ’cause I was just in the middle of listening to it for the first time. So I said, “Well, let me take a couple of these concepts and let me see if they work.” So, here’s what I did. I used some calibrated questions, I used some labeling, I used some reciprocities, some anchoring and I used ‘we’ instead of ‘I.’ Now I’m gonna get into all those concepts with you. But what did when I walked in is I knew that the guy was gonna think that I was a target, because I was gonna pull up in a Cadillac Escalade and he knew that I was a cash buyer. So he figured, “Oh sweet, I’m gonna do really well.” And it was in the middle of nowhere in New Jersey, it was more like sort of a bass boat kinda place. They didn’t typically have these kinds of fishing boats.

0:05:14 Michael Port: So in any event I walked in there with a box of donuts [laughter] and I said to him, “Listen, I brought you these box of donuts, a dozen donuts, because I wanted you to have something sweet while I spend the whole day trying to negotiate you to pay a lower price for the boat.” And he laughed, and my idea was, “Well, let’s start with some reciprocity, let me give him a gift.” Well, so we go through the negotiation, I’m trying some of these other tactics, using ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ and asking some calibrated questions, but the reason I tell the story is because I know that this technique of reciprocity worked because we were $250 apart on the boat. Nothing, tiny little amount of money.

0:06:00 Michael Port: So I said, “Okay, fine I’ll take that price.” But then, we were looking at which electronic equipment was being put into the boat, and he was gonna put a radio that didn’t have something called Digital Select Calling, and I said, “I need Digital Select Calling,” and the difference in the price on the radio was $250. So he looks at me and goes, “You know what? You brought me a box of donuts, I’ll give it to you.” And I went, “Boom!”


0:06:28 Michael Port: That was it, and it worked, and I was hooked, I was just completely hooked from there. So let’s start with the one brown shoe and one black shoe concept, why never split the difference?

0:06:45 Chris Voss: Yeah, well, there’s two things, ’cause that gets into the whole idea of splitting the difference in terms of the actual meaning of half the distance, and then also splitting the difference as compromise. So what splitting the difference as compromise. I don’t know whether or not I should wear a black shoe or a brown, so I compromise and I wore one black and one brown. [chuckle] Compromise most of the time is, “We’ll take part of your idea, we’ll take part of my idea,” and they’re just not gonna fit together, they’re not gonna work, and people get very ego invested in their solution, it’s an old Colin Powell phrase, “Never let your ego get so attached to a position that if the position collapses, your ego goes with it.” Powell used that phrase, because it’s a human nature. We come up with an idea, how we think we wanna do things, and we get wedded to that, we stick to that, and the other side might have a better idea. A negotiation phrase I like a lot that we use is [0:07:51] ____ stability is, “Never be so sure of what you want that you wouldn’t take something better.”

0:07:56 Michael Port: Oh, yeah.

0:07:57 Chris Voss: And hey, I like brown shoes look better with a grey suit, I’ve got a lot of black shoes. [chuckle] And I love my black shoes. Somebody should say, “Hey look, it’s a better idea to put brown shoes on.” So, you gotta be open to, the other side might have a better idea, they may have information that you don’t have, they may make you smarter. The reason they want something in the overall effect, they might be smarter than you on this topic, and instead of competing with them, and say, “Who’s the smartest?” If you take advantage of their brains, if you annex them, then suddenly you’re smarter, so that’s the first thing.

0:08:40 Chris Voss: And then splitting in the difference in terms of distance. There’s an old saying, “The guy who wants to split the difference with you is often a poor judge of distance.”


0:08:53 Michael Port: It’s interesting, because you just mentioned, well maybe they have a better idea, maybe they can solve the problem for you, and that makes me think of calibrated questions, and your real focus on calibrated questions, it seems like that was one of the most important themes of the book, and it was interesting, because when I started using calibrated questions more often, I found that people were offering the solutions that would help me, which was remarkable. Doing the negotiating for me in a way that actually was an advantage. So, talk to me about calibrated questions, ’cause this is such a big part of the book.

0:09:36 Chris Voss: Well yeah, and I even… Let’s highlight why we call them calibrated questions, because typically everybody’s been taught, “Ask good questions, ask good questions,” and okay, so yeah I’m supposed to ask good questions, what does that mean? Well the underlying secret here is, every question you ask is gonna trigger an emotional reaction, and if you don’t know for sure what that emotional reaction is, what you’re doing is you’re firing off a gun having no idea where the rounds are going or what they’re hitting.

0:10:06 Chris Voss: Most of the time, people think we should ask a good question, it’s the old lawyers question, never ask a question you don’t know the answer to in advance, a lawyer’s gonna wanna corner you, they’re gonna be yes/no questions, and a lawyer’s always gonna ask you a question, the answer is yes. “Isn’t it true that your name is Michael Port?” Well, yes. How are you trying to corner me with that? So we’re cornered so much, the calibration of a yes question is it creates anxiety which is a bad idea, it’s a distraction, so we focus back on calibrated questions, because the what and how questions that you’re talking about, they’re calibrated to make the other side feel empowered, and they don’t know that you’re slowly steering them in a certain direction, as you said, “A good calibrated question steers the other side into enlightening you, and they feel really good about it at the same time, which then further actually empowers you in a very subtle way.”

0:11:09 Michael Port: Yeah. So what are some examples of calibrated questions?

0:11:13 Chris Voss: So, the king of calibrated questions in terms of getting… Saying no, implying no, letting no out a little at a time, keeping the conversation going, but putting up a clear boundary. The king of those questions is, “How am I supposed to do that?” And it’s really important that it’s said just like that. More people had made more deals and gotten an immediate 50% reduction in price with just, “How am I supposed to do that?” It’s how I got the price of my sexy Salsa Red Pearl Toyota 4Runner down.


0:11:52 Michael Port: I love that story in the book by the way.

[overlapping conversation]

0:11:56 Michael Port: It’s a great story. So it almost sounds like a reflective question as opposed to an accusatory question, an accusation of somehow, because you can say, “How am I supposed to do that?” as an accusation.

0:12:11 Chris Voss: Exactly.

0:12:11 Michael Port: Yeah. But, “How am I supposed to do that?” is almost asking yourself, which it seems like it kind of opens the door for them to answer for you.

0:12:23 Chris Voss: You know you got a great instinct for this and that’s what I love, and this is no BS, it’s why I love talking with someone who’s as smart as you are, because you’re the first person that ever noticed that aspect to that question, and has ever fed it back to me like that. It is a reflective question. It is an inviting question. And it is based on how it’s posed and that is… A great calibrated question’s gonna hit somebody on multiple psychological levels and that getting them to be reflective with you and inviting them into that is… Because then it immediately creates collaboration.

0:13:03 Michael Port: Yeah. Well thank you for the kind words.

0:13:08 Chris Voss: Yeah without question, good insight.

0:13:09 Michael Port: Well, thank you.

0:13:10 Chris Voss: Very good.

0:13:10 Michael Port: Yeah thanks. Speaking of getting people cornered where they feel like they want to say no just because they’re afraid of having to say yes, it reminds me of what you’re teaching in the book about actually, intentionally, trying to get people to say no first in order to get a yes. That was very surprising to me, because we’re always taught, get people saying yes, get people saying yes, then eventually they’ll say yes to the thing that you’re really going for. But you flipped that on its head for me, so I’d love you to share that with our listeners ’cause that’s a big, big deal.

0:13:52 Chris Voss: Yes it’s a great point. And it’s how we take ourselves hostage. We become the hostage of yes. We become horrified over no. And it’s really drilled into our head that yes is success and no is horrible. I’m coaching a guy on a phone just yesterday and I told him, I said, “Oh, I was always taught that no is bad.” Well since yes is commitment, which causes anxiety. And we first started, originally sort of ran with this idea because one of my favorite books that really added to a lot of my thinking was a book called “Start With No,” and the title of that was like, “That’s nuts. How can you start with no?” And the whole principle behind the book was what happens that other people feel like it’s okay to say no, you respect their autonomy. When people feel more autonomous, they’re more inclined to say yes, if it’s okay to say no. So let’s try something crazy. Let’s see what happens to people when they actually do say no. What kind of a psychological effect does it have? And we found by systematically trying this, that when you say no, you feel protected. And I thought about, yeah, when my 17-year-old said to me, “Dad can I?” I would say no before he finished what he had to say.

0:15:14 Michael Port: Sure.

0:15:16 Chris Voss: But then I would always, having protected myself and felt like I kept myself from harm, then I would always hesitate for a second and say, “What was is it you wanted again?” And I’d actually listen to him.

0:15:27 Michael Port: Yeah. I think that is a universal experience for parents, this knee-jerk reaction “No. What did she actually ask for?”

0:15:36 Chris Voss: Right, right.

0:15:37 Michael Port: That really was so… So, when somebody’s working on their “script for negotiation” when they’re doing their planning going in, do you recommend they come up with some questions at the beginning of the conversation that will elicit a no response?

0:15:54 Chris Voss: Absolutely, absolutely. Because saying no, also someone feeling protected, it sort of punches through the fog in their head, and just like the parents suddenly, “Now wait a minute, what was it that you wanted again?” And people listen. And all of your yes questions can be flipped real quick like, “Is it ridiculous to… Is it a bad idea? Are you against… ” Almost everyone, you can flip every one of your normal yes questions right into that and even sometimes, “Have you give up on… ”

0:16:27 Michael Port: Yeah.

0:16:28 Chris Voss: We flip almost all our questions with those and it’s a quick game-changing tactic.

0:16:33 Michael Port: Well, the example that you gave in the book was the political group was trying to raise money. And there’s…

0:16:39 Chris Voss: Right.

0:16:40 Michael Port: You’ll tell the story better than me, but I’d love you to share that, because it was a really clear example of how you make this shift.

0:16:48 Chris Voss: Right, well it’s classic dialing for dollars, what every sales person does. They’re gonna get somebody on the phone. They’re gonna ask them three questions. The answer is yes to every question and then they’re gonna ask them for money. They ask you for the sale. So this student of mine went in, just flipped all the yes questions to no questions and one of them was “Do you wanna take the White House back in November?” and he flipped it to “Have you given up on taking the White House back in November?” And he ran the yes script and the no script side by side that night, and the no script, three no’s and then ask for money as opposed to three yes’ and then ask for money. The three no’s got a 23% higher rate of return.

0:17:27 Michael Port: That’s amazing.

0:17:28 Chris Voss: And that’s just one skill. That’s just one small tweak, 23% effectiveness. You think about calculating that out over the course of a year, what an automatic 23% bump in salary year after year after year are gonna do for somebody? It’s crazy.

0:17:46 Michael Port: It’s amazing. And that doesn’t take any kind of extraordinary intellectual maneuvering in a negotiation. It’s just phrasing questions in a slightly different way at the beginning of a conversation.

0:18:01 Chris Voss: Right. Right.

0:18:02 Michael Port: So speaking of “No”. What about when you’re on the side of “no”. Where someone makes an offer and you know, your not ready to take that offer. You wanna try to move the number up or down, depending on which side you’re on. What are some of the ways that we can say “no” but still keep the negotiation going? I always found that hard, traditionally or historically.

0:18:28 Chris Voss: Well. Yeah. And that’s a point. And the first way is what I mentioned before, just in a very reflective manner saying, “How am I supposed to do that?” The other thing, how am I supposed to do that does, is it triggers what we refer to as, “reversed forced empathy”. It makes the other side look at you. As you pointed out earlier, in a very reflective way. So it’s saying “no” and inviting collaboration. If you gotta get stronger with the other side, we go from “look, your being very generous, I’m afraid that just doesn’t work for me.” The crazy thing about that is calling someone… When I get into name calling, it’s my favorite form of name calling. I call them the name I want ’em to be. And I want ’em to be generous in negotiation. And you’ll be stunned at the great reaction you get, especially with the stingy people, calling ’em generous. [laughter] They pivot so fast, it almost gives them whiplash. [laughter]

0:19:35 Michael Port: Because of you, I used that last week. I said, “Thank you so much for that generous offer. I really appreciate that you were willing to reduce the fee by that much.” And then, I went into a question or two about moving it down even farther. But it was, I’d never thought to compliment somebody about their generosity when they weren’t giving me something I wanted. It was, you know, its counter-intuitive. If someone gives you an offer, a lot of times this happens. You know you make an offer to somebody, and they feel insulted because that offer was to low. But if someone gave me an offer now, now that I’ve read this. If someone made me an offer that was to low, I might say, “thank you for the generous offer, but… ” and then we can go into it. Or, “How am I supposed to do that?” Right? But still thanking them for it, even though it is very low, might change, it seems, based on what your saying, is that it changes the way that they see themselves in relation to you.

0:20:38 Chris Voss: Right. Right. You know, and a little bit of that it’s… And we can do this… It’s hearing the voice in their head. Because, I remember when this happened to me. I heard the voice in the other person’s head, and the voice in the other person’s head, was saying, “he’s lucky I’m helping him at all”, he’s lucky I’m talking to him at all.” Somebody’s being stingy with you, and it came in with a low offer. The voice in their head is telling ’em, “You know their lucky, I made that offer at all.”

0:21:06 Michael Port: Yeah.

0:21:06 Chris Voss: And so when you see the other side of that coin, is well if that’s the case, if that’s what the voice in their head is saying, then on this crazy, wacky level I actually feel they’re being generous. And how do I punch that button? How do I calibrate my response to hit that emotional button and have it blossom immediately? And that’s when you say, “Hey listen, you’ve been very generous.” And they’re startled into a new mindset by that in a way that it benefits you.

0:21:38 Michael Port: And I imagine, given the kind of negotiations that you lead and were in during your career as one of the top hostage negotiators in the country if not the world, your not talking to people that are typically being very generous with you. Your talking to people that have other’s lives in their hands, with guns at their head. And yet, I imagine you use this technique, nonetheless.

0:22:09 Chris Voss: Right. Right. And we call it seeing what’s on the other side of what their saying. The flip side. Like if someone’s being stingy, they actually value generosity. And if someone’s angry about something, it’s something else that they love. And if they’re making any sort of extreme movement, you know, you have your choice whether or not you want to respond to the negative or the positive and it’s gaining a feel for what’s on the other side of that coin. And the crazy thing about that, all it takes to get good at that is practice. It only takes practice. Everybody’s got the capability of doing that, if their willing to experiment.

0:22:46 Michael Port: You were very kind before. You made a nice comment about how I thought about that question, the way you asked it. One of the reasons I resonated so strongly with the book, is because at first I thought I was gonna read a book about negotiation. And then I realize I’m reading a book about human interaction and communication. Regardless of whether it’s a negotiation or not in the traditional sense. And as you know, we teach public speaking. We teach performance, and performance is about moving people to think differently, to feel differently, to act differently and one of the concepts that you introduced was… Defined something for me that I’d been teaching but never able to language well. And you gave me some language around it that was really quite remarkable. It’s the concept of that’s right, verses your right.

0:23:45 Chris Voss: Uh-huh.

0:23:46 Michael Port: And I’d love you to share that because if anybody is in negotiations, doing any kind of public speaking, sales conversations, relationship conservations, familial conversations with a family member that you’re having some difficulty with, with your kids, this one concept is I think one of the most important communication tools that I’ve seen languaged.

0:24:16 Chris Voss: Thank you. All right, so in a nutshell, “That’s right” is the epiphany moment. “That’s right” triggers breakthroughs. Getting a “That’s right” from the other side, amazing crazy things happen. And you have to be willing to being able to leap into that and accepting that you don’t know what’s gonna happen, it’s just gonna be good. It’s becoming… It was easy for me after a while with enough training because I had faith in the process. And this is a leap of faith that always takes you some place fantastic, ever. And always, it never misses. “You’re right” is horrible. We actually might be seduced by “You’re right” more than we are by “yes”, and we’re seduced by “yes” in very bad ways on a regular basis. And “You’re right” is worse. “You’re right” is when the other side is saying to you, “Please shut up.”


0:25:11 Michael Port: It’s so true. “You’re right, you’re right, fine, you’re right.” Yeah, that’s right.

0:25:15 Chris Voss: Exactly. And if you see two people talking and if you see one person’s talking, talking, talking, the other person’s going, “You’re right, you’re right, you’re right.” You can see in their body language, the person saying, “You’re right” is always leaning away as if they would put their arm up and try to put a hand in the other person’s face. But because of their relationship, for whatever reason they’re trying to preserve. They don’t say, “Screw off!” which they would love to. And I used to take this for granted until we started looking at it and seeing monstrous breakthroughs every time we triggered a “That’s right” from the other side. And it’s scary for a lot of people ’cause the trigger of “That’s right” from the other side, you’ve gotta say things from their perspective that almost make it sound like you’re talking them into their position. And that’s scary for a lot of people. They’re afraid to do that, they’re afraid to take those last few steps where you say to the other person, “You’re doing this because you believe in X, Y, Z. It seems to you that the situation is that I’ve been a bully. It seems to you like there’s more important issues here than the ones that I’ve laid out.”

0:26:34 Chris Voss: And so, you say stuff that makes it… But what the other side hears is, “Wow, this person understands me.” And then when the other person says, “You’re right,” they’re actually… You’re hitting the goal that Stephen Covey’s been trying all of us to get for years, and years, and years. Covey said, “Seek first to understand and then be understood.” Tactically, that sound like Covey nice guy, “Give me a hug” stuff. That’s mercenary, effective application of how to get what you want. You will not be understood by the other side until they feel understood by you. It’s a delay that saves time. It’s indirect route that’s actually a shortcut, it’s a hack.

0:27:16 Michael Port: Yeah, it’s…

0:27:18 Chris Voss: And that’s what you get from the other side. Suddenly, their ears are open.

0:27:22 Michael Port: Yeah, the reason that this concept is so important in public speaking is because often when you’re giving a speech to an audience, you’re asking them to change the way they see the world and generally not about small things. If you’re on stage speaking about small things, there’s no point in being there, but people who are thought leaders or are really trying to make a difference, they’re really asking people to change the way they see the world, and that can be confronting, especially if that audience doesn’t already trust you deeply. And so, if you go out there with this attitude that you’re gonna show them “You’re right,” it’s an easy way for them to push back even if they’re open to the idea. Because if something’s confronting and you’re asking me to embrace it but I am not embracing you, that gives me an easy out, an easy excuse. And that brings me to what you… What do you call it? I have it written down here. Yes, here, tactical empathy. So, this is what we’re talking about. But I wanna go a little deeper into this from a public speaking perspective because you suggest people use phrases like, “It looks like,” “It seems like,” “It sounds like,” to create that kind of tactical empathy. And one of the things that I suggest folks do their best to do is stay away from any emphatic statements, absolutes. Because all generalities are false, including that one.


0:29:03 Michael Port: And when we…

0:29:04 Chris Voss: Nicely [0:29:04] ____ worded.

0:29:05 Michael Port: Thank you very much. And when we speak, especially to a group of people in such a way that we say, “Well, it’s always like this, everybody does this.” Then, they start thinking, “Well, I know somebody who does it differently.” Or maybe they say, “No, that’s not how I do it.” And it just gives them another reason to say no, an easy way to say no, even if they might be open to your particular point of view or your perspective. So, using phrases like it, “Often what we see is this… “, “It seems like people have a tendency to this.” Often people think that you’re gonna seem weaker if you do that ’cause the markers and the sales people will tell you, “No, no, no, you have to be right. You have to know that your product or your offering is right.” But when you do that when you’re sharing ideas or even selling anything, I think people trust you less. Now, not always, but often I think people trust you less. I’d love you to dive into that. Do you agree that when you close off the options and don’t give people an opportunity to put their perspective or their point of view in it that it actually closes off your options and they trust you less rather than trusting you more because you’re offering them an opportunity to move into the conversation?

0:30:27 Chris Voss: Yeah. I absolutely agree and it gets back to this whole autonomy issue. Camp hit it on his book, “Start With No”. Another friend of mine Dan Shapiro wrote a great book called ‘Beyond Emotion’ and he said that there are six lenses and levers that you can look at people and one of them is autonomy. Preserve someone’s autonomy, they’re more likely to agree. Take it away, they’re more likely to disagree. It’s why we have hostage negotiators to begin with because there was a lack of… We said put a SWAT team around the house and threaten to kill the guy, the guy will come out because we don’t wanna die. Well you take away guy’s autonomy in his house and he’s gonna be like “screw you, I’d rather die than lose my autonomy.” It’s what this country is based on. And what you’re talking about is exactly right. When you start to put out absolutes, you begin to take away someone’s autonomy and their thinking. And as soon as you start taking away other options and other ideas and look like you’ve closed either your thinking off from them or them far from the world that’s an autonomy issue and they’re gonna push, there’s gonna be a part of them that’s gonna push back automatically every time because autonomy is essentially to our survival as a species.

0:31:42 Michael Port: What about the three different types of voices?

0:31:49 Chris Voss: Yeah, alright. And then the real master begins to understand how to mix and match those, like a DJ who’s mixing and matching. So there’s the assertive voice which is very direct and honest. I happen to be an natural born assertive and if I don’t watch myself, that’s how I speak. I think of myself as direct and honest. Donald Trump is an assertive. He sees himself as direct and honest. Ivanka Trump once described her father almost in exactly those terms. When she was talking about people misunderstanding her father and she was saying like well, he’s just direct and honest. He’s concise, direct and honest and people misunderstand him. As one of those assertive, I once had a colleague of mine say dealing with you is like getting hit in the face with a brick.


0:32:34 Michael Port: That’s quite a compliment.

0:32:36 Chris Voss: Yeah. I was like wait a minute, how can that be? I’m the nicest guy I know. I’m a sweetheart. How could you say that? Which is the interesting point because us Neanderthal assertives are stunned by people who react to us as if we’ve hit them in the fact with a brick. I could tell you that many instances Donald Trump is stunned that people are offended by his words and he would just say “I was just being direct and honest” and everybody is saying like, “No. You’re smacking right us right in our face with a brick and we don’t like that. It hurts. It interferes with our ability to hear you.” So that’s voice number one.

0:33:18 Chris Voss: Voice number two is the analyst and the analyst comes off as a very distant, cold. It’s close to the analyst as a late night FM DJ, but the late night FM DJ has a little bit of warmth in his voice and a little bit of smooth regard and the analyst somehow manages to drop that off out of their voice and come off as cold and distant and they’re not. Hilary Clinton is an analyst.

0:33:47 Chris Voss: Hilary’s public persona has been consistently, she’s struggled with people seeing her as cold and distant. I can promise you that Hilary Clinton who’s number one goal is healthcare for human beings, she’s got to be to this day mystified that people see her as cold and distant because she cares so much about society and analysts are mystified by that. They don’t see themselves as cold and distant and then the last voice which is a tremendously powerful voice, the accommodator, the relationship-oriented person, they smile all the time. When they talk to you, you can hear their voice and if they’re smiling you can hear it. You can feel it. You know it’s there and both the assertives and the analysts ultimately learn that they’ve gotta mimic that voice because they see the accommodator opening doors that they couldn’t open, that got slammed in their face. And those are the three voices and when you can learn to mix and match them like actually if you can get the late night FM DJ’s voice with a smile in it, boy you are a powerful negotiator.

0:34:55 Michael Port: It reminds me of 20 years ago when I used to do voice overs and I did voice overs for AT&T and Coors Beer, Pizza Hut, Braun and when you do voice overs, you virtually always smile. There maybe sometimes when you don’t put a smile into it, but I’ll give you an example and I’ll show you one with a smile and one without a smile and this is very helpful. What’s remarkable about your career is that the majority of your time, you’re negotiating with people over the phone so you can’t see their body language, what they look like, what they’re doing. So you’ve gotta be so intuned to their vocal patterns, their vocal sensibilities. It’s really quite remarkable, but one of the things that I know from my days doing work on the radio and for voice overs is that when you put that smile into your voice, no matter what you’re saying, you’re gonna brighten it.

0:35:56 Michael Port: So here’s a commercial for Pizza Hut. And I’m gonna do it without a smile. At Pizza Hut we’ve got so many pizzas you can do something different every day. So many pizzas one great deal. Now here’s with a smile. At Pizza Hut we’ve got so many pizzas you can do something different every day. So many pizzas one great deal. You hear a different vocal pattern and you hear more range in the voice. And so that kind of smile, it brightens up your voice and people think, well, he must be more interested in me because there’s a little more brightness in the voice.

0:36:39 Chris Voss: Yeah. And I could definitely feel the difference. I mean it was really subtle. It was Tony Robbins would refer to that as a two-millimeter shift that has, and I would call The Black Swan that ends up having a massive difference. It was a tiny little subtle difference, it completely changed the way I felt about those messages.

0:36:57 Michael Port: It’s interesting that subtle changes are so powerful. And you study those subtle changes and I think we often think that we need to change dramatically in order to do something better. For example, somebody feels like they’re caught in that assertive voice that that’s just who I am. This is how I talk. I’m direct, I’m honest, that’s what it is. And somebody else feels like they only have one way of speaking that they can only do the DJ voice. And they’re always really mellow. But we can place so many different roles. We’re not limited by this idea of who we are. And so I would love you to share maybe have some experiences of playing these different roles when you’re actually negotiating with different hostage takers. Because you negotiated with hostage takers in multiple countries so you’re dealing with people who have very different cultural norms obviously different personalities. How do you figure out what the right role to play is in any given situation where you were in that kind of negotiation?

0:38:23 Chris Voss: You make a couple of good points at the same time. Because you talked about multiple countries, multiple cultures. This approach that we’re talking about, to begin with, is based on what every hostage negotiation team on the planet does. Every hostage negotiation team, whether you’re in Capetown, South Africa whether you’re in Newark, New Jersey, whether or not you’re in Manila, Philippines whether or not you’re in Singapore, uses the same basic skills and the same basic voice. Because we’re all human beings first. And so we come in at a human nature approach and it works with Asians, African-Americans, Western Europeans, Latins, doesn’t matter, ’cause we’re all human beings first, a commonality of man. And then what you have to be willing to do as a great negotiator is be willing to let the other side take you on a journey where you want them to go. And you let them take you where you wanna go, keeping your eyes, and so which means you gotta let them go first. And what that really boils down to, it’s like that game of rock, paper, scissors. Let’s play rock, paper, scissors you go first.

0:39:36 Chris Voss: Wait a minute. If you let me go first you’re gonna win. Of course, and that’s what a great negotiator sees, it’s not Tic-tac-toe. It’s a multiple rounds of rock, paper, scissors and I decide whether I don’t go at all or whether suddenly I wanna move three moves quickly in a row. Tic-tac-toe and chess are the same game, interestingly enough. And the first mover has the advantage if the first mover knows what he’s doing he will win or tie. The second person in Tic-tac-toe has got a disadvantage if it’s equally matched players the second mover, the best they could do is tie. In chess it’s why the world’s grandmasters, there had just been a series of chess masters matches in the world for world championships where there was tie, tie after tie after tie.

0:40:26 Chris Voss: So this is not the sequential move game. This is rock, paper, scissors. You go first because I gain the advantage by letting you go first. And a hostage negotiator, I want you to talk first because I’m gonna immediately gonna have an understanding of what emotional state you’re in. I’m gonna have a good idea of how I’m gonna wanna change that, you’ve given me your starting point and now I wanna take, I wanna go, let you take me to where I wanna go.

0:40:53 Michael Port: This was a surprising concept for me in the book specifically around your number, your offer. Because I had read previously in another book that you should never go first because you wanna anchor the highest number and then they have to work to get up to you. And you came in here and said, no, no, no, no, no. Yes, sometimes, sometimes that might be the right approach. But generally, you wanna let them go first as long as you can take the punch of the deflated offer that they’re gonna make you, their lowest offer. So tell us about that. Why should they go first and how do we handle the feeling that comes over us when they give us a number that is one fifth of what we think we should be getting.

0:41:50 Chris Voss: Right, right. Alright, so if they go first they just agreed that there’s a price that they would make the deal on. Which when they want you to go first, is they’ve actually never made that agreement. And we find very consistently that the data on high anchoring is so bad because if you high anchor first you might not make a deal that you should’ve made. And there’s probably terms that the other side can give you that are non-monetary terms that would be far more valuable than their dollars to you. And if you’ve high anchored, you’ve just blown yourself completely out of that because you’ve gone first, they don’t have the budget, and you don’t even get to what they’re hiding that you really want.

0:42:39 Chris Voss: Consistently, I see people high anchoring and have the other side turn and walk away when there was a deal that could’ve been made. And our most valuable terms in deals that we make still on training deals, have nothing to do with dollars. I gave one client a dramatic reduction in price because they had a magazine, they put me on the cover of their magazine. I’ve done a number of no fee appearances because the intangibles were so valuable and that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else. And if I’d have said, “Look, I need $15,000 to come and speak or I’m not coming.” And they don’t have… They said, “Okay, well we got no deal.” and they go look for another speaker, when they could’ve put me on a magazine cover.

0:43:24 Michael Port: Yeah.

0:43:24 Chris Voss: So that’s the problem with the high anchor. You blow deals that you should have made.

0:43:28 Michael Port: This is fascinating to me because this has been the approach that most of us have always made because, especially for speaking, a lot of people will call up and they’ll say, “Hey, we’d like you to come speak.” And they’ll say, “Oh, we have $5,000 budget.” And you’re like, “What am I supposed to say? My fee is $30,000. How do we… ” The idea was always to say, “Listen. So my fee is $30,000… Boom.” And then they have to go, “Jeez, how do I get to that?” But, it seems like the data doesn’t support that.

0:44:00 Chris Voss: Well, the experience doesn’t support that. You can find data to support whatever you want.


0:44:05 Michael Port: What do they say 60% of all statistics are made up on the spot? Or 67%? [laughter] I can’t remember. Is it 82%?

0:44:13 Chris Voss: Yeah, something like that, right?

0:44:14 Michael Port: Yeah, right. Yeah.

0:44:17 Chris Voss: When you find data that you think supports your position, you gotta dig in to how the data was collected and decide whether or not you like the data collection and whether or not it’s a representative sample of your world. Stuart Diamond wrote a great book that I love called “Getting More.” and Stuart Diamond is just like a crazy researcher. And when he comes up with a statistic that I like, I’ll find out where he got it and I know he’s so good at research then I’m like, “Alright, I’m happy with that. I’m happy with the sample size.” So, you gotta understand what your data is and then what happens. And I know there’s data out there that says high anchor. And I’ve had a number of discussions with academics about this and I said, “Number one, the top negotiators never go first because they wanna know what your number is. They want the information. They wanna know where you’re coming from.” And every single person that has what the data shows also concedes that the top people always want you going first. Its time after time, after time. If you wanna be an A plus player, high anchoring is for B players, high anchoring is for C players. If you’re not that good, high anchor. But you’ll never get to be an A plus player. You’ll never be to the top tier if that’s the way that you live.

0:45:34 Michael Port: I’m definitely going to flip this around and look at it and try to make anecdotal case studies based on my experience ’cause, if you’re saying it, I’m doing it. It’s as simple as that. So what’s the question then? Do you say so what’s your budget? What’s your offer? What’s the question to get them to give it to you first?

0:45:56 Chris Voss: Yeah, good point. Because “What’s your budget?” is the question that everybody out there has been asked by someone who’s trying to get them to go first and they’re used to dodging that question.

0:46:06 Michael Port: That’s what I do when they say, ‘Well, you know… ” when we’re talking to an event planner and they say, “Well, what’s your budget for the event?” I say, “I’m sure you’d love to know that. But I’m not telling you that, I wanna see where you’re coming in.” So everybody wants to dodge it.

0:46:20 Chris Voss: Right, exactly. There’s two overused questions out there that I wish everybody would stop asking. One of them is, “What’s your budget?” And the other one is, “What keeps you up at night?”


0:46:32 Michael Port: Yeah, that’s good.

0:46:34 Chris Voss: The biggest problem that the CEOs have with “What keeps you up at night?’ is nobody listens to their answer. So they’re like “why should I answer this if you’re not gonna listen to me. I’ve been asked this question eight billion times and nobody ever listened when I took the time to actually answer. But, anyway, the response to what your budget is, it sounds like you’ve got a range in mind. People who are very uncomfortable coming back with specific numbers will be very comfortable with throwing out a range. I’ve been in a number of these conversations where I’ve said, “What’s your budget?” And they say, “Well, what do you wanna get paid?” Its like, “I’ll show you yours.” “No, you show me yours.” “No, you show me yours.”


0:47:21 Chris Voss: I’ll go if you go. And I’ve found 90% of the time I’ll break that impasse by saying like, “Alright, I’m sure… It sounds like you got a range in mind.” People are comfortable coming back with ranges. Range is a great way to talk. You gotta understand whatever range the other side comes up with, they are gonna give you a range where the end that favors them is what they want. So, if I say, “Well, I do this for… ” If I want $15,000 for a fee, I’ll say, “We’ll, do this for anywhere from $15,000 to $35,000.” The $35,000 will act as a high anchor and it’ll scare the heck out of them, and they’ll say internally, “Like, wow, $15,000 sounds a lot better than $35,000”

0:48:05 Michael Port: Yeah, sure.

0:48:06 Chris Voss: And they’re gonna wanna pin me down at $35,000 when that’s what I wanted all along, again, it’s me using a trick of the mind.

0:48:13 Michael Port: Yeah. So you’re using anchoring, just not only the high anchor. So are you saying that you may… When they ask you what’s it cost, you may actually go first with the numbers, but you’ll do it with a range?

0:48:29 Chris Voss: I’ll come in with a range; I’ll start talking about value. If I throw a number on the table, I will immediately start, at the same time, start talking about things that are non-monetary in nature, that I would love to have. So I immediately include a pivot to terms right away to get them thinking, because… By definition as a planet, no matter who I’m talking to, they’re gonna have something that I would find enormously valuable that they never thought of, it never occurred to them. Again, this whole cover of the magazine thing, one of my favorite deals; speaking fee, while I spoke for nothing, they did have a budget for books, they just didn’t have a budget for fees.

0:49:17 Chris Voss: So they bought a book for every attendee, it was a local chapter of a national organization, and I started talking about the magazine, and he said, “Well, we don’t have a magazine, but the national chapter does.” And I said, “Well what’s it gonna take to get on the cover of the national magazine.” This National’s putting out a magazine, they need articles, this is now a way for national to help a local chapter secure an expensive speaker for free, and they gotta put stuff in their magazine. So now they have just reached out and given a big boost to the local chapter, and it didn’t cost them a dime.

0:49:53 Michael Port: Yeah.

0:49:55 Chris Voss: So we started brainstorming and we came up with this fantastic deal.

0:50:00 Michael Port: Right, and everybody gets value out of that, all parties.

0:50:03 Chris Voss: Exactly.

0:50:04 Michael Port: And you’re not splitting the difference.

0:50:07 Chris Voss: Well, nobody split the difference. Everybody ended up… Nobody gave up anything, everybody got more.

0:50:11 Michael Port: Yeah, but look seriously, though, who on earth would wanna negotiate with you? Here’s the guy who’s gonna teach negotiation. So let’s say I’m a big company and I say, “We need somebody to come in and teach negotiation. Well let’s go talk to Chris’s group, ’cause Chris is one of the best in the world.” What do they do when they go in there? Do the first thing they say is, “Listen, we don’t even know how to negotiate with you” or is it a challenge, like, “Let’s see if we can negotiate with Chris.”

0:50:43 Chris Voss: I get both, and then I tend to get people out of it because my belief is, is it mercenary. Longterm partners are more valuable than short term victims.

0:50:55 Michael Port: That’s right.

0:50:58 Chris Voss: So… Hey, I got you to say, “That’s right” too, didn’t I?


0:51:04 Michael Port: I should have come into this thinking like, “You know what, I’m gonna mirror him, I’m gonna try see if by the end I can mirror him.” ‘Cause you know you tell the story about your son’s friend…

0:51:13 Chris Voss: Oh God.

0:51:14 Michael Port: Who was mirroring you and your son said, “Dad, come on, Dad, you don’t see, he’s doing it.”


0:51:20 Michael Port: Which I thought was great.

0:51:21 Chris Voss: It was embarrassing.

0:51:22 Michael Port: I thought it was great. A couple more questions, if you don’t mind.

0:51:27 Chris Voss: Of course.

0:51:28 Michael Port: So talk to me about an accusation audit. I thought that was another very powerful concept, and a little bit confronting, when I first read it, this idea of doing an accusation audit out loud, with the people in the room.

0:51:43 Chris Voss: And that’s the one thing, it scares so many people and it’s so… It is such a hack, it is so powerful and it’s so fast. In a nutshell it’s… Make a list of the crazy names they could call you and then say, “I’m sure seems like I am a bully. It seems like I’m being ridiculous, I’m sure this is gonna seem like a lousy proposition.” These are versions of labels. And what it really is is we’ve all got the instincts for this because we would normally want to deny these accusations. The critical, the two-milliliter difference is between the labeling it and the denial of it, because you want them to say, “I don’t want you to think I’m a bully.

0:52:29 Chris Voss: I don’t want you to think I’m taking advantage of the situation; I don’t want any of you to think this is an unfair proposition.” All those denials actually have the opposite effect, and it drills it in, and it creates fear, and it causes the amygdala, on the other side of the person, to just go out of control, the loser brain, the caveman brain, whatever you wanna talk to about it. The amygdala just starts firing on all cylinders and so we think that if we… We don’t understand the difference between a denial and a label. And there’s scientific data now, and I’m impressed with the guy that negotiated the patient into doing this, because they ran wires into people’s amygdalas to monitor the activity of negative emotions, and everytime they labeled it, the negatives went down, every single time.

0:53:18 Michael Port: Wow.

0:53:19 Chris Voss: The negatives went down. And so when you label it and call it out, not a denial, but just a label, then it makes the stuff go away. It makes it vanish, it makes the fog clear, it’s turning down the voice in the other person’s head, and it’s really fast. But it scares people, it’s scary as heck, and that’s why when I teach it in my class I actually do it to people that I teach, before I teach them and tell them what I did to them an hour earlier. I’ll bring it up, and I’ll say, “So, when have I done this to you? And they’ll say, “I don’t know.” And I’ll say I did it an hour ago and here’s when I did it, because I want them to feel it before I call it out, because otherwise it scares them to death.

0:54:12 Michael Port: There’s something that just struck me when you were sharing that. The negative influence of rejection, one of the reasons we get scared to either speak in public or try to sell something to somebody, or ask somebody out on a date is ’cause we’re afraid of rejection. And one of the women who works for me, her husband is the acting chair of Behavioral Psychology at Penn State, and he came and spoke to a group of our students once about rejection, ’cause that’s his specialty. And someone said to him, “What’s the most interesting… ” I thought this was a great question, so, “What’s the most interesting study that you’ve seen recently that really surprised you?” And he said… Yeah, I thought it was a great question.

0:55:02 Michael Port: And he said, “There was a study that was done where they gave the participants Tylenol before being rejected, and they felt that rejection less strongly than the ones who didn’t get the Tylenol. They measured lower on that scale, they didn’t feel as much rejection.” And we all went, “What? How is that possible?” And what he said was, when you’re rejected, you actually… He said the part of your brain that activates when you’re rejected, emotionally rejected, is the same part of your brain that gets activated when you feel physical pain. So you will have a physiological response to rejection even before you have a psychological response to it.

0:56:06 Chris Voss: Interesting.

0:56:07 Michael Port: So you feel rejection even from… You feel bad when you’re rejected even by people who you couldn’t care less about, or even people who don’t like you, or people who hate your race, or they did all these really interesting studies about how powerful rejection was even from people that we didn’t know or didn’t care about, and Advil didn’t work, but Tylenol did. And they work differently, they… Again I’m not a scientist so I’m not explaining it very well, but it blew my mind, is that Tylenol actually works on the part of the brain that feels the pain, but the Tylenol works on a physiological level in terms of how you feel the pain in say muscles, in different parts of your body. So it worked with Tylenol but not with Advil. Now he also said, “Listen, I’m not suggesting that if you take Tylenol you’re not gonna feel rejection and you’re go out there and be amazing”, but what he’s saying is could it help to take two Tylenol before you go out and try to make a big offer to somebody, he says “It won’t hurt, that’s for sure.”


0:57:27 Chris Voss: Boom, boom that’s a pun.

0:57:28 Michael Port: Yeah, exactly. So it makes me realize how much rejection must play into the role that we play as negotiator. Sometimes it’s not even about getting what we want, it’s about not being rejected.

0:57:49 Chris Voss: Yeah, yes, and there are other psychologists that would dig down and would probably say that the fear of rejection plays a role in each and every decision that we make, because it’s a fear of loss. And that takes us back to, if I can, the segue there is why these hostage negotiation skills work so well in business and every day because they’re skills that are designed to manage these exact things.

0:58:16 Michael Port: The… Yeah.

0:58:17 Chris Voss: And it’s huge.

0:58:19 Michael Port: Well, you also talk about making sure that your counterparts sees that there is something to lose by inaction.

0:58:28 Chris Voss: Right, yeah, bending reality.

0:58:30 Michael Port: Yeah, could you unwrap that for us?

0:58:36 Chris Voss: Yeah. If you do nothing, this is what it’s gonna cost you. Danny Kahneman, Noble Prize winning behavioralist over something called prospect theory. Kahneman didn’t care about what the psychologists thought with theories, he just wanted to know how people actually acted, and came upon this idea that a loss stings twice as much as an equivalent gain, and people are more likely the risk to avoid loss than they are to take a risk to accomplish a gain. And that’s very carefully worded, but it’s ridiculously powerful, because most people when they want to make a deal they’re selling; here’s the gain, here’s the gain, here’s the gain. That has a certain success rate, the success rate happens to be fairly low. You immediately improve your batting average, you improve your success rate, instead of by saying, “Here’s the gain I have to offer you,” you say, “Here’s the loss you will sustain if you do nothing.”

0:59:42 Michael Port: Yeah. The consequences, yeah.

0:59:44 Chris Voss: Yeah, and I knew a guy who was selling… He [0:59:49] ____ stumbled over this, he was selling retirement systems to companies because a good retirement system at a company acts as a golden handcuff for an executive. It’s a way of retaining top talent if they walk away from a great retirement, if they change companies.

1:00:08 Michael Port: Yeah.

1:00:08 Chris Voss: It’s a golden handcuff.

1:00:09 Michael Port: Yeah.

1:00:10 Chris Voss: And his approach was, “Look, let me just look at what your retirement benefits package is. And I’ll compare it to what I could do, and if I can’t improve your benefits package then I’ll go away.”

1:00:22 Michael Port: Yeah.

1:00:23 Chris Voss: And then he’d come back and he’d say… And then he make the pitch and he’d say, “Here’s what your status quo costs you every single day. Leave things the way that they are and this is what you’re gonna lose each and every day.” And now suddenly people were listening.

1:00:38 Michael Port: Yeah.

1:00:39 Chris Voss: And he dramatically improved his batting average with that basic approach.

1:00:43 Michael Port: And it seems like in some industries it may seem like it’s easier to do that than others, but it’s necessary to identify what the loss… What the cost of inaction is no matter what you’re selling. So we recently brought in a new accountant who is phenomenal and when he showed me, “Here’s without the planning, what you’re going to pay in taxes this year, and here’s with the planning what you’re gonna pay in taxes this year” His fee became irrelevant. It was so much smaller than the gain that we get from taking action, but the loss of not taking action was so painful, it just this idea of paying something that you don’t have to pay and if you find somebody who can provide a solution for you that helps you with that it’s a no brainer. I didn’t even… I didn’t negotiate with him on fees at all. I said, “Absolutely, here you go. Done.”

1:01:41 Chris Voss: Yeah. Right. Right. I will tell you, I’m very much the same way. When the other side’s delivering value I’m gonna pay them their fee.

1:01:48 Michael Port: Yeah.

1:01:49 Chris Voss: I’m gonna pay them what they’re asking me for.

1:01:50 Michael Port: Yeah. That’s… I really appreciate that, because I think that we express our values through what we buy and it demonstrates that we value others when we’re paying for a remarkable service and I think it feels good. I’m happy to pay him, because I’m really excited about the work we’re doing and just like when I buy my boats, they’re ridiculously overpriced, I mean that’s boating. It’s just a hole in the water you keep throwing money down, but it’s the greatest place in the world to be for me. So I don’t care, I’m not gonna nickel and dime really when it comes down to it on the big ones, ’cause I love it, I want it, let’s do it and it doesn’t hurt, I don’t feel like I’m losing anything. So, anyhow, that’s something else. But last question, the power of using odd numbers rather than rounded numbers?

1:02:43 Chris Voss: It’s stupid and it works.


1:02:50 Michael Port: Tell us about…

1:02:51 Chris Voss: Did I… You were…

1:02:51 Michael Port: I love it, it’s perfect. Tell us about the hostage negotiation situation, I think it was in the Philippines, where you’d get them down to this 4,763… Something crazy…


1:03:06 Michael Port: Ridiculous, that if I didn’t know who you were, let’s say I just met you in a bar and you’re like, “Yeah, I’m a hostage negotiator, I… They want a million and I get them down to 4,000… ” I’d be like, “This guy is so full of it,” like what on… But because I know who you…


1:03:20 Michael Port: Because I knew who you are and it’s true, it’s mind-boggling. So tell us about that.

1:03:29 Chris Voss: Odd pricing even works with kidnappers.


1:03:35 Chris Voss: Odd numbered pricing. I mean, this… And I had… Threw an odd numbered price and then if you could calculate it in front of them, come up with an odd numbered price. And there are a lot of cutthroat negotiators that, they’ll be in the middle of a deal and they’ll say, “Give me a calculator, give me a piece of paper and a pencil” And then they’ll tell me about it after the fact, they said, “I wrote down my son’s birthday. I wrote down my weight. I wrote down the number of stars I thought there were in the sky… ”

1:04:05 Michael Port: Yeah.

1:04:06 Chris Voss: “I divided it, I added four and then I used that to give them my final number to justify my price.” And if somebody watches you calculate an odd number, they’re like, “Wow, that’s really powerful.” But it just works, it’s… Again, it’s a human nature trick, it doesnt’ matter what business you’re in, an odd number…

1:04:22 Michael Port: So why is it so powerful?

1:04:28 Chris Voss: I’m not a PHD.


1:04:30 Chris Voss: I just know it works.

1:04:31 Michael Port: Well, what about when it comes to smaller numbers? I mean, I think if you’re negotiation something that’s millions of dollars, the cents is not going to make a difference, but in the example that you gave in the book, when they were… When these hostage negotiators were negotiating with these regular families, they weren’t millionaire, billionaire families. They were just regular families and the guy that you’ve… The brother that you’ve got on the phone with them that you’re coaching keeps saying, “How am I supposed to do that? How am I supposed to do that?” And then eventually he comes up with, “Listen, I can get you $4,763.” It seemed to me that you were suggesting that the other person on the other end says, “Oh, well, I guess that’s actually what they have,” because it’s such a specific number.

1:05:17 Chris Voss: Which is exactly what happens. We’ve always got a second move to back that number up…

1:05:22 Michael Port: Yeah.

1:05:23 Chris Voss: Which is immediately we… The next time we offer that number we’re gonna add in something that’s non-monetary that we know that they don’t want.

1:05:32 Michael Port: Like, “I’ve got a TV that I can throw in,” something like that. Right?

1:05:36 Chris Voss: Right. “I can throw the TV in or I can go out on the street and see if can get 45 dollars for this TV that’s gonna take three weeks.”

1:05:44 Michael Port: Yeah, right.

1:05:45 Chris Voss: You can have the TV.

1:05:46 Michael Port: Yeah, so that’s… That’s…

1:05:47 Chris Voss: I got a stereo… Let me throw in a stereo.

1:05:49 Michael Port: I love how that was a big shift for me, ’cause you said, “Okay, well give them the TV.” Maybe they do want the TV, but they don’t wait three days for the 45 dollars that you’re gonna get for the TV by selling it on the street. So they have to say no, then they have to take the other offer.

1:06:05 Chris Voss: And they feel that you’re at the end of your rope. There are a number of steps to get to the 4763. That can’t be your first move. It’s not as strong.

1:06:16 Michael Port: Yeah. It’s brilliant.

1:06:18 Chris Voss: And when we talked before, tactical empathy is used to put myself in a position for my last move, which I know is gonna seal the deal.

1:06:27 Michael Port: Yeah. Amazing. I tell you, my whole staff, they’re all so sick of me saying, “You know what? Chris said in the book, ‘Never split the difference.'” They’re like, “Shut up already about Chris.”


1:06:40 Michael Port: I’m really not like that normally. I’m like a fan boy. It’s really crazy.

1:06:44 Chris Voss: Thank you very much. Thank you.

1:06:45 Michael Port: Yeah. Actually Amy and I, my wife and I, wanted to come to a conference that you did, or an event that you did in October, but we had one of our events at the same time, so we couldn’t. When’s the next public event that we could come to and my listeners could come to, and we’ll probably bring a group of people?

1:07:04 Chris Voss: We’re gonna do a training event in LA in March.

1:07:07 Michael Port: Okay.

1:07:09 Chris Voss: We keep announcing… And this year we’ll do quarterly, the following year we’re gonna get to monthly. We’re ramping this up so that we’re hitting all parts of the country every single year. You can keep up with that…

1:07:19 Michael Port: So do you have a date yet for March?

1:07:22 Chris Voss: Let me… I can pull that up real quick.

1:07:25 Michael Port: Cool. ‘Cause I want people to hear this, and we’ll also put it on the page because unless I have to be somewhere else, no choice about it, I’m there.

1:07:38 Chris Voss: March 17th.

1:07:39 Michael Port: Alright. March 17th. Fantastic. So where should people go if they wanna get more information on that?

1:07:48 Chris Voss: The website is That’s B-L-A-C-K-S-W-A-N-L-T-D, like We’ve got a twice a month complimentary negotiation newsletter that we put out called The Edge, and you can go to the website to sign up for The Edge and see past articles. And it comes out twice a month, and we have training dates and a lot of other information that’s also in the newsletter.

1:08:18 Michael Port: Fantastic. Hey, thank you so much for your time. I would take more of it, but I respect you too much for that. And I’m gonna definitely keep in touch. I’m gonna send people this book, and we’re gonna come to your event in March. So anything else you wanna share before we wrap up?

1:08:36 Chris Voss: Michael, you’re awesome. I really enjoyed the conversation. You’ve got a big brain. You’re very thoughtful.

1:08:43 Michael Port: Thank you. That’s very kind. I appreciate that. And listen, everybody, keep thinking big about who you are, and what you offer the world. Thank you for your time here today. I never take it for granted. I think it is an honor, a privilege to be in service of you. I know my guests don’t take it for granted either that your time is precious, and we do our best for you. So until next time, bye for now.