HealthIamA 67-year-old gay man who has been blind since birth. A lot of you had questions about my life after reading my essay on AskReddit, so I'm here to answer them! AMA
Jun 14th 2017 by harlynn1949 • 28 Questions • 376 Points
Hi again Reddit! I’m Chris Voss, the founder and CEO of [The Black Swan Group](blackswanltd.com), a consulting firm that provides training and advises Fortune 500 companies through complex negotiations. You may remember me from last year.
Rooted in hostage negotiation, my methodology centers around “Black Swans” small pieces of information that have a huge effect on an outcome. I currently teach at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. I’ve also lectured at other schools including Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, Harvard Law School the MIT Sloan School of Management, and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. I’ve been a guest on CNN and Fox News, and I’ve appeared on The Daily Show, Anderson Cooper 360, and NPR.
Before all of these fun things, I was the lead international kidnapping negotiator for the FBI, where I tried out all kinds of new approaches in negotiation. I was involved in more than 150 international kidnapping cases in my over two decades with the FBI, and I learned that hostage negotiation is more or less a business transaction.
On May 17th of 2016, my first book “Never Split The Difference” was published, distilling the skills I've gathered over my career into usable tips that will give the reader the competitive edge in any discussion—whether in the boardroom, at the dinner table, or at the car dealership. It’s now being published in 14 languages by 15 international publishers for 20 countries around the world.
Seriously, I was blown away and really grateful for all the attention the book received. It’s become a national bestseller, was listed as one of the best business books of 2016, and has been called one of the seven best negotiation books ever written on Inc. I hit the front page of Reddit, chatted at Google, spoke on some great podcasts, had more than 1.5 million page views on Quora, and was featured in some great press.
The book's readers used its lessons not just to make more money, but to improve their relationships with others and their lives as a whole.
But my core message from the book still stands… everything we’ve previously been taught about negotiation is wrong: you are not rational; there is no such thing as ‘fair’; compromise is the worst thing you can do; the real art of negotiation lies in mastering the intricacies of No, not Yes. These surprising ideas—which radically diverge from conventional negotiating strategy—weren’t cooked up in a classroom, but are the field-tested rules FBI agents use to talk criminals and hostage-takers around the world into (or out of) just about any imaginable scenario.
Ask me about how men and women negotiate differently, how to navigate sticky family situations, negotiating as a parent, advice for recent graduates, stories from my time in the FBI, or even how to get past a bouncer into a busy club. AMA!
You can also learn more about me at www.blackswanltd.com
Have you ever personally experienced homophobia and what was it like?
What are your thoughts on Trump?
I usually am pretty careful who I tell that I am gay. For me to be doing this AMA is quite a big step but I'm hoping to make more contacts/friends.
The one incident I had was I was walking with a sighted friend and holding his arm so he could guide me. I had my guide dog with me but I was holding his leash and not his harness. All of a sudden, some kids started yelling "fag, fag, fag" and began throwing bottles at us. My friend said "hey, my friend is blind!" As soon as they heard that, they stopped and apologized and one of them said, "I'm sorry - I thought you were a fag." That was the worst incident that ever happened to me. That was about 10-12 years ago.
Wow! That's a potentially "hot-button" question!
President Trump is the classic example of the openly aggressive and assertive negotiator.
He may be the best, if not the most well known example of this type.
There are 3 types (if my opinion as well as my colleagues in my company and most of my Harvard Law School teaching colleagues).
The other 2 types are Analyst (Harvard calls them "Avoiders") and Accommodators. These are essentially fight, flight or make friends.
The Assertives as a type tend to roll up a number of big successes and then people get worn out by being attacked all the time and feeling like everything is a fight, and stop making deals with them.
I'm a natural born assertive and have had this same problem.
It's been a very long time since Donald Trump did anything in New York City that rivals the scale of his successes from the 1980's and 1990's. He owned the westside rail yards in Manhattan for years and wanted to put of the world's tallest building there. It never happened.
Privately (as opposed to publicly) when he sits down with people, he seems to work things out. Currently the level of cooperation with the US & China regarding North Korea is unprecedented.
There are some real shortcomings in negotiation for all of us, not matter which one of the types we are naturally. Each type has attributes that are necessary t make great deals. If we can learn them, we've all got tremendous upside potential.
Do you have any racial preferences that factor/factored in to your dating, or was it never a consideration? As a blind man, what is your opinion of racial preferences in the gay community? Do you have any other physical preferences like fat/thin, tall/short, etc.?
The physicality of attraction seems to be a hot button topic in the gay community. Thanks for your thoughts.
In a situation where you and your counterpart are aware there is no urgency to make a decision (specifically in sales when prices won't change) how do you create urgency to get your customer to make a decision?
(Answering in order)
I do not have any racial factors - race is not important to me. I judge people by somewhat intrinsic qualities - kindness, gentleness, people who are not afraid to hug, who are not afraid to touch in a kind way. Those are the things that are important to me.
I have no strong opinion on that except that I have no respect for someone who immediately dislikes someone because of their race
I guess many people have preferences - some like heavy people, some like thin people. For me, I tend to like people who are on the heavy side but that is not always necessary. I tend to like people who are a little hairy, but again that's in no way written in stone.
That's a cool question! It speaks to not only what motivates people, but what holds them back when they're indecisive. People hold themselves back when they imagine outcomes of things not working out. They compare several possible "imagined" futures.
The real comparison if what will happen if they do nothing. That's what you use the negotiation skills, whether you use labels or calibrated questions (open-ended - usually "what" or "how") questions to get them to see the results of their inaction. And they need to see it over longer term and not just the immediate.
"What will happen if you don't do (or buy) this?" "Will the issue you're addressing go away or will in slowly increase?" "How will your inaction affect you long term?" "What will you lose by not doing (or buying) this?"
People are also much more motivated by loss avoidance, then by the prospect of gain (This is "Prospect Theory" and it won a Nobel Prize for Behavioral Economics it's so true). So they are more likely to buy something if it will keep them from a loss, as opposed to technically making them better off.
Are there any blind LGBT resources or activity groups in your city? If not, maybe you can start one!
Thank you. Great advice...if you have time, I've noticed companies always asking me what I currently make or what I am comfortable with - do you recommend "forcing" them to offer/describe compensation first? Curios on your thoughts.
I am interested in meeting gay people in general, not just gay people who are blind. I am not really the kind of person who is good at starting groups. There have been some groups for disabled gay people but I don't think there are any right now that would be good for me.
Wow, that is THE question that everyone dreads in every salary negotiation.
There's an old saying in negotiation that "He or she who names price 1st loses" and salary is the price term in a job negotiation. The real saying is that "He or she who names price before gathering any information from the other side loses".
You've got to gather more information 1st. How? Several ways.
"Are you fishing or making me an offer?" "It sounds like you have a range in mind?" "Before I answer that, I'm sure you have criteria for determining salary ranges?" "How am I supposed to answer that?" "I can answer that, but before I do, that's not what I'm worth now and I would never switch jobs without a significant raise."
ALL of these need to be said with deference and respect. You can choose one or all of them depending on what suits your style and the context.
Please bear in mind the salary question is part of a larger test of how you handle pressure and may be intentionally low to see how you react.
It may also be immovable. It's still a test of whether or not you can respectfully explore an issue without cutting off the negotiation.
There is always space and time to clarify. You may need to name a number first, but not until after you're had a chance to ask more questions and gather more information, as long as you do it respectfully.
I've noticed recently that there are many gays who feel lonely in their life, despite the fact we now have much more tools to connect with each other than your generation had. Mental health issues are still a big problem among LGBT community, despite the fact that world is getting more accepting for us.
I guess you've had a fair share of bad luck in life, if it is okay to say like that, but what is your fuel for life? What keeps you going?
I read your story, thanks for sharing it with us! Regards from Finland, Europe.
Can anybody learn to be a negotiator or are specific aptitudes required?
Wow, I've heard the Finns are very lovely people but I've never met one till now!
I think one of the things that keeps me going is I hope that, if I put myself out there, like I'm doing with the help of u/runbrownmanrun, people will respond and I will make some interesting and meaningful contacts.
ANYBODY can learn it if they want to. The most important attribute is what's called "openness" just because you are more "open" to learning. But if you're working at it and trying, you're "open" right? At lease enough to put in the effort.
Great negotiation is about great emotional intelligence or EQ. We've all got it and the good news, unlike IQ, is that EQ can be built and improved on until your mid 80's at least.
IQ is like your height. There is only so tall you are ever going to get and not matter how much chess you play, or rubics cubes you spin around, you're never going to lift you IQ past a certain point. As a kid I wanted to be 6'7" tall and be a pro-basketball player. my dad was 5'10" (he lied to me when I was little and always told me he was 6'0 - he told my son the same story but I think he told him he was 6'2"). Not matter have many gallons of milk I drank (lots) I only got to 6'.
Anyway, with practice, effort and openness you can become a great negotiator. A real key is listening for motivations and one of the best ways to get really good at that is volunteering on a suicide hotline. You'll be amazed at the EQ you can pick up doing that!
Buy a couple of different negotiation books, besides mine, Stuart Diamond's book "Getting More" is really good and so is Jim Camp's book "Start With No".
Get some practice in lots of little day-to-day conversations and you can get really good.
great advice, thanks! BTW, I loved the online course on your web site. It saved me 5x the cost of the course the first week.
That's great to hear! Well done!
Chris, so in non life and limb danger situations you do not believe in Arbitration?
Ah! The problem with Arbitration is that it's when communication has broken down. It's the equivalent of calling in not just a SWAT team, but threatening an air strike.
Do I recognize that since we're still human beings it might be necessary? Sure.
I guess that might be asking me if I don't believe in the fire department. I wish the house had never caught on fire, but once it does, if the blaze of emotion is out of control, people may not be able to put it out without outside help, which isn't going to leave them with a great result anyway.
Chris, I've never read your book, but now that I'm aware of it, I will now. I have just started a career as a Sales Rep for a large and reputable company. What is the best advice that you can give someone just starting in Sales? Thanks in advance.
Don't become a "Yes" addict! Don't try "Momentum selling" or the "Yes" momentum and any approach where you try to lead people down a path of confirmation "yeses" to try to get a commitment "yes". It's horrible and people hate it!
Everyday somebody tries to trap us (you too) by trying to get you to say "yes" to stuff. Usually it's ridiculous. "Would you like to make more money?" Really? Come on.
Practice reading people. Ask lots of "What?" & "How?" questions. Take you time. Help them see choices and sometimes even encourage them to buy something other than what your selling if it's better. That way when you recommend some thing you are selling, they will believe you & buy.
Take a look at another answer I gave about getting "that's right" out of people. You get a "that's right" out of someone, you're much more likely to make a sale than if you get a counterfeit "yes" which is what the vast majority of spoken "yeses" are.