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](, 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

Proof here


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.


"Oh wait he's blind? That checks in with my morality, let him through boys."

I took this to mean he was blind instead of gay, and they don't throw bottles at blind people. But yeah, it's a bit ambiguous for sure.


Do you have any "non-hostage rescue" related negotiating advice?


You are right. That's exactly what happened. I was holding my friend's arm and my dog was walking on my right side.


Lots of them! Mostly with me negotiating myself out of a jam!

I’m about to miss a flight out of Malaysia on my way to Australia. I’m facing an immigration line to leave the country that looks every bit of 40 minutes long and my flight boards in 20 minutes. The breakdowns that have caused me to get in this position were all under my control or oversight.

I cut the line (of 40 people) to the Malaysian government bureaucrat who is taking his time and likely not impressed with the selfish concerns of an American who’s failed to get out in front of his schedule.

Me: “I am so sorry. I’m afraid I’m late. My flight boards in 20 minutes and if you don’t let me through I’m going to miss my flight.”

Him: “Why were you late?” (Unsmiling – He is also looking at the next guy in line that I have jumped in front of and clearly thinking about sending me to the back.)

Me: “It was completely my fault. I’m probably going to be the stupidest person you talk to today.” (What do you think he was thinking at that moment? FBI Empathy /Tactical empathy to the rescue.)

Him: (What is he now thinking? “That’s right.” He smiles, reaches for my passport and ticket – stamps them) “Have a nice flight.”

Later that week I’m delayed in the TSA security checkpoint at Newark Airport. They’ve snagged me because I’ve left a few ounces of water in my “Voss” water bottle in my carry-on shoulder bag. I want to keep the bottle because it’s “Voss”! (and it also has a larger opening to pour in the bizarre vitamins I take.)

The TSA guy is giving me sideways glare/glances as he’s got several bags to check & would clearly rather be doing something else. I smile. No smile in return.

He walks over to get my bag, and when he picks it up I say, “Bless me father for I have sinned.”

His expression remains unamused.

He takes 3 steps towards me to walk me to the table where he’ll open the bag and says. “How long since your last confession my son?”

“An hour. I do a lot of things wrong.”

He lets me drink the rest of the water in front of him (they’re supposed to throw it out), personally walks me back to the front of the security line (once again cutting in front of 40 people – they’re just supposed to expel you back outside the secure area) and makes sure I get on my way with only momentary delay.

This FBI empathy stuff works!


Are you in any current relationship, and how is it? And you also mentioned about a service helping lonely elders in need, how much has this service offered for you?


What are one or two easy bits of negotiating advice you'd recommend everyone employ in their day-to-day interactions?


No, I must be honest and tell you I've never had a partner or been in a long-term relationship.

My friend who is doing the AMA is involved in this project and I think it is something that's really needed. In my present situation, I have helpers who would come and help me for a few hours a day, so I have not availed myself of it at this time. If you have more questions about it though, contact my friend u/runbrownmanrun


1 - Let the other person go 1st!

There's a decent chance they'll say something you like. If they don't they'll at least appreciate the chance to have their say.

Then, make sure you summarize what they've said back to them. You know you've said it right when they say "That's right". Don't try to make your points until after they've said "That's right".

If they say "You're right" - that's actually code for "Please stop talking & leave me alone". You're on the wrong track.

You get a "That's right" out of someone you will ALWAYS get something you want out of the deal. You may need to add in "What do you want to do?" or "How can we proceed from here?" but something good will always happen. You've just got to let the process work for you.


Alright, here's a good one for you. What do you want your legacy to be? How do you want the future generations to remember you when they inevitably come across this AMA in the future?


How DO men and women negotiate differently? Do women need to approach negotiation differently? As a woman, I feel like I do.


I want them to remember me as a person who does his best to help others to understand what it is like to be blind and gay. Also, I hope they will consider me a kind person. I also hope that the fact that I have never seen will make people understand that being gay is not dependent on sight and is not a choice. I know this because I didn't even know the difference between boys and girls when I was growing up. I know that sounds strange, but it is the absolute truth.


Are you kidding me?!

I think women are naturally BETTER negotiators!!!

Men are perceived by the business world to be more willing to ask for what they want, to set limits on what they'll accept or to say "no" and walk away.

Women are perceived by they business world to be more relationship focused which tends to allow more tolerance for the sake of the relationship when the negotiation is perceive to be putting the relationship at stake.

I think all elements mentioned above are necessary and I think women show more inclination to the tactical empathy based negotiation I teach. I've got a number of very strong success stories of women being successful as a result of using what I and my company teaches and the success stories are in greater percentages that the percentage of women we've taught.


That is beautiful man. Truly beautiful. Thank you


Did anyone asked for pizza during hostage situation like TV taught us? Can you tell us about some really tough hostage situation with a good ending?


Thank you so much for your kind words


Yep! As nuts as it sounds, sometimes they do. Not a bad sign as it may likely show they are giving some rational thought to their actions and may be engaged in some sort of predictable planning thought process.

I negotiated a bank robbery with hostages in Brooklyn. Though it happens on TV all the time, in real life, where there's actually a negotiation, it's pretty rare (usually, even if they take hostages, they get out of there before the police arrive).

Anytime people are help a gunpoint in a bank, you never know if the bank robber is actually orchestrating a deadly outcome. The negotiation team was comprised of both FBI Agents and NYPD Hostage Negotiators. It was like an All-star team and the NYPD guys were really, really good.

Because we played a strong "team game" - everyone helping everyone else listen - in any conversation there's just too much for 1 person to take in - we got everyone out safely.

During the course of the negotiation, I was handed notes 2 different times that gave me clues to prefect things to say. Both of those notes were right-on and were picked up by me colleagues who were listening intently.

That was a cool day.


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.

  • What made you realize you were gay?

  • What is the first thing that makes you attracted to a man? His voice? Smell?

  • What is your favorite food?


"Hi Chris - huge fan of your book! I am interviewing for a few different companies and was wondering if you have any good questions/advice for salary negotiation?


(Answering in order)

I realized I was gay when I found that when I hugged a guy or an older male, I had a strong attraction to that person. Whereas when I hugged a woman, I did not feel anything at all. I love women as friends, but hugging them is kind of like hugging an inanimate object for me.

His voice, his smell (a nice cologne) and when I give him a hug. For me, I have to have some kind of a physical contact like a hug before I know if I am attracted to the person. Some people attract me more than others and because I can't see, it must be something to do with pheromones that I can't describe. I have met guys who are wonderful but I don't have an attraction to them and I don't know why.

I love Italian food like lasagna, which is probably why I am such a big guy.


2 questions you've GOT to ask.

1 - "What does it take to be successful here?" 2 - "How can I be guaranteed to involved in projects critical to the strategic future of the company?"

These are both "success" questions that set you up for more salary now, but even more importantly, in the future.

For #1 - You want to hear from the insiders (your interview panel) how to best get ahead. This will also recruit them as unofficial mentors as they will want to see you succeed as a result of their advice.

For #2 - The sets you apart as being a team player who want to make everyone succeed, therefore making you worth more, not just now but in the future. If you get this term it will also give you visibility at the highest levels of the company.

These both put you in a position to not only ask form more, but politely turn them down when they don't give you enough, and makes them waht to come up to your salary needs.


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.


Hi Bob! I have more questions regarding you being blind than you being gay, since I only see with one eye, and I always have a remaining fear of getting blind if something happens with my seeing eye.

(Pardon my English, it's not my native language)


  1. How do you measure little distances, like filling a glass of water? Or grabbing such glass without spilling it?

  2. Do you find current technology, such as windows voice reading useful or needs to be improved much? (I'm an IT teacher and some of my students ask this, wouldn't know how to answer since I don't use it)

  3. Related to previous one, is there a phone os or apps that you find more useful than others?

Thanks for your time!!


Thanks Chris...are you still going at it?? If you could read/master only one other book on negotiation (besides yours) which one would it be and why?


Hi! Please don't worry about losing sight in your remaining eye as it will probably will not happen.

  1. In my situation, I was born blind so I learned to make certain adaptations. For example, when I pour something, I put my finger in the glass and I pour until the liquid hits my finger. Of course when I'm pouring something hot this can be a bit painful :) As for knocking things over, I tend to reach for things in slow-motion and I usually don't have that problem unless I forget that I left a glass some place.

  2. Well, I am really a dinosaur when it comes to technology. Believe it or not, I am still using DOS. I use DOS with a screen-reader software called Vocal-eyes so for my needs, this work very well because I use it mainly to receive and send emails. However, if i want to use a website like Reddit, I need help. So that is why, when I get to know people, I ask that they email me. My friend u/runbrownmanrun is making it possible for me to participate in this AMA. He is reading me the questions and I am dictating my answers and he is typing them. I could not do this without his help. But if I do make contact with people who are willing to email me, that I could do on my own. So to make a long story short, I'm afraid I can't give a very good answer because I don't use the latest technology.

  3. I don't have a smartphone with a particular OS or use any apps

I would be interested in talking with you privately, so send me a private message and perhaps we can exchange emails. What country are you from? I love different languages


"Start With No" by Jim Camp. Has a truly great chapter on open-ended questions (he calls them interrogatives). Several other great ideas, (3+, make them feel free to say "no", etc). He also sees negotiations as emotional and has a great layman's take on it all. Jim was a natural born assertive and he had en enlightened and insightful view of the process. (Jim died about 2 years ago).

I used to assign portions of it in the negotiations courses I taught. my company still collaborates with his company.

"Getting More" - Stuart Diamond. Stuart is an analytical guys deep down in his bones and it's a great book on how analyticals see and process things. He's very, very smart.


Hello Bob!

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.

Good luck!


Hi Bob,

Flirting can be quite visually based, what are some queues you give out when flirting? Or do you tend to be more direct?

Also, what are some queues you'd like sighted people would give you?

All the best.


Do you miss the hostage negotiation days with the FBI? I'm sure it was very rewarding although extremely stressful...


Gosh, I'm not a very good flirter. I guess, if appropriate, touch a guy's hand or touch his shoulder. But it would depend where I am and if I thought he would have an okay response. I might say something like "You have a very nice speaking voice" or "I like your cologne". If I'm really turned on to a guy, I would say "would you mind if I see what you look like?" meaning of course I'd like to feel what his arms are like, his chest, etc. But usually I just try to make comments like "you seem like a really nice person", "I hope we can meet again", etc.

If a sighted person touched my shoulder or my hand or perhaps said "it's really nice talking with you. I hope we can get to know each other better" then that would be a sign to me that they were interested in me. But again, it's sometimes hard to know because it could just be a friendly gesture. I'm afraid sighted people would have to be a bit more direct, like "man it's nice to talk to you. Maybe we could get to know each other better, if you know what I mean :)". It's so strange because flirting is so visual that I'm really not good at it. And the problem is, if I were to go to a gay bar, which I don't do anymore, I wouldn't know who was available and who wasn't or if people were interested in me or not. So it's easier for me to meet people by email or maybe if I speak to someone on the telephone, things like that.


I don't miss it because I love this so much now. Putting this stuff to work in the business world and in people's everyday lives is awesome! I'm helping people make their lives better and helping them bring better lives to their families.

As far as the stress back then? I felt it was a privilege to do the work. It was my mission at the time. My purpose. Read Daniel Pink's book "Drive". He talks about that kind of thing.

Among the things I've been doing lately is working with real estate agents. They are doing so much more to support their clients in the sale of their homes, one of the most stressful things you can go through (short of a kidnapping). It's very cool. A new purpose for me.


Why is your nickname Bob and not Rob?


Hey Mr. Voss! I must have missed the memo on your book, but I'm glad I stumbled across this AMA. Your job and skillset sound really cool, and I'll be checking out your book when I get the chance.

I actually have two questions:

  1. Can you tell us about your career trajectory, and how you ended as an authority on complex negotiations?

  2. Can you tell us about the one accomplishment you're most proud of?


I guess I like Bob better :)

A: 1 - I like Einstein's remark about this kind of thing (and I'm paraphrasing) "I spent so much time attacking authority as punishment the world made me one".

When you're really into what you do, there are a lot of "authorities" who will be skeptical because your new ideas threaten them. There will also be a lot of other people who like you, are really into it and are really fun to be around.

I hung out with the people who were into negotiation and communication and who were fun to be around. And we had a ball.

And when I thought those above me were wrong I told them so. I was also lucky enough to have had the head of the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit, Gary Noesner, mentor me. Gary encouraged free thinkers and wasn't threatened when we didn't agree with him. It was great working for him and working with the band of misfits that he collected.

2 - Out of the blue I received a reward for Excellence in Teaching from Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business. That was a big surprise I AM honored by to this day.

I also received the FBI's Agent's Association Award for Distinguished and Exemplary Service (along with my partner John Liguori). Being awarded by my peers was probably the greatest honor.


When did you find out you were gay?


I learned a lot of from your book and it's one of my favorites.

In sales i'm given the objection "if you're so good, why don't you do it for free?" or "If this works so well, why are you sharing it with me?"

What is the thinking behind this in order to put a label on it?


I'm not really sure. I think I had a pretty good idea by the time I was 11 or 12. I think I may have suspected something a little before but my memory isn't too clear.


These will get them!

"Sounds like you're skeptical." "Sound like your guard is up high." "Sounds like you're thinking I'm trying to hoodwink you." "Sounds like you've trusted in the past an been let down."

These objections are both skepticism based and based on feelings of insecurity, likely as result of being betrayed in the past. They were likely conned at some point and feel very stung by it. There's an old saying that someone who's been bitten by a snake is afraid of ropes.

Recognizing fears (an aspect of emotional intelligence) and then articulating it (street smarts, aka good people skills, aka tactical empathy) is the absolute best way to not just overcome objections, but make them dissolve.


do you have a favourite dinosaur?


Cool, thanks for doing this.

In one of the finest movies to ever grace a screen, 1998's poignant 'The Negotiator', who was the better negotiator in your opinion: Keven Spacey or Samuel L Jackson?


I'm afraid not, I don't know too much about them. But I know that I am one when it comes to technology :)


The character as written overall for Kevin Spacey was better (with a couple of exceptions - negotiators are never in charge - decisions don't go through them). Samuel Jackson as a good guy backed into a corner was a better hostage taker!

We used to use several clips from that movie as teaching points. One we always loved was where the Samuel Jackson character is "schooling" the less talented hostage negotiator to not say "no" as an outright rejection. If you google it, it's hysterical!


Did you ever come out to family (parents, brothers, sisters ect.) If so do you feel that the experience was any different for you, than for a sighted gay person?


How much can you give the person your negotiating with? What could you promise them in return for their cooperation?


To tell you the truth, I never came out to my family. After my parents died, I mentioned to one or two cousins that I was gay. Because I am not involved in a relationship with anyone I don't mention that I am gay except to certain people who I know will be okay with it. I have some people who help me who probably would feel uncomfortable if they knew I was gay. Things would be different if I had a special friend, but this is not the case.


As a hostage negotiator? Our currency was respect and understanding. Empathy.

As a business negotiator? Here's the crazy part, each of the 3 types (Assertive, Analyst and Accommodator) each have something on an emotional level more important that making a deal.

Assertive - They want to make sure you've heard what they've had to say. They can live with no deal as long as they've been heard out. Bonus emotional points if they feel like they were in control. These guys are very susceptible to deference and respect. Just look at how well H.R. McMaster, Paul Ryan and Jared Kushner all interact with President Trump.

Analyst - They want to know they found out all the information and had all the time they needed to make a decision. If they think there's information they didn't have they won't be able to sleep. They detest conflict but love comparisons of data. Don't say to them "I don't agree" say "I have different data."

Accommodator - the relationship is the objective. If you "like" them, they feel they've won. They are very vulnerable to being "disliked".

In nearly every negotiation, there is an emotional element that will either be a deal-breaker, or a deal-maker.

i love that!


Knowledge is power! That's really insightful, Thanks for the answer!


My pleasure!


Could you tell us about a negotiation you were involved in that had a bad outcome?


So, there's 2 kinds of bad outcomes: those you see coming & those you don't. Sometimes you have all the indicators that it's going to go bad regardless, but you know what, until it does you never stop trying and you never give up.

There were a series of kidnappings done by Al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan/Afghanistan in around the 2004 time frame. They were clearly set up as orchestrated murders around a fiction of negotiation by issuing demands that couldn't be met. We never gave up on any of them because to do so would have been to fail not just the victims who were kidnapped, but the victim families. The public response we orchestrated in the middle-eastern media as a result brought those cases to an end with the backlash. Please note I didn't say the target media was the western media.

In the Burnham/Sobero case in the Philippines, one hostage Guillermo Sobero was murdered by the kidnappers, Martin Burnham amd Deborah Yap (a Filipino) was killed by friendly fire in a botched Filipino military rescue attempt. Gracia Burnham was wounded and survived. Several other Filipino's were also murdered by the kidnappers. We didn't see that end coming and for us though it was like getting hit by a freight train, what we went through was nothing compared to what their families lost.

It was a privilege to have been able to try to save them at all. I'm grateful for all the courage and dignity those hostages and their families displayed.


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!


Another question: How do you detach yourself from the outcome of a negotiation?

Even in business scenarios, I find that I tie a certain amount of self-worth to the outcome of a negotiation and that tends to hinder me more often than not. I imagine that feeling is much more amplified when the stakes are higher in hostage scenarios. How would you emotionally remove yourself from the scenario and free yourself to focus on only the best outcome for everyone?


Ah! Interesting question also!

Please allow me to shift your focus?

Focusing on the outcome gives you blinders. You'll miss better opportunities.

It's also a little like walking a tightrope. If the tightrope walker looks at her/his destination she/he falls off the rope. If they focus on each step they stay on.

Focus on the process. Have a "sense" of the outcome and then you will sense it as a better outcome begins to hint it's there.

Focus on how the other side is seeing things. There's an interesting thing that happens when you really turn your radar on to pick up where the other side is coming from. You get out of your own head and pick up their clues better. You read between the lines better. You "hack" their true meaning and motivators.

Then the deal emerges. Since it's impossible to know everything the other side is hiding (unless you discover it in the process) you can never know in advance what the best deal is.

Learn a great process, let yourself be imperfect and you'll make great deals.


Looking forward to playing with this idea and frame of mind!

Thank you for your thoughtful responses. Would be happy to spring for a cocktail the next time you find yourself in Chicago!


Thank you!


Hi Chris, I have read your book couple of times. I think its great. I have both audio copy and the paper copy, which I just give to my daughter to learn negotiations with the teachers. I want to ask: what do you think about using your methods on people you know well?



These tactics are about genuinely understanding others and establishing a legitimate collaboration with them. When you're good at this you can be incredibly influential.

Those close to you deserve genuine understanding as much as those not close to you. The problem can come from your intent, not from the skills.

If you're using it to manipulate them and not have a better relationship, but to only get what you want, I don't think it's good.

A female Silicon Valley executive friend of mine suddenly found she was really enjoying conversations with her fiance. She asked him about it & he admitted he was getting some training based on my book and the conversations were part of the exercises in the training.

She went out & bought copies of the book for all her best girlfriends husbands and boyfriends.

It's good stuff for your close relationships as long are you are really on their side!


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, how do I get past a bouncer at a busy club?


Tip included. As you're walking up to him, say "I am so sorry. I found this."

You're either holding up a $20 or a $100, depending on the club. Tear it in half right in front of him. Hand him half. Don't say another word.

He feels respected and in control. It's his option to let you in, or fail to collaborate & you both lose equally. Given that amount of control, if he was EVER going to let you in, that will do it.



Chris, what percentage of people actually negotiate using rational thoughts instead of pure emotion?


You're not going to like this.

Reason is what we make up after we decide based on what we care about. You make decisions based on what you care about, which makes decision making by definition an emotional process.

Daniel Kahneman won the Noble Prize for his work on Prospect Threory with Amos Tversky pointing this out.

If you believe this is true (I do) then all negotiation is an interplay of emotion followed by rational thought.

Maybe a way to think of it might be like a water molecule. 2 parts emotion and 1 part reason, or even vice versa. Either way, without emotion there is no molecule.


Who is your favourite Beatle?



No seriously...Paul. Super cool guy. Pops up in LA now & then (where I'm at now). He pulled a super-cool "negotiation" move with a friend of mine.

My buddy (who's also a musician) see's Paul jogging in a park in the Hollywood Hills. My friend tries not to be a giddy fan, but can't help it & runs after him & catches up. My buddy is almost beside himself that he actually standing there talking to Paul McCartney. He's so excited he can't hardly speak & Paul reaches over to him & puts his hands on his shoulders. Then his says "Yeah, I say that TV show too. It was cool" My buddy had mentioned a Beatles related show that had just been on.

With that touch, Paul then turned & went back to his jog. Totally cool way to give a great fan an amazing moment with complete class & then get back to his day!


Do you ever find yourself using your negotiation skills in your everyday life, like to return an item that was nonreturnable?


All the time. Stuff like that is great practice, because after all, what have you got to lose? And if you do it in a nice and friendly way, & still fail, you get a chance to make somebody else smile.

Start off by saying something like "This is going to sound INSANE..." or "You're not going to like this..." or "I'm so sorry, this is going to sound ridiculous and I am going to seem like the biggest jerk you ever met."

Stuff like this completely catches people off guard in a delightful and refreshing way and leans them towards wanting to help you. Smile when you say it. "Out-nice" them. If they work in returns they are used to being yelled at & threatened.

Never be mean to someone who can hurt you by doing nothing. Everyone you come into contact with could probably hurt you by doing nothing. The flip side of that is, literally everyone you come into contact with could help you, if they just feel like it.

Make them feel like it and some really good things tend to happen.


What negotiating tactics can I use to convince my girlfriend that having 5 house cats is enough, and we don't need to add anymore?

Bonus points if she will still talk to me after said negotiation.


My friend, the most dangerous negotiation is the one you don't know you're in!

This isn't about house cats. It's about her security and how she see's the world. There are things that are driving her that she is afraid to share with you (hidden) and there are things driving her that are so far in the past she may have forgotten them (blind).

You're dig into this with labels: "It seems like what the cats give you is important to you." "It seems you had cats growing up?" "It feels to you lke there's something missing in your life?" "It feels like having the cats helps you control things in the world that are otherwise out of control."

If you can dig into what's driving her, you may be able to diffuse it, or find another way to address it.

If you are really trying to understand, she won't only be speaking to you afterward, she's likely to feel much closer to you as well.

Good luck!


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.