Author - LiveMy book was #1 on Jimmy Fallon's Do Not Read List, AMA!

Jun 19th 2017 by mjh2017 • 24 Questions • 441 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


Did this ultimately lead to more exposure and therefore more sales? How does the book's success compare from before and after?


"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?


There was more temporary exposure for sure. I really find it an honor that he had my book on his show, and it was a great lesson and one I can talk about (even was the core message of a recent TED talk I gave: have the courage to have the courage to chase your dreams regardless of outcome). A lot of people asked me how I didn't jump off a bridge after being a laughing stock but it all depends on how you look at it. I was temporarily humiliated but then happy about it. I emailed him asking if he would have me on his show too, you know, to play pin the testicles on the lion or at least have a dance-off but he never got back to me. :-)


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.


Can you please post a link to your TED talk. I'm dying to watch it. Would be brilliant if Jimmy Fallon saw your TEDx talk. :-)


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? Curious on your thoughts.


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.


Like you and others said, he's just a guy with an opinion, so it's not the end of the world. But if he's going to put you at the top of a list like that and you reach out to him, I think the least he could do is send you a response, even if it's "no". :-/

I haven't found him entertaining since SNL but this is the first time I've thought less of him. I know he's busy but I'm sure they read your email, and that's what he has a staff for.


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


Well who knows, maybe he'll invite me on for a dance-off one day after all, and when he does I'll be ready... Thank you for joining in on the conversation, it's been really cool and fun to meet everyone on here and have these great and meaningful conversations.


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.


Did you have any weirdos approach you thinking it was part of some kinky sex thing?


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?




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.


3 million people watching. That is a lot of publicity, and you might benefit from it. Well actually you have, as I now have the book in my Amazon basket.


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


Lots of great lessons for sure. Things are only as good or as bad as we think they are. :-) And I'm a huge Jimmy Falllon fan so was very pleased to see him playing with my book.


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!


You should be thanking god for the publicity, it's a superb thing to happen.


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?


I am! I am a huge Jimmy Fallon fan, so it was awesome! Many people say, yeah but #1 on a Do NOT read list? Doesn't matter, it's all in fun and truly an honor.


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 is your favourite dinosaur?


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


Brontosaurus - hands down! And yours?


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.


Oh man, what a plot twist!


Chris, do you still have wind breakers and hats with "FBI" on them and are you allowed to wear them?

And do what was your time like with the FBI? Can you give us a scary story and a funny story about your time with the FBI?


I love banana peppers on pizza! But my favorite combo is jalapenos, bacon and pineapple. Spicy, salty, and sweet.


I was very interested in your insights of him as a negotiator. I don't think he's come across well in the political field, because his normal tactics don't seem to work. Some of his successes have perhaps been him realising he has to evolve a little.


That sounds really good!


If you could have Jimmy Fallon include 1 statement to convince viewers that your book was truly worth reading and important, what would it be?

And for the record, I'm not saying your book isn't worth reading, I just mean that Jimmy would include a statement to put the book and its title into correct context.


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.


This is an excellent question, thank you for this! It was a real honor to see my book there, and I know it was all in good fun and nothing personal. But this is a good question, so how about: 'Post-show I was supposed to meet my buddy, JT for some Go-Bro dancing but I started reading this book and couldn't put it down, so I never made it.'


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!


Haha that is pretty accurate to his character. Best of luck again on your book!


Would you rather fight 1 horse sized duck or 100 duck sized horses?


Thank you and thank you for the great question! Truly!


Are you crackers?


I know nothing about Jimmy Fallon. Why would he put your book on a do not read list? Personal vendetta? Did you turn him down for a date?


Its a question everyone on reddit who does an ama gets asked


He's a comedian. At the time was the host of Late Night. Very talented, funny guy. He has this list and the segment starts with a jingle, do not waste your money on these books... He was just making fun of the title (I hope!), but at first I wanted to hide as I was a bit of a laughing stock. Lesson I took away was that victory doesn't hinge on outcome, victory comes when we are willing to show up and pursue our dreams regardless of outcome.


Then I should have said "Are you quackers?!?"


Have you reached out to the show? Given what a good sport you are being about the joke and doing this AMA, I think it would be hilarious for you to go on the show and actually promote the book.


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


I did! But never heard back from them. He typically just has celebrities on his show, and I'm not (except maybe to my dog :-)). It's a great conversation starter in those awkward silent moments at cocktail parties.


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.




I've never heard of this book before - I just ordered it.

I'm a sales engineer, and am curious on your thoughts on the relationship between sales and negotiation. I guess to clarify - specifically, I do not sell commodity items. I sell technically advanced process equipment and solutions.

Question 1

In my mind, the five buying decisions are:

  1. Sell yourself.

  2. Sell the company.

  3. Sell the product.

  4. Agree on a price.

  5. Agree on a timeline.

A lot of what you're talking about is focused on decision number 4 - agreeing on a price. But in my mind, if I haven't succeeded on decision number 1-3, then it is a mistake to move to decision number 4. And if I have succeeded on decision number 1-3, then I'm not going to lose on decision number 4 unless they really do not have the money to spend.

How do you see your advice being related to decisions 1-3?

Question 2

Going into any sort of communication - a sales call, a meeting, a phone call, etc - the number one thought going through my mind is, "what is my commitment objective, and what does commitment look like?"

When talking to someone, I don't want to hear them say, "that's right." What I want to hear them say is, "I agree this is the best path forward - I will do x"

Where x is my commitment objective. Examples may include:

  • Setting up an additional meeting in one week with the ultimate decision maker.

  • Submitting my proposal to the state for regulatory approval

  • Allowing me to demonstrate the equipment or process to the end user

  • etc

However, through your answers in this thread, you seem to prefer to leave things open, which is different than what I was expecting. Am I misinterpreting this?


Complex thinking there. Impressive.

Some of it has to do with definitions. i can best describe with an example.

A 12 year old boy is kidnapped in Haiti. He's an American citizen (dual national Haitian ethnicity born in the US). Bad guys don't know they've got an American. Dad (not an American) contacts the US Embassy. They tell him the FBI's going to help him.

I'm sure he expects ninja's rappelling from helicopters in about 10 minutes.

Instead, he's get's a call from me (I'm in Washington DC) about 15 minutes later. He literally says to me on the phone, "You're in Washington DC? How YOU gonna help me?"

I've probably got 3 seconds before he hangs up. Do I sell myself?

I say: "OK, so Haitian kidnappers aren't killing kidnap victims these days (this occurred before the big earthquake hit Haiti a number of years ago). I know that's stupid because they kill each other at the drop of a hat, but they're not killing kidnap victims.

"Now today is Thursday. And Haitian kidnappers LOVE to party on Saturday night. If you do what I ask, we'll have your son out by late Friday or early Saturday morning."

He says: "Tell me what you want me to do." We had his son out Saturday morning.

What did I sell?

I displayed an understanding of what he was faced with and instead of saying I understand, I showed him I understood. I also displayed insight into the dynamics.

I'd offer to you, that everyone you encounter as a potential customer is looking 1st for the same from you.

Regarding your commitments and commitment objectives - I am speculating based on your language choices you understand the fact that we exist in an asymmetric world. If you accept that's true, then it's not possible to have an accurate commitment objective without leaving money on the table.

This will sound harsh. If it's the number one thing on your mind, you've got blinders on.

Thank you for buying my book!


Are you going to write any more books? If so, what would they cover?


Not yet but here are some ways to both get some free stuff and stay ahead of anything we publish!

My colleagues and I in The Black Swan Group (Derek Gaunt and Brandon Voss) keep putting out articles in our weekly newsletter "The Edge". Both Derek & Brandon write powerful stuff (and the newsletter is free).

At some point, both Derek and Brandon will probably publish e-books under our company's umbrella.

In a couple of years, we'll likely update "Never Split the Difference" but in the meantime, most of the ideas that would be in that update will come up in some way or another in our newsletter "The Edge". If you're interested you can find it on our website or you can text message the number 22828 with the message "FBIEmpathy" (all one word - don't let your autocorrect change it - under upper or lower case letters don't matter).

Much of the newer stuff we're writing about now focuses on what we refer to as "cold-reads", other aspects of tactical empathy and "proof-of-life of the deal" and it's not just proof-of-life of the deal, but proof-of-life of the deal with YOU. Not the same thing.


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?


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 prefer Redditors address you as Chris or Mr. Voss?


I like "Chris"!

Thanks for asking!


Whats the best thing I can do to get a job with the FBI in the future?


There's a couple of simple things...DON'T GET ARRESTED! Don't use any drugs. (Maybe smoke a joint ONCE.) Stay clean, don't break the law.

It doesn't take any guts to break the law anyway. Outlaw?! Really. Boring. Going you own way legally, being totally your own person? That takes guts.

After that, you can give yourself an edge with military service (quick and easy way to already have a security clearance - shortens the time the FBI's got to do a background on you) go to law school, become an accountant or become fluent (reading and writing) in a couple of key languages (Arabic, Farsi, Spanish, Chinese, Russian to name some important ones).

The FBI is a cool job and it's got the perfect place for you somewhere no matter what type of person you are. Just work hard, show up and have fun!


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.


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.


What is your favourite dinosaur?




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.


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.