When choosing which book to read next for Episode 2 of the Clearly Product Book Club Podcast, Anna Marie and myself decided that something related to communications would be ideal. It’s basically the core of what the PM role entails. All of the overly focused ‘how to communicate with your team’ books seemed fine, but nothing really stood out as being overly interesting or powerful. Until we came across ‘Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It’ by Chris Voss. A Former FBI Hostage Negotiator, Voss’ approach to negotiating is very different from that taught in any academic setting — and, as we found out, much more powerful.
Harvard MBAs ain’t got shi*t on Voss
The book starts by establishing Voss as an expert in negotiations by showing how he was able to basically ‘beat’ everyone at HBS — his fellow students and professors alike. Why? The core of negotiations, as it’s taught today, focus on deciding what is equal and fair, analyzing how to put together a reasonable package for each side, and then deciding together upon the outcome. Many of the ideas taught in hallmark negotiations book ‘Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In’ by Roger Fisher are the tactics used by many business people today. Voss’ main argument is that this overall model doesn’t actually work, and unless you understand emotionally what the other person is feeling, and spend the time to empathize with their position, you’re unlikely to end up with the optimal outcome.
Tips and Tricks and Anecdotes, oh my!
Never Split the Difference is full of amazing advice, in various forms. Voss’ high-stakes experiences as an FBI negotiator leads to many edge-of-your-seat mini-case studies, where he exposes the techniques and strategies he learned while in the field, and how to then apply those to your personal and professional life.
The book also contains an amazing collection of the science on how people think and make decisions, detailed ‘how-to’ strategies for different types of interactions, tips-and-tricks that you can start using in one of your negotiations today, all anchored to his core belief of the importance of getting to and dealing with the ‘lizard brain’ of your negotiation partner.
But don’t I only negotiate my raise? Resources for next month? Some-other-infrequent-thing?
Negotiations are everywhere, they’re one of the core ways that people interact with each other. A negotiation is simply:
A discussion aimed at reaching an agreement
I bet you’ve already negotiated several things this week. And, unfortunately, you’ve probably landed on an outcome that wasn’t as advantageous as it could have been.
We really enjoyed this book, and hope you’ll listen along to the second episode of the podcast as we discuss how we’ve already applied the theories in roles, how negotiating fits into the skill set of great product people, and how we plan on working on becoming even better negotiators at work and at home.