FBI Kidnapping Negotiatior and Iowa Native Explains Why You Should "Never Split the Difference"

Jul 12, 2016

What do parents of teenagers and an FBI special agent have in common? Negotiation is key to the job. Chris Voss, author of Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, says the difference between high stakes international intrigue and a typical contentious daily interaction is smaller than you think.

“The difference between hostage negotiations and business negotiations is really only the stakes. I like to say, ‘Take the guns out of a typical bank robbery with hostages, you got a typical Monday morning staff meeting with the boss.’”

So he started to apply the knowledge he had from 24 years with the FBI, four of which he spent as their lead international kidnapping negotiator, to more routine interactions.

“The question of ‘How am I supposed to do that?’ works with terrorists and it works with 13-year-olds. We got a great feel for applying for emotional intelligence in everything and really using it effectively.”

Born in Mt. Pleasant, Chris Voss was says posing those types of ‘how’ questions leads to better comprehension, and, subsequently, better results.

“You take what they want most of all. And you make what you want as a path to getting there. And you put it to them in a way where you completely box them in and made them think. The design of a good “How?” question is to catch somebody off guard and make them think.”

During this River to River interview, host Ben Kieffer speaks with Voss about his time in the FBI, his Iowa upbringing, and negotiating techniques that work in everyday life.