Unlocking Negotiation: How ‘Never Split the Difference’ Helped Me Recover My $99 Security Deposit

stack of wood logs on backyard

In 2016 I asked a mentor of mine what books he revisits annually. β€œNever Split the Difference” by Chris Voss was on his shortlist.

I bought the audio and kindle versions and read through them in a couple of days. I was on the phone a lot for work then, so I got to put the principles into practice, but I never revisited the book until last month.

As I wrote about here, I’m committing my audio time to two books I’m trying to get into my subconscious through repetition & deliberate practice.

Just last week I was able to put the techniques to the test in a low-stakes negotiation.

The situation

I rented a bassinet for my newborn son in October, which I just returned. I got a notice that the bassinet was inspected and that I would get my $99 back to the credit card it was purchased under.

Here’s the rub: my card was compromised in October and I had a new one issued. The bassinet company told me to contact my bank, but my bank told me they couldn’t do anything.

When I called the bassinet company back I applied these strategies:

  1. Gentle β€œno”
  2. Labelling // summary
  3. Calibrated questions

More on each of these:

  1. Instead of giving them an outright β€œNO”, you can apply the gentle but firm β€œno”. Something like β€œI’m sorry, that’s not going to work for me.”
  2. Labeling / Summarizing is a way to build empathy by showing you understand what your counterpart is saying. You can summarize the situation and then put a label on what emotion they must be feeling. In my situation, it looked like this, β€œThere is a policy that is preventing you from sending a security deposit. It sounds like your hands are tied there.”
  3. Calibrated questions are open-ended questions that keep the conversation going. Instead of β€œis there anything you can do for me?”, you would ask, β€œHow can we find a solution that will work for both of us?”

Well, it was only $99, but I guess the book paid for itself already πŸ™‚

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