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Never split the difference – Chapter 4

Never split the difference – Chapter 4

Beware “Yes” – master “No”


This chapter blew my mind! Coming from a sales background you are frequently trained to lead the customer into saying yes by “tieing” them down with questions that force people to say yes.

Chris Voss starts the chapter off with an example of a telemarketer calling you at home. If you think about any conversation you’ve had with a telemarketer, you know they push you to say yes at all costs. Many times they get you to say yes to the most ridiculous things like “Do you like drinking fresh clean water?”… of course I do, why wouldn’t I?!

At the end of the day, “Yes” is often a meaningless answer that hides deeper objections (and “Maybe” is even worse). Pushing hard to get to yes often just pisses off the other person.

“Yes” and “Maybe” are often worthless. But “No” always alters the conversation.

No starts the conversation

You need to train yourself to hear “No” as something other than rejection, and respond accordingly. When someone says “No,” you need to rethink the word in one of its alternatives – and much more real – meanings:

  • I am not yet ready to agree;
  • You are making me uncomfortable;
  • I do not understand;
  • I don’t think I can afford it;
  • I want something else;
  • I need more information; or
  • I want to talk it over with someone else.

Then after pausing, ask solution-based questions or simple label their effect:

“What about this doesn’t work for you?”

“What would we need to do to make this work?”

“It seems like there’s something here that bothers you.”

People have a need to say, “No.” So don’t just hope to hear it at some point; get them to say it early.



  1. Break the habit of getting people to say “Yes.” Being pushed to for “Yes” makes people defensive.
  2. “No” is not a failure. It is not the end of a negotiation, it is the beginning. 
  3. “Yes” is the final goal of a negotiation, but don’t aim for it at the start.
  4. Saying “No” makes the speaker feel safe, secure, and in control, so trigger it.

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