Book Review — Never Split the Difference

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Cross-posted from Goodreads

Practical, on-the-ground tips from a long-time FBI hostage negotiator. While some tips from hostage crises may not translate 1:1 to business or personal negotiations, most of them do (you’ll instinctively feel so).

The author does an excellent job in pushing across two major takeaways — (a) you cannot separate out emotion from negotiation (rationality is intrinsically based on emotions or worldviews) and (b) do not run/shy away from difficult conversations even when you feel uncomfortable (conflict, however small or big, is part of human interactions and not such a bad thing – it requires collaboration to resolve it).

Tips shared in the book certainly feel more modern than the techniques presented in You Can Negotiate Anything: The World’s Best Negotiator Tells You How To Get What You Want (Voss even explicitly points that out somewhere in the middle of the book). Still, a lot of stuff in Cohen’s book feels still relevant, at least from a confidence-boosting perspective. I’d take good parts from both the books to test my newly learned skills in the real world.

Book Review — You Can Negotiate Anything

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Cross-posted from Goodreads

(I had this book around from my childhood days. We got its ‘special’ edition (Jaico Publishing) along with our Readers Digest subscription.)

The book starts off with the definition of negotiation and clearly lays out its 3 ingredients. You’ll be surprised how different that definition is compared to how most people think about negotiation. The second part discusses a couple of contrasting styles of negotiations, and how one can identify when they are being played by an unscrupulous negotiator. In the last part of the book, you learn to tackle different situations even when things aren’t exactly in your favor.

The author gets cocky at times, sometimes even reminding one of everybody’s favorite Harvey Specter. He also occasionally talks about employing tactics that undoubtedly fall under the grey zone and may sound ‘shady’ to some. In most such instances, the author acknowledges this fact. I’ve read a few reviews on Goodreads referring to such instances as unethical and downright immoral. I personally would not go to such extremes in describing Cohen’s tactics, especially after reading the chapter on Soviet-style negotiations. The world isn’t exactly a just place: it is full of biases and corrupt folks aren’t that uncommon.

One thing I really like is how the author has used the power of repetition to help learn the stuff better. A lot of buzzwords and concepts thrown earlier have dedicated chapters later. And then concepts and assumptions are recalled in similar contexts.

And one thing I do not like is how some hypothetical examples just feel contrived and impractical. Also, a lot of instances feel more relevant in the North American context but not so much in other geographies.

Overall, the book does a good job of justifying its title.