Chriss Voss: Are Your Emotions Holding You Hostage?

Chris Voss

Jonathan Bailor: Hey, what’s’ going everybody? I am here with the former head lead McDaddy, Master, hostage negotiator of the FBI who is now running the epically titled What’s One Group and the author of one of the most influential books I’ve ever read in my life, literally in the top ten list of “Never Split the Difference” Chris Voss. How is it going, brother?

Chris Voss: Fantastic. Thanks for having me on.

Jonathan: Chris, well, I wanted to have you on today because I am a big fan of your work personally and I’ve watched, I think I listened to every interview you’ve ever done on YouTube and your talk at Google. You’ve talked a lot about negotiation. Obviously, “Never Split the Difference” is a fantastic negotiation book but everything in that book and everything that I’ve heard you talk about has to do with negotiating with other people.

I have a question for you because I think the most common negotiations that ever happened are negotiations with ourselves. I was wondering if you’ve ever done any work on that or have any thoughts about that.

Chris: Yes, absolutely. I mean it’s all proven process what we’re trying to do when we negotiate with others in my method is to get the person to think in certain ways because it’s productive and it’s attractive. So yes we can actually deal with ourselves.

Jonathan: So can you give me the example, Chris. So, I know it’s funny because the psychological research actually uses hostage related terms like Amygdala hijack. Let’s talk about a very, very common example. I’m sure we can all empathize with which is we know we shouldn’t eat some sugary treats. We know it’s not good for us. We’re on a diet. We’re trying to be healthy but we have a really stressful day at work and we consciously know that we shouldn’t do this but then the Amygdala Hijack happens where it go, well, I have to eat this. How do we talk ourselves down from that experience?

Chris: Yes, we go through the same thing everybody goes through in any negotiation. You try to fix one chemical reaction in your brain with another. You know, that’s completely understandable. Food habit is to be one way that triggers chemical reactions. It’s not the only way. The amygdala punches different chemical buttons in our brain. That being part of the amygdala punches anxiety and gets in our way and the positive part of the amygdala triggers and releases serotonin and dopamine. So, we can practice, I mean, and it takes practices.

In the first couple of times it’s always hard but understanding that the first couple of times doesn’t stay that hard the whole time. And then you practice, and then the habit is hard the first time through because you’re trying to trigger a new, build a new neuropath way in your brain and it’s hard going down that pathway the first time. It’s hard building it. It’s like building a road in the snow. You got to clear the snow and build the road.

Now, what we don’t realize is it’s not always that hard. So the only, a couple of attempts and pretty soon it gets easier to go down that road. The bad habit if you will is a neuropathway that’s already been built, that road there it’s been plot and it’s smooth sailing. It’s really easy to shooting down that road. We’re going to take the path in least resistance early on.

What am I talking about here? We’re trying to trigger to release positive chemicals on our brain because we’re seeing a negative outcome. We’ve got a bad day at work. We’re experiencing a sense of loss if you will. Or, we’re framing what’s happened to us as a glimpse to the future, and the glimpse to the future that’s bad.

We can simply engage in a separate amount of self talk, some which is really simple that means it’s not [00:03:46] but it’s stupid. You know the phrase gratitude that everybody loves all the time? Well, when you’re mere active staying and grateful for something triggers positive emotions, it punches the buttons of serotonin and dopamine. It begins to release into our system at the same time a mental capacity increases.

Again, what am I babbling on about? The positive frame of mind, your mental capacity is about 31% more effective. You can even do something stupid and I put a lot of this from a book called “The Upward Spiral” which is a phenomenal book. Same kind of stuff, Put yourself in an upward spiral. Same kind of application that we do in the same step in a hostage negotiation.

Knowing that you’re in a more effective mentally in a positive frame of mind advantage experiment well we asked the people to hold the pencil in their mouth, hold it with their teeth and not touch it with their lips. A forced smile. Will the brain still react as if you’re smiling, which triggers serotonin and dopamine more positive frame of mind? If your muscle smile, but you don’t know you’re smiling. The answer is yes.

I’ve been in negotiation with someone I don’t like. While I’m doing the rehearsal for that negotiation in my head I can’t think of any good tactic. Even though I know all the tactics and strategies, you know, what we referred to as labels of bread and butter tactic strategy. I can’t come up with any good labels. Then I stopped myself and then I said, you know, I’m in this negotiation because we are successful. In reality, I’m lucky to be having this conversation. Instantaneous, mental frame of mind in my head, I was in a positive, I put myself in a positive frame of mind with that negotiation internally, and I immediately thought of great positive labels to use in the interaction. Just the stupidity of gratitude that I’m lucky to be here at all, and bang, I was in a better frame of mind.

The other thing to say, that you had a bad day at work, aren’t balanced, if somebody didn’t try to kill you that morning, you’re probably at some place. Overall you’re fortunate to be. That made me to live in South Central LA where somebody might shoot you when you walk out the front door. But if you’re not at some place that dangerous a little bit retooling your head and your ability to handle a lot more stress.

Jonathan: Chris, it sounds like, well, correct me if I’m wrong, you’ll notice I just said it’s sounds like which of course I learned from you. It sounds like one of the, step number one is we actually have to realize that we have an opportunity to negotiate with ourselves because once we sort of understand, hey, I have this craving, I have this emotional drive and desire and we can interrupt it, then we have an opportunity to maybe what you said practice gratitude. We have an opportunity to label it which that’s cognitive behaviour or therapy 101. We have an opportunity to slow it down psychologically.

But maybe the critical how can’t in that moment of passion, in that moment of excitement, in that moment of Amygdala Hijack, have you noticed in your, I mean, you’re dealing with terrorists and the most emotionally charged situations ever so no matter how much we want that pie device stream it’s probably not as emotionally intense as someone holding a gun to another person’s head. How do we pattern interrupt so that we can even engage in gratitude and have that conversation with ourselves?

Chris: Well, let me impact what you said. I’m at two different ideas at the same time and most dangerous negotiation is one you don’t know you’re yet. It’s the first study.

So, you’re going to have an opportunity to negotiate [00:07:52]. You already are. It happened. If you look at it as an opportunity to negotiate with yourself, the bad news that I have for you is that you’ve already been negotiating with yourself. And, if you’re not aware of the negotiation, you’re already in you’re probably on the losing side. You were running a pattern already to start with.

Now what do we do with that? You follow through your highest level of preparation, the highest level of training. You know, forget a little bit about this moment. Think about the moment in five minutes because the moment five minutes coming at you.

So if you like control now it’s like I screw. I really blew this one. But there’s another moment getting ready to come at me, let me get it ready for that. How do I get ready for that? Or, the moment we’re not doing the sugar crave, so you gave in to the sugar craving. Instead of your body chemistry out, you feel dirty, and now you’re kicking your own butt for doing it, which is a downward spiral.

The book that I love to refer to that supports a lot of negotiation stuff that in my book the “Upward Spiral,” says all right, “Let’s just reset now. What’s my highest level of preparation?” Stupidly enough, you hear your own voice. When I get upset upset if I talk that loud to myself in the late night FM DJ voice.

The sound was on my mouth because we’re in the corner in my ears back in my brain, triggers my mirror neurons, and calms me down. That’s why in many cases talking out loud helps us. And actually, they say, you know, people  who are who are talking to with themselves are more effective and smart because when you talk out loud, you cause another mental interaction. The sound goes out comes back in another portal and triggers your brain in another way.

You don’t talk out loud; you don’t kick your brain in that fashion. When I’m upset I’m sick and I’m sugary craving if I hadn’t practiced calling myself down with the late night FM DJ voice, as soon as this craving is over the next time I’m going to practice it because that craving is coming back at me again in the future and then we practice for it. Next time it comes at me, bang. I’m prepared. I’m falling for my highest level of training. Maybe I do it now but I’m really ready for it next time.

Jonathan: So speaking of falling to your highest level of training, let’s impromptu this. If you don’t mind, let’s say that Chris you just had a severe craving of some kind and you blew it and you did something you didn’t want to do. What would you Chris Voss do for yourself to train you to react differently in the future?

Chris: [00:03:46], “What do I want to be tomorrow morning? What do I want to be tomorrow afternoon? What can I do tonight, this afternoon, set-ups when I can be tomorrow? How can I anticipate this problem coming at me when I [00:10:59] along the way?”

One of my real big ones is to get a good night’s sleep and that’s supposed to be two hours before bedtime. I’m always hungry about an hour out. I want to consume some protein. Its’ going to make me feel good. Protein is a healthy thing. Probably it’s that protein blog in my house in and of itself. I’m not going to be down in half an hour before I go to bed. It’s going to show with my night sleep. I’m not going to be as rested. I’m not going to be as effective tomorrow.

If I gave in to it, which I do, next time around I think I’m like in simple mindset shift. “What do I want to be tomorrow? How good do I want to feel tomorrow?” I start asking myself some open ended questions. It transfers my brain to how I want to feel tomorrow. These are time travel questions that you can ask yourself. Put yourself in a time travel mode you now have more of an opportunity to cope with the common problem.

Exact same negotiation I would have somebody else when I would say in a business sitting, “What do I want to be tomorrow? How do you want to be prepared for? What do you want to be and give your family in a year?”

I love that question. Because a lot of times people won’t negotiate on their own behalf really well but they’re killers on behalf of their family. Let me not take care better care of myself for my own sake. “Who do I want to be for my kids in a year? What do I want to be for them? Negotiate on your kids’ behalf and do something for yourself?”

Jonathan: Chris, if we were to— let’s raise the stakes a little bit because certainly you’ve had the stakes raised with you on numerous occasions and we’ve talked a little bit about sugar cravings. But certainly we’re seeing a lot of research that is showing some of these “cravings” borderline more on addiction.

Let’s take it extreme here. If you were dealing with let’s say someone who was addicted to heroin. Obviously the most addictive substance in the world, could a heroine addict negotiate with themselves to help overcome, arguably, the most severe of all addictions?

Chris: Yes. You know, it’s not going to hurt and I don’t want to pooh, pooh or short shift the difficulty of allowing these drugs with chemical dependency surge. But I do know that are beating them are beating them with visions of the future.

I’m a big fan of Tony Roberts. He wants to lock people in on what the future’s going to look like for themselves in the [00:13:50], if they continue on the same habit. One of the success rates— success rates in any addiction are always tough. There are all kinds of addiction. I mean heroine is a chemical change in the body, triggers a chemical change in the body. The brain is capable of comparable chemical changes, which is building those habits and getting over that wall initially is really hard. I mean, I could think of some people that would—you know endorphin junkies, running junkies, I mean, these people run when they get addicted to endorphins, there is desperate full of endorphins. There’s a lot of other chemical dependents yourself.

So sometimes, also, it’s a matter of where are you addicted to. [00:14:34] at a society where we’re pretty rough on people who are addicted to illegal drugs. There are people that are addicted to adrenaline, endorphins. They can be as hard to get along with as anybody else because drugs just have to come from inside they don’t have to be illegal. There’s lots of different kinds of addictions.

So it is if you can fun picture of vision of future in your head, one of the best ways to get something like that under control or an additional method. This probably going to take several things, there is never any one solution to any problem. It’s usually two or three or answers together. So your vision of the future is going to play a role in your ability to overcome any addiction.

Jonathan: You mentioned that it could take multiple tactics and two other tactics you talked about in great detail in your book “Never Split the Difference” which literally everybody needs to go and buy right and read. It’s phenomenal is slowing things down and labelling.

You already talked about one way of slowing things down with ourselves which is speaking in the late night FM DJ voice out loud. Can we talk about slowing things down and labelling our thoughts?

Chris: Yes. Good question and we’ll solve the nuance in there because the way I teach labelling, the way  hostage negotiators learn, the way people are really in crisis and learns it is for example you sound upset. That still simple. Actually it’s an extremely well constructed dialogue. It’s not, why are you here, because you’re upset. You use good words I and you, trigger the brain in yourself or the person being spoken to in very different ways. You’re much more effective when you can say to yourself, “You can do this. You have this. You got this. You got the strength from this. “

You could also say the same thing to yourself like, “I got this. I can do this, I have the strength for this.” The I version of that is not as powerful as the you version is. When you’re talking to yourself you should talk to yourself as if you’re talking to somebody else. You’re more effective when you say, “You got this. You can handle this.” As opposed to, “I have this. I can handle it.” There’s a difference in the way words and I and you speak to your brain.

And, the you in this context is more powerful. You’re going to self label when you feel upset, when you feel tension, you can always say to yourself, “You feel tension, don’t you?” It’s a more powerful way of speaking to yourself. It also hits the part of your amygdala that dials the tension down.

And, it’s the brain backs it up. It actually monitored the electrical activity and the portion of the amygdala that controls all those negative thoughts and then they know that self labeling works every time on negative thoughts.

There’s a distinction then when I said, I didn’t say how much it works. You could self label and it might not make any feeling of anxiety go away. That just means you need to do it a couple more times, you need a couple more doses. It doesn’t mean it was ineffective. This means you need a few more doses to get back under control.

Jonathan: And then, how do we, it seems like in order to label, we have to have a space to label. If we get home and we’re in panic mode, and we immediately rush to the fridge or we rushed to whatever our vices, we don’t have a chance. We don’t have an opportunity to label. Have you found any techniques with yourself or with people you’ve worked with in these self negotiations to give ourselves that opportunity, to label, to take a step back, to change our mindset?

Chris: Like grandma’s wisdom, mom’s wisdom. Some of it as stupid as it sounds, as tried as it sounds actually very effective. You know, the old saying, “Take a breath.” Well, it triggers a couple of chemical reactions in your body, helps strengthens, helps relieves tension. Also the thing I’m taking a deep breath is it’s a moment, take a moment. It’s a moment, three seconds is actually about out there that shows us, in a moment of three seconds. Our brain works so fast and it’s capable of soothing ourselves so quickly, if we begin to hit the right buttons but a moment maybe enough.

If it’s not enough this time, we have a recollection that it helped a little bit. Maybe next time before the highest level of training we’re capable of pulling one moment for ourselves at last time. Next time, let’s double it. Maybe two moments to fall to your highest level of training. A certain amount of repetition, building that habit, building that neuropathway, not very long, you got things back under control. You just got to allow yourself to get just a little bit better each time and then suddenly you hit the break through. The neuropathway will be built.

How many times it takes to build the neuropathway? Interestingly enough, there’s data for that too, about 66 tries, which is why people often say, if you can stick with a habit for 21 days, it will become part of your unconscious confidence. You don’t even have to try that many times a day to get 66 reps within 21 days. A little bit of persistence it will get literally easy every time. And, before long 21 days or less and you’ll have it.

Jonathan: I love that you used the term repetition there because I feel like we’re almost designing a mental exercise routine here. I feel like you’ve outlined the step one, the warm-up is take a deep breath. Give yourself that moment. I don’t know if I’m going to get the order right here but we need to do a little bit of positive reframing then we might do some self, we may speak out loud to slow it down. We may label. What else would be put in that exercise routine that we want to repeat up to 66 times?

Chris: Well, you knew those things when you start to show off with other people and yourself, you can begin to realize that every positive has a flip side negative. Every negative has a flip side positive. The one reason for practicing the simplicity of the design of the labels is once you get the obvious ones you might show off to yourself and others, you start labeling the flip sides.

Take for example, the Golden State Warriors just won the NBA championship for the stag team. Let’s say you hate the warriors and you got silly reasons for it. You know, they bought their players. You love Kevin Durant but you hate that he left his old team. You can label as negatives but you could say, you know what, I love loyalty. I love people who stick together. I love teams who teams who build themselves from the ground up and a great coaching which is really probably for the warriors before they got Durant. That’s a big deal. They got great coaching. They got great organization.

Not taking any value judgments on either one of those, those are just examples of the positives and your negatives,  when you’re starting good at labeling, instead of looking for the flip sides then you really become give  yourself the ability to have tremendous and powerful influence of yourself and over others.

Jonathan: Speaking of over others, one question that I’ve— because I’ve to share a bit of what I’ve learned from your book in our various communities and one common objection I get is the principle that is again so sound in your book “Never Split Difference” is slow it down. I found that to be personally the most effective of all the tactics you’ve outlined even for dealing with myself, to slow it down.

However, when for example, you’re trying to get your kids ready for school in the morning and the bus comes in five minutes and there is a hard deadline. The kids are like, “I don’t want to do X. I don’t want to eat this healthy thing. I just want this sugary non-sense garbage.” I mean, you definitely have talked about how you can negotiate with your family, you can negotiate with your children, you can negotiate with your spouse, you negotiate with yourself. But how do you slow it down when the clock says that’s impossible?

Chris: Well, a good question. Distinctively feel of slowing it down is going to be save time is really are. Reality is the faster you go, the less efficient you become. It’s a little bit like, look, my car is stuck in the mud. All I need to do is hit the gas a little harder so the wheels go faster. Once you start spinning the wheel it doesn’t matter how fast you go. You only get out of stuck by stopping all movement of the wheels and trying to get some traction.

It’s the same thing when you’re up against a clock, that’s probably down on there, and people are not cooperating. I feel that a lot myself. My self talk is, “You got plenty of time, do not waste it.” I get myself focused on the task at hand. I begin to see the steps I have to make. I begin to see what’s going to happen until the deadline.

The only way we really take ourselves hostages, the bus is coming to get your kids. In your brain, you’re saying like, “Oh my God. If they miss the bus, it’s going to be a disaster. I don’t know what I’ll do.” This turns into this outcome that’s completely unknown and the unknown is the single greatest stressor.

Traumatic stress is when the outcome is unknown and we don’t know when it’s going to be resolved. A combination of two things, if we don’t know what’s going to happen or how long it’s going to take. Fear of the unknown, is the single greatest stressor.

If you can even say to yourself, “Oh my God,” Instead of, “Oh my God we’re going to miss the bus. Like, oh, if I miss the bus then I have to drive my kids. I’ll be late for work. I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this, and I’m going to do this.” As long as you got a plan, you might not like the plan but any plan then you may have this taste for it is, it moves the unknown because then you got the path to go up.

Sometimes, the unknown, even if it’s as horrible as it could possibly be is the same way as you used to do with death. You used to say to yourselves, no, I could die. Okay, that’s a possible outcome.

At a man I coach in a kidnapping in the Philippines, he negotiated his brother up. He was a superstar in the negotiation. I was stunned on how well he took the coaching. Afterwards, I only knew half of the story and I talked to him about it. He said, “Well, you know, I said to myself, my brother could die. It’s going to be out of my control if he does. I can do my best. My brother could die. He said, as soon as I said that to myself, actually, the whole process, I was able to manage it smoothly. I don’t know why you think I did so well but I think that was part of it.”

So it is, it’s the outcome that we’re horrified at, we just say to ourselves, it could happen. We’re going to miss the bus. And, even just recognition that it could occur, actually now settles you down a little bit because it’s an outcome. It’s an outcome.

Jonathan: That distinction of settling yourself down, I think is really transformational in this context because if what I hear you saying if I’m hearing you correctly well, it may be 7:55 and the bus comes at 8:00 and we can’t change that. I think most people would agree that themselves hyped up with adrenaline cursing through their veins. It’s going to perceive five minutes very differently than themselves relaxed with a more let’s say accurate view of what could happen, so while we may not be able to change the actual clock time in a hard deadline situation we can change ourselves, which then may change our perception and ability to act in that fixed time period.

Chris: Exactly. It’s our perception of what we can get done and a vision of the outcome. If your vision is like, “Oh my God, I don’t know what’s going to happen.  I don’t know how am I going to be able to cope with.” That’s all unknown. As opposed to yes, “It could go away bad. This could happen. I’m going to have to cope with it.” It’s just facing it head on, going like this is a possibility. It give you more ability to cop in the interim of the effect.

Jonathan: Chris, you mentioned one of the things you did when you were leading up the hostage negotiation team at the FBI is you had to train other people. When people read your book, they’ll certainly hear lots of excellent stories and many of them are not you necessarily doing negotiations firsthand but training people on how to do negotiation.

Now, have you ever worked with someone— because I could imagine people watching this interview, listening to this interview and saying to themselves, “This is all well and good? But you know what? I can’t do this. I’ve failed so many times in the past. That you know, it was a wonderful conversation Chris and Jonathan had but I just can’t do it.” Have you ever had a conversation or tried to train somebody who was like, “Chris, I hear what you’re saying, labeling, slowing it down, I want to do this but I don’t have that confidence in myself to execute on what you’re telling me.”

Chris: Yes, absolutely because even when I was is the FBI as a lead kidnapping negotiator, I was an international coach. I’d show up in countries. I’d find somebody to coach through the negotiators. I have to learn the language and even I have to learn the industry as you will.

I just need to know how human brains work and I’ve got to find somebody who’s even good at taking correction. If I don’t have anybody that’s good at coaching I’ve got to be good at it anyway. I’ve got a lot of reverse psychology stuff. If I was faced with somebody who said, “I can’t do this. I can’t follow your guidance.” I’d say, “Perfect. Keep doing exactly what you’re doing right now. I love it.” I want you to be scared. I want your brain to be scared. I want you to be unorganized. I want you to just be completely all over the place. I don’t want you to listen to anybody.

And, what they does again, it’s zipping in the ear, it’s hitting the brain, it’s trigging an intentional reaction inside their brain. We’re afraid of fear, it overcomes us. And someone says to us, “Good, more fear. Give me more fear.” The fear goes derailed instantly. Like, “What? I’m fucked. What are you trying to get me to do? It becomes really rational really quickly.”

So if I was coaching somebody that said, “I can’t do this.” You know, if they are manifesting fear to me, I would say, “I love that. That’s perfect. Keep it up. I want more of that.” A part of their brain will take over. There’s that pre-frontal cortex, the CEO of the brain will automatically come back and recharge them.

So if you feel like you can’t do it, if you’re amygdala is hijacking you, get the other part of your brain and say to your amygdala, “Give me more, give more more.” And your amygdale will be like, “What? No. I’m not giving what you want. Let’s stop it right now. So there’s’ some reverse psychology involved. You can make it work.

Jonathan: That really reminds me Chris of the technique. This is one of the things that I liked most about your book is the story you start out with where you go to Harvard and you’ve got these individuals who have all of the book smarts in the world and they’re just like, “I know this one intellectual perspective,” and you just put them on their back and they don’t know what to do. At some point in time, it wasn’t like you didn’t. You just had so much practice and so much experience in the real world that you could take all these intellectual theories and you just said like, “Look—“and it’s pretty awesome to see that. It’s so much of what I hear you saying does have roots in such deep psychological research.

What I just heard you said sounds a lot like a concept called paradox co-intention that Dr. Victor Franco talks a lot about or the backwards a lot which is when he would see patients who had a hard time speaking in public, they were very nervous. He would say, try to be nervous because if you try to be nervous somehow your body counteracts that. Do you have insights into why that happens?

Chris: You know, these days I have a similar book that explains that yet. Now, we’ll get a neuroscience I suspect that it’s just pulling, what we referred to as a pre-frontal cortex backend charge in a reverse psychology sort of way. In order to see all the brain, the pre-frontal cortex interacts with the limbic system, which is really amygdala’s house coupled with other Latin sounding components that I missed sorts all the time. But you’re trying to trigger an intentional interaction and that you’re trying to trigger different chemical doses in the brain.

You know, there’s three times as much real state in the amygdala devoted to negative thoughts that is positive thoughts. So often instead of trying to override the negatives with positives as opposed to overwriting them we find ways just to dial down and have the negatives are being pushed out.

And, what you were talking about strikes to me very much is the way distributes the negative side of the amygdala to stop pouring out so much negativity as opposed to trying to override it. Let’s just choke it off.

Jonathan: One of the things that I think is so exciting about your work and again your book Never Split the Difference, Chris, is in some ways negotiation I remember when I was younger there was a book— a movie that came out. I believe it was Helen Hunt and possibly Mel Gibson called “What Women Want.” It was Mel Gibson somehow gets the ability to hear what women think in their head and is then able to react differently because he can look inside people’s minds.

There’s a moral question of should he be controlling people. Now, it seems when we hear these stories in your book that someone who was a master of negotiation is essentially a master of getting people, other people, or even themselves to do exactly what they want. But here is my question. four people who are in negotiation masters, it seems like these people would be, whatever we want to characterize as successful, the most successful people in the world because they can get people to do whatever they want on some level.

As one of the premier negotiators in the world, who probably knows other premier negotiators in the world do you see a correlation between people’s ability to negotiate and just worldly success? If yes, why? If no, why?

Chris: Absolutely. This is an intentional application of emotional intelligence. And the data after shows us, if they consistently, the top performers on all levels are the ones with the most emotional intelligence. And, in many cases people with some cases [00:35:38] but it has in them naturally. I think it’s because it’s notable, it buildable, there’s a lot of data. EQ, emotional intelligence versus IQ, it doesn’t matter how much chess you play. You know, you’re not going to raise your IQ level. it’s just like your height. [00:35:53] so tall. You can diminish it. But I always wanted to be six foot seven and be an NBA player, never made it no matter how badly I wanted it, no matter how much milk I drink.

EQ on the other hand is insanely powerful and nearly unlimited in our ability to continue to build that capacity. What you allude to is in your article out there that was, I think Adam Grant or who’s also another brilliant writer, read anything he’s written and he talked about the dark side of emotional intelligence. Because people who can practice it in the sociopathic way, do it because it’s insanely effective. It’s the simplest and fastest way to be effective.

So, yes. There’s a dark side of emotional intelligence. Use your powers for evil enough for good. Oprah Winfrey’s emotional intelligence is truly on the roof. She clearly is using it for good. She’s built a wonderful business. She’s a global brand and she does nothing but lead prosperity in her wake and lead everybody’s life she touch is better off.

I think that she’s probably one of the greatest practitioners of emotional intelligence. Look at how many people she interviewed on her show, how many people came back, and how many difficult situations she dealt with.

It’s a little bit of yes, it is insanely powerful. You can’t change whether or not it’s powerful. You can only change how you use it.

Jonathan: Totally different track here, Chris. But it’s something I’ve written in my notes so I make sure we get through before we run out of time and that is we talked about slowing getting down, we talked about slowing get down and negotiations with other people and also negotiations with ourselves. It does seem like there was quite a bit of a research that shows that meditation is almost like a stairway of sorts to enable us to have the ability to slow it down. What do you think about that?

Chris: I am absolutely convinced of the usefulness of that and that may be the new wonder drug, the new wonder coping mechanism. More and more people that I’m running across that are superstar, high performers are coping to some sort of meditation and in various doses. The stupidity of it is I know how true that is and so far I am practicing it minimally myself. But the meditation seems to be the one great things people are actually even rewiring their brain in some ways, in very healthy ways.

Now again the brain science and study show that that’s never been done before, on the ability to monitor the activity in the brain, you know, how the electrical activity with the FRMIs and seeing the functionality of it. It is kind of insane with the gains of the people starting it with meditation, even minimal amounts of meditation.

Jonathan: There’s a fascinating paradox but it’s something that I’ve observed but never really crystallized in your work until this conversation and that is I think when some people may be hearing this interview or watching this interview, slowing it down, you may get an idea of we’re talking about meditation of the Dali lama. Something of a very slow, very calm, and then we’re talking about assertiveness. When people read your book, you’ll hear comments like how am I supposed to do that.

What seems like a very blunt, not aggressive, but it’s an assertive statement. It’s a polite way of saying no. Is what we’re talking about here a super power, where you take two seemingly opposing forces like a calm contemplative meditative state plus assertiveness and combine those together in a unique way?

Chris: A thousand percent, a thousand percent.

I am assertive. That’s way I use empathy so I can be assertive. I use empathy because it gives me the ability to be assertive. And you know, it’s almost a 2 millimeter change. A great example of it is a friend of mine here in Los Angeles, Cindy Mori. I was an Oprah fan before I met Cindy. Cindy was in Oprah’s book for 17 years.

I was talking with her and she said that she found out that her reputation in the industry was being straight forward. No, not straight forward, a straight shooter. That didn’t mean anything to her offhand.

I said, “Wait a minute. Here is the difference, this means you’re honest and emotionally intelligent way. This means you tell people the truth in a way that they could hear it. Talking with you is not like getting hit in the face with a brick. When someone is so blunt with us, they tell us the truth that we hate the way it’s told to us.” But she’s the type of person that is both empathic and assertive at the same time.

And so, you definitely want those things combined because we need people around us to tell us the truth. We need to be able to tell ourselves the truth. The real issue is have we told it in a way, to them in a way that respects them as a human being, takes their feelings into account. And that’s the difference between someone who’s seen as a straight shooter and someone who’s seen as a jerk.

Jonathan: There’s a wonderful story in your book, “Never Split the Difference” where I think you illustrate that very well which has to do with your Ruby Red car or your Emerald—you describe it in a very creative way.

Chris: Now, let me interrupt because the color is Salsa Red Pearl.

Jonathan: Okay. There it is.

Chris: How does that sound?

Jonathan: That’s beautiful. I love that, Salsa Red Pearl. And when folks have picked up a copy of your book or read it or listen to it, I’ve actually done both. They’ll hear if you were to just read the transcript of this negotiation– You know, you lay it down. But what I heard and I said, “You know, Chris?—” Excuse my language here but you know, he did that without being a dick. And I think that’s a— even when we talk to ourselves, sometimes our talk to our self is just so mean. We can talk to ourselves, we can be assertive without being jerks to ourselves like you did with your Salsa Red Pearl automobile.

Chris: Yes. I told the guy the truth. I was very honest with them, right? I did because I know it works. I took away the—

All the guys leveraging, I took it away by simply stating and stating things do incredible things, not making a judgment on one way or another. Whether you knock them down on a price, I knew his argument was going to be, it was a beautiful truck, I love the truck that it was rare. I couldn’t get it any place else and was accidentally a bargain at that price. I said, “It’s a beautiful truck. I love the truck. It’s rare. I can’t get it anywhere else it’s a bargain at that price but I can’t pay that price.” How am I supposed to do that if I can’t pay it? And he kind of—

I remember the guy just like it made him like all dizzy. He didn’t know what to say because I said it already, it completely took the [00:43:33] out of the sale. So yes, it was no argument. I told the guy what he was going to tell me and I said, “It’s [00:43:41] I still can’t do it.”

I was respectful, I was appreciative and I got him all the way down to my price. I never offered. I beat him down. He came down about seven times before he came down to my price.

Jonathan: It sounds like you didn’t split the difference?

Chris: Did not split the difference.

Jonathan: On that note Chris, I could— certainly, I could speak with you for eight hours but I know your time is very valuable. So, in closing here I think you’ve provided a tremendous amount of value and insight to our listeners and our viewers. But where can they go and how can they get as much a Chris Voss as possible?

Chris: A key said gateway. The gateway is through a negotiation newsletter. You get not just Chris Voss but you get the whole Black Swan team. The newsletter comes out once a week, it’s called The Edge.

Quickest, easiest way to subscribe to it is text the word “FBIempathy” Make it all one word. I don’t really spell check corrected it in two words and said that “FBIempathy” one word, to the number 228-28. That’s 228-28. And it will trigger back and ask you to sign up for the newsletter, put your email address in. You get of stuff out of us, short sweet digestible, one digestible article a week. You don’t get an encyclopedia out of this, there’s 7000 choices to make.

It also keeps you up to speed on what we’re doing specially negotiation trainings and how you can find about that and it’s a gateway to the rest of our training on our website, some we charge for, some is free. The newsletter is free and the website is Black like the color. Swan like the bird with one L. LTD like Then we’ve got a bunch of stuff there also. We want people to have better lives.

Jonathan: Chris, there’s no question. I speak from personal experience, that learning what you teach and what you’ve practiced in the real world, in the most impactful context imaginable. Which I love because there’s so many theoreticians out there but there’s so few people that actually put it into practice. You’ve done it on the highest of level.

So, I would strongly recommend everybody. Pick up a copy of “Never Split The Difference.” Listen to it, read it, do it both and then go to Definitely subscribe to Chris’ newsletter. I am a subscriber. I strongly recommend you are as well.

Chris Voss, thank you so much for your time today, brother. I really appreciate it.

Chris: Absolutely. My pleasure. Thanks for having me on.

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