Lex Fridman Chris Voss

Chris Voss

Christopher Voss is an American businessman, author, and academic. Voss is a former FBI hostage negotiator, the CEO of The Black Swan Group Ltd, a company registered in East Grinstead, England, and co-author of the book Never Split the Difference. He is an adjunct Professor at Harvard Law School, Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, and a lecturer at the Marshall School of Business at University of Southern California. In 2016, Voss co-authored the book Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, with journalist Tahl Raz. Voss is a regular commentator on CNBC, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, and NPR. He has also been featured in Forbes, The New York Times, Inc., Variety, and Time. In 2019, he created and narrated a MasterClass, The Art of Negotiation.

Books Mentioned in this Podcast with Lex Fridman & Chris Voss:

Book Title: Beyond Winning – Negotiating To Create Value In Deals And Disputes

Author: Robert H. Mnookin

Book Title: Never Split The Difference – Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It

Author: Chris Voss

Book Title: Man Without A Gun – One Diplomat’s Secret Struggle to Free The Hostages, Fight Terrorism, and End A War

Author: Giandomenico Picco

Book Title: The Talent Code – Greatness Isn’t Born, It’s Grown

Author: Daniel Coyle

Book Title: Breaking The Habit Of Being Yourself – How To Lose Your Mind and Create A New One

Author: Dr. Joe Dispenza

The Art of Negotiation: Insights from Chris Voss on the Lex Fridman Podcast

In an illuminating episode of the Lex Fridman Podcast (#364), Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator and acclaimed author of “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It,” shares profound insights into the nuanced world of negotiation. Throughout their conversation, Voss delves deep into the psychological underpinnings of negotiation, emphasizing the unexpected role of emotions, the complexity of human interactions, and the transformative power of empathy.

The Emotional Core of Negotiations

Chris Voss begins by shedding light on a surprising aspect of negotiation, particularly in high-stakes situations like kidnappings: the paramount importance of emotions. Contrary to the common perception of negotiations as purely rational transactions, Voss reveals that the key to successful negotiation lies in understanding and influencing the emotional states of the involved parties. He explains that in the context of kidnappings, the resolution often depends not on logical persuasions but on when the kidnappers feel they have extracted maximum value. This insight underscores the necessity of acknowledging and addressing the emotional dimensions of negotiation, transcending the traditional emphasis on logic and reason.

Empathy: The Negotiator’s Most Powerful Tool

One of the most striking themes of Voss’s discussion is the central role of empathy in negotiation. Far from being a mere soft skill, empathy emerges as a strategic tool of immense power. Voss distinguishes between empathy and sympathy, clarifying that empathy involves understanding the perspective of the other party without necessarily agreeing with them. This nuanced approach allows negotiators to build trust and rapport, crucial for navigating complex negotiations. Voss’s experiences and strategies highlight empathy’s ability to bridge divides and facilitate solutions, even in the most adversarial contexts.

The Challenge of Impossible Demands

Voss provides a gripping account of the challenges faced when negotiating against seemingly impossible demands, drawing on his experiences with Al-Qaeda in Iraq. These scenarios, where the kidnappers’ demands could not be met within the given constraints, illustrate the complexities of negotiation in situations where the opposing party is not genuinely seeking a resolution. Voss’s recounting of these harrowing situations sheds light on the tactical and psychological challenges of negotiating under extreme pressure, offering lessons on resilience and strategic thinking.

The Future of Negotiation: Understanding and Connection

Throughout the podcast, Voss emphasizes the future-oriented nature of negotiation. He advocates for a perspective that sees negotiation not merely as a means to an immediate end but as a pathway to future collaboration and mutual benefit. This forward-looking approach, grounded in a deep understanding of human psychology and emotional intelligence, offers a refreshing and optimistic view of negotiation’s potential to resolve conflicts and build bridges.

In summary, Chris Voss’s conversation with Lex Fridman offers invaluable insights into the art of negotiation, highlighting the critical roles of emotions, empathy, and a future-oriented perspective. Voss’s expertise and experiences provide a compelling framework for rethinking negotiation strategies, emphasizing the importance of understanding human nature in all its complexity. This episode not only enlightens listeners on the subtleties of negotiation but also inspires a more empathetic and effective approach to resolving conflicts in various domains of life.

Navigating the Intricacies of Negotiation with Chris Voss

In an enlightening episode of the Lex Fridman Podcast, Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator and the author of “Never Split the Difference,” delves into the complexities of negotiation, human psychology, and the quest for understanding in a world filled with conflict and differing perspectives. This article explores the key insights and takeaways from their conversation, offering a glimpse into the mind of a master negotiator.

The Power of In-Person Connections

Chris Voss begins by highlighting the unique energy present in in-person interactions that virtual environments struggle to replicate. Despite the convenience of digital communication platforms like Zoom, there’s an undeniable depth and richness to face-to-face meetings that technology hasn’t yet captured. Voss suggests that this energy, though intangible and currently beyond our means to measure, plays a crucial role in the effectiveness of communication and negotiation.

Virtual Reality and the Future of Communication

The discussion then shifts to the potential of virtual reality (VR) to bridge the gap between the digital and physical worlds. Both Voss and Fridman express a keen interest in how VR might mimic the energetic feel of in-person meetings, acknowledging the challenges faced by companies in creating truly immersive and emotionally resonant virtual experiences. The conversation underscores a shared hope for technology to eventually allow for more meaningful connections, even when physical presence is impossible.

The Significance of “That’s Right” in Negotiations

A significant portion of the podcast is dedicated to exploring the phrase “that’s right” within the context of negotiations. Voss explains that hearing “that’s right” from the other party is a signal that they believe you have fully understood their perspective, marking a pivotal moment in any negotiation. This acknowledgment goes beyond mere agreement, touching on a deeper level of validation and empathy that can lead to more fruitful and cooperative outcomes.

Donald Trump: Negotiator or Marketer?

Voss offers a nuanced view of Donald Trump’s negotiation skills, distinguishing between Trump’s undeniable talent for marketing and his actual effectiveness as a negotiator. Through anecdotes and observations, Voss argues that while Trump excels at generating attention and framing narratives, his track record in achieving sustainable, beneficial deals—particularly in political contexts—is less impressive. This segment sheds light on the difference between persuading public opinion and securing agreements that stand the test of time.

Empathy in Negotiation and Beyond

Perhaps the most compelling theme of the conversation is the role of empathy in negotiation. Voss emphasizes that understanding and acknowledging the emotions and perspectives of others is crucial, not only in resolving conflicts but in fostering genuine human connections. He shares insights from his experiences as a hostage negotiator, where empathy was a vital tool in dealing with high-stakes situations. The discussion extends this concept to everyday life, suggesting that empathy can transform relationships and interactions across all levels of society.

Walking Away: A Negotiator’s Strength

The ability to walk away from a negotiation is discussed as a critical strength. Voss highlights the importance of recognizing when an agreement cannot be reached and the power that comes from being willing to end discussions if they are not productive. This principle is applicable in both professional negotiations and personal relationships, where the readiness to walk away can lead to more authentic and meaningful engagements.

The Future of Conflict Resolution

The podcast concludes on a hopeful note, with Voss expressing optimism for the future of conflict resolution. By starting from a place of mutual understanding and leveraging the principles of empathy and clear communication, he believes that even the most entrenched conflicts can find a path toward resolution.

In this episode of the Lex Fridman Podcast, Chris Voss not only shares his extensive knowledge of negotiation but also offers profound insights into human nature, communication, and the potential for empathy to bridge divides. Whether in the realm of international diplomacy or personal relationships, the lessons from this conversation have the power to inform and transform.

The Art of Negotiation: Insights from Chris Voss

Negotiation is an intricate dance of strategy, psychology, and, most importantly, empathy. Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator and author, shares profound insights into the art of negotiation on the Lex Fridman podcast. Through a captivating discussion, Voss underscores the essence of negotiation, the power of empathy, and the unexpected intimacy of silence.

The Essence of Empathy in Negotiation

At the core of negotiation lies empathy. Voss articulates that while many perceive negotiation as a battle of wits or a contest of wills, its true foundation is understanding and relating to the other party. The conversation delves into how empathy not only bridges the gap between conflicting parties but also paves the way for a mutually beneficial outcome. Voss highlights that recognizing and acknowledging the other person’s perspective is not just a tactical maneuver but a genuine approach to finding common ground.

The Unexpected Intimacy of Silence

One of the most striking points discussed is the role of silence in negotiations. Voss describes silence as a tool of immense power, capable of fostering an intimate connection between individuals. This silent connection transcends the transactional nature of the negotiation, inviting a moment of shared humanity. He shares personal anecdotes to illustrate how allowing space for silence can lead to deeper understanding and rapport, ultimately facilitating better outcomes in negotiations.

Overcoming the Fear of Silence

However, embracing silence is not without its challenges. Many fear the awkwardness or vulnerability that silence may bring. Voss explains how he teaches others to find comfort in silence, emphasizing its effectiveness in negotiation and personal interactions. By recounting his experiences and the lessons learned from his son, Brandon, a proficient negotiator in his own right, Voss sheds light on the nuances of using silence strategically to enhance communication and connection.

The Misuse of Labels and the Pursuit of Authenticity

The conversation also touches upon the misuse of labels in negotiation, particularly when they serve as a facade for genuine listening. Voss criticizes the superficial application of negotiation techniques without the underlying empathy, illustrating this point with anecdotes from his teaching experience. The key takeaway is the importance of authenticity in negotiation, where the aim is to genuinely understand and address the needs and concerns of the other party, rather than manipulating them for one-sided gains.

Negotiation: A Reflection of Life’s Complexities

Fridman and Voss explore the parallels between negotiation and the broader complexities of human interaction. They ponder whether advanced AI could ever replicate the nuanced understanding and emotional intelligence that human negotiators bring to the table. This speculative discussion underscores the unique human capacity for empathy, creativity, and adaptability in the face of conflict and negotiation.


Chris Voss’s insights into negotiation transcend the conventional tactics and strategies, revealing the profound human connection at its core. His discussion with Lex Fridman illuminates the nuances of negotiation, emphasizing the transformative power of empathy, the strategic use of silence, and the importance of authenticity. In a world where conflict is inevitable, Voss’s approach offers a beacon of hope for more constructive and compassionate resolutions.