Lex Fridman Podcast - #364 - Chris Voss: FBI Hostage Negotiator

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The following is a conversation with Chris Voss,

former FBI hostage and crisis negotiator

and author of Never Split the Difference,

Negotiating As If Your Life Depended on It.

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And now, dear friends, here’s Chris Voss.


What is it like negotiating for a hostage

with a kidnapper?

What is the toughest part of that process?

The toughest part is if it looks bad from the beginning,

and you gotta engage in a process anyway.

What are the factors that make it bad?

What that makes you nervous,

that if you were to observe a situation

where there’s general negotiation

or it’s a hostage negotiation,

what makes you think that this is going to be difficult?

If they wanna make it look like they’re negotiating,

but they’re not.

Like in the 2004 timeframe,

al-Qaeda in Iraq was executing people on camera

for the publicity,

and they wanted to make it look like they were negotiating.

So they’d come on and they’d say,

if you don’t get all the women out of,

Iraqi women out of the jails in Iraq in 72 hours,

we’re gonna kill a hostage.

That was one of the demands in one of the cases

in that timeframe.

Now, first of all, even if we’d have been willing,

the U.S. government, the coalition

would have been willing to do that,

it wouldn’t have been able to happen in 72 hours.

So is it an impossible ask from the beginning?

And so then that looks really bad.

Like they’re trying to make it look

like they’re talking reasonably, but they’re not.

So your hostage is in bad shape there.

If they’ve made a demand that you just,

even if you wanted to do, you couldn’t do.

So then what makes that very difficult is,

in kidnappings especially,

you’re working with family members, you’re coaching people.

Bad guys are in touch with family members,

or if they’re not directly in touch with family members,

the other thing that al-Qaeda was doing at that time

was they didn’t give us a way to talk to them.

They’re making statements in the media,

but then not leaving their phone number, if you will.

So that’s one more thing.

They’re intentionally blocking you.

They’re asking you to do something you can’t do,

they’re not giving you a way to talk to them.

So you gotta get with the family

and discuss with the family how you’re gonna approach things.

Now the family definitely wants to know,

is this gonna help?

So a bunch of cases like that in that timeframe.

And you gotta be honest with them, it’s a long shot.

Our chances here are slim and none.

And when it’s slim and none, I’ll take slim,

but it’s still very, very slim.

And there were a number of people that were killed

in that timeframe before the tide finally got turned

and it was hard dealing with families at the time.

Can you negotiate in public

versus like a direct channel in private?

Oh yeah.

Bad guys pick the media.

They’re making statements in the media.

So, and that’s a big clue.

Their channel of choice tells you an awful lot.

And if they’re choosing the media,

then that means there’s people they’re trying to appeal to.

That means in their view,

there’s such a thing as good media.

So if there’s good media, there’s bad media.

How do you make it bad?

And we made it bad for them.

It just, unfortunately,

it had to go through a number of iterations

before they got the message and quit.

In that negotiation,

do you think about the value of human life?

Is there a dollar figure?

How do you enumerate, not enumerate,

quantify the value of human life?

Yeah, that’s like beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

So that was the first lesson on any hostage negotiation,

really any negotiation.

Like it doesn’t matter what it is to you,

matters what it is to the other side.

One of the things, especially in your conversation

I listened to with Andrew.

By the way, you guys,

another thing I really liked about that conversation,

first of all, I think the world of him.

Andrew Huberman.

Yeah, Andrew Huberman.

And you released it on my birthday.

I appreciate that.

It was a nice birthday present to me.

I tried to title it perfectly just for you, yeah.

Yeah, nice job, thank you.

But empathy is in the eye of the beholder

in every negotiation,

whether it’s over a car, a house,

collaboration in your company with the bad guys.

How does the other side see it?

Now, the nice thing about kidnapping for ransom,

if there’s an actual ransom demand,

it’s an actual demand,

is it’s a mercenary’s business.

They’re gonna take what they could get.

And they tend to be really good

at figuring out how much money somebody has.

So, and again, I’ll keep drawing business analogies.

You’re looking for a job with an employer.

There’s a market price of the job,

and then there’s what the employer can pay you.

Now, maybe the market price of the job market’s 150 grand.

Employer can pay you 120, but it’s a great job.

We were talking about Elon a minute ago.

Like, I’d work minimum wage to follow him around.

That would be worth it.

What are the value other than the dollars?

And how hard is it to get the dollars?

And how quickly can you get to them?

These are all things that the bad guys are good,

in kidnapping, are good at figuring out.

So, the value of human life to them

is gonna be what can they get.

A crazy thing in the kidnap business.

We used to get asked by FBI leadership,

when is this gonna be over?

And the answer would be when the bad guys

feel like they’ve gotten everything they can.

Now, dissecting that statement,

you’re talking about when they feel

like they got everything they can.

So, the key to kidnapping negotiations are the feelings.

And the bad guys, we’re talking about feelings.

Kidnappers’ feelings.

Which drives everything.

Doesn’t matter what human endeavor it is.

So, it’s not reason, it’s emotion.

There’s no such thing as reason.

I should say, for a little bit of context,

I just talked yesterday with a guy named Sam Harris.

I don’t know if you know Sam.

But Sam, and because I was preparing

for a conversation with you,

I talked to him about empathy versus reason.

And he lands heavily on reason.

Empathy is somewhere between useless and erroneous

and leads you astray and is not effective.

That reason is the only way forward.

Well, let’s draw some fine lines there.

And the two fine lines I would draw is,

first, what is your definition of empathy?

And then secondly, how do people actually

make up their minds?

And I’m gonna flip it.

I’m gonna go with how people make up their minds.

You make up your mind based on what you care about.


That makes reason emotion-based.

What do you care about?

You start with what you care about.

You see some guy swimming out off the coast of the ocean

and you see a shark coming up behind him.

Who are you cheering for?

If it’s Adolf Hitler out there,

you’re cheering for the shark.

You might actually feel bad for the shark

because it’s gonna taste bad.

Who do you care about?

You mean the human will taste bad?

Yeah, he eats Adolf Hitler.

You’re gonna leave a bad taste in your mouth,

even if you’re a shark.

So you’re making up your mind on every circumstance

is based on what you care about.

So then what does that do to reason?

Your reason is based on what you care about

from the beginning.

Now then, empathy.

If you define it as sympathy,

which it was never meant to be sympathy, ever.

Etymology, I think is the word.

I keep getting etymology and entomology mixed up.

Etymology being, right, where words came from,

the origin, entomology being bugs.

Got it.

So I like etymology.

Where did something come from?

I also like entomology.

Anyway, etymology.

My understanding from my research,

the original definition of empathy

was an interpretation of a German word

where people were trying to figure out

what the artist was trying to convey.

It was about assessing art.

And so it was always about understanding

where somebody was coming from,

but not sharing, necessarily, that same thing.

So then when I was with DFBI

and I first started collaborating with Harvard,

Bob Mnookin wrote a book, Beyond Winning,

second chapter is The Tension

Between Empathy and Assertiveness.

Still the best chapter on empathy I’ve ever read anywhere.

And Bob writes in his book,

Bob was the head of the program on negotiation.

He’s also agreed to be interviewed

for a documentary about me and my company

that hasn’t been released yet,

but it should be released sometime this year.

What’s the name of the documentary?

Tactical Empathy.

Good name.

So Bob’s definition of empathy said

not agreeing or even liking the other side.

Don’t even gotta like them, don’t gotta agree with them.

Just straight understanding where they’re coming from

and articulating it,

which requires no agreement whatsoever.

That becomes a very powerful tool,

like ridiculously powerful,

and if sympathy or compassion or agreement are not included,

you can be empathic with anybody.

I was thinking about this

when I was getting ready to sit down and talk to you,

because you use the word empathy a lot.


I can be empathic with Putin, easy, it’s easy.

I don’t agree with where he’s coming from.

I don’t agree with his methodology.

Early on, the Ukraine-Russian War,

I saw an article that was very dismissive of Russia

that said, Russia’s basically Europe’s gas station.

And I thought, all right.

So if you’re in charge and the way you feed your people

is via an industry that the entire world is trying to quit,

the whole world is trying to get out of fossil fuels.

If that’s how you feed your people,

if you don’t come up with an answer to that,

the people that you’ve taken responsibility for

are gonna die alone in the cold and the dark.

They’re gonna freeze and they’re gonna die.

All right, so that doesn’t mean that I agree

with where he’s coming from or any of his means.

But how does this guy see things in his distorted world?

You’re never gonna get through to somebody like that

in a conversation unless you can demonstrate to them

you understand where they’re coming from,

whether or not you agree.

Early 90s, last century, I’m a last century guy.

I’m an old dude.

Refer to myself as a last century guy.

Also a deeply flawed human.

So terrorist case, New York City,

civilian court, terrorism does not have to be tried

in military tribunals.

That’s a very bad idea.

It was always bad.

The FBI was always against it.

I’m getting ready.

We have Muslims testifying in open court

against a legitimate Muslim cleric.

The guy that was on trial had the credentials

as a legitimate Muslim cleric.

The people that were testifying against him

didn’t think he should be advocating

for the murder of innocent people.

We’d sit down with them, Arab Muslims, Egyptians, mostly.

And I would say to them,

you believe that there’s been a succession

of American governments for the last 200 years

that are anti-Islamic?

And they’d shake their head and go, yeah.

And that’d be the start of the conversation.

That’s empathy.

You believe this to be the case.

I never said I agreed.

I never said I disagreed.

But I’d showed them that I wasn’t afraid of their beliefs.

I was so unafraid of them

that I was willing to just state them

and not disagree or contradict.

Because I would say that and then I’d shut up

and let them react.

And I never had to say, here’s why you’re wrong.

I never gave my point of view.

Every single one of them that testified, that’s empathy.

Not agreeing with where the other side is coming from.

I’m not sure how Sam would define it,

but common vernacular is it’s sympathy and it’s compassion.

And that’s when it becomes useless.

And there’s a gray area, maybe you can comment on it,

is sometimes a drop of compassion

helps make that empathy more effective in the conversation.

So you just saying you believe X

doesn’t quite form a strong of a bond with the other person.

You’re imagining it doesn’t.

Maybe you’re right.

Yes, I’m imagining it doesn’t.

I’m imagining you need to show

that you’re on the same side.

That you need to signal a little bit

about your actual beliefs, at least in that moment.

Even if that signaling is not as deep as it sounds.

But at first, basically patting the person on the back

and saying, we’re on the same side, brother.

That’s what most people,

when they’re really learning the concept,

that’s the basic human reaction.

And in application,

especially in highly adversarial situations,

like I need a regular guy, Muslim,

but how’s that guy gonna say, buy it,

if I like, you know, dude, I’m on your side.

I’ve been there.

I feel you.

No, no, no, no, no, no.

People get conned by that so much.

Like if we’re on opposite sides of the table

and I try to act like I’m not on the opposite side

of the table, that makes me disingenuous.

So I would rather be honest.

My, you know, my currency’s integrity.

And at some point in time, if you go like,

you know where I’m coming from?

My answer’s gonna be like, look,

I can agree on maybe where we’re going,

but if we’re talking about, you know,

am I on your side now?

As a human being, I wanna see you survive and thrive,

not at my expense.

I think the world is full of opportunity.

I’m optimistic.

I got more than enough reason for saying that.

It’s enough here for both of us.

So I got no problem with you getting yours.

You know, just don’t take it out of my hand.

And I’m gonna be honest about it,

about both of those things.

I’m not interested in you taking it out of my hide.

I think there’s plenty here for both of us.

Now, I don’t need to be on your side,

except in a human sense.

But I don’t, do I have to side with you over the war?


Or how we’re distributing the stock

or how much you get paid or how much you make off this car.

I think people, my experience as a layman

is that empathy’s not got a downside,

that you don’t need me to act like I’m on your side

for us to make a great deal.

Great deal.

Well, we’ll talk about two things,

a great deal and a great conversation.

They’re often going to be the same thing,

but at times, they’re going to be different.

That’s, you mentioned Vladimir Putin.

There is some Zoom level at which you do wanna say

we’re on the same side.

You said the human level.

It’s possible to say, kind of Zoom out

and say that we’re all in this together,

not we Slavic people, we Europeans, but we human beings.

On the same planet.

Same planet.


Several years ago, and his name has evidently been mud now,

but he was very nice to me,

lawyer here in town named Tom Girardi,

and no shortage of bad reporting on him now.

I have absolutely no idea if any of it’s true.

I do know that in my interaction with him,

he was always a gentleman to me and was very generous.

When he’d get into conversations with people,

he’d always say, let’s look at 10 years from now

where we could both be in a phenomenal place together.

Now, let’s work our way back from there.

That’s a good line.

Yeah, and then I saw him do it in simulations.

I was teaching at USC, we were at a function together,

and a gentleman at the time told me who he was

and he was really influential.

So I walked up to the guy, Colt, and I said,

hey, how about coming and talking to my class at USC?

He didn’t know me other than the fact

that we had a mutual acquaintance,

and he graciously consented to come in.

And he said, what do you want me to talk about?

I said, look, dude, just from your success here,

it doesn’t matter what you talk about.

Either I’m gonna agree or I’m gonna disagree

or I’m gonna learn from it.

My students are gonna learn from it.

So students wanna role play with him.

They dispute, let’s do a negotiation.

Every single time, he’d go to pick a point in the future

where we’re both happy 10 years, 20 years from now,

and let’s work our way back.

Now, hostage negotiator, same thing.

I call into a bank, bad guy picks up on the phone,

and I’m gonna say, I want you to live.

I wanna see you survive this.

Whatever else goes with that,

let’s pick a point in the future

that we’re both good with, and then we work our way back.

And people make also, we were talking before

about emotion and what you care about.

People make their decisions

based on their vision of the future, without question.

I think there’s a Hindu temple in the United States

has been or being assembled same way

that the Hindu temples were in India 1,000 years ago,

by hand, volunteers, by hand.

These people are knocking themselves on

for a place in paradise, a vision of the future.

What you will go through today

if the future portends what you want,

you’ll go through incredible things today.

So it’s a vision of the future.

So you have to try to paint a vision of the future

that the person you’re negotiating with will like.

Just tough to do.

Let’s find out what their vision of the future is,

and then remove yourself as a threat.


If we can collaborate together at all,

if you think that I could do anything at all

to help you to that point,

and integrity’s my currency,

I’m not gonna lie to you,

which gets back before,

did I lie to you about whether or not I’m on your side?

You know, right now, at the moment,

we’re on opposite sides of the fence.

That’s not gonna stop us from being together in the future.

Inside, you’re gonna say,

well, you didn’t lie to me about today.

Maybe you won’t lie to me about tomorrow.

So going back to world leaders, for example,

whether it’s Vladimir Zelensky

or Vladimir Putin,

you don’t think it closes off their mind

to show that you have a different opinion?

Depending upon when you showed it.

Are you arguing from the beginning,

or are you displaying understanding from the beginning?

I don’t think it stops you from being adversarial.

There was a thing about Mnuchin’s chapter in his book,

The Tension Between Empathy and Assertiveness.

I remember reading that name of the chapter,

thinking like, eh, you know.

In my business, there is no tension.

And then I got into it, and I read,

I thought, this is a red herring.

He’s drawing people in,

because his entire chapter is that empathy

puts you in a position to assert,

and that there is no tension.

It’s a sequencing issue.

And that’s why, again, I think it’s,

it was written for lawyers.

Yeah, sequencing issue.

The timing is everything.

So you emphasize the importance of,

in terms of sequencing and priority of listening,

of truly listening to the other person.

I’m sorry, what’d you say?

That was a bad joke, sorry.

I forgot.

Your timing is just perfect.

How do you listen?

How do you truly listen to another human being?

How do you notice them?

How do you really hear them?

I always hated the term active listening.

If anything, it’s proactive.

And as soon as you start to try to anticipate

where somebody’s going, you’re dialed in more.

Because along the way,

either you’re congratulating yourself for being right,

or when suddenly they say something that surprises you,

you really notice it.

Like, that’s not what I expected.

You’re dialed in, you’re listening.

So it’s proactive.

And then one of the reasons,

we named the book Tactical Empathy.

Named the book, never split the difference,

but we’re talking about tactical empathy.

Calibrated emotional intelligence.

What’s it calibrated by?

First, it was experienced as hostage negotiators,

and we’ve come to find out

that our experience as hostage negotiators

is backed up by neuroscience.

Another reason why I listen

to Andrew Huberman’s podcast all the time.

Heavy, heavy, heavy, heavy on the neuroscience.

And so then emotional intelligence

calibrated by what we know about neuroscience.

What do we know about neuroscience?

And I’ll talk about it from a layman’s perspective,

and to even say we’s an arrogant thing,

human beings.

I didn’t do the research.

I’m scooping up as much of it as I can as a layman.

The brain’s largely negative.

I think there’s ample evidence.

People will argue with you as to what the wiring is

and what does what, and the limbic system,

and all of that, but the brain is basically 75% negative.

As a layman, I make that contention, number one.

Number two, the best way to deactivate negativity

is by calling it out, and I could say,

look, I don’t want you to be offended

by what I’m getting ready to say.

That’s a denial.

Your guard is up.

You’re getting ready to get mad.

If I say, what I’m getting ready to say

is probably gonna offend you.

Now you relax a little bit, and you go,

all right, what is it?

And then I say it, whatever it is,

and you’re gonna be like, oh, that wasn’t that bad,

because we knew from hostage negotiation

by calling out the negativity, deactivate it,

and then a number of neuroscience experiments

have been done right and left

by calling out negativity, deactivating the negativity.

So calling out ahead of time,

so like acknowledging that this is,

that this is, ahead of time, that this is going to hurt.

The experiments that I’ve seen

have been when the negativity was inflicted,

and then having a person that it was being inflicted upon

simply identify it.

Just identify.

Yeah, what are you feeling?

I’m angry, and the anger goes away.

It’s tough, because I’ve had a few,

and again, we’re dancing between things,

but I’ve had a few conversations

where anger arose in the guests I spoke with.


And I’m not sure identifying it.

That’s like leaning into it and going into the depths,

because that’s going to the depths of some emotional,

psychological thing they’re going through

that I’m not sure I want to explore that iceberg

with the little ship we got.

It’s a, you have to decide.

Do you want to avoid it,

or do you want to lean into it?

It’s a tough choice.

It’s the elephant in the room.

It is an elephant in the room.

It is an elephant, especially when,

I think that’s the big difference

between conversations and negotiations.

Negotiation, ultimately,

is looking for closure and resolution.

I think general conversations like this is more exploring.

There’s not necessarily a goal.

Like if you were to put,

like if I had to put a goal for this conversation,

there’s no real goal.

It’s curiously exploring ideas.

So that gives you freedom to not call out the elephant.

For time, you could be like,

all right, let’s go to the next room, get a snack,

and come back to the elephant.


All right, so I’d make a tiny adjustment

on the negotiation definition.


Because you said, I think, seeking closure.

You used two words, and closure was one of them.

Goals, maybe another.

Well, yeah, what is negotiation?

Well, I would say seeking collaboration.

Because closure kind of puts a little bit

of a finality to it, and a real problem,

and any negotiation’s always implementation.

That’s why we say yes, I say, yes is nothing without how.

And yes, at its very best,

it’s only a temporary aspiration, it’s aspirational.

It’s usually counterfeit.

So if you’re looking for, huh?

That’s a good line.

Yes is usually counterfeit, it’s aspirational.

Without the how.


It’s just a good line.


Thank you.

I’ve been working on it.

I was practicing.

I was in front of the mirror before I came in.

Don’t forget.

I was in front of the mirror before I came in today.

You’re doing pretty good.

Okay, you got a bright future ahead of you.

You should write a book or something, right?


Your book is excellent, by the way.

Thanks, appreciate that.

What am I doing here, anyway?

This, on Earth, in general.

On you, with you.

I don’t know.

We’re collaborating.

Why me, though?

Why’d you wanna talk to me?

I’ve heard you speak in a few places.

This is a fascinating human.

I think on Clubhouse and different places.

All right.

I listen to some YouTube stuff,

and this is just, you meet people that are interesting.

That’s what I love doing with this podcast,

is just exploring the mind of an interesting person.

You notice people.

Sometimes there’s a homeless person outside of 7-Eleven.

I notice, who are you?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

It’s fascinating.

I don’t look at the resumes and the credentials

and stuff like that.

It’s just being able to notice a person.

As I’ve been leafing through the different choices

of the podcast, the young lady that OnlyFans

and the sex workers, that’s a fascinating human being.

I wanna know what makes that person tech at 1,000%.

The fascinating thing about her

is her worldview is almost entirely different than mine,

and that’s always interesting to talk to a person

who just is happy, flourishing, but sees the world

and the set of values she has is completely different,

and is also not argumentative,

is accepting of other worldviews.

It’s beautiful to explore that.

Yeah, no kidding.

I would agree.

And then, yeah, thought-provoking,

because I consider myself,

the word I was looking for before was abundant.

I think it’s an abundant world, so I’m pretty optimistic.

I consider myself, I don’t know happy exactly describes it,

but yeah, so then if I’m happy, optimistic, abundant,

I got a worldview, and then you run into somebody

that has a vastly different worldview,

and they’re happy, and they think it’s abundant, too.

And you’re like, what is going on in your head,

or mine, or what am I missing?

Yeah, so that’s fascinating.

And the pie grows, which is useful for kinda negotiation

when you paint a picture of a future,

if you’re optimistic about that future.

There’s a kinda feeling like we’re both gonna win here.


And that’s easy.

We live in a world where both people can win.

Yeah, and in point of fact, that’s the case,

although a lot of people want us to think otherwise,

mostly because of the negativity

that I was talking about before.

So the brain is generally cynical.

Yeah, my description of it is

the pessimistic caveman survived,

and we’re descendants of the pessimists.

The optimistic guy got eaten by a saber-toothed tiger.

Yeah, but on the flip side,

the optimists seem to be the ones

that actually build stuff these days.

There’s the switch.

So at what point in time do we catch on?

Because the difference between survival and success mindset,

the success mindset is highly optimistic.

So where do we switch, or how do we stay switched

from survival to success?

That’s the challenge.

Yeah, somewhere we stopped being eaten by saber-toothed tigers

and started building bridges and buildings

and computers and companies.

We started to experience,

we got enough data back to collaborate,

and we stopped listening to our amygdala

and we started listening to our gut.

Let me just return briefly to terrorists.

What do you think about the policy

of not negotiating with terrorists?

Well, that’s not the policy, first of all.

Now, everybody thinks that’s the policy.

It hasn’t been the policy since 2002

when Bush 43 signed a National Security

Presidential Directive, NSPD, at the time it was NSPD 12,

which basically said, we won’t make concessions.

That doesn’t mean we won’t talk.

So I’m in Colombia at the same time

and I have been intimately involved

with the signing of him signing that document.

I knew exactly what it said

and he didn’t inherit it from somebody else.

He signed it and I’m in Colombia

and the number two in the embassy says,

last night on TV, the President of the United States said,

we don’t negotiate with terrorists.

Are you calling a President of the United States a liar?

And I remember thinking like, all right,

so he probably said that

and that’s not on the document that he signed.

So I said, look, I’m familiar with what he’s signed

and that’s not what it says.

Well, and so the argument,

but that’s always been the soundbite that everybody likes.

We don’t negotiate with terrorists.

Depends upon your definition of negotiation.

If it’s just communication,

we negotiate with them all the time, number one.

And number two, like every President

has made some boneheaded deal with the bad guys.

Like Obama released five high-level Taliban leaders

from Guantanamo in exchange for an AWOL soldier

that we immediately threw in jail.

And I thought that was a horrible deal.

And that’s putting terrorists back on the battlefield.

And then Trump turned around and topped it

by putting 5,000 terrorists back on the battlefield.

So we haven’t had a President that has stuck to that

on either side of the aisle

since people started throwing that out as a soundbite.

What do you think of that negotiation?

Forget terrorists, but the global negotiation,

like with Vladimir Putin,

the recent negotiation over prisoners,

the exchange, the Brady and Geithner.

Is there a way to do that negotiation successfully?

First of all, I agree with the idea

that she was wrongfully detained

and that she didn’t deserve to be in jail

and that there should be no second-class citizens ever.

And whether you’re a WNBA player

or you’re just some bonehead

that walked into the wrong situation,

your government should not abandon you ever, ever.

Now, what they do in the meantime,

there should have been a negotiation.

They were desperate to make a deal at a bad time.

They’d been offered far better deals

than prisoner swaps earlier and turned them down.

And then he gets turned up.

And thank God for Brittany Griner

that the public got enough attention.

They kept pressure on the administration.

They made a deal.

Now, governments wanna make those kind of deals.

That’s fine as long as it,

because that was basically a political negotiation.

You’re putting 5,000 Taliban back on a battlefield.

That ain’t negotiating with another government.

You’re putting five of them back on a battlefield.

That ain’t negotiating with another government.

That’s directly contradicting this thing that you claimed.

And those were all bad deals.

Now, was the Brittany Griner thing a bad deal?

I think it was great for her.

If I was in the middle of it, it would have been better.

And she still would have come home.

Yeah, there’s some technical aspects of that negotiation.

What do you think is the value, just to linger on it,

of meeting in person for the negotiation?

I think it’s a great idea.

Can I just follow that tangent along?

There’s a war in Ukraine now.

It’s been going on over a year.

It’s, for me personally, given my life stories,

is a deeply personal one.

And I’m returning back to that area of the world.

I was there.

Volodymyr Zelensky said he doesn’t want to talk

to Vladimir Putin.

Do you think they could get in a room together

and say you were there in a room with Putin and Zelensky

and Biden is sitting in the back drinking a cocktail,

or maybe he is at the table participating?

How is it possible through negotiation,

through the art of conversation,

to find peace in this very tense geopolitical conflict?

I think it’s eminently possible.

I think getting people together in person

has always been a good idea.

Now, how many times, who’s getting them together,

under what circumstances,

and how many times are you getting them together?

The documentary, The Human Factor,

about the Mideast peace negotiations,

mostly through the 90s,

mostly into the Clinton administration,

got kicked off under Bush 41,

and then the documentary continues through Trump,

but just touching, basically, on it.

But they’re getting Arafat

and the different Israeli prime ministers

together in person.

And these guys do not want to talk to each other,

and depending upon the prime minister,

the mere thought of being on the same planet with Arafat

was offensive.

And they started getting these guys together

in person regularly,

and they started seeing each other as human beings,

and they started realizing

that there was enough room on the planet for them,

and that people dying was stupid.

And they would slowly work things out

by getting these guys together in person.

So how long does it take?

Who’s hosting it?

But it’s a good idea.

But the skill of achieving that thing

that you talk about a lot, which is empathy,

and I would say, in that case,

not just empathy, but empathy plus a bit,

you might disagree with this,

but a drop of compassion in there?

I think compassion is helpful,

but it’s not essential.

Like, if you just know where I’m coming from,

like, the feeling of being understood.

Yeah, heard and understood, that’s powerful.

Is, yeah, and again,

I know I picked the vast majority of this up

on Andrew’s podcast,

but I picked it up in other places,

because early on,

when we were putting a book together with Tal Roz,

the writer, my son, uncredited co-author,

so the book’s really a collaboration between me,

my son, Brandon, and Tal Roz,

and we’re driving for that’s right.

You know, when somebody feels like what you’ve said

is completely their position, they say that’s right.

Not you’re right, but that’s right.

So Tal says, you know, I think what’s happening here

is you’re triggering a subtle epiphany in somebody.

So I’m like, all right, I’ll buy that.

So I start looking up the neuroscience

of the feeling of epiphany,

getting a hit of oxytocin and serotonin.

Oxytocin is a bonding drug.

You bond to me.

I don’t bond to you.

When you feel completely understood by me, you bond to me.

Then in one of the relationship podcasts

that I’m listening to on Andrew,

it says oxytocin inclines people to tell the truth.

You’re more honest.

All right, so you feel deeply understood by me,

you bond to me, and you start getting more honest with me.

Serotonin, the neurochemical satisfaction.

Epiphany, you feel oxytocin and serotonin being understood.

All right, I got you bonding to me,

I got you being more honest with me,

and I got you feeling more satisfied so you want less.

What more do you want out of a negotiation?

Of course, there’s already with leaders

and great negotiators, there’s walls built up,

defense mechanisms against that, right?

You’re resisting.

You’re resisting this basic chemistry,

but yes, you should have that.

You should work towards that kind of empathy.

And I personally believe, I don’t actually understand why,

but I’ve observed it time and time again,

but getting in a room together

and really talking, whether privately or publicly,

but really talking.

And like this, so I’ll comment on this.

So right now, this is being recorded,

and a few folks will hear this,

but when you really do a good job

of this kind of conversation, you forget there’s cameras.

And that’s much better than there being

even a third person in the room,

but often when world leaders meet,

there’s press or there’s others in the room.

As man to man or man to woman,

you have to meet like in a saloon,

just the two of you and talk.

There’s some intimacy and power to that,

to achieve that if you’re also willing

to couple that with empathy,

to really hear the other person.

I don’t know what that is.

That’s like a deep, deep intimacy that happens.

And I think there’s actually,

because we get asked this in a black swan group all the time,

how didn’t Zoom, that’s bad,

because you don’t have the same visual feedback on Zoom.

And that’s not true.

Like you and I, I see you from the waist up right now.

If we were on Zoom, I’d be looking at you from the waist up.

I’m not wearing pants, yeah, with the internet.

I apologize for that.

Sorry, yeah, yeah, yeah.

You only see a small portion.

Usually, that’s usually where I go,

but anyway.

I’m glad we’re both at Ridiculousness.

I appreciate it.

But what makes us different in person?

I actually think there’s energy that we’re unable,

we don’t have the instrumentation to define yet.

And I think that there’s a feel.

I think there’s an actual energetic feel that changes.

And just because we don’t, again,

just because we can’t measure it

doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Yeah, I would love to figure out what that is.

Folks that are working on virtual reality

are trying to figure out what that is.

During the pandemic, everybody was on Zoom.

Zoom and Microsoft, everybody was trying to figure out

how do we replicate that?

I’m trying to understand how to replicate that

because it sure is not fun to travel across the world

just to talk to Snowden or Putin or Zelensky.

I’d love to do it over Zoom, but it’s not the same.

It’s not the same.

It’s not the same.

I’d go in a room with Putin.

You would go in a room?

I would, yeah, 1,000%.

I’d get a that’s right out of him.

That’s right.

Well, first you would give him a that’s right, probably.

Ah, getting and giving, see?

And here’s the issue that trips everybody up in negotiation.

The difference between hearing and speaking,

the same words are vastly different.

And what I’m looking for is the responses

I’m getting out of you.

First, that’s right, especially.

If you can’t appreciate what that really means,

hearing it is unsatisfying.

So those two words are really important to you.

You talk about this in your book.

Why is that so?

What does that’s right mean?

Why is it important?

Well, it means that what you just heard

you think is unequivocably the truth.

Like it’s dead on, it hit the target, it’s a bullseye.

And there’s been a topic of discussion,

especially between my son and I, a lot, like what happens?

This oxytocin bonding moment.

And his contention has always been like,

Donald Trump is the poster child of what it means

because Donald Trump’s an address in an audience,

you know, he’s in a debate with Hillary

or he’s giving a speech someplace.

And when the people that are devoted to him,

when they believe that what he’s just said

is completely right, it’s insightful,

they look at him or they look at the TV

and they go, that’s right.

And it’s what people say when they’re bought in

to what they just heard.

Now, if you’re not convinced of the way

that Donald Trump’s followers are bonded to him,

and he also just like this, in my view,

destroys the idea of common ground.

Because when he first started to run for president,

the pundits all said, ah, he’s a New Yorker.

Nobody in the Republican Party’s gonna like him.

It’s middle America, you know, it’s blue collar,

you know, it’s regular common folks, factory workers.

They’re not gonna like Trump because he’s from New York

and he went to Wharton, he’s an Ivy leaguer

and he’s a son of a wealthy real estate mogul

and he had a million dollars handed to him

when he got out of college.

You know, he’s born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

The rank and file Republicans

are never gonna accept this guy based on common ground.

Look how smart that was.

Do you think he’s a good negotiator?

Do you think Donald Trump is a good negotiator?

No, I think he’s a great marketer.

If you look at his negotiation track record,

all right, so I started following Donald Trump

in the 80s when I was in New York.

I’m a last century guy, he’s a last century guy.

We’ve got mutual acquaintances.

The minister that married him to Marla Maples

was a friend of mine, a close friend of mine

and in 1998, I threw a fundraiser in his apartment

at Trump Tower that he attended.

So, no shortage of mutual friends.

We went to the same church.

Still have mutual acquaintances, friends.

I don’t know, and I’ve watched his track record

in negotiation history, which is exactly

his track record with North Korea.

Where are we with North Korea?

What was the deal that he made with North Korea?

See, your answer is the same as everybody else’s.

Well, I remember it started out with a lot of fanfare,

but I don’t know what happened.

Because nothing ever happens.

It’s more public fanfare, so marketing-minded

presentation of the relationship.

Starts out with a bang, if he doesn’t cut the deal

in a short period, a really short period of time,

he moves on, and everybody wonders what had happened

because there was so much fanfare at the beginning.

Now, at the beginning, him even opening that dialogue

with North Korea was masterful.

Like, I was such a fan.

When you got a president of the United States

that is willing to sit down and talk

with the leader of another nation,

when every other president, all their advisors

are saying, the leader of North Korea is beneath you,

you cannot dignify him by responding to him directly,

and consequently, the Trump administration

inherits a can of worms that has been simmering

for 30 years.

He didn’t get a sense of that.

And he opened up a dialogue where nobody else

was capable of opening a dialogue,

and then it just went away.

Nobody knows what happened.

And there was no deal made.

Now, great negotiators make deals.

What do you think about these accusations

that he’s a narcissist?

If you’re a narcissist, does that help you or hurt you?

Is there a more popular term these days than narcissist?

Like, everybody’s a narcissist.

Everybody you don’t like is a narcissist.

Like, the homeless guy down on the corner,

he’s a narcissist, that’s why he’s there.

Yeah, it’s lost meaning for you a little bit?

Yeah, and first of all, most psychological terms,

as a hostage negotiator, and really,

we were never into psychology.

And we steered away from it,

because psychology, at best, is a soft science.

If it’s not informed these days,

if it’s not informed by real studies or neuroscience,

the guys that I’m impressed with these days,

psychologists and neuroscientists,

now I’m interested in that guy or gal.

But then, psychology convention.

Do you get them all together and they all agree?


But also, the interesting thing about psychology

is each individual person is way more complicated

than the category psychology tries to create.

And there’s something about the human brain.

The moment you classify somebody as a narcissist

or depressed or bipolar or insane in any kind of way,

for some reason, you give yourself a convenient excuse

not to see them as a complicated human being,

to empathize with them.

I had that when I was talking to,

I did an interview with Kanye West,

and then there’s a lot of popular opinions

about him being mentally unwell and so on.

And I felt that that kind of way of thinking

is a very convenient way of thinking,

to ignore the fact that he’s a human being

that, again, wants to be understood and heard.

And that’s the only way you can have that conversation.

Yeah, I agree completely.

That’s right.

I feel so close to you now.

It might be because I’m not wearing pants.

All right, so what we’re-

You’re funnier than I am, that bothers me.

All right, I’ll say something stupid soon enough.

Don’t worry about it.

But you said, we were talking about terrorists

and not negotiating with terrorists.

Is there something-

Nice job going all the way back

to where that rabbit hole started.

There’s, we’re Alice in Wonderland right now.

Is there something about walking the way

of not negotiating?

Is there power in that?

All right, so it depends upon whether or not

you’re doing it with integrity or a tactic to start with.

And then also, hostage negotiators are successful

93% of the time, kind of across the board.

Which means that the 7% of the time is gonna go bad.

And that was my old boss, Gary Nessner.

I learned so much from Gary.

But a phrase that he used over and over and over again

until I finally worked the case and went bad

was, this is gonna be the best chance of success.

Best chance of success.

And then something went bad,

and I remember thinking like,

well, best chance of success is no guarantee of success.

So your question is, are there negotiations

you should walk away from?

If you got no shot at success, then don’t negotiate.

And you have to accept the fact

there’s some deals you’re never gonna make.

You know, we teach in my company,

it’s not a sin to not get the deal,

it’s a sin to take a long time to not get the deal.

And you know, Gary, in his infinite wisdom,

you know, they realized that there was something

called suicide by cop,

and that it might have,

Gary was very much into clusters of behavior.

He kept us away from psychological terms,

and there would be clusters of behavior

that would be high-risk indicators.

And he wrote a block of instruction

called high-risk indicators,

which meant if you start seeing this stuff show up,

this thing’s probably going bad.

And you’re gonna need to recognize that

from the very beginning and adjust accordingly.

And it’s the same way in business and personal life.

I’m talking to the head of a marketing company

I have tremendous respect for.

I admire what this guy and his company does.

Started from scratch.

He borrowed space in the back of a drugstore

to start his company.

And now it’s hugely successful.

And he’s laying out to me

that he finally had to confront a potential client

and walk away from him.

And he said, how do you think I handled this?

My answer was 1,000% correct.

And as a matter of fact,

the behavior that he indicated, he’s a type,

and you should have walked away sooner than you did

because this guy was playing you the whole time.

Al-Qaeda, 2004, they’re playing us.

They’re not negotiating.

We called them out on it.

We don’t think you’re negotiating.

You wouldn’t say it exactly like that,

but that was absolutely the approach.

Confront people on their behavior in a respectful way.

And signal that you’re willing to walk away.

And mean it, 1,000%.

And mean it.

Isn’t that terrifying?

I mean, it’s scary because you don’t want

to really walk away.

Or do you have to really want to walk away?

Well, this gets core values, your view of reality.

If it’s an abundant world, it’s not scary to walk away.

If it’s a finite world with limited opportunities,

then it’s horrifying.

But you have to use that worldview

to be willing to actually walk away.


It could be walking away from a lot of money.

It could be walking away from something

that’s gonna hurt people.

Because if you lose a hostage.

Yeah, well, but if they’re not gonna let the hostage out.

Suicide by cop, they ain’t letting them go.

The 7%, how do most negotiations fail?

The bad guys were never there to make a deal

in the first place.

If it was suicide by cop.

If they were there to, if they’re on a killing journey,

it’s an Israeli phrase.

If they’re on a killing journey,

and the actions that they’re currently engaged in

are part of that killing journey.

Killing journey.

Is there advice you can give about,

you mentioned Israel, Palestine, the Middle East.

Taking on a few conversations on that topic.

Is there hope for that part of the world?

And from that hope, is there some advice you could lend?

Yeah, I think there’s hope.

And then I got friends on both sides.

And also, when I got my, after I left the FBI,

most people listening to this

probably not gonna remember who Rodney Dangerfield was.

Oh, come on.

But he’s a comedian.

Still doesn’t get any respect, yeah.

Yeah, yeah, and.

New Yorker?

Is he a New Yorker?

I think he was a New York guy.

Or like Jersey or something, yeah.

Yeah, and he did a movie a long time ago

called Back to School.

He went back to school.

He was an old guy, Back to School.

So I went back to school after I left the FBI.

I did get a master’s at Harvard Kennedy.

And that’s where I’m running across

people on both sides of that.

And when they could talk,

they said, let’s start from the promise

that we both sides want a better life for our kids.

Which is this version that I was telling you earlier

from Tom Girardi.

Let’s pick a point in the future

that we’re both happy with.

And they found that they could talk.

All right, so it might not be better for us.

How do we make it better for our kids?

And that’s where the hope derives from.

Because I think both sides ultimately

want it to be better for their kids,

which is why they still engage in interactions,

and which is why I think the leadership,

regardless of how compromised

they might be on either side.

There are few straight players in the game

in the Middle East.

Or anywhere for that matter.

But they want a better future for their kids.

You get people to agree

that you want a better future for your kids,

now you can start talking about,

well, how do we work our way back from that?

And then, all right,

so we got a mutual point in the future.

The Israeli-Palestinian negotiations

are also, for me, interesting.

Because you mentioned Clubhouse

about almost two years ago now.

When Israel was shelling Gaza.

They hit the UPI office.

They were hitting,

they got fed up with the rocket attacks from Hamas.

And of course Hamas is putting rockets in the UPI office,

or the AP office, whichever press office it was there.

How’s that office gonna be there otherwise?

Hamas is running a show.

You’re not gonna run that office

unless you let them store weapons there.

That’s just part of the game.

And are they gonna store them

in specially designated ammunition dumps?

No, they’re gonna put them in schools,

they’re gonna put them in hospitals,

they’re gonna put them in all places

that when Israel hits them,

they’re gonna look really bad.

So after a while,

Israel gets fed up and they start shelling Gaza,

and they’re hitting these places.

Friend of mine, Nicole Benham,

is hosting rooms on Clubhouse,

and she says, you gotta come on.

The vitriol is killing me.

These are all turning into screaming matches.

Nobody’s talking to anybody.

I said, all right, cool.

We’ll go on, we’ll do it.

And watch, we won’t have a single argument.

We’ll invite people on from both sides.

There was one rule.

Before you started to describe

what you thought of the other side,

you had to say, before I disagree with you,

here’s what I think your position is.

And you gotta continue to state the other side’s position

until they agree that you’ve got it.

Now, what happened?

No agreement and no arguments.

That was what we were really going for.

We wanted to show that people on both sides,

in one of their emotional timeframes,

if your only requirement was

you had to state the other side’s position first,

nobody got out of control.

Did it work?

That’s exactly what happened.

We wanted to show people that you can have conversations

that do not devolve into screaming matches with vitriol,

talking about how you’re dedicated

to the destruction of the other side.

Just first, see if you can outline

where they’re coming from.

That’s really impressive

because I’ve just, having seen on Clubhouse,

people, which part of the reason I liked Clubhouse,

you get to hear voices from all sides,

they were emotionally intense.


It was, I mean, I’m sweating just

in the buildup of your story here.

I thought it could go to hell,

but you’re saying it kind of worked.

Not one person lost control.

Now, of the two sides,

the people that were speaking on behalf of the Israelis

were a little better at articulating

supportive positions for the Palestinians.

Most of the people that want to speak up

on behalf of the Palestinians,

they just, they’d want to start doing like,

you’re doing this, and I’d say, no, no, no, no, no.

You can go there, just not yet.

Before you go there, you can say that all you want.

Before you go there,

you’ve got to try to articulate to them

where they’re coming from.

They got to tell you you got it right.

And what would consistently happen

is there’s a leveling out of a person

to try to see the other side’s perspective and articulate it.

It’s enormously beneficial to the person

who’s trying to do it,

which was really the point that we were trying to make.

It’s a really interesting exercise.

I mean, by way of advice,

so if it works at clubhouse,

for people who don’t know,

that’s like a voice app where you can be anonymous.

So it’s really regular people,

but regular people who can also be anonymous.

It’s just, it can be chaos.

If it works there, that’s really interesting.

For when you sit down for a conversation

and cross the table from somebody,

don’t have them even steel man the other side.

Have them just state the other side.

Just explain your understanding of it.

Yeah. That’s it.

And every now and then I would jump in.

Like somebody supporting Israel,

whoever the heck they were,

and they’d say a couple things.

And the Palestinian guy would be like,

or gal or supportive of them would say,

you know, you missed some stuff.

And I’d say, let me jump in.

First of all, I know what the Nakba is.

The Nakba is a catastrophe.

That’s the day Israel was born.

You, you know, for the rest of the world,

it’s the birth of Israel, for you it’s the Nakba.

I said, you’ve got members of your family

that is still walking around

carrying keys to the front door of the house

they abandoned.

And he’d be like, yeah.

And I’d say, you feel bad that in point of fact,

that in World War II,

the world stood back and watched

while the Nazis threw the Jews off a building.

The only problem was they landed on you.

And they’d be like, yeah,

that’s where they’re coming from.

So articulating, you know, deeply

what the other side feels is transformative

for both people involved in the process.

What’s the toughest negotiation you’ve ever been a part of

or maybe observed or heard of?

What’s a difficult case just stands out to you

or maybe just one of many?

Well, the stuff we went through with Al-Qaeda

in and around Iraq, Iraq and Saudi,

first one was in Saudi in 2004 timeframe.

The hardest part about that was working with family members

and not deceiving them about the possibility outcome.

Yeah, how do you talk to family members?

Is that part of the negotiation?

Yeah, empathy, learning empathy the hard way.

And then being able to take it up to higher levels

because at its base level,

a guy that we’re working with now

that’s coaching us in the US

and is a business partner, his name is Jonathan Smith.

He pointed out to us that there’s a shoe-ha-ree concept.

Are you familiar with shoe-ha-ree?

It’s a martial arts concept.

And shoe is, do it exactly as the master’s

telling you to do it.

Wax on, wax off, karate kid stuff.

A-ha is when you’ve done the repetitions enough times,

you’re getting a feel for it

and you begin to see the same lessons

coming from other masters.

You’re seeing the same thing show up in other places.

And at the re-level, you’re still in the discipline

but you’re making up your own rules.

It’s almost a flow state.

And you don’t realize that you’re making up your own rules.

And if somebody asks you where you learned that,

you’d probably say, my sensei taught it to me.

My master taught it to me.

This will come back around to negotiating

with families pretty quick.

We did this once because there’s a bunch of people

that we coach, business people that are scared

of the amount of money that they’re losing

if we’re not coaching them regularly.

One of these guys, Michael, we’re interviewing him

for a social media posting about two years ago.

And Michael says, yeah, you gotta gather data

with your eyes.

And I went, ooh, I like that.

I said, where did you hear that before?

And he goes, I don’t know, I heard it from you, I think.

And I’m like, no, no, no, no, no.

I don’t remember saying that.

That’s the first time I’ve heard that.

He’s in re.

So what’s this got to do with families?

Empathy at its base level and a shoe level,

I learned it on the Suicide Hotline,

is saying like, you sound angry.

I’m just calling out the elephant in the room.

Your emotions, what’s driving you?

I’m throwing a label on your affect.

And I’m saying you sound, or it sounds like you are,

because that’s the basic Karate Kid wax on,

wax off approach.

Now, there are a lot of hostage negotiators

that’ll tell you empathy doesn’t work at home.

Not true.

They’ve never gotten out of shoe.

You’re getting ready to talk to your significant other.

And you want to go someplace

that you know is going to make her angry.

You want to go do something.

Now, that’s real negotiation right there.

You could say to her, you sound angry,

in which case she’s going to blow up

because her reaction is, you made me angry, bozo.

Can you act like you’re an innocent third party?

Or that you were independent of how I feel bad?

And you learn a little bit more,

and you say the high level is,

this is probably going to make you angry.

And then what I did with families,

I knew how they felt before I walked in the door.

I knew that they were scared to death.

You find out that your husband, your father, your brother,

has been grabbed by Al-Qaeda,

who are in the business of chopping people’s heads off,

you’re going to be horrified.

I can’t walk into them and go like, you sound angry.

Of course I’m angry, you idiot.

But knowing what they are,

I used to walk into families’ houses,

and I’d say, I know you’re angry.

Now, what are the circumstances

dictate that they should also feel?

They’re going to feel abandoned by their government.

They’re going to feel totally alone.

They’re going to be scared.

And they’re going to be angry

because they feel the government abandoned them.

Now, there in point of fact, is this an accurate statement?

That their loved one voluntarily went into a war zone

and voluntarily went someplace

their government told them not to go.

Are the facts that the government abandoned them?

Absolutely not.

As a matter of fact,

the government tried to get them to not go,

and they went anyway.

But that doesn’t change how they felt in a moment.

And I’d walk into a house and I’d go, I know you’re angry.

I know you feel abandoned and alone,

and I know you’re horrified,

and I know you feel the United States government

has abandoned you.

And they would look at me and go like,

yeah, what do we do now?

Now we’re ready to rock.

Is there, with Al-Qaeda or in general,

is there a language barrier too?

It could be just barriers

of different communication styles.

I mean, you got like a New Yorker way about it.

That might make somebody from like,

I don’t know, Laguna Beach uncomfortable.

Do you feel that language barrier in communication

is that language and communication style

in itself creating a barrier?

You got a barrier when you think that your way is the way.

Sure, that’s the biggest barrier.

Yeah, and that happens all the time.

When people talk about,

what about cross-cultural negotiations?

What hand do I gotta shake hands with

so that I can get my way?

Well, if you strip it all down,

we’re all basically the same blank slate when we were born.

Everybody’s got a limbic system.

Everybody’s limbic system works pretty much the same way.

People are driven by the same sorts of decisions.

How’s this affect my future?

What am I at risk of losing?

How does this affect my identity?

You’re an Al-Qaeda kidnapper.

You’re a New York City businessman.

You’re a tobacco farmer in the South.

All making those same decisions based on those same things.

So as soon as I start to navigate that,

and I tailor my approach, which is what empathy is,

to how you see things.

So I can be the biggest goofball ever

from if you live in the South,

yeah, maybe I’m a New Yorker,

or I’m somebody from LA, or somebody from Chicago.

But my geography is foreign to you,

but as soon as I start dialing in

on how you see things, suddenly you’re listening.

What about the three voices you talk about?

The different voices you can use in that communication?

Right, the assertive voice, direct and honest.

I’m a natural born assertive.

Natural born.

I thought we’re all blank slate,

is you’re born.

Yeah, stop catching me on what I said.

How dare you accuse me of what I’ve said?

To quote Bono, I stand accused of what I’ve said,

the things I’ve said.

That’s a good line.

He’s got a few good lines.

So assertive voice, you’re born that way.

Which one, what are the other ones?


You’re an analyst.

And I can tell you’re assertive.


What’s an analyst voice?

Well, an analyst is close to the


More thoughtful?

No, as a matter of fact.

Look, you ever do a decision tree?


See, you like it too, don’t you?

So decision trees, you know, I’m a computer scientist,

so I like mathematical, systematic ways

of seeing the world.

He’s an analyst.

You think Donald Trump would ever say that?


Well, is he more the assertive kind?

He’s a natural born assertive, yeah.

Are all New Yorkers like this?

Is there something in the water?

No, it’s a crazy thing.

I mean, there’s an affect that a city can have.


And, you know, New York’s northeast, not just New York,

but the northeast is a little more,

the affect of the area, of the culture of the area.

The individual’s still boiled down into

the three types, cross the board.

What’s the third one?

Accommodator, smiling, optimistic, hopeful.

I’m a thousand percent convinced that the phrase

hope is not a strategy is designed at people’s frustration

over a third of the population being accommodators

that are hope-driven.

I hope this works out.

And they’re very relationship, on the surface,

they’re very relationship oriented.

They tend to appear to be very positive, and they are,

but it’s really built around hope.

And the idea is you can adopt these three voices.

You can, yeah, you can learn them.

They’re all learnable.

Analysts are often mistaken for accommodators,

because, as you said before,

analysts are more introspective, more analytical.

They’re looking at the systems at work,

and if they like to learn,

they notice that accommodators make more deals

than they make.

They also notice that there’s a higher failure rate

of the deals, but since they notice stuff

and they think about it, they catch on faster

than assertives do, that the pleasant nature

of an accommodator contributes strongly

to them making deals.

Like my daughter-in-law is an analyst.

You know, another descriptor we have in that,

an analyst are assassins.

You know, an analyst will snipe you from 1,000 yards out

in the middle of the night,

and you never know what hits you,

and they’re really happy with that.

But how has assertiveness, the assertive voice,

served you in negotiation?


The assertive voice is almost always counterproductive.

It feels like getting hit in the face with a brick,

and that’s almost always counterproductive.

So for me to be more effective,

especially in a negotiation,

I’ll need to slow down and smile.

You know, I heard that Teddy Roosevelt

was a good negotiator and that he was extremely stubborn,

and perhaps the right term for that would be assertive,

but he picked his battles.

Is there some value to holding strong,

to a principle?

So I don’t even know if,

that’s probably the opposite of empathy.

Are there times when you can just stick,

be extremely stubborn to your principles,

to a negotiation?

Oh, we do it all the time.

We just, you know, we’re just nice about it.

Okay, it helps to be nice, you’re saying.

Well, yes, because I need you to hear me.

And the assertive tone of voice,

so when we do our training,

typically we do an exercise called 60 seconds or she dies.

And I play the bad guy bank robber,

and I ask you to be the hostage negotiator.

And your job is to,

I’ll give you the four real world constraints,

and then you got to try and negotiate me out of the bank.

Now we’re doing this,

now the first voice that I always use in that exercise

is the assertive voice,

which is the commanding voice.

It’s the voice that all police officers

are taught to use in the street.

Issue loud and clear commands.

You know, it doesn’t,

to me, I don’t feel like I’m attacking you.

I just feel like I’m being direct and honest and clear.

You on the other hand feel attacked.

Now we’re doing this exercise in Austin

a couple of years ago.

The first participant has an Apple watch on.

He tells us afterwards that sitting still,

not even answering,

when he first gets hit in the face

with the assertive voice,

his heart rate jumped to 170,

which is a typical fight or flight reaction.

I come at you like I’m fighting you.

Your fight flight mechanisms all kick into gear,

which clouds your thinking.

You’re automatically dumber in the moment.

So if I want to make a great long-term deal with you,

highly profitable,

I’m agnostic to you being profitable.

If you’d be profitable, that’s fine.

I’m here to make money for me.

Me making you dumber will always hurt me.

Me making you feel attacked will always hurt me.

So there’s never a value in being,

in you making me afraid.

There’s never a long-term value in it.

It’s another thing that Tal Roz,

when we were writing a book,

braced me on

because he said,

there’s scientific data out there

that’s called strategic umbrage.

Well, there’s data.

Well, whether or not it’s scientific,

I would call that into question.

But he said, there’s studies out there

that show that strategic umbrage works.

And another thing that I also enjoy,

you probably get tired of me saying

wonderful things about Andrew.

He taught me-

There’s never enough wonderful things

to say about the great Andrew Huberman,

the host of the Huberman Lab Podcast

that everybody should subscribe to.

You should talk to Andrew.

You’re funnier than he is, though.

I’ll give you that.

Hear that, Andrew?

He’s funny accidentally.

He makes me laugh all the time.

Not when he’s trying to be funny.

He’s a really,

he’s one of the people in this world

that’s truly legit.

He’s a really strong scientist

and a really strong communicator

and a good human being.

Those together don’t come often.

And it’s nice to see.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Yeah, he’s a treasure, national treasure.

Anyway, you were saying?

Well, he sort of taught me how to think about data

and studies and science

and also from different books

that he’s turned me on to.

He’s really helped me think about this stuff.

So the studies about strategic umbrage

were done, the ones that I’ve seen,

that show it’s effective.

There were simulated negotiations with college students.

Now, here’s the problem with that.

A simulated negotiation with a college student.

College students are gonna sit down

as part of their assignment.

They’re gonna sit down one time.

They’re gonna sit down for 45 minutes

and they’re gonna think that

if they didn’t come to a deal at all,

that they failed.

And there’s no ongoing implementation.

There’s just a deal

and then they walk away of a pretend situation.

So they got no actual real skin in the game.

There’s no deal on earth.

Do you sit down and come to agreement 45 minutes

and never see each other again

because there’s the implementation of the deal,

even if it’s only payment.

So the data is flawed based on the way it was collected.

It’s a highly flawed study.

And all data is flawed, as you know, as a scientist.

You just gotta be aware of what the flaws are

and decide whether or not that destroys the study

or what do you think?

Take a look at the data.

There’s no such thing as perfect data.

Look at the data, see what you think of it.

The data that says the strategic umbrage works

is based on flawed circumstances.

Can you explain strategic umbrage?

Getting mad, scaring the other side into a deal.

Getting mad at using anger strategically

to bully the other side into an agreement.

That’s nice to hear, in some sense.

It’s nice to hear that empathy is the right way

in almost all situations.

Best chance is success.

Not that it works every time,

just it works more than anything else does.

What is the technique of mirroring?

There’s a lot of cool stuff in your book.

There’s just kinda jump around.

What’s mirroring?

Mirroring is like, it’s one of the most fun skills

because it’s the simplest to execute.

You just repeat one to three-ish words

of what somebody said.

Usually the last one to three words.

What I’ve found about it is

the people that really like mirroring

love it because it’s so simple

and so effortless and invisible.

They typically, for lack of a better term,

tend to be both high IQ and high EQ.

Like, I’m not a high IQ guy.

I’m an average dude.

I like to think that I can learn.

In EQ, emotional intelligence is a skill you can build

and I’m always working on building it.

But a lot of really regular average people

will be like, mirroring, that’s stupid.

I’m not doing that.

And I don’t know why they don’t like it.

But when I find somebody that loves to mirror,

I’ll always ask them, how’d you score on IQ?

And typically, their IQ’s pretty high.

Now, I don’t know why that combination

attracts people to mirroring

because there’s nine skills.

Eight from hostage negotiation

and the ninth really was tone of voice

and we just define that as a skill.

And each one is different and focuses

on different components of the conversation.

And a lot of people don’t like to mirror.

They find it so awkward.

Like, I don’t particularly,

I’m not particularly strong in mirroring.

I gotta do it intentionally.

I’m good at labeling.

But does it almost always work?

Oh, yeah.

Yeah, it feels maybe awkward, but there’s,

it’s true, there’s gotta be ways to signal

that you’re truly listening.

That’s part of it.

I think you can do body language, you can,

yeah, there’s a lot of ways to signal that,

but mirroring is probably just this trivial little hack.

It kinda is.

You know what, there’s a situation,

I had a conversation with Stephen Kodkin,

he’s this historian, and he would say my name

a lot throughout the conversation.

He would be like, well, you have to understand, Lex,

is that, and for some reason

that was making me feel really good.

I was like, he cares about me.

And I wonder if that key, if everyone has that key,

that could be the name, just using people’s name

could be powerful.

Using the name is really context-driven.

It can be extremely powerful with someone who’s genuine,

and it comes across in their demeanor,

and it’s used in a way that you can tell

is meant to encourage you as opposed to exploit you.


And the people that are really into exploiting

will also use it and do the same thing.

So you have to be, you have to avoid using the things

that people that are exploiters, manipulators use,

because it might signal to others

that this person is trying to trick me.

Gotta be very conscious of it, yeah.

What’s labeling that you mentioned, the thing you like?

Well, you know, I said earlier,

that old progression from you sound angry

to this is probably gonna make you angry

to I know you’re angry.

Labeling is hanging a label on an emotion or an affect,

and then just calling it out.

Is that almost always good?

Could it be a source of frustration

when a person’s being angry

and you kind of put a label on it?

Call out the elephant.

Is it possible that that will lead to escalation

of that feeling versus a resolution?

Well, what would make it bad?

Like, if I’m pointing out like that blatantly obvious,

like if I say, look, I need you to get up

and go down to the bank and make the deposit.

Let’s say I’m talking to my, somebody works in my company.

I need you to get on the phone with this person

and make the appointment.

And they go, sounds like you want me to talk to this person.

Yeah, that would be annoying.

If it’s just so absurdly obvious

that there’s no insight in your label at all.

And as soon as you’re demonstrating an awareness

or a subtlety or an insight, either to you or to them,

now we’re making progress.

So the only time a label

could ever potentially be counterproductive

is like if you weren’t actually listening

and the label indicates that you’re not listening.

You know, I’m teaching at USC and I’m teaching labels.

And one of the kids in a class,

he just wants to take the skills and make his deals

and just hustle them.

And he’s just looking for a hustle.

So he writes up a paper about,

he goes, there’s some malls,

I think over by Palm Springs or someplace,

some malls, a lot of people go to buy suits.

So he goes in there

and he immediately starts a bargaining

that my book teaches with no empathy.

And he’s like, throws a price to the guy

and the guy’s like, no.

And he throws another price to the guy

and the guy’s like, no.

And then he says to the guy behind the counter,

sounds like we can make a deal.

Like, no, it doesn’t.

I just shot down everything that you just said.

If anything, it sounds like we’re never gonna make a deal.

But he tried to use this label for manipulation.

Now, the guy didn’t get mad on the other side,

but it’s like, clearly this dude is not listening to me.

And at the core of everything,

you have a bunch of like, almost like hacks,

like techniques you can use,

but at the core of it is empathy.

At the core of it is empathy, yeah.

That’s the main thing.

You can be able to just sit there and listen.

And perceive.

Yeah, and look for insights.

You know what, I like silence.

Or like, you’re both sitting there chilling

with a drink, looking up at the stars.

There’s a moment, the silence makes you kind of zoom out

and realize you’re in this together.

As opposed to playing a game,

or some kind of like chess game of negotiation,

you’re in it together.

I don’t know.

There’s some intimacy to the silence.

And like, I’ll ask a question

and just let the other person sit there

in silence before they answer.

Or vice versa, they ask me a question,

I sit there in silence.

That’s a big, feels like a big intimate thing.


And the other two types,

until they’ve experienced that, are afraid of it.

And what I’m actually gonna do is,

for whatever reason, I’m really comfortable with silence,

I think, because I’ve experienced its effectiveness,

and also my son Brandon,

like he’s the king of dynamic silence.

He coaches people, he says,

go silent, count thousands to yourself.

Don’t stop till you run out of numbers.

That’s a good line.

He’s also good, full of good lines.

He is, that he is.

And so, there’s so much to it.

But the other two types are natural wiring against it

until they’ve experienced it.

And your gut intuition’s giving you data

once you’ve experienced it.

But your amygdala’s kicking into gear,

again, sorry, I realize it’s more complicated than that,

until you’ve experienced it.

So, accommodators, hope-based.

How do they signal fury?

The silent treatment.


So when you go silent,

they’re scared to death you’re furious.


Because that’s how they indicate it.

The assertive thinks that you as the analyst went silent

because you wanted to talk some more.

When a point of fact,

you’re either, you’re thinking or,

and I love your description,

the feeling of intimacy in silence

and experiencing the moment.

Because I’m actually going to factor that

into trying to get,

the accommodators love shared intimacy.

They would love to experience a moment.

And I can see that being very compelling

than be willing to cross that chasm

and experience silence and see how it works for them.

Yeah, it’s nerve-wracking,

which is why it’s intimate.

Because you start thinking,

what’s the other person thinking?

Are we actually going to do this?

Are we going to sit here for 10 seconds and count?

I mean, there’s tricks to it, I guess,

like Brandon says is to just count it out

and realize through data that there’s intimacy to it.

I had a friend of mine,

he lost his voice because of singing.

So he couldn’t, the doctor says he can’t talk for a week,

just to heal the voice, the vocal cords.

But he hung out with other people, with friends,

and didn’t talk to them.

He just hung out.

And he said it was really intimate.

They both didn’t talk to each other.

They just sat there and enjoyed time together.

I don’t know, it’s a wake-up call.

It’s a thing to try maybe with people in your life.

Just hang out and don’t say anything.

As an experiment, don’t say anything the entire day.

But hang, spend time with them.

We’re trying, yeah, definitely.

It’s interesting.

I haven’t tried it myself.

It seems, it’s kind of like a silent retreat,

but more active as part of regular everyday life.

Anyway, is there other interesting techniques

we can talk about here?

So for example, creating the illusion of control.

Yeah, it’s principally by asking what and how questions.

Because people love to tell others what to do

or how to do it.

It does a lot.

That was really the way, when the book was first written,

that we really thought about what and how questions.

It’s giving the other side the illusion of control.

And there’s a lot more to it than that,

that we’ve discovered.

I mean, it triggers deep thinking.

It wears people down.

Deep thinking can be exhausting.

And you want, so what’s the role of exhaustion

in negotiation?

Is that ultimately what?

You gotta be careful with that.

Some people exhaust intentionally.

One of my negotiation heroes, a guy now

who’s unfortunately suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s,

John Domenico Pico is the UN hostage negotiators

that got all the Western hostages out of Beirut in the 80s.

And he wrote a book called Man Without a Gun.

And I’m acquainted with Johnny at this point in time.

I don’t think he has any memory of who I am at all.

But he writes in his book,

one of the great secrets of negotiation

is exhausting the other side.

Political negotiations, that could be Johnny,

was very deferential.

It was in the middle of, in the 80s leading up

to about 1986-ish.

Every negotiation involving warring parties

in the Middle East that you can imagine.

He was in Cyprus.

He was in Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran.

The Iranian government had tremendous trust in him

as a Westerner, a representative of the UN.

Got all the Westerners out of Beirut.

And he was just ridiculously patient.

And which the other side would often find exhausting.

So exhaustion can be a component

of finding resolution in a negotiation.

If it tamps down the negative emotions,

often exhaustion will tamp down negative emotions.

The real trick is really getting negative emotions

out of the way.

Because you’re dumber in a negative frame of mind.

So the goal is always positive emotion,

as you talk about.

That’s what you’re always chasing together.

I think so, yeah.

And that’s what the that’s right is about.


Whatever you’re triggering,

whatever the chemistry you’re triggering in your brain,

you’re like, yeah, yeah, we’re doing good here.

I think so, long-term, for long-term success, absolutely.

How is the word fair used and abused?

The F-bomb.

The F-bomb, as you call it.

How is it used and abused in negotiation?

It’s usually used, it’s most frequently used as a weapon.

It’s abused as a point of manipulation.

It’s what people say when they feel backed into a corner

and they can’t come up with any legitimate reason

as to why they’re being backed into a corner.

Like nobody uses the word F, the F-bomb.

Nobody uses the word fair

when they’ve got criteria to back them up.

So consequently, when somebody starts dropping it,

you got to realize the other side’s got

no legitimate outside criteria.

They’re feeling very vulnerable.

They can’t explain it, but they feel defensive.

And saying, hey, look, I’ve given you a fair offer

is a way for me to knock you off your game

if you’re not aware of it.

So a lot of cutthroat negotiations,

negotiators are going to use it on you

to knock you off your game.

The NFL strike probably now,

it’s been a good 10 years ago.

And maybe even longer than that.

One of the sticking points was the owners

were not opening their books to the players.

Players wanted to see the numbers.

And in order to not open their books,

they just sent a rep to the press conference

saying we’ve given players a fair offer.

Well, if it was fair, you’d open your books.


If you gave them a fair offer

and it was justified by what was in your books,

you’d open them to prove your point.

So what ends up happening though,

that well, the owners gave the players a fair offer

starts to get picked up in the media.

And then it starts getting repeated.

And now that different people on a player’s side

are going like, yeah, maybe they have given us a fair offer.

It caused people to be insecure about their own position.

So it’s an enormously powerful word

that can be used and abused.

And it almost always comes up in every negotiation.

It’s shocking the number of times it comes up

with people who don’t really understand

how or why it’s coming up.

So usually it’s a signal of a not a good place

in the negotiation.

Without question, I’m completely convinced

that if the person is using the word

as a means of getting what they want,

then either accidentally or on purpose,

either in their gut or they know they’ve got a bad position

or their gut is afraid that they are.

Do I use the word?

What I’ll say is I want you to feel

like I’ve treated you fairly.

And if any given point in time

you think I’m not treating you fairly,

I want you to stop me and we’re gonna address it.

Big ridiculous question, but how do you close the deal?

How do you take the negotiation to its end?

Is it implementation ultimately?

You gotta pivot to agreed upon implementation

to really move out of the negotiation.

And I may say, how do you wanna proceed?

And if you don’t know, I might say,

no warranted question, is it a ridiculous idea

if I share with you some ideas of how to proceed?

And then you agree on the actual steps

and that’s the implementation.

It’s not just the philosophical agreement,

it’s actual steps.

The big problem in all negotiations

is a lack of discussion of next steps.

That’s deep.

Who’s the best negotiator you’ve ever met?

Yeah, actually probably my son, Brandon.


Yeah, he’s ridiculously talented.

I mean, he’s ridiculously talented.

And yeah, he’s, you know, and what was it,

Coyle’s book, The Talent Code,

says that people just noticed it

and started getting good at it.

There’s no such thing as a child prodigy,

just got interested when they were a kid.

I mean, Brandon started learning how to negotiate

when he was two years old.

And he’s been in it and immersed in it,

you know, since he could make complete sentences,

even before he could make complete sentences.

He’s ridiculously talented.

What’s his future?

What’s he want to do?

He’s gonna, he has been involved,

he run and built my company,

and now he’s gonna be an affiliated licensee,

run his own operation.

He’s pretty much gonna end up doing very much,

he’s gonna open his entrepreneurial opportunities

to do whatever he wants and not have his dad say no.

And do a better job than his dad.

Most likely.




Do you see some of the techniques

that you talk about as manipulative?

Manipulation is whether or not

I’m trying to exploit you or hurt you.

Am I trying to manipulate a bank robber

into letting me save his life?


So manipulation is like, what am I trying to do to you?


So, but you don’t see the negative connotation.

If you’re trying to bring a better future,

it’s not manipulation?

If I’m trying to bring a better future,

if I’m being genuine and honest,

like, I compliment you.


If my compliment is genuine,

that’s not manipulation.

But if I think,

you got a pair of shoes

that are the dumbest looking things I’ve ever seen.

And I go, wow, those are great shoes.

No, that’s manipulation.

So there’s guys like Warren Buffett

who are big on integrity and honesty.

What’s the role of lying in effective?

Lying is just a bad idea.

Lying is just a bad idea for a variety of reasons.

First of all,

there’s a really good chance the other side

is a better liar than you are,

they’re gonna spot it right off the bat.


Secondly, they could be luring you into a trap

to see if you will lie.

Thirdly, the chances are they’re gonna find out

that you lied to them eventually is really high.

And then the penalties and the taxes

are gonna be way higher than what you had in the first place.

So long-term, you wanna have a reputation

as somebody with integrity.

And the more you lie,

the harder it is to maintain that reputation.

Yeah, exactly.

And word’s gonna get out.


So what’s the,

we can just return to that question.

What’s the difference between a good conversation

and a good negotiation?

Can we, because I think just reading your work,

listening to you,

there’s a sense I have that the thing we’re doing now

and just conversation on podcasts and so on

is different than negotiation.

It feels like the purpose is different.

And yet having some of the same awareness

of the value of empathy is extremely important.

But it feels like the goals are different.

Or no?

Really close, fine line.

I mean, I ruled in here,

not having any expectations,

not looking for anything

other than to have an interesting conversation.

And to hear what was behind the questions

that you were asking me

and what interests you.

And then also your description of silence

and the power of silence.

Something I’m gonna take away as a learning point

and help learn to teach others.

But I didn’t come in here,

I suppose a negotiation is when we’re both aware

of a problem we’re trying to solve.

Right, there’s no problem in the room.


Just to solve.

Except maybe like the human condition and.

Insight, you know, wisdom.



How do you train to become better at negotiating?

In business, in life?

Yeah, just small stakes practice for high stakes results.

I mean, decide what kind of negotiating resonates with you.

I mean.

What’s that mean, small stakes practice for high stakes

or small stakes?

So small, little, incremental,

like picking up girls at a bar?

What are we talking about?

Well, it can be.

For some people, that’s high stakes practice.

Well, you know, labeling mirrors.

What are the basic tools of great negotiation?

Labeling, mirroring, paraphrasing, summarizing.

So you start labeling and mirroring people

that you just have regular interactions with

just to gain a feel for whether or not

you can read somebody’s affect

or how accurate your read is to get better at it.

And so, you know, label the Lyft driver

or the grocery store clerk

or the person behind the airline counter at the airport.

So putting a label on their affect.

Or throwing something at them that,

because negotiation is a perishable skill.

Emotional intelligence is perishable.

So seeing if you can indicate

that you understand their label.

One of my favorite labels to throw out on somebody,

which, you know, maybe re-level,

I might look at somebody who looks distressed

and I’ll go, tough day?

So several years ago, I’m at the counter at LAX.

Well, I’m waiting in line to get to the counter.

And the lady behind the counter

is clearly making it a point to not meet my eyes

so that I don’t approach.

And she looks, and so, like,

you know when you’re next in line

and they’re making sure that you don’t meet eyes.

And I’m thinking to myself,

all right, so they’re having a bad day.

So I walk up and as soon as I approach the counter,

I go, tough day?

And she kind of snaps around.

And she goes, no, no, no, how can I help you?

And goes out of her way to help me.

Now I’m practicing, but I also know it made her feel better.

It relieved some of the stress.

So now I’m going through TSA.

Want to look for people who are having a tough day.

It’s a good place to find them.

It’s a good place to find them, practice.

And I’m rolling through the line

and I realize I haven’t tossed a label out

on any one of these guys.

And there’s this guy watching the bags

come out of the x-ray machine.

And he’s just kind of got an indifferent look on his face.

And I go, tough day?

And he kind of goes, I can see from his body language,

like, no.

And I go, just another day, huh?

And he goes, yeah, just another day.

You know, he felt seen.

But I missed, and I’m practicing.

And I’m trying to stay sharp.

So these are the small-

Just a few words.

With just a few words, you’re trying to like,

quickly localize the effect.

And put a label on it.

Very, very, very analytically said.

Thank you.

I’m not letting it go.

I love it.

Does the same apply to just conversation in general?

Just how to get better at conversation?

I think a lot of people struggle.

They have insecurities,

they have anxiety about conversation.

As funny as this is to say,

I have a lot of anxiety about conversation.

Is that, you basically do the same kind of practice,

practice some of the techniques in your book?

Yeah, genuinely.

Just trying to make sure you heard somebody out.


What’s the best conversation you’ve ever been in?

Except this one, of course.


What, I mean, not the best conversation,

but what stands out to you?

As conversation that changed you as a person, maybe?

Well, there’s probably been a lot of them along the way.

I mean, but one that I remember on a regular basis,

actually there’s two.

But when I was in the Bureau, I’m at Quantico,

I’m there for an in-service.

There’s another guy from New York,

a buddy of mine named Lionel.

And we’re both trying to decide whether or not

we want to be, try to get into profiling or negotiation.

Because they’re both about human dynamics,

and both of us really like human dynamics.

And we’re sitting around talking about it,

and we’re talking about several things,

and he labels me.

And I knew he didn’t know what he was doing.

I think he was just, he had picked it up.

And I’d been talking about my family quite a few things.

And he said to me, and I never said this directly,

that we were close.

But he said to me,

it sounds like your family’s really close.

And I can remember in a moment, like this feeling,

just like I felt great in the moment.

I mean, what he said just drew together

everything that I’d been saying,

and nailed the essence of it.

And I have a very clear recollection

of how good that felt in a moment.

So a couple years later, I’m on a suicide hotline.

Now I got this line in the back of my head.

You know, line, technique, reaction, read,

whatever you want to call it.

Guy calls in on a hotline,

and I could tell the dude is rattled by his tone of voice.

I mean, just amped up.

And he goes, you know,

I’m just trying to put a lid on the day.

I need your help putting a lid on the day.

I gotta put a lid on the day.

And I go, you sound anxious.

And he goes, yeah.

And it came down a little bit.

And it was a guy that was telling me about,

he was battling a disease of paranoia.

And he’s gonna go on a car trip

with his family the next day.

And he knew that on the car trip,

he was gonna twist himself into knots.

And so the night before, he’s twisting himself into knots.

And he’s laying out everything that he’s done

to try to beat paranoia

and how much his family’s helping him.

And he’s going on a car trip with the family

because they’re gonna take him to see a doctor.

And so I hit him with the same thing

that my buddy Lionel said.

I said, it sounds like your family’s close.

He goes, yeah, we are close.

And he leveled out a little bit more.

And then he started ticking off all the things

that he was doing to try to beat paranoia.

And he sounded determined.

And so I said, you sound determined.

And he goes, yeah, I am determined.

And I’ll be fine tomorrow, thanks.

And that was all I said.

So those two conversations,

which are overlapping conversations,

those two things really stick out in my mind.

Do those things, through all the different negotiations

and conversations you’ve had,

do they kind of echo throughout?

Like you basically…

Because when you empathize with other human beings,

you start to realize we’re all the same.

And so you can start to pick little phrases here and there

that you’ve heard from others, little experiences.

They were all about,

like we all want to be close with other human beings.

We all want love.

I think we’re all deeply lonely inside.

I’m looking for connection.

We’re just, if we’re honest about it.

And so all humans have that same,

all the same different components of,

well, it makes them tick.

So do you kind of see yourself basically

just saying the same things

to connect with another human being?

Yeah, there aren’t that many different things

that we’re looking for understanding on,

or connection on, or satisfaction of.

There just aren’t that many of them, regardless.

And so yeah, you’re looking for it to manifest itself

in some form or another.

And you’re willing to take a guess on whether or not

that’s what you’re seeing or hearing.

What advice would you give to me

to be better at these conversations?

To me and to other people that do kind of interviews

and podcasts and so on.


Because I really care about empathy as well.

Is there a kind of,

as a lifelong journey in this process?

Yeah, well, I would advise you to take that approach,

which is the approach that you’re taking.

You care about it, you’re very curious about it.

You see it as a lifelong journey.

You’re fascinated by it.

You enjoy learning about it.

And you definitely do see it as a lifelong journey,

as opposed to, this is what I can,

if I can acquire this, then I can manipulate people.

No, I mean, I fall in love with people I talk to.

There’s a kind of deep connection,

and it lingers with you,

especially when I’m preparing.

The more material there is in a person,

the more you get to fall in love with them ahead of time.

You get to really understand, not understand,

but what I mean by fall in love is-

Well, appreciate, huh?

Appreciate, but also become deeply curious.

That’s what I mean by fall in love.

You appreciate the things you know,

but you start to see, like Alice in Wonderland,

you start to see that there’s all this cool stuff

you can learn if you keep interacting with them.

And then when you show up and you actually meet,

you realize, it’s like more and more and more and more.

It’s like in physics, the more you learn,

the more you realize you don’t know.

And it’s like, it’s really exciting.

And then it can also be heartbreaking

because you have to say goodbye.

Goodbye, I hate goodbyes.

I hate goodbyes.

Seems terminal, right?

Yeah, it reminds me that I’m gonna die one day.

Like things end, good things end, it sucks.

But then it makes the moment more delicious, you know,

that you do get to spend together.


Okay, I just wanna, I completely forgot,

I wanted to ask you about this, the 738 55% rule.

This is really interesting.

Does this, is there at all truth to it?

That 7% of a message is conveyed from the words used,

38% from the tone of voice, and 55% from body language.

Is there really truth to that?

All right, so Albert Mehrabian,

I think is the name of the UCLA professor

that originally proposed the 738 55 ratio

and discussed it in terms of that it wasn’t the message,

but how much, he called it liking.

Like, are you, not that you’re,

the meaning is coming across,

but you’re liking of the message.

And so it’s been extrapolated heavily by people like me

to this meaning of the meaning in 738 55,

from liking to the meaning.

What I’ve seen regularly is people that communicate

verbally, if their speakers, Tony Robbins, 738 55 guy,

he throws the ratio out there.

Go, that’s it exactly.

That’s exactly how the message comes across.

This is how we gotta balance it.

This is how we gotta do it.

Those that communicate principally in writing,

the meaning of the words are much more important to them.

So they’re deeply uncomfortable with seven being the words.

Because the content, the words, the meaning of the words,

when you’re writing, it’s so important

that you hate to poo-poo it that way.

So I, first of all, I 1000% believe it’s an accurate ratio,

but the real critical issue is,

not what the ratio of those three things are,

it’s what’s the message when they’re out of line?

Like what’s the message when the tone of voice

is out of line with the words?

Like it don’t matter what your ratio is.

You got a problem if their tone does not match their words.

And that’s hard to really put a measure on exactly.

Even in writing, there’s a tone.

I mean, it’s not just, even in writing,

it’s not just the words.

There’s the words, but there’s like a style

underneath the whole thing.

And there’s something like body language,

the presentation of the whole thing.

I mean, yeah, I’m a big fan

of constraint mediums of communication,

which writing is, or voice, like Clubhouse.

There’s a personality to a human being

when you just hear their voice.

It’s not just, you could say it’s the tone of voice,

but there’s like, you can like, what is it?

The imagination fills in the rest.

Like when I’m listening to somebody,

I’m like, I’m imagining some amorphous being, right,

doing things.

When they get angry, I’m imagining anger.

I don’t know what exactly I’m visualizing.

Well, and so you may be thinking of a funny story,

because we were talking about your buddy, Elon, before.

And I told you about that I’d interacted

with some of the senior executives.

So I know that they love working with him,

and I think he’s an interesting guy,

and they realize that he can be funny,

and he jokes around.

So they’re telling me,

they’re on this conference call, just words,

and a guy on the other end of the line

says something that was wrong, but wasn’t bad.

And so they said, they’re on a phone,

and Elon goes, you’re fired.

And then everybody in the room with him

can see that he’s joking.

But the person on the other side can’t,

and they all go, wait, wait, wait, wait,

they can’t see your look on your face right now.

You gotta stop, you gotta stop,

because the guy on the other side is dying right now.

He doesn’t realize you’re joking.

So there was, you know, there were the words

and the tone of voice,

but it lacked the visual to go with it.

Nevertheless, it was probably funny.

I’m sure it was very funny at the time.

Maybe not to him.

Just as an interesting task,

I don’t know if you’re following along

the developments of large language models,

there’s been something called Chad GPT.

There’s just more and more sophisticated

and effective and impressive chatbots, essentially,

that can talk.

And they’re becoming more and more human-like.

Do you think it’s possible in the future

that AI will be able to be better negotiators than humans?

Do you think about that kind of stuff?

Well, so definition of better versus less flawed.

Like, you know, chatbots have been out there for a long time

and probably about five years ago now,

a company approached us

because they were doing a negotiation chatbot.

And they said two things.

First of all, I said, you know, why are you talking to us?

Said, well, in point of fact,

we already spoke to the people that are teaching,

quote, the Harvard methodology.

And, you know, the rational approach to negotiation

just doesn’t work.

Rational approach just does not work.

Our chatbots are not getting anywhere.

But we’re showing in around about 80% of the interactions

a higher success outcome with these chatbots.

And they showed me what they were doing.

And it was still a lot deeply flawed

emotional intelligence-wise.

But the reason why that they were having

higher success rates is the chatbots

were never in a bad mood.

And you could reach out for a chatbot

in the middle of the night.

So if you were talking to somebody that was never upset

and was always available,

then you’re gonna have a higher success rate.

Negotiations go bad when people

are in a negative frame of mind.

So the natural ability of a chatbot to be positive

is just going to give you a higher success rate.

Yeah, and they’re not gonna get mad and argue with you.

You know, you say to a chatbot,

you know, your price is too high.

Chatbot is designed to come back with a smiley face.


You say to a person, your price is too high.

They go, how dare you?

I’m trying to make a living.

You know, they’re gonna go off the deep end.

Unfortunately or fortunately,

I think the way chatbots are going now,

they will come back negative

because they’re becoming more and more human-like.

That’s the whole point.

To be able to pass the Turing test,

you have to be negative.

You have to be an asshole.

You have to have boundaries.

You have to be insecure.

You have to have some uncertainty.

Well, it’s the difference between having boundaries

and being negative.

Like I can, you threw a proposal to me.

You know, before I say no,

I’m gonna say, look, I’m sorry.

That just doesn’t work for me.

I’m gonna set up a real clear boundary

without being negative.


So, and a lot of people really struggle

with setting boundaries without being negative,

without name-calling, without indignation,

without getting upset.

But see, there’s a, when you are,

when you show that you’re not getting upset,

I’m not just seeing that.

I’m seeing a flawed human

that has underneath it a temper,

underneath it the ability to get upset,

but chooses not to get upset.

And a chatbot has to demonstrate that.

So, it’s not just going to be cold

and, you know, be this kind of corporate,

blank, empty, sort of like vapid creature

that just says, oh, thank you.

Thank you for saying that.

No, it’s basically, you have to,

the chatbot has to be able to be mean

and choose not to be.

Interesting, I don’t know.

Maybe not.

I’d be willing to see that play out

and see how it plays out.

But I guess what I’m saying is to be a good negotiator,

you have to have the capacity to be a bad person

and choose not to.


I think so.

See, I think you just gotta have the capacity

to set a boundary and stick to it.

Interesting, because I think it’s hard for me

to trust a person who’s not aware of their own demons.

Because if you say you don’t have any demons,

if you don’t have any flaws, I can’t trust you.

Yeah, well, first of all, it’s a lie, right?

So, somebody’s lying.


It’s back to lying.

Yes, so you have to have a self-awareness about that.

But to be able to control it,

demonstrate to be able to control it.

I mean, this is humans.

I just think humans, intelligent, effective humans,

they’re able to do this well.

And chatbots are not yet.

And they’re moving in that direction.

So, it makes me think about what is actually required

for effective negotiation.

That’s what AI systems do, is they make you ask yourself,

what is it that makes humans special in any discipline?

What is it that makes humans special at chess and Go games,

which AI systems are able to beat humans at now?

What is it that makes them effective at negotiation?

What does it make them effective at

at something that’s extremely difficult,

which is navigating physical spaces?

So, doing things that we take for granted,

like making yourself a cup of coffee,

is exceptionally difficult problem for robots.

Because of all the complexities involved

in navigating physical reality.

We have so much common sense reasoning built in,

just about how gravity works,

about how objects move,

what kind of objects there are in the world.

It’s really difficult to describe,

because it all seems so damn trivial, but it’s not trivial.

Because a lot of that we just learn as babies.

We keep running into things, and we’ll learn about that.

And so, AI systems help us understand,

what is it that makes humans really,

what is the wisdom we have in our heads?

And negotiation, to me, is super interesting.

Because negotiation is not, it’s about business,

it’s about geopolitics, it’s about running government.

It’s basically negotiating, how do we,

the different policies, different bills,

and programs, and so on.

How do we allocate money?

How do we reallocate resources?

All that kind of stuff.

That seems like AI, in the future, could be better at that.

But maybe not.

Maybe you have to be a messy, weird,

insecure, uncertain human,

and debate each other, and yell at each other on Twitter.

Maybe you have to have the red and the blue teams

that yell at each other,

in the process of figuring out what is true.

Maybe AI systems will not be able to do that,

and figure out the full mess of human civilization.

Yeah, interesting.

Well, I mean, the two thoughts that I had along the way was,

I mean, anytime you’re talking about systems or scaling,

you know, you’re talking, my belief is chatbots, systems,

things that don’t require decision-making,

just following the instructions,

at least 80% of what’s going on.

Now, the remaining percentage, whatever it is,

does it require the human interaction, and what’s required?

Like, I’m not like, I am not pro-conflict,

and I also know that there’s a case to be made

in the creative world,

that some of the best thinking came out of conflict.

Reading interviews of Bono, you too.

You know, their admiration for some of the Beatles'

best music came when they were fighting with each other.

And the song One, which is, I believe,

from the album Octoon Baby.

Those guys were fighting.

I mean, they were on the verge of breaking up.

And their appreciation that conflict

could create something beautiful.

And then when I was in the crisis negotiation unit,

you know, my last seven years in the FBI,

there was a guy named Vince, brilliant dude,

brilliant, brilliant negotiator.

And he and I used to argue all the time.

And then when we had a change in the guy who was in charge,

the guy who was in charge took me off to the side,

and he’s like, you know, I can’t take you

and Vince fighting all the time.

And I said, well, I got news for you.

I think we come up with much better stuff

as a result of our battles.

And he said, you know, Vince said the same thing to me.

And I’m like, so if we don’t have a problem fighting,

why do you have a problem?

But, you know, there is something there

that sometimes the most difficult insights,

you rack your brains as to why someone is so dug in

on something that you think is so wrong.

Yeah, maybe there’s something to it.

I think there’s something to it.

There’s something about conflict, even drama,

that might be a feature, not a bug of our society.


Do you think there will always be war in the world?


So there will always be a need for negotiators

and negotiating.

Well, as it turns out.


Why do you think there will always be war?

Is it, what’s your intuition about human nature there?

Yeah, just because we’re basically 75% negative.

And then, for lack of a better term,

I call it two lines of code.

Like somewhere when you, everybody, when we were little,

somebody planted in two lines into our head.

We don’t know when it got in there.

But somebody said something to us that stuck.

And there are a lot of people

that had some really negative garbage dumped in their brain

when they were little.

And just based on the numbers.


What kind of opportunity they were given afterwards.

Did they ever have an epiphany moment

when they genuinely believed

they can get themselves out of it?

Like what is it, one of Joe Dispenza’s book

is Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself.


You know, like how do you get at that two lines of code

that either mean or well-intentioned,

but stupidly speaking, adults said to you

at the wrong moment and planted in your brain?

Like how, the chances of everybody on Earth

getting that out, even a majority of people on Earth

getting that out of their heads is really small.

What advice would you give to a young person today

about how to have a career

they could be proud of or a life?

Maybe somebody in high school, college,

trying to figure out their way in this world.

It’s probably a take on a cliche of do what you love.

But if you figure out your ideals

and pursue your ideals

and stick to them when it costs you.

Like a guy I admire very much, Michael McGill,

runs this Operation Crisp video in Atlanta.

In one of his talks, he would say,

core values are what you stick to that costs you money.

It’s not a value that really matters to you

unless it’s costing you.

And stick to your values.

Now, when I was in the FBI, I worked really hard at,

you know, the number one core mission of the FBI

is to protect and defend the American people.

So I could pursue that value at all times, which I did,

or I could follow the rules.

You don’t have time to do both.

When did you know you found what you love?

When did you fall in love with whatever this process is

that is negotiating?

I think it was in a conversation on the suicide hotline

that I was telling you about earlier

with the guy who was paranoid.

When I thought, I can have that significant of an impact

on another human being in this short of a period of time.

That’s really cool.

How hard is it to talk somebody off the ledge?

So this question, this is a big question.

Why the hell live at all?

How do you have that kind of deeply philosophical,

deeply psychological, and also practical conversation

with somebody and convince them they should stick around?

Well, it’s more clearing the clutter in their head

and let them make up their own mind.

That was what volunteering on a suicide hotline

was really about.

Just let me see how quickly I can clear out

the clutter in your head,

if you’re willing to have it cleared out.

Did you call here,

because you were actually looking for help,

or did you call here to fulfill some other agenda?

So are you willing to clear the clutter in your head?

Not everybody is.

So once you clear out the clutter,

is it at least a somewhat hopeful chance

that you’ll continue for another day?


And like, if you step back,

like very few people that commit suicide

physically are up against it that hard.

Like most of them, by and large,

are pretty intact, physically human beings.

They’re struggling with emotional stuff.

But it’s an emotional issue.

It’s not a physical issue.

So if you were to be a complete mercenary,

like a guy I’m a very big fan of,

a guy named Mark Pollack, a born great athlete,

lost his eyesight and then became paralyzed.

Like he’s an emotional leader.

He’s about helping people thrive and live great lives.

Like Mark was born, he was a spectacular athlete.

And first he lost his sight in one eye,

then he lost his sight in the other eye,

and then he fell out a window in a tragic experience.

Like if there was ever a dude that was saying,

like, living sucks.

You know, and if there’s any doubt in my mind,

something worse happens to me every few years.

But Mark’s about being alive and inspiring other people.

So the hard part with navigating

with somebody who’s tossing it in

because there’s a chemical imbalance

or it’s the way they’re interpreting the world.

There’s clutter in their head.

Like can you help clear that clutter in their head?

And help them by themselves,

inspire them to reinterpret that world

as one worth living in.

What do you think is the meaning of life, Bruce Walsh?

Why live?

What’s a good reason?

Well, I have very strong religious beliefs.


You know, I don’t, 1,000%.

If you were to try to confine me in a box,

I’d be a Christian.

I have tremendous respect for the Jewish.

I don’t think any religion’s got it nailed, exactly.

Again, I keep mentioning, I’m kind of a Bono Christian.

I think Bono is like what,

and I’m gonna butcher it,

but my belief in Jesus is what I’ve got

after Christianity leaves a room.

You know, the dogma of man’s application

of spiritual beliefs.

So, but that being said, I truly believe

that my life was a gift and there’s a purpose here,

and for my creator decided that I woke up in the morning

because he still had some cool,

interesting things for me to do.

And you have gratitude for having the opportunity

to live that day.


Well, you do one heck of a good job

at living those days.

I really appreciate your work.

I appreciate the person you are.

Thank you for just everything you’ve done today

for just being empathic, honestly.

You’re a great listener.

You’re a great conversationalist.

It’s just an honor to meet you and to talk to you.

This was really awesome, Chris.

My pleasure.

Thanks for listening to this conversation with Chris Voss.

To support this podcast,

please check out our sponsors in the description.

And now, let me leave you with some words

from John F. Kennedy.

Let us never negotiate out of fear,

but let us never fear to negotiate.

Thank you for listening and hope to see you next time.