Minter Dialogue with Chris Voss

Chris Voss was a member of the NYC joint terrorism task force for fourteen years, lead crisis negotiator for the NYC division of the FBI before becoming the FBI lead international kidnapping negotiator. He teaches at several prestigious universities and founded and runs the Black Swan Group, a strategy consultancy. He is also the author of monumental best-seller, “Never Split The Difference.” The book was published in 2016 and is still in the Amazon top sellers. It is a MUST READ! In this conversation with Chris, we talk about the art of negotiation, and the art of making a deal, the role of negotiations in business and in life, how to distinguish between real and fake opportunities and the power of calm. We talk about BATNA and various negotiation techniques, as well as some of his experiences, and the importance of empathy in negotiating among other big topics.

Please send me your questions — as an audio file if you’d like — to Otherwise, below, you’ll find the show notes and, of course, you are invited to comment. If you liked the podcast, please take a moment to go over to iTunes to rate it.

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Music credit: The jingle at the beginning of the show is courtesy of my friend, Pierre Journel, author of the Guitar Channel. And, the new sign off music is “Finger Paint,” written and performed by Josh Saxe, produced by Chase Geiser. Here’s a link on iTunes. I invite you to take a spin on Pierre’s podcast or listen to more of Josh’s music!


Transcript of the podcast with Chris Voss via

The following is a transcript of the interview, using It’s been edited from the original for optimal comprehension. If you find errors, please excuse us! You’re welcome to comment them below and we’ll fix.

Episode 322

SUMMARY KEYWORDS: negotiation, people, empathy, chris, deal, negotiator, hostage, hostage negotiation, assertive, world, business, understand, minter, book, skills, perishable, human nature, called, thought, anger

SPEAKERS: Chris Voss, Minter Dial

Chris Voss  0:06

And it was the most dangerous negotiations when you don’t know you’re in because real just the negotiation is not whether or not you got an agreement. The gist is implementation. We used to say yes, there’s nothing without how and now we say yes, there’s nothing. How is everything?

Minter Dial  0:22

Hello and welcome to Minter dialogue, Episode Number 322. Today is Sunday, the seventh of April 2019. And this interview is with Chris Voss. Chris was the former FBI lead international kidnapping negotiator. And he now runs Black Swan Group, a strategy consultancy. He’s also the author of the negotiation best-seller, Never Split the Difference. In this conversation with Chris, we talked about the art of negotiation, the art of making a deal, the role of negotiations in business and in life, how to distinguish between real and fake opportunities, and the role of calm. We talk about the BATNA and various other negotiation techniques, as well as some of his experiences and the importance of empathy in negotiating, among other big topics.

Welcome to the Minter dialogue Podcast, where we discuss branding and all things digital. I’m Minter Dial, your host, and you’ll find the show notes on my eponymous site Enjoy the show.

Chris Voss, it is a great pleasure to have you on the show. I have followed across many different media, what you’re up to, and there are many things that I really want to touch base with you on. So, thanks for coming on the show, Chris. And in your own words, describe yourself? Who are you?

Chris Voss  1:51

Just some guy from Iowa.

Minter Dial  1:55


Chris Voss  1:55

I was the FBI’s former lead international kidnapping negotiator. I run a company now called the Black Swan group. And we help people accelerate business deals with hostage negotiation strategies… People who listen to us probably close a deal and about a third of the time.

Minter Dial  2:16

Wow. Do you think that deal-making has changed over these last years? Or is it essentially the same stuff? And with the same human traits that we’re dealing with all the time?

Chris Voss  2:30

Has human nature changed? Change as much as human nature has. And pretty much the data shows us human nature hasn’t changed in 5000 years!

Minter Dial  2:39

So, then what’s different are your experiences, because you every negotiation you do, all the same, is a feather in your cap, is an experience. You win and lose some presumably along the way? And that’s making up your portfolio and your basis for bringing that into business?

Chris Voss  3:00

Yeah, well, I don’t know. I mean. A couple things there, interesting points. You don’t want every deal? You know, the first assessment is do you want the deal? And maybe even before that, the first assessment is: is there a deal there at all? I mean, rough guess, probably closer to 80% of the business opportunities people encounter are fake opportunities. And so, one of the reasons why so many people, when we coach them, cut so much out, give themselves back so much more time is, you know, how do you assess whether or not it’s a legitimate opportunity right up front, instead of, you know, there’s a saying in sales, 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 that’s one of the reasons why we accelerate deal-making so much as you know, we’re going to put, it’s counterintuitive, but we’re going to put some screening devices and a communication right in front of find out whether or not it’s a fake deal.

Minter Dial  4:02

One says that, at some level, you’re always selling yourself. And I’m just wondering if you could put a containment element to how much of business is negotiation? Because at some level, I could say asking someone for a cup of coffee is a negotiation. You know, getting a date with somebody is a negotiation, then asking for a million-dollar contract is a real negotiation. So, how do you frame when and where negotiation stops and starts?

Chris Voss  4:36

If someone who’s trying to get somebody else to say “yes,” you’re in a negotiation. If the words “I want” are in your brain, you’re in a negotiation. The most dangerous negotiations are the ones you don’t know you’re in. You know, and I love the cup of coffee analogy, because, I ran across a speaker not too long ago. He started a website, I think, called Secrets, where he encouraged people to send in their secrets anonymously. He’s telling me he gets a brand new, still in a wrapper Starbucks cup, sort of his proof of identity. And the person sent him a note that said, I give decaf to people who are mean to me. [LAUGHTER] Now as a negotiator, I would say that that was a negotiation. And it was the most dangerous negotiations are when you don’t know you’re in because the real gist of a negotiation is not whether or not you got an agreement. The gist is implementation. We used to say yes is nothing without how and now we say yes is nothing. How is everything! So, you’re going to Starbucks, and you engage that negotiation poorly. And you know, that poor schmuck is like, wow, I’m building up a tolerance to caffeine, it just doesn’t give me the same kick that it used to.

Minter Dial  5:54

Well, so then there is this notion of “how” and maybe transparency and the mechanisms and the ability for other people to say, “Well, he’s a real s**t” or not, is more accessible than in the past?

Chris Voss  6:10

What makes it more accessible?

Minter Dial  6:11

Well, the fact is that I if I if I’m having a negotiation, you don’t even know about it, but I’m negotiating with you, Chris. And I employ some bad things, then Chris goes often and tells that to some other people… that’s sort of where it was 30 years ago. Now, Chris can go up and type a little post on Twitter or something like that Minter is an a**hole and now more people know about my deviousness?

Chris Voss  6:37

Yeah, interesting. You know, that saying do something right, three people know about it. Do something wrong, 12 people know about it. You know, that was invented before the internet. Yeah. So, I think word of mouth has been something we should always be conscious of. You know. So, I don’t know if it’s any less or any more. There’s so many trolls out there that we’re going to expect negativity. I mean, at this point in time, if I get four people criticizing me, I know I got 40 people that are on my side. So, you know, we are, I think, the media, social media and the feedback we get is to be ultra-concerned about rock throwers, critics, trolls. But is it any more of a problem in our day to day operations? So, that’s an interesting question.

Minter Dial  7:29

So, Chris, in your background, and I have one very long-term friend who has also been a negotiator in similar space to you. And I wonder, you know, you’ve been in this tough negotiation world and how do you describe the transferable skills that come from the world of negotiating hostages to getting that cup of coffee? Or, you know, obviously, more mundane business matters of getting a million-dollar contract? Or, say, getting a new supplier?

Chris Voss  8:02

Skills are 1,000%, transferable? I mean, there were moments when we wrote the book, Never Split the Difference, there were aspects of hostage negotiation. And there’s really two types of hostage negotiation. Contained where you got the bad guys trapped in a bank or wherever and you got them surrounded. And then there’s uncontained, which is kidnappings. So, I thought that there were elements of both that didn’t really apply. And since the book is out, it all applies! Yeah, I’ll take a hostage negotiator who’s good at what he does. And I’ll say, handle this business negotiation or build this simulation or give me your thoughts on what you should say. And, if they’re fresh out of hostage negotiation, they say, “Well, I don’t know. I never did business negotiations before.” And I’ll say, “Okay, pretend it’s a hostage siege. And tell me what you’d say, just stick to your gut instinct, stop worrying about whether or not it’s right or wrong.” And if they’re good at what they do, they’re always right.

Minter Dial  9:08

One of the things that struck me and speaking to my friend, Laurent, about this is that when you’re in that kind of situation, where life and death is a reality, and then you come back into selling more lipsticks, or, you know, more widgets, and it’s just not exactly the same weight, how have you managed that personally, Chris?

Chris Voss  9:29

Yeah, the same way everybody should. You know, our biggest problem is our biggest problem. And so, if I get bent out of shape today, because my internet didn’t come on, you know, I should spend some time volunteering on a cancer ward if I wanted to be reminded of what real problems are. And I get far enough away from the actual life and death scenarios, you know, I’ve been out of, I’ve been out of the FBI about 10 years now. You know, I’ve forgotten. You know, it’s been over 10 years since I was in Baghdad and the people I interacted with might be mutilated, just because they spoke to me and some were. So, it’s a perspective that we all lose. It’s a human nature perspective. And you know you don’t got to go to Baghdad to remind you that your life is probably pretty good, huh?

Minter Dial  10:25

So, you founded the Black Swan strategy consultancy. So, first of all…

Chris Voss  10:34

We’re a bunch of ballerinas! [LAUGHTER]

Minter Dial  10:39

Of course, of course, I love ballet. [LAUGHTER]

What I was interested in is the link between negotiation and creation of a strategy. And help us understand why it’s negotiation that helps you become a strategy consultant. Find us that that link?

Chris Voss  11:01

Well, we’re negotiation consultants and coaches. You know, the skills are applicable to all sorts of human nature, human interactions, whether it’s leadership, whether you’re leading, you know, you’re managing up and managing down, but we, you know, we focus on negotiations. And, you know, there there is a limitation. The strategies only apply where people are involved.

Minter Dial  11:24

Right, got it. So, I was listening to a recent CNBC interview that you did, Chris, and so it’s very topical, it’s very United States because it deals with President Trump.

Chris Voss  11:39


Minter Dial  11:42

No one knows about him over here! And, and you were commenting on the negotiation style of Trump and specific to the federal shutdown and everything, and you said: people make their decision over what’s the biggest loss.

Chris Voss  12:00


Minter Dial  12:01

And I was like, I stopped it on that. It’s like I so that (a) assumes that they know their biggest loss, because you know, like you said in the beginning, do you know you’re in a negotiation? Have you done the the work to think what is your biggest loss? And then I just wanted to parallel that with something I learned at Business School, thanks to my wonderful Belgian negotiation teacher Ingemar Dierickx, which was: always know your BATNA. He used this term: the BATNA: the best alternative to no agreement. And he said, that is what you always need to establish. So, can you help me through understanding the notions of the biggest loss versus the best alternative to no agreement?

Chris Voss  12:45

Yeah, alright, so let me bash BATNA for a little bit. BATNA.

Minter Dial  12:52

It’s all I remember!

Chris Voss  12:55

Now BATNA is an intellectually sound concept and actually I understand. I mean, I interacted with the Harvard people. I met Roger Fisher a few times, the guys and invented this. And I know why they invented it. They want you to not be held hostage in a negotiation. They want to give yourself psychological outs, to say like, “Look, if I don’t make this deal, I’ve got somewhere to go.” Now that’s intellectually sound. Unfortunately, it’s emotionally fraught with peril. Because now if you’re determined that you have to have an out, you’ve just taken yourself hostage. What do you do if you’ve got no BATNA. You know, I find it irrelevant. Because I started out with negotiations going, like, you know, Don’t talk to me about BATNA. We got to get in here, we got to get do a good job without allowing ourselves to be taken hostage by BATNA. So, then to take it further, when we’re teaching, you know, myself and my son and the other people that along with me in Business School, now I can change your performance by moving, your BATNA. Your BATNA is that an artificial construct that you create in your head. And so, we thought, all right, so since it’s not real, what happens if we tell people they have to do better? Because we raised the BATNA, and lo and behold, they do better because we change this artificial imaginary construct. And we say, Alright, so let’s lower the BATNA and see if we can change your performance, understanding we didn’t change a single actual condition that existed in reality. We changed this pretend construct. And we lowered the BATNA and you know what? They did worse. So, we’re taken hostage by BATNA if we are determined that we need it,

Minter Dial  14:44

Right. So, if I take biggest loss, and in this specific case, we were referring to Trump’s losing his base, and he considered that his biggest loss. Is that not tantamount to a hostage situation? He’s hostage to his base?

Chris Voss  14:59

Well, yeah, let’s go back. And let’s dig into that, too. Because the one thing then is you said that you have to know what their loss is. Most people don’t. It’s an instinctive reaction. And I wish I would have invented the concept, because then I would be up for the Nobel Prize, which Danny Kahneman got the Nobel Prize and behavioral economics.

Minter Dial  15:19


Chris Voss  15:19

You know, doggone it, you know, he beat me to it. Kahneman and Tversky came up with Prospect Theory. We came to know it was true concept. But we thought it only applied to hostage negotiation, because a hostage negotiator from the beginning, is driving to find out the loss the other side has experienced. Identify it, it’s going to be eating at them. They’re probably not going to know what it is. But we use our tools to uncover it gently, and then to simply mitigate it and make it go away. Because it’s all imaginary. And then we found that Danny Kahneman comes along 2002 wins a Nobel Prize in behavioral economics because this drives all human behavior. So, I wish you would have invented it. I’d love to claim credit for it. You know, I could use Nobel Prize winner. But that ain’t never going to happen.

Minter Dial  16:08

Well, you know, you got to go to Stockholm.

Chris Voss  16:10

I’ve been there.

Minter Dial  16:14

Stockholm Centrum.

Chris Voss  16:16

There you go.

Minter Dial  16:17

So, another thing you said, which I also picked up on, and I found it, you know, somehow you read things and things just drop, you know, hit you like a brick. You said, calm is contagious. Patience preserves relationships. Once you understand that patience, and silence is a weapon, you can use it to great effect was like, all right, well, that that sounds like me. And then I think of people who get irate, who go crazy ballistic. And sometimes that works. And I think oh, my God, like I really flipped the lid. And, at times, it actually can be compelling because there’s more passion in it. God damn it, you got to get this thing done. Hi, listen, Sam Harris here. Right. Rational. Calm. Talk us through why calm is so powerful. And because it makes sense to me. But is there a place to be angry and get irate?

Chris Voss  17:18

Yeah, well, anger is an addiction. And it becomes addictive because short-term, it can be very effective. I mean, there’s an actual term called strategic umbrage. And there’s, you know, let’s use Trump terminology that, you know, Trump says fake news. Let’s talk about fake data. You know, there’s fake data out there that justifies that strategic umbrage is good. Anytime somebody’s got a study about something, take a look at how they collected the data. They collected the data that it works in artificial construct situations. They were pretend negotiations. And there’s all sorts of shortcomings and problems with that data. But why do academics, you said down on a regular basis, because they can control it, and then call it rigorous, and it can reach conclusions. And you got to be careful of your data because you know, some people’s data says playing basketball makes you tall. I mean, understand where the data came from what your interpretation is. So, in reality, anger always leaves a negative residu, that people do not get over. And I can get what I want in this deal by being angry. But number one, it’s going to interfere with the implementation. And again, yes, is nothing without how, how is everything. The devils in the details. How are you going to implement if you’re still stinging from the toxic anger, I used to get the deal. So, I’m going to be lucky if the deal gets implemented at all. And I can guarantee you that if I took you hostage with my anger, you’re implementation is not going to be at 100%. And now, how anxious are you to deal with me again?

Minter Dial  19:08

Well, I’ll fear you. If you screamed at me. And you got angry at me. Well, there might be a domination component, but, definitely, I’m not really keen to have be screamed out again.

Chris Voss  19:21

Right. And so, and this is, this is an affliction of a recovering assertive. Donald Trump’s natural born type is assertive. My natural born type is assertive. I’ve gone down this path. How many deals does Donald Trump get in any one location before he has to move on? One or two, he hasn’t put up a building in New York City in 30 years. He had what was supposed to be the largest real estate development in the history of mankind — the West Side railroad project. He’d had several stunning successes before then: the Grand Central Station, phenomenal success. Trump Tower, phenomenal success. Wollman skating rink, phenomenal success. And then suddenly, he can’t get anything done. And he ends up, if you dig into the history of the west side railroad yards, he planned to put up the tallest building in the world there. It was going to be the largest real estate development ever. And then it just went away. And it went away for 30 years, because you wouldn’t give up his peace to it. And no one would do business with him. And now the west side railroad yards are being developed without his involvement. And that’s what happens to the assertive negotiator. He uses anger to get their way because I remember hearing stories of Trump being in business negotiations where he kicked chairs across the room and got his way. And then all of a sudden, no one talks to him anymore. And he doesn’t put up deals. He goes to Atlanta city, several stunning successes with casinos, then all of a sudden nothing. And that’s what happens. An assertive has to go from place to place to place because they burn people out. And then no one will deal with them ever again. That’s exactly what he’s starting to experience now as president and how we got into the shutdown, because he had several negotiations with opposition political party Democrats, and they thought they reach deals with them. And then he changed his mind. And they thought they had the shutdown averted. And he backtracked, and he yelled at people. And now people that deal with them, they get tired of getting yelled at and they don’t know what he’s going to do. And you’re starting to see what happens to the assertive angry threatening negotiator. People just get tired of their act. And they stopped doing business with him.

Minter Dial  21:59

So, I want to pick up one maybe connecting thought which is on the other side of assertive, he also says I really want loyal people. And what it makes me think of, is that as an assertive, you necessarily repel. And therefore that’s what he’s looking for to compensate for the repulsion?

Chris Voss  22:21

Yeah, there are only… to the assertive there’s only two people in their world: the enemy and the conquered. They’re only peers. They’re only the people to be conquered, and those that have been conquered. And the vast majority of us don’t fit into either of those two categories.

Minter Dial  22:41

And the conquered in this case, he equates him to being loyal.

Chris Voss  22:45


Minter Dial  22:46

He says I want loyal. All right. The other thing I wanted to ask because you’ve done this in so many places around the world, Chris, is: we have cultural differences. You know, so calm, I would almost say the Japanese have it in on calm. You know, as well…

Chris Voss  23:05


Minter Dial  23:05

I mean, let’s say at some level, you know, the, the tatame, the tea service, there is a sense of calm in that tradition. And my point is that culturally, what is a raised voice in one culture is nothing in another. I mean, you know, they’re just certain cultures were being voluble and aggressive. That’s just, you know, chutzpah. And in other places that might be considered overwhelming. So, I was wondering how do you nuance that culturally, when you’re faced with somebody in front of you, you have to adapt what is calm? And you know how you can push it?

Chris Voss  23:50

Well, our culture is layered, what were we first. Culture is layered over what we were first. And what we were first is human beings. Everyone’s born with the same basic architecture in our heads, it’s called the limbic system. Everyone has it,it’s all the same components. It’s very much like the respiratory system. It operates pretty much the same way. You can control your breathing to some degree, but by and large, your respiratory system kicks back into gear. It’s unconscious. Same way as your emotional architecture in your brain. Now, where there are many different cultures in the world, psychologists and psychotherapists around the world have one book that catalogues our dysfunctions, the DSM, the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders. And there’s one book for the globe, there’s a book for Arabs, and a book for Asians and a book for Western Europeans. We’re all in the same book, and hostage negotiation skills — that’s why myself and other hostage negotiators you’re acquainted with, use the same basic skills regardless of the continent that there are.

Minter Dial  25:00

But I mean, looking in the eyes, for example, is I’m told you know, there’s sometimes you should duck the eyes not be aggressive with the eyes, if I show you the palm of my hand, for some people that might be very dirty, especially if it’s the left hand. And so, there are cultural nuances in the behaviors that we have. And, even if there’s a limbic system, we’re brought up and you bring that baggage; so if someone throws a shoe at me, well, in one culture that’s considered — and I’m going to take that symbolic shoe flying — as just the worst thing you could ever do for me. Well, what’s the big deal? It’s just a slipper.

Chris Voss  25:39

Right? So, so it’s okay to throw a shoe at somebody and another….

Minter Dial  25:46

Yeah, so the shoe shoe flying is essentially Middle Eastern-ish. And I don’t I’m not specific to it. I don’t know I’ve never tried throwing a shoe. But you do have cultural context for behavioral tics or behavioral signals.

Chris Voss  26:01

Right? I didn’t I didn’t say that it didn’t. And I said it was layered over our human nature wire.

Minter Dial  26:05

Got it. Yeah. Alright. So, Chris, the other thing I really wanted to get into, and it was an immense podcast that I really appreciated with Sam Harris. First of all, straight out: am a big fan of Sam Harris as is my wife. And we were both talking just before dinner, about the fact that we listened to that separately, your conversation with Sam, and both remembered it and liked it.

Chris Voss  26:29

Thank you.

Minter Dial  26:30

You talk about it, and you’re most welcome. You talk in that about empathy. And at some level as a negotiator in difficult situations, it doesn’t strike me as the place where empathy happens. But you opened my eyes to it. And you talked about the role of empathy in negotiation. So, just, first of all, give us a little bit more muscle around that. And then we’re going to talk about my specific question.

Chris Voss  26:57

I’m glad you asked that, because I, you know, I came up cross recently, some writing a little bit more about the origin of the word. And among the definitions is originally a German word that I can’t pronounce it was translated into English as empathy. But they were truly trying to make the point that empathy is the transmission of information and compassion and sympathy are the reactions to that information. So, you look at empathy much more as a transmission of information. And you see it coming up that way more and more when people are really focused down on what is empathy. It’s not sympathy, it’s not compassion. Empathy is the transmission of the information. Sympathy and compassion are the reactions to the information. Now, it’s gotten very convoluted in usage globally, to come to mean sympathy and compassion, and both of which are admirable characteristics that may well flow from the transmission of the information. But if you step it back and just allow it to be the transmission of the information, then it becomes a much more universal skill. And, and then quite powerful.

Minter Dial  28:09

Well, so there we’re talking about cognitive empathy, where it really is something …

Chris Voss  28:15

Goldman’s definition…

Minter Dial  28:16

Yeah, where you can see it coming, you understand it, the context, the individual in a certain situation. You see the emotions, and you can configure. Affective empathy, where I feel, literally, I feel the sh*t that you’re feeling, then that will change my comportment afterwards. And I think it’s a different type of information that I’m receiving. And it makes it more visceral and probably harder to separate into a useful return action and reaction that may or may not be compassionate, may or may not be sympathetic in a cognitive, empathetic manner.

Chris Voss  29:01

But so it sounds to me like you’re talking about the reception, and then the reaction.

Minter Dial  29:05

That’s right, but I’m saying that if you’re in the affective empathy, where I feel the anger that you’re feeling, I start feeling that anger that’s the affective empathy, so the information

Chris Voss  29:08


Minter Dial  29:10

Right! Where I’m feeling the same feelings, you’re feeling it, that’s the reception of information I’m getting, but it’s in a visceral manner, as opposed to understanding the transmission of information. Because I see that Chris is upset. Chris is probably upset because his toy to his right is broken. And I can see that that’s his situation. The affective component is where I start blubbering, because you’re blubbering. I’m not doing that, to make you better. I’m just that’s the way I am receiving the information. So, anyway, the point is that we’re focused on the cognitive empathy, where you are receiving the information, then you get to decide, afterwards, how you want to react…

Chris Voss  29:19

Affective. OK

Minter Dial  29:38

With the empathy… So, you say that empathy is perishable in your podcast with Sam Harris. Empathy is perishable, a perishable skill. You need to use it to keep it. And I was wondering how you go about that? Because, you know, a lot of people ask me, because I’ve written this book, Heartificial Empathy. How do you train empathy? How do you keep it? If you have it… And if you don’t have it? How do you get it?

Chris Voss  30:37

Yeah, we get into some really interesting distinctions in the way you’re constructing the questions as to what’s the distinction between empathy and what’s the distinction between emotional intelligence or empathy receptors, the neuro synapses that are picking up in our brain. And then maybe put more fine point on it what I was talking about with Sam, you know, it’s a performance skill, you know, the application of it, maybe the application of it, our empathy receptors, our ability to hear or ability to consciously understand what our unconscious is picking up. Yeah, it’s perishable. It’s no less perishable than playing golf, or playing basketball or playing any sort of performance sport. And when you really drill down into it, you begin to understand some of the people are having trouble defining it, with the blurred lines. I mean, Jim Campbell wrote the book, Start with No, in 2002, again, same time frame as Kahneman, he used to call negotiation as a performance skill that was perishable. We’re seeing emotional intelligence is not whether or not you are born with it — we all are — we are all born with all sorts of skills, you know, how much time do we spend actually paying attention to the synaptic connections in our brain and consciously developing them? You know, Daniel Coyle who wrote the Talent Code would contend that there is no genius, that people just started on their 10,000 hours before anybody realized they did. So, interesting question as to, you know, what are we born with? And what’s innate? And what is simply nourished, or nurtured?

Minter Dial  32:28

So, in your world, initially, in negotiation with hostages, you talked about the importance of empathy. And so, in practicing it, in your world today, where you’re not necessarily having to do that kind of negotiation or another type of world, what are the things that you do, Chris, to help bring empathy or practice empathy? Are there little tips and tricks that you are employing to help keep that skill alive?

Chris Voss  32:56

Yeah, I’m sure I’m just trying to involve it in my daily conversations. And there’s enough depth and breadth to the skills that I realize that in my gut instincts for different skills, at different times, I have lessened and I’m going to have to spend more time on it. But it’s definitely, we like to say, small stakes practice for high stakes results. Going back to the getting a cup of coffee, or ordering something, I mean, though, these are opportunities to take a few moments to to apply some of the skills. And as a mercenary. And as a missionary, whoever you do it with, they’re going to really appreciate the moment. They’re going to feel seen and heard. They’re going to feel less like a robot behind the counter and more like a human being that the other person recognized. So, the fringe benefit is it’s going to make most of your life a lot more enjoyable, because you make the people around you much happier. The mercenary benefit is you know, you’re just trying to get better communication.

Minter Dial  33:56

Right. So, in a mercenary environment where you have a specific task and an outcome that you’re looking for, you’re employing empathy for a specific result. But there you’re very consciously employing empathy. Is that right? So, therefore, at some level, the cynic might say, well, that’s being manipulative, because you’re really just doing it in order to get the outcome for you.

Chris Voss  34:24

Right! Yeah. Well, the cynic is going to complain about everything. Is that not true?

Minter Dial  34:31

I mean, it’s true, especially in today’s world,

Chris Voss  34:34

Right? One man’s influences is another man’s manipulation. You tell a woman you she’s beautiful, well, you’re just trying to get something out of it. You know, but, you know, it’s a good thing for people to consider because it comes up on a regular basis. And what I typically do is, I’ll pull out my phone and say, how many of you have this? Well, everybody does. Well, you know, there’s some really bad people using those phones to commit some really heinous crimes. How dare you have a phone? You’re using the same tool that murderers and killers use! How dare you? And then you just recognize it as a tool. And it’s really, you know, what are you trying to accomplish? As opposed to: are you using a tool?

Minter Dial  35:19

Because, then, we get into a sociopath. And I think you mentioned the notion that sociopaths are very effective, are very good at empathy. Because when they want to do something to somebody, they’re employing their empathic skill, their empathic muscle is at maximum velocity. Understanding the situation, am I going to get this person the way I want?

Chris Voss  35:42

Right, right. Right. It’s a it’s a point that Goldman makes also, you know, his book FOCUS when he talks about cognitive empathy. He said the people that are best at it are the sociopaths.

Minter Dial  35:52

Right? So, then you’re back at the point of knowing you’re in a negotiation or not, and being aware that the other person is being see crudely empathic to get what they want out of you.

Chris Voss  36:04

Right. And it’s really becoming aware of what they want out of me. Like, I don’t I don’t have a problem. You know, and we used to say, there’s no problem with having a tiger by the tail, just don’t kid yourself as to whether or not you’re holding on to a tiger.

Minter Dial  36:18

Right, the last thing that you said on the Sam Harris podcasts that I really dug into you said that how important it is that the verbal skills line up with the corresponding treatment. So, Robin Sharma, someone I love, he says that your audio needs to align with your video. Right? Yeah, I thought that the way you didn’t exactly elaborate on it, but it sounded like that’s about establishing trust. Would that be a fair?  Or explain to me why that’s important?

Chris Voss  36:51

Well, yeah, I mean, and it will line up really quickly like this. Substitute the word predictability in for trust. Alright, so if you say one thing and you do another, either you’re unpredictable, or it’s predictable, that you will not do what you say. And if you say one thing, and your actions line up with what you said, you know, eminently predictable. And as a consequence, trust flows really strongly from being predictable. People know what to expect from you. They trust what you’re going to do.

Minter Dial  37:26

Beautiful! Chris, thanks for coming on the show. Am going to give you back your time. How would you like anyone to track you down, follow you, not hack you. But, you know, figure out what you’re up to what’s the best way to connect with you?

Chris Voss  37:43

Well, the website is Now on the website, we’ve got a blog, and we’ve got a subscription to the blog that’s free. You subscribe to the blog, you’re going to get a concise once a week email from us, very useful negotiation tips. Emphasis on the word concise. And then it’s also the gateway to everything else, training announcements, discussions of other free training material, we get, you know, we got a lot of material that’s free, we push a lot of content out there to supplement everything else. And so, you take advantage of the resources that we offer you for free, you’re going to get a long way, you’re going to get a lot of a lot of good at it. You decide you want to step your game up and get into the top 1%, we got special in-person training for that also, but it might not be worth it for you, you might just want to get a little bit better. You get a little bit better, you’re going to be even a little bit better. You’ll be really pleased with how much of a difference it makes in your life…

Minter Dial  38:51

and never split the difference!

Chris Voss  38:53


Minter Dial  38:56

Thanks a lot, Chris.

Chris Voss  38:58

My pleasure.

Minter Dial  39:02

So a really heartfelt thanks for listening to this episode of The Minter Dialogue podcast. If you liked the show, please remember to subscribe on your favourite podcast service. As ever, rating and reviews are the real currency of podcasts. And if you’re really inspired, I’m accepting donations on You’ll find the show notes with over 2100 blog posts on on topics ranging from leadership to branding, tech and marketing tips. Check out my documentary film and books including my last one, the second edition of “Heartificial Empathy, Putting Heart into Business and Artificial Intelligence” that came out in April 2023. And to finish here’s a song I wrote with Stephanie Singer, “A Convinced Man.”


I like the feel of a stranger

Tucked around me

Precipitating the danger

To feel free

Trust is the reason

Still I won’t toe the line.


I sit here passively

Hope for your respect

Anticipating the thrill of your intellect

Maybe I tell myself

There’s no use in me lying.


I’m a convinced man,

Building an urge

A convinced man,

To live and die submerged.

A convinced man,

In the arms of a woman


I’m a convinced man

Challenge my fate

I’m a convinced man

Competition’s innate

A convinced man

In the arms of a woman.


Despise revenges

And struggle to see

Live for the challenge

So life’s not incomplete

What’s wrong with challenge

I know soon we all die


I’m a convinced man

Practicing my lines

I’m a convinced man

Here in these confines

A convinced man

In the arms of a woman.


I’m a convinced man

Put me to the test

I’m a convinced man

I’m ready for an arrest

I’m a convinced man

In the arms of a woman.


I’m a convinced man… so convinced

You convince me, yeah baby,

I’m a convinced man

In the arms of a woman…


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