Negotiating Like Your Life Depends On It with Chris Voss

April 19, 2022
James Whittaker

Check out this episode on the Win the Day Podcast

Your journey begins with a choice to get up, step up, and live fully.

Oprah Winfrey

Our guest for this episode is Chris Voss, author of the mega bestseller, Never Split The Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It. Chris is the world’s foremost authority on negotiation, persuasion, and getting to a ‘yes’ in the most important conversations in your life.

In his 24-year award-winning law enforcement career, he was the FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator, as well as the hostage negotiation representative for the National Security Council’s Hostage Working Group.

Prior to those roles, Chris served as the lead Crisis Negotiator for the New York City Division of the FBI. In addition, he was a member of the New York City Joint Terrorist Task Force for 14 years.  

As an expert in kidnapping, Chris has represented the US Government at international conferences sponsored by the G-8 and provided expertise on negotiation to governments and universities around the world. He was trained in the art of negotiation by the FBI, Scotland Yard, and Harvard Law School. 

Chris has taught business negotiation at Harvard University, guest lectured at prestigious universities in Europe, and is an adjunct professor at University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.

He is also is Founder / CEO of The Black Swan Group Ltd where he shares world-class negotiation tactics and leadership programs to both individuals and businesses. 

In this episode, we speak with Chris about:

  • The most dramatic moments from his hostage negotiation career
  • How to get out of depression (and overcome regret)
  • What you can do to get a ‘yes’ in every conversation
  • How to negotiate with your children, and
  • What you can do right now to negotiate like your life depended on it. 

Before we begin, the right bit of inspiration can completely change the trajectory of someone’s life, so if there’s a friend or loved one who needs to hear this episode or could use some help to Win the Day, share it with them right now.

And if you’re enjoying the show, hit the 'Follow' button, give it a 5-star rating, and know that you’re helping someone else around the world to win the day also.

Let’s WIN THE DAY with Chris Voss!

James Whittaker:
Chris, great to see you my friend. Thanks for coming on the Win the Day podcast.

Chris Voss:
Thank you very much, James. I appreciate it. I'm going to enjoy the conversation.

Well, I'm a big fan of your work, especially your recent book, Never Split the Difference.

To kick things off, what was the moment when you realized that you could do anything you set your mind to in terms of manufacturing positive outcomes for your own life?

I started experimenting with this stuff when I first volunteered on the suicide hotline way back when, which was a prerequisite to becoming a hostage negotiator.

The effectiveness of what I now realize is tactical empathy – the intentional use of emotional intelligence to create great outcomes – and I guess I saw how effective it could be on human beings in all scenarios.

If you had to boil it down, was there a single decision that had the biggest impact on your career to date?

Well, most of it was getting sent in different directions at different times, principally by running into a brick wall where something bad sent me in a new direction. 

I decided to become an FBI agent because the opportunity of traveling around the world sounded cool to me. I'd never been anywhere. I grew up in Iowa. My career as a SWAT guy was coming to an end due to knee injuries and I wanted to stay in crisis response. So, I thought I'd try hostage negotiation, I figured it'd be easy.

Never take direction from somebody who hasn't been where you're going and never take advice from somebody you wouldn't trade places with.

The woman who was a gatekeeper there made the barrier to entry difficult. ‘Difficult’ is like a relative concept, right? It's difficult if you don't do what you're told. Never take direction from somebody who hasn't been where you're going and never take advice from somebody you wouldn't trade places with.

But then when you solicit the advice, do what they say, that didn't seem complicated to me, but so few people do it. So, there are moments, there are a lot of decisions along those lines.

Were you more grateful for the career that you went on to have as a result of some of those roadblocks and obstacles that were put in the way? Did that motivate you to greater effort at the time?

Oh, without question. Plus I think everybody's got a path and life has a general direction for you, karma, I don't know what it is. But I'm very grateful for the negative things that reset me.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb published a book in 2012 that I discovered recently called Antifragile. And he talks about posttraumatic stress disorder, which everybody talks about, and then posttraumatic stress growth, which nobody talks about.


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Chris Voss does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give his 18-year-old self, the one thing on his bucket list, and a whole lot more🚀


But the fact is a lot of people never reach the heights of their lives without a traumatic event. And stress is required for growth.

Now you can't really prescribe stress as a learning model. It's not a good idea, but trauma happens. So, you can curl up in a fetal position and stay there or you can curl up in a fetal position and then decide to get up. And that's where growth comes from.

It's such a great point, Chris, and I'm sure you've had moments in your career that have haunted you for a period of time. It's easy to say “This too shall pass” but much harder in practice. 

For people out there who are haunted by these what ifs and these regrets, how can they move forward so they can be productive and happy again?

It's a simple answer, but it's not easy. I learned on a suicide hotline to get out of grief, you had to go from grief to gratitude. “I'm devastated that I lost this loved one, I'm just devastated and I'm grateful for everything they brought into my life.” You know? So, there's a progression there.

And when I was on a suicide hotline – it was actually crisis intervention hotline, which is a lot better than being on a suicide hotline because people can be in crisis and not be suicidal. Consequently, we got a lot of grief calls and I really enjoyed my ability to help in those the most, because it was just enlightening to move them from grief to gratitude.

A lot of people never reach the heights of their lives without a traumatic event. 

Now you can't tell people that. You have to help them experience it. And we weren’t trying to get anybody excited. We're just trying to help them clear their head. 

When it comes to regret, you need to learn from it. Life's got these great lessons. Sometimes they're devastating, but it was there to help you. You get better if you learn from it. Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody gets hurt. It's a choice as to whether or not to live hurt.

Craig Groeschel, a spiritual leader who I follow on Instagram because I love his philosophy, put that up on one of his Instagram posts. It's inevitable to be hurt. It's a choice to live hurt. No matter how devastating it was, you're never going to get out of it until you ask yourself, "What did I learn from it?"

One of my phrases is: Everything we do prepares us for everything we will do. You're going to see this show up in a lot of other places. Does life happen to you or for you? Do you have to deal with it or do you get to deal with it? The stumbling blocks are things that are causing you problems right now, but they're the gateway to a higher level life.

If you ask yourself, "What am I supposed to learn from this?" Instead of why do I have to deal with this, what do I get to learn from dealing with this? And it's a whole just, it's a mindset shift, which is certainly easy to say, very difficult to implement. And then the reality is you're going to fall back into being fragile. You're going to fall back into despair.

So, then how do you climb out of it? It's a little bit of a rock, paper, scissors with emotions, despair, anger, elation, challenge, crisis or challenge. Anger will lift you out of despair – like in your regret of what you've done or your despair over what happened to you – anger will lift you out of that.

Everybody gets hurt. It's a choice as to whether or not to live hurt.

I intentionally use anger occasionally, because I find myself depressed or in despair or feeling a sense of loss. It's just so devastating. It feels like a hole has been ripped in me. But anger will not get you to your highest levels of performance. It's got to be a positive emotion, gratitude. It might be elation, challenge.

Is this painful or is it a challenge? But you'll get fooled by anger because it made such a great difference in how you feel, and you won't know that the highest level of your performance as a human being has to cross into the positive mode.

Now typically gratitude rarely pulls you directly out of despair. Gratitude rarely pulls you directly out of grief. There's usually an intervening step, but you are never going to get to be the fullest expression of who you are as a human being with anger. You’re just never going to get there.

Jim Rohn, the American personal development icon, often spoke about how disgust is a powerful emotion. 

You mentioned then that anger can help shift you closer towards that gratitude, so you can find the gift in that situation that you're in, no matter how tough it is.

Yeah, you can use it as a shift. Just don't be fooled by the fact that it lifted you, that you haven't got further to go. There's a book, What Got You Here Won't Get You There. Anger will get you out of grief, despair, inaction, get you up off the floor.

But you're not going to get to your heights in anger.

I feel like you must have seen the full spectrum of crimes in your law enforcement career. What was the ratio of emotional crimes of passion and opportunity versus really meticulously planned jobs from people who were really well organized?

There's a lot more less well-organized stuff than there is really organized. And then emotions creeping in play a role in all human interaction and endeavors. 

Even predators have emotions. They have fewer of the emotions, like people say sociopaths or psychopaths, and these are loose terms, but they say those people don't feel emotions. They do feel emotions. What they don’t feel is guilt.

The narcissist feels emotions. They feel despair. They feel loss. They feel anger. So, since even a predatory sociopath feels emotions and because that emotions coming into play in all human behavior decision making interactions.

There's a quote from The Dark Knight where Alfred says to Bruce Wayne: “Some people just want to watch the world burn.”

Did you encounter many people who just wanted to see the world burn?

Interesting. I'm trying to reflect. I don't know that I have directly, personally. I've had some really, really bad people on the other side. And of course, you're quoting a Hollywood depiction of what real life is.

And I think that's why people struggle with emotional intelligence so much and really learning it because what is played out for us in TVs and movies as written by Hollywood writers, it's supposed to pass for understanding and connection and empathy is so wrong. It's just so wrong. Or it's so rare that it's either completely wrong or so ridiculously rare that you're never going to encounter it.

Hollywood has definitely taken many creative liberties in terms of raising the urgency and things of those tense police moments.

Yeah, yeah, very true. And the worst one is always like, "I know just how you feel." Somebody will say that in movies or TV, and they'll say, "I know how you feel. I was there once. I know how you feel." And as they script it out in a television show or the movie, the other person goes like, "Oh my God, thank God. Oh, thank you so much."

And in real life, when somebody says to you, "I know how you feel," you want to punch them right in the face!

It's like when someone tells you to calm down, when the last thing you want to do is calm down. No one has ever calmed down as a result of being told to calm down!

Exactly right!

In Never Split the Difference you mentioned that so much about negotiation and getting the result you want is about establishing that connection and understanding between two parties. And you also mentioned the role of experiential learning and how you and the FBI got so good at the art of negotiating.

As a result of that connection and that importance of understanding as much as you can about any given situation – which of course can be done in the analysis of what happened during that situation many months or years later – did you have any sit downs with criminals at a later date to get better at understanding the situation that had just transpired?

Not with the bad guys themselves. What always ended up happening is we would pretty much find out the impact and dynamics of the things that we set. So, the pool, the post mortem, if you will, of the situation, we would find out everything that happened and the impact.

Now we didn't need to talk to the bad guys about that because we talked to the hostages. We used to do this thing called hostage survival debriefing, which ended up in point of fact being a great critical incident stress debriefing for the hostages, like what was going on, what did you say, and how did you feel when this happened?

And then consequently, we'd learn about the dynamic. Like one of my favorites, I made a big shift, of course with my colleagues help on a concept of proof of life. Proof of life at the time was basically your security question – what was the name of Chris's first dog? That's a proof of life question.

In Man on Fire, the Denzel Washington film, he says, "She's got a bear. Tell me the name of her bear." A question that only the other person could be able to answer. It's the same as your security.

Creasy bear.

Yeah, Creasy bear. There you go! You know the movie.

So, we shifted out of that to a broader question, which was like, how do we know the host is alive, which is actually a legitimate question.

We shifted into that in a hostage in Ecuador, his name was Peppe. He taught me so much about hostage survival and mindset shift in surviving a situation. But I had put this new proof of life question into the negotiation – and they never, ever provided proof of life, ever.

Peppe ends up escaping through his own resources and his wits. Phenomenal story. And so I want to do the hostage survival debriefing with him, but I really want to know what happened to my new toy. I get this proof of life thing. And when do you get proof of life ever.

So, I'm up there with definitely a hidden agenda. I sit down with him in his family's house in upstate New York and we bond in the interaction of the moment. And finally I said, "You know we tried this proof of life thing." And we coached his wife. His wife, Julie, was eminently coachable, a superstar negotiator.

This was a complete shift in how the kidnappers operated in a kidnapping.

And the skill that we wanted was so new, she knew that the local police in Ecuador didn't want to use it. She says, "Yeah, I knew there were problems. And I knew there was tension between the Ecuadorian Gala and the FBI. And thank God they didn't let that tension spring out." Because we got a new toy that we're trying out for the first time and the local guys are going, "Nah, that doesn't work."

So anyway, afterwards Peppe says, "You know it was really weird. The negotiator that was supposed to stay in town the whole time to negotiate the ransom and then come out to the jungle to get approval for the deal. Instead he kept coming out to the jungle and saying, ‘Hey, they want to know how Peppe is alive, what are we going to do? Do we take him to town and put them on a phone?’"

This was a complete shift in how the kidnappers operated in a kidnapping. They would never do that, but it drew their whole team together by that simple question and made them all think about how to not only do we keep Peppe alive, how do we take good care of him, because we might need to put him on a phone, and if we do, he's got to be able to talk.

And there's all these hostage survival and hostage care dynamics that come into play just because we ask the question, and that's when I went like, "Holy cow." We did a postmortem through the hostage. We didn't have to talk to the bad guys, but we found out everything that happened and we knew we were in a whole different space by that change.

It's a bit like the movie Inception where you're planting that seed of an idea that can help change that part to create that outcome you want.

We have definitely referred to what now in Black Swan Method is calibrated questions, and for that exact thing, like how do you plant an idea so it grows in their mind and they think it's their idea.

And there are a couple of different tools in a Black Swan Method for doing that, and calibrated questions is definitely one of those tools.

In many films, they contrast the tempered hostage negotiator with the aggressive law enforcement personnel who want to go in all guns blazing and resolve the situation more directly and forcefully.

In a negotiation, were you given free reign to make sure the hostages were safe and manage the dynamic with the hostage takers? Or are you also trying to keep the tactical teams at bay?

Well, it's a very collaborative relationship. And there are going to be tweaks that we're going to want here and there. 

And it's a negotiation with the SWAT guys. I will say, "All right, we want to make a delivery of food."

And our SWAT guys will go, "No, that's exposing our guys to harm. Every time we approach a crisis site, it exposes them to harm. It's unnecessary."

In all human decision making, the most dominating factor is fear of loss.

We'll say, "Well, what we're really doing is getting the bad guys used to seeing you come and go. And then every time they see you, they're going to be more relaxed. So, if you ever have to do an assault, we can get you closer without cranking them up. 

And they'll be like, "Oh, all right.""

So, there was always the negotiation within the negotiation, as long as you understand how the other side's looking at it and what harm do they feel they're being exposed to. What's their fear of loss? 

In all human decision making, the most dominating factor is fear of loss. It’s not the only factor, but it's the most dominating.

What is a hostage taker most afraid of – their own life, something happening to their loved ones, or something completely separate?

Their vision of the future and losing that vision. Vision drives decision. Again, this is all human decision making, just not hostage takers. They're in there because they had a vision of the future, and something triggered a sense of loss. 

We were taught in hostage negotiation, look for the loss. We're going to take these very specific skills, and our real job is to uncover the loss and then deactivate their negative reaction to that sense of loss.

And that ends up being absolutely the prescription in business deals. In buying decisions, 70% of them are made to avoid a loss. Only 30% of them are made to achieve a gain.

So, loss is the most motivating factor in human decision making. It’s not the only one. It’s just the biggest one. We thought it was just hostage negotiation. There's a loss, dig into it. Dig into it by invitation because then once you're in there and you find out what the loss is, if you're in their head by invitation, which is what tactical empathy does, instead of forcing your way in, they're comfortable with you being behind their defenses, around their vulnerabilities.

Get their comfort level high and it increases how much more quickly you can influence them into taking a different look at the same loss.

In the Frank Abagnale book, Catch Me If You Can, later made a film, he talks about human error being the number one reason for fraud. And it sounds like it's a similar theme for you. There is always a human behind every one of those situations that can be influenced.

So, if you get to the human, using the things that you've spoken about today – like familiarity, planting the seeds of a different result, and tactical empathy – approaching that person as a human is the method for success in business, in negotiation and all those different areas?

Nice. Exactly. And that's kind of the interesting thing. 

Then when you start to look for it, the same principles and dynamics begin to show up in other contexts and you recognize them. And then you're like, "All right, I got a universal principle here. Frank Abagnale is talking about it, Chris Voss is talking about it. Maybe it works."

Emotion, such a big one. It can be such a destructive force.

What's the secret for people to keep calm and productive under pressure when they feel like they’re in the ultimate do-or-die situation?

Let's draw a fine line here too, because people talk about emotion as if emotions across the board are bad. Negative emotions are bad. And when people begin to talk about emotion, they're talking about negative emotion. Then I'll say, well positive emotions make you smarter. You're 31% smarter in a positive frame of mind.

Then their ego is convinced like, "Yeah, well what if you're so giddy? You lose your ability. You just become caught up in a moment and you're too giddy and overwhelmed." Like all right, come on. You're taking this to an extreme.

Positive emotions make you smarter. You're 31% smarter in a positive frame of mind.

So when you're trying to get somebody calm, you're actually trying to deactivate their negative emotions. And if you still think that positive emotions are bad, right, first of all, Sean Aker, Harvard psychologist, Ted Talk, I think it's called The Happiness Advantage, this is my source of data, that you're 31% smarter in a positive frame of mind. 

Watch his Ted Talk. It's funny as heck, and he makes the point and it's an entertaining Ted Talk. I'm jealous because mine's funny, but his is funnier!

You can always do another one, Chris! You’ll get him on the next one.

I'll do another one.

And then also Steven Kotler, The Rise of Superman. One of the world's experts on the mindset of flow where human performance is at its highlights level. Steven tells us that flow is a highly positive state of mind bordering on euphoria, not in euphoria, which people are then badmouthing euphoria, but bordering on euphoria where people do things that they're just not capable of otherwise.

So again, understanding the distinction between the two.

Now, let's get back to the negatives. That distinction between positive versus negative emotions alone, it’s so important. All we hear is “emotions are bad” but that distinction between positive and how you can leverage positive emotions to be able to get that ideal outcome is so important.

You just have to understand the dynamics, and the dynamics really are: don't ignore negative to get to positive, deactivate the negative because the brain and default mode were negative. Survival mode, you have to be pessimistic. When in doubt, assume things are going to go bad. That's what the caveman had to do.

When in doubt, assume that this big furry thing walking down the jungle path in my direction with these giant fangs sticking out the side of his mouth, assume that's bad news. That dude survived. We are his descendants.

As many special forces units say, “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.”

Yeah, there you go. And you have to prepare for the worst first, right? And deal with it.

So, what's calm about? Calm is largely getting you out of negative emotions. And what's the short antidote for you and for them? The late night FM DJ voice. 

It calms everybody down. It even calms the user down. Now you don't have to be a man to use that voice, it's just about downward inflection. One of our instructors, Sandy Hein, phenomenal superstar instructor on women in negotiation.

She pretty much says the same thing I do, but she's a woman. So sometimes women need to hear it from somebody who's experiencing the same stressors. And Sandy says, "Yeah, tuck your chin. If you drop your chin while you speak, your voice will come down." Which means even if you're a woman with a high voice, it's not really necessarily the pitch, it's the inflection when you finish the words.

If you only had 10 minutes to get someone ready for the biggest negotiation of their life, or even if their life was on the line, would that 10 minutes mainly be about the pursuit of calm that you mentioned there, or would you focus on more tactical things?

No, it'd be the pursuit of calm, but now how we get there is a whole other question.

I'll give you an example. When I'm working on international kidnappings, I need the family to cooperate with me, and I need to get the family ready fast because by the time I walk in their living room, the kidnapping is at least 24-36 hours old. And if the bad guys haven't called yet, they're about to. So, I don't have a whole lot of time.

The really ridiculous thing, I already know what they're feeling because I've done this enough times. And when you're dealing with human beings, human emotions, they're ridiculously predictable. Everybody has an ability to really predict emotions, and it typically stems from what would you want them to deny? I don't want you to think, I don't want you to feel.

Everybody could start almost any conversation that way. So, you're picking up the correct emotions, but the difference is don't deny them first. I walk into a victim's family's house. I know they're angry. They feel abandoned, alone. It's the most abandoned and alone they've ever felt. 

As a result, they are angry because anger's usually a result of another negative emotion, a loss of some sort. And your reaction is anger. Like what we were talking about before.

So, I'll walk into a victim's family's house and I'll say, "I know you're angry. I know you feel abandoned. And I know you've never felt more alone in your entire life."

Now, what I'm doing is taking sniper shots to immediately start picking off the negative emotions. And these are having an instantaneous impact on those negative emotions. I'm picking them off and I'm bullseyeing them every time with the way that I'm saying this.

Now then I know that fear is going to be the biggest thing that they're going to be dealing with. And the kidnappers are going to want to stoke that fear. They're going to stoke it by making threats, which is a manipulative move. They're going to stoke it with their tone of voice.

There are a lot of business people that do this exact same thing. They understand if they can build your fear enough, you'll start giving in and making agreements you should not make. So, how do I get them fully inoculated against fear? I'll look at whoever's going to go on the phone for the family, because I'm a coach.

There are a lot of business people that do this exact same thing. They understand if they can build your fear enough, you'll start giving in and making agreements you should not make.

I don't get on the phone. I was an international negotiation coach.

And I'm going to say, "Look, I want you to be afraid. As a matter of fact, you're not afraid enough. I need more fear from you. When you get on the phone, I want you to be horrified." 

They'll go, "What? That's the dumbest thing I ever heard."

Now that instantaneous reaction is there as clearheaded as can be. Instead of it stoking that fear, it so catches their emotional circuitry, their limbic system in such a way that I will deactivate the whole thing instantly by just saying, "Look, I need more fear from you. I want you to be more afraid."

I just knew that in some kind of way that they'd literally they'd go like, "Are you out of your mind? That's the dumbest thing I ever heard."

Now a minute ago before I said it, they were out of their mind, but the transformation for them was so instantaneous that it completely cleared their head up right off immediately.

We've got a question from the Win the Day community. If anyone wants to ask questions of me or upcoming guests on our show, email us at info@jameswhitt.com or join the Win the Day group on Facebook.

Danny in Australia, who also works in law enforcement, asks:

"As a negotiator, was there a time when you trusted your gut instinct and went against what the police hierarchy wanted? If so, what was the outcome?"

That's a rigged question because the police hierarchy is almost always wrong! The negotiators and the SWAT guys, they train and they prepare for this. They spend a lot of time getting ready. So, even if they hadn't been in that many instances, their preparation level is high.

Commanders don't prepare at all. These guys, they don't train, they don't prepare, they walk in and amidst the chaos and then they're going to make a lot of bad decisions based on fear of loss. You'll hear commanders say all the time their version, "I could just see my career going down in flames over this incident."

Like you are thinking about the wrong thing here. But they're human beings and they're being driven by their fear of loss. And, "Oh my God, if I make a bad decision, I'm going to get blamed and my career is going to go down in flames." What does that mean? The safe thing is to make no decision or then to react angrily, vindictively, and they can get talked into some of the dumbest things, and it isn't just in Australia.

There was a siege in Pennsylvania a number of years ago and the commander decided that he wanted to be able to see inside. He couldn't see inside. They were only listening to the negotiators, but they didn't have eyes inside. They didn't have the cameras inside. Sometimes you can slip cameras in, little peephole cameras under a door, through a peephole.

So, he orders a SWAT team to do a break and rake on the windows, which is break the windows, pull the curtains back, break and rake the curtains out of the way so we could see inside.

Now that was a dumb idea because empathy is what's it look to the other side? How's it look to the bad guy on the inside? It looks to him like an assault.

Yeah, raising tension, way too fast.

He opens fire on the hostages and then SWAT’s got to go in as a result because now there's gunfire inside.

Afterwards this bozo holds a press conference and said, "All we were doing was trying to get a look inside." 

So yeah, it happens all the time. But the big thing that hostage negotiators don't want to do is negotiate with command and use empathy on command and not take the time to negotiate with command.

I wrote a block of instructions on negotiating with command because they are as emotional or more so than the bad guys, because they see their career going down the tubes.

And when I became a full-time, I got promoted to the FBI's Crisis Negotiation Unit, one of my biggest things was I wrote a whole block of instruction on negotiating with command.

After I left the FBI for several years, when I was still going to negotiation conferences, I wrote a block of instructions on negotiating with command because they are as emotional or more so than the bad guys, because they see their career going down the tubes. We used to call it the crisis within the crisis.

So, you can't tell command what to do any more than you could tell a bad guy what to do. You got to use the application of tactical empathy to get the command to make the right decision.

It's crazy. It reminds me of a CEO who cares more about money than they do about people, or the CEO who’s making these big decisions without having any idea at all of what's going on in the trenches of the business.

Exactly.

Now again, the parallel, this is just human decision making and whether it's a CEO or an on-scene commander or a hostage taker, they're all driven by the same dynamics – the things that alter people's thinking via emotion.


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Chris Voss does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give his 18-year-old self, the one thing on his bucket list, and a whole lot more🚀


What high profile individual around today intrigues you the most good or bad in terms of their communication style or style of persuasion?

Well, I'm a huge fan of Oprah and nobody thinks of her as a negotiator. Nobody. But if business success is fueled by ability to negotiate, not only is she one of the richest people in the world, but more than that, she started way back further behind than anybody else did.

She wasn't born the child of a millionaire, like a New York city real estate developer. Donald Trump's father was a ridiculously successful multimillionaire, real estate developer in New York. That's how he got his head start, million dollars from dad, and dad's reputation and backing behind him.

Now he went a long way, but he also had a head start on being a black female from low income part of Chicago who had a really rough childhood. 

Oprah's got the late night FM DJ voice. Oprah lives by the lasting impression, believe it or not. Her people call it “In, in a limo, out in a limo.”

The last impression is the lasting impression. 

Most of the entertainment world lives by “In, in a limo, out in a taxi. As soon as they're done with you, they don't care. Oprah's people, based on her leadership and guidance, no matter how it goes, the last words and the last impression from her and her team will always be of genuine regard.

And she'll confront somebody over a decision. I've heard this relayed to me word for word by people very close to her. She'll let them know what the decision is, she'll leave them completely in charge of the decision, and then she'll say, "Understand that no matter what you do, I will always love you. And I will always care for you." 

It'll always be the last thing out of her mouth. The last impression is the lasting impression. So she's someone, I think who's phenomenal.

How can parents get their adventurous children to comply with their wishes, especially for things that have a safety concern, but also for things like getting in the car seat without the war that often ensues!?

First of all, you can't kick your expectations in too early. Cognitively, they're just not going to be there until three or four years old, first of all. They're going to be however you've conditioned them in advance.

There's going to be kicking and screaming early because you've conditioned them. The kicking and screaming is effective. When you ignore the kicking and screaming, they kind of go like, "Huh, that didn't work. Let me try something else."

Removes the weapon out of the arsenal.

Right, right. You're giving them the weapon. But then as they're getting older, I read it in a parenting book a long time ago: up to age five treat them like a king or queen, five to 15 work them like a slave, 15 on let them go.

Your challenge really is to help them think, not really to tell them what to do or to reason with them. First of all, you can't reason with people anyway. I take phrases that I've heard in the past that have been improperly attributed to gender or age, and then say it's humans.

That frustration is just merely feedback to you that your approach needs an adjustment.

And one of my favorites in the past, which is wrong, is: there's two rules for arguing with women, and both of them are wrong. Now the point of it is there's two rules for arguing with people, and both of them are wrong. If you're explaining, you're losing. If you're arguing, you're losing. 

You're trying to explain stuff to your kids. Why don't my kids listen? You can't explain stuff to your colleagues and have them listen.

But you can help people think and principally helping your kids think are going to be with calibrated questions. What and how? What are you trying to do? How's this going to help you? How am I supposed to let you go out this weekend if you don't get your work done tonight? The stop-you-in-your-tracks question.

And you can see the difference between a parent who might be giving all these materialistic things, giving a fish, rather than teaching them how to fish, is not helping them to think critically, as you mentioned before?

You nailed it exactly. 

You're still in a teaching phase. Now you want to tell them because you're tired and you don't have time. So, whatever you got to do to recharge, but any parent that has experienced frustration with her child, that frustration is just merely feedback to you that your approach needs an adjustment.

Mic drop, Chris. That's brilliant. 

Speaking of conflict, there’s a lot of tension wherever we look these days. How do we bring people together? 

Is there anything from your work that we can start to apply more broadly to bring people together at a time when it seems that there’s a bigger wedge every single day?

On a person-to-person interaction, I wish everybody would learn this phrase and start their conversations, especially the contentious ones: "Before I disagree with you, here's where it looks to me like you're coming from." 

And then you can't disagree until you get “That's right” out of the other side.

Now, you've not compromised your principles in any way, shape or form because the first phrase lets them know that you're not in agreement, you're not sympathetic. People are scared of demonstrating understanding because they think it's tantamount to agreement. It is not.

Draw the fine line between agreement and understanding, and you're free to understand. You can say, "Before I disagree with you, here is how I believe you see things," and then repeat it back to them. Tell them until you get, "That's right." And you can't quit until you get, "That's right."

And then once you get to that's right, you are free to disagree all day long, and anytime that we've put people in contentious conversations where they're adamantly opposed with each other, that simple ground rule resulted in zero arguments.

Mutual respect.

It's all it is, but demonstrate some respect first. And the rate of return on that is very high.

What have you learned about yourself in the last two years in this huge transition and shift for the world?

Wow. I think I got to evolve as a human being also and my natural type is to be assertive. Even with this practice, the skills of demonstrating understanding or para some skills, you need practice. You need to continue to do it in little ways.

Then when you stick to the rules, the really funny thing is then you sort of then discover new moments within what you're doing. If you just focus on the simplest most basic aspects of it, and different points of times, some really cool stuff happens.

And as enthusiastic as I am about my opinion, my own ability, I find my opinions to be, my abilities to be highly perishable. Without attention, I just get rusty and I get reminded of that on a regular basis.

Yeah, it's simplifying practice. A lot of people that I talk to on this show, it seems like in a world of transition that simplifying your life and doing the reps is such a big one.

Yeah. My son Brandon likes to say “Preps and reps.” They'll do little mental preparation, get your reputation, then get your preps and reps in.

On your best day, what's an affirmation that you would write on a flashcard that you could show yourself on your worst day?

Remember who you are.

I think I stole that from Tom Bilyeu!

Is that also from The Lion King!? I feel like Mufasa says that to Simba, "Remember who you are."

It might be. All I know is I was in a conversation with Tom recently. He loves human nature, and an insight into it. And very much like me, first be agnostic. Don't care what works. Just because you know what works doesn't mean you got to adopt it. But let me know really what the dynamic is, then I'll make my decision based on my own morality after the fact.

And he said that and every now and then I get stressed, and at the end of the day, I get tired. I'm using it.

Final question, what's one thing you do to Win the Day?

Gratitude exercise first thing in the morning.

Love it. Chris, thanks for coming on the Win the Day podcast!

I enjoyed the conversation, man. Thanks for having me.


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