139: Chris Voss, part 1: FBI Hostage negotiation through honesty and fun (transcript)

February 18, 2019 by Dani Mihaleva
in Podcast

Chris Voss

I recommend listening to Chris’s opening quote again after this episode. There’s a reason his book became the number one negotiation book. I’m tempted to start off by saying how much of a badass he is but I’ll get to that in a second. My guest today showed me a huge blind spot. This podcast is about leadership first. It’s about experiential learning and developing as a leader experientially. In my teaching I talk a lot about the flaws in relying on leadership and textbooks to learn social and emotional skills which are fundamental to negotiation as well as leadership. Yet a book that I recommend a lot is Getting to Yes which is a book about theory. Chris was the FBI’s lead hostage negotiator. That’s the bad-ass part. His approach beyond just book learning is relevant to all negotiation and all leadership education particularly relevant to environmental leadership. His book has several effective techniques that overlap with mine plus obviously a lot more. He has a couple of decades more experience than I do so he shares a lot more experience. The big picture is that he talks about learning negotiation to which I would add learning leadership experientially. I indulged in this episode in exploring what’s relevant to my teaching. If you like learning leadership, I think this episode will be valuable to you.


Joshua: Welcome to the Leadership and the Environment podcast. This is Joshua Spodek. I’m here with Chris Voss. Chris, how are you?

Chris: Joshua, fantastic. Thanks for having me on.

Joshua: Glad you could be here. And I loved your book. I have to say before reading your book I’ve read lots of other things on negotiation including some of the big books I took classes in business school on it. And I’m sure everybody says is your book changed a lot. You know I talk a lot about how important it is to learn things practically in what I teach leadership entrepreneurship. I never really noticed it in negotiation but I feel like that’s a lot of what you’ve done. You didn’t intend to change anything. It’s like you were kind of surprised when you found out that when you went to Harvard that you could out-negotiate people there. I’m kind of like curious… Am I right that you didn’t really intend to change things but it ended up happening anyway?

Chris: I don’t know. I didn’t realize having not really negotiated in a private sector in the business world that much because my whole world was hostage negotiation. How applicable this stuff was or that the people in business negotiation were just you know trying to knock on the door of emotional intelligence if you will? I think they sensed that it was there. I didn’t know how much of a change it was going to be. I think I’m surprised by that.

Joshua: You know a big thing for me as a teacher as I teach leadership and entrepreneurship and I imagine a lot of listeners because leadership is in the title of this podcast that they’re interested in leadership negotiation as a big part of leadership. And I think that it’s still taught a lot of theory and a lot of textbook reading, reading psychology papers but not necessarily learning the social and emotional skills of performing. And I feel negotiation is that and I feel like that’s a big part of what you did was to come at it from learning the social and emotional skills performance as a way to learn. Am I reading that right?

Chris: Yeah. You’re on the right track. I mean and it is very much about collaboration. I mean leadership is collaboration. I mean real leadership is. Telling people what to do is not good leadership and it’s not lasting. So creating great collaboration that’s great leadership and so great negotiation is about great collaboration.

Joshua: Now when I took classes, they had me read a lot and when you do workshops with business leaders and other people, how do you teach them? How do you get them to learn these things?

Chris: I got to kind of shock them out of a couple of things. I think the hard stuff is you know you go shock people out of this idea of rationality. I mean everybody thinks they are rational. Most people are willing to accept, “OK, well, other people are not rational but I am”. So sometimes we will do an exercise to shock them out of that which some people wake right up to like wow, this is perfect. And other people are so thrown by it that that it gets in our way. Another thing we do we get this hostage negotiation exercise we love to simulate with a bank robber in a bank and I play the bank robber and I’m very demanding and it gets everybody on the edge of their seats. But then when I get down we say I mean, “How different is this from when somebody walks into your office and says, “Look, I need this.” and you can’t give it to him and you’re asking for it now?” I mean it’s exact same thing the level of intensity may or may not be there sometimes. In a real-world private sector business like the level of intensity is way more that than it is with terrorists as crazy as that sounds.

Joshua: Really?

Chris: Yeah. Well, I think because hostage negotiators [unintelligible] yell that as much as people in business do. Like I don’t know a single business person that… They can give you five stories of people screaming at them. Hostage negotiators we work to smooth things out from the very beginning. We don’t get screamed at.

Joshua: Oh, sounds like an easy job.

Chris: Yeah. Well, I thought I mean not that long ago it was kind of funny. You know the meme said that you know all this parenting is really sort of wearing me out. I think I’ll do something less stressful like be a hostage negotiator.

Joshua: Actually, I have to share with people that I got to see you in person a couple weeks ago at the summit and you showed this video and props to you for the humility of showing the video of you on, I forget what news show it was, and you’re showing your say inexperience on looking good on camera.

Chris: My bad hair day so to speak. Anderson Cooper was on it. Anderson Cooper.

Joshua: Who has great hair.

Chris: In comparison, how fair is that?

Joshua: Is that video online? I haven’t checked it because if it is, I want to give people a link. If you don’t mind.

Chris:  It’s at the end of somewhat some of the keynotes that I have on our website. So it’s not online, it’s a stand-alone. It’s sort of our punch line. But it’s on the end of some of the keynotes.

Joshua: So a second ago I asked about how you teach people to learn the stuff and partly when you were talking I mean the first thing you said was shock them out of rationality because people think that they are so rational and coming from someone who works on leadership and environment, there’s a lot of rational reasons for people to change their behavior and virtually no one’s changing behavior. The facts are out there. The science keeps pouring in. I mean some people may disagree with it in some areas but I mean no one wants mercury in their fish. No one wants plastic in the ocean and rationality only seems very limited. So I’m curious. So you do shock, then roleplay and then I guess reflection or there’s discussion after the roleplay, it sounded like?

Chris: Well, when we get into the roleplay we find a way that to get into stuff that people are really into. And then we do this exercise where we talk about what you’re passionate about. And we give people the skills to help the other person talk. And very quickly you get into what really matters to somebody. For example, one guy in one of the training sessions he was passionate about running. About less than 90 seconds later it came out that he was passionate about running because it made him feel closer to God. He liked to run outside. And he was like, “Wow, you know I never told anybody that before.” and I said to his counterpart, “All right, so look he just told you something he never told anybody.” Number one, you got that about 90 seconds. Number two, how much does that tell you about who he is and what he’s going to be like to work with? What drives him and what are his core values? To work effectively with people we got to know that our core values line up. You just got something out of this guy in 90 seconds he never told anybody else before. You got a clear read on his core values. It can tell you whether or not you want to do business with him, whether or not you want to be partners with him. And then people are like, “Wow, this stuff is awesome. Teach me some more.”

Joshua: This makes me think of you know a lot of what I found in leadership is I work with people to try… I give them techniques to get to what I call universal motions, universal motivations, also passions. And like I was just talking with EO, you know Entrepreneurs’ Organization chapter and I kept getting questions like, “But it’s all nebulous. It’s not really…” I am going to sound insensitive but like they’re not getting the difference between management and leadership. And I feel like you’re getting to the core of it that leadership or an effective negotiation I think it depends on really what’s motivating people that they don’t share upfront. And I think the skills of making people feel comfortable sharing their vulnerabilities is a major skill. Is that right? I mean they don’t share things because it makes them vulnerable. Am I reading that right?

Chris: Yeah. I think people react differently to vulnerability, in the word, emotional reaction to it. I mean I’m just talking about being honest. So you asked me to be vulnerable, I’ll be like, “Vulnerable?! Get out of here! What do I need to be vulnerable for?” And then you say, “OK, well, be honest with me.” I’ll be like, “All right, cool. I could do that.”

So you know different words had different sort of emotional residue for people and we want to pick one word and not everybody’s response is the same which is why when we get into these exercises you know pick three words, you know pick one word plus two synonyms. There’s something about the dynamic of three that we find over and over again in terms of phases and negotiations. Your perfect word might not be my perfect world. Give me two other synonyms for it and I might resonate with one of those.

Joshua: So I asked you about vulnerability but I think honesty and openness might be another one. But I think honesty is the one that resonates with you.

Chris: Yeah. You know honesty and integrity but you know I don’t respond well to the word vulnerability. It makes me imagine myself crying in a fetal position. So I am not going to do that. But I’m going to be really honest with you about who I am, what my core values are or what I’m passionate about. So different people will open up to different words.

Joshua: So one way to get people to open up is to find a language that resonates with them. And when you do that, I think that enables you to in your case negotiate with people, to lead them, to influence them for them to feel comfortable following your lead.

Chris: Yeah. Find a language that resonates with them but you don’t have to be perfect. And that’s part of what we teach people. People ask us all the time you know what if I’m wrong and the answer is, “If you’re wrong, it’s awesome.” because you’ve taken an educated guess person on the other side is happy that you’re trying. And interestingly enough people are often most honest when they’re correcting. So if you’re wrong and they kick in a correction mode, they’re going to be really honest with you which is what we want.

Joshua: This is really fascinating. You know when I was a kid growing up to talk about emotions was like a kind of new agey thing, especially for men it was like… I think you’re supposed to be macho. And now what you’re saying is working on skills and talking about emotions and passions is not a new agey or nice-guy way but a practical way that’s also I feel like it feels good, like it sounds like you really enjoy the conversations that you have this way.

Chris: Yeah, yeah absolutely. It’s you know something is new age every five years but we tend to continue to rediscover really classic knowledge and we put a new label on it, new title on it. But you know I want to talk about people’s core values. So I want to know about who they are, what makes them tick, what makes them want to leap out of bed in the morning, you know what inspires them. Because then I’m going to know whether or not we’re going to work well together, we’re going to have fun. I mean I want to have fun working, not everybody does. It’s a core value. It’s one of my company’s core values.

Joshua: Fun.

Chris: Yeah. Have a good time while we’re at it you know and have a lot of fun, do a lot of good, work really hard and learn. But some of it scares people. I was always drawn to the people that like to work hard and have fun at the same time. And every time I fell into a group of people like that we did spectacular things. You know when I was working terrorism in New York you know we did spectacular things when I was a hostage negotiator. I was drawn to the blue-collar types that liked to work really hard and have a lot of fun and that you if you’re interested in doing spectacular things, those are great core values.

Joshua: I have to put in a plug here for your book because it’s a page turner. I mean I read it for education but I really enjoyed it. I mean you lived quite a life and did some amazing things so I was [unintelligible] coming from me that read this book. It really changes things. But back to this.

Chris: And then while we’re throwing commercials out there for Never Split the Difference let me throw one out there for Tahl Raz, our co-writer. And the book is really a combination of an effort of three people – my son Brandon who was there with me every step of the way helped us write the book. He is an uncredited co-author. And Tahl Raz. Now Tahl is a genius business book writer and he is the reason the book is a page turner. Read anything about business that Tahl wrote, you are going love it and that’s why we brought him in to be a partner with us on the book. He’s a genius business writer. That’s a very entertaining book.

Joshua: I actually am finishing… After we hang up, I have to go back to editing my book and actually reading your book I researched both of you guys to see like how did that writing get so good. So I might follow up and ask you if I can talk to… If you can put me in touch with Tahl, [unintelligible] this out.

Chris: No, it’s cool. I mean Tahl is a fascinating dude. He’d be a great… Or a partner. You want to partner with him. I mean he’s a genius.

Joshua: Yeah. I mean I saw some of the other books. Well, let me get back to this. So you described fun as a major core thing and I was thinking…. Fun, if you negotiate with terrorists, are you having fun with terrorists? But I would imagine having fun with your FBI colleagues. But I mean a lot of people they really don’t like empathizing with people they disagree with. They don’t like understanding or getting in their spaces.

Chris: Exactly the problem. And it was kind of you know empathy is only… We only reserve empathy for people that we like, we agree with and then we conflate empathy with sympathy which is not accurate and that was really why when I was with the FBI we couldn’t, by definition we’re going to be not just disagreeing a little bit but on a massive level with who’s going to be on the other end of the phone. And so when I started looking for people to collaborate with knowledge-wise I stumbled over Harvard’s definition of empathy and it was the same definition. And I’m like awesome, here’s two massively different ends of the spectrum hostage negotiation and sort of you know the mecca of business negotiation, the mecca of negotiation is going be the Harvard Program on Negotiation. And if we both on these extreme ends define empathy exactly the same which is a mercenary’s definition, then we can collaborate. And Bob Mnookin wrote a great book called Beyond Winning and it still has the best chapter on empathy I’ve ever read. It’s the second chapter of the tension between empathy and assertiveness which is a trip title and in it he says, “Empathy is not about agreeing or even liking the other side.” And it’s not. And if you could pull those two things out, then it gives you the ability to use empathy on everyone and it’s an unlimited skill. And I love unlimited skills.

Joshua: I mean for me… I try to teach empathizing with people who disagree with you. And I still have trouble myself with it. One of the ways that… It is really hard to break people out of this… It’s uncomfortable to empathize with someone that you disagree with. People say they empathize because they empathize with people that they agree with and they don’t notice that. Like when you say, “Well, what about these people who vote opposite from you?” They’re like, “Well, they’re just wrong.”

Chris: Exactly.

Joshua: My example is usually, it is probably over the top, but I think of like generals in World War Two probably had to empathize with Hitler because if you want to figure out what he is going to do next you’ve got to figure him out, you’ve got to know his motivations and if that’s not uncomfortable I don’t know what is. If they could do that, then we can too. But I feel like that’s over the top.

Chris: Yeah. It is. But as soon as people discover the competitive advantage that gives them, the power it gives them and they go from you know, “Why won’t you listen to me?” to like “Awesome. I got great influence.” They get a kick out of watching the other person transform in front of their eyes and the amount of influence that that gives you is insane. And as soon as somebody gets a taste of the power of how effective that is then they really kind of never go back.

Joshua: Okay. So when you say power, a lot of people ask me about leadership and I think people probably ask similar things about negotiation. I’m not sure. Let me know. They often ask, “Well, isn’t that just manipulation?” But I feel like it leads to a relationship that’s much more productive and mutually enjoyable. Is that what you find too?

Chris: Yeah. You know one man’s manipulation is another man’s noble influence, if you will. I mean you talk about the exact same thing. You’re talking about a tool and it’s really more what you’re using it for. And we get that question a lot and I’ll say if somebody says, “Hey, you’re manipulating people and you know manipulation is wrong” and I’ll hold up my cell phone when I say, “Got one of these?” and they’ll say, “Well, yeah.” And I’ll say, “Well, look, it’s a lot of bad people out there using those same for a lot of evil things. So therefore, you can’t use that cell phone anymore because you’re saying that whether or not used a tool, the tools needs to be discarded if somebody else is using it for evil.” It’s just a tool. And you know if I truly admire someone and I tell them that I’m also telling them that because I’m trying to influence/manipulate them into cooperating with me. So it’s really in the eye of the beholder and what your intent is is what makes a difference.

Joshua: I also feel like the results of it are that you form more productive relationships because people want to be understood. And when you empathize and not just feel it but communicate in ways that they get that you get it like if you empathize but don’t share it I don’t think it’s the same as empathize. And also let them know that for them I think this is when they say that’s right.

Chris: That’s one of the distinctions that a lot of people get tripped up over “What if I do actually understand?” And they think that somehow you know through the universe that their understanding will be communicated. And Tahl even did this because Brandon and I sat down with Tahl in New York just a couple of months ago and he had fallen back into the habit of saying “I understand.” He said, “I’m trying to show people empathy you know and I’m telling them I understand.” And we’re going like, “Hold it. Hold it. Hold it. No, telling them you understand is not the same as showing you understand.” You know the covey advice Seek first to understand, then be understood is really the Black Swan advice is Show understanding so you can be understood. You hit on the point exactly. You’ve got to show that you understand. You’ve got to tell them. You’ve got to lay out what that understanding is.

Joshua: In my experience that opens up so much. I just got the feeling of feeling understood is I think it’s an emotion without a name, kind of schadenfreude. We don’t have it in English. And it’s incredibly powerful. It’s like I find it almost like as powerful as love that it’s when someone doesn’t feel understood you know they didn’t talk except that they wanted to be understood. So if that’s not there, then it’s frustrating. You get impatient and you give up on someone. But when you feel understood I think that enables you or when I make someone else feel understood they will follow my lead whereas they won’t if I don’t. And if I say it, if I go and say, “I understand you” but you don’t feel understood it’s like I’m opening myself to be judged by you when you know you and I don’t. It’s like a really dangerous position.

Chris: The feeling of being understood is powerful. I mean you can feel the chemical changes and I can point to a number of different times when someone said made me feel understood and you know I sit back and sort of watch because I’m like I’m looking forward seeing how this feels. And it’s the micro doses of flow if you will, I mean the most powerful chemical cocktail that we can produce you know serotonin dopamine those things get dropped into our system and we feel incredibly good. We don’t know it but then we feel bonded to the person that understood us and that’s where a real serious lasting influence comes from.

Joshua: I’m so glad to hear this. I don’t know how much listeners are getting from this. For me this is incredible because this is really I think the core element of leadership that a lot of people miss because they associated with I don’t know a guy in the corner office telling people what to do. And it sounds like it’s really enjoyable. It sounds like… You said it was fun. I feel like fun is the tip of the iceberg of what you get out of it. I mean it sounds like this is incredibly rewarding work.

Chris: Yeah, it is, and fun, and enjoyment. I mean there’s a great TED talk out there by Shawn Acker called The Happiness Advantage. And if you’re having fun, you’re actually smarter, you’re much more capable, you are more capable of getting more done. We did some training with JetBlue probably about a year and a half two years ago and I was shocked at how fast they were picking up what we were teaching them because the counter-intuitive social intelligence techniques sometimes people react negatively to it because they’re so caught off guard by it. And across the room the JetBlue people were just kidding. They were killing it and they seem to be having fun at the same time. I remember at the end of the day I said, “You guys are fun to work with and you’re fun because you have fun and on top of that”, you know I’m saying like, “So it’s my observation as a great instructor that you guys are having fun.” And they looked at me with kind of their mouths open and they said, “No, it’s a core value. I mean we stated as a company.” I’m like, “No kidding.” They said, “Yeah. that’s…Why do you think JetBlue came from out of nowhere?” Look at the number of air carriers that have come and gone have been consumed by the majors. That hasn’t happened to JetBlue because their core values carry them through. They you know they’re smart. They think things, they adapt, they survive, they thrive. And I’m absolutely convinced that one of those reasons is because they have a stated core value of having fun. It gives them tremendous results.

Joshua: You guys got to [unintelligible] really well. You were a hostage negotiator. Have you done any hostage negotiation recently?

Chris: Only in my personal life.

Joshua: Sounds like something a father would say. I’m not sure.

Chris: Exactly.

Joshua: And you teach at several places and then you do a lot of corporate training.

Chris: The book has gotten so popular and we do so much corporate and individual training now that the teaching at USC, at Georgetown have been squeezed out. I didn’t have the time for any more to do it as well as I wanted to. And I’m no longer teaching neither at the USC, nor the Georgetown.

Joshua: Oh, to their loss I imagine. So you’re just having more fun with the corporations?

Chris: Oh, we’re having a ball. Corporations and individuals and we’re even shifting more towards individuals because companies… You know there’s a reason a 40 percent of the companies out there, 40 percent of the Fortune 500 are going to be gone at 10 years. I mean just gone. Gone by the way like the Dodo is gone. I mean corporate culture is off in so many ways and so many places and there are tremendously talented people working in corporate cultural environments and the core values of the company either aren’t being followed or they haven’t been stated.

You know there’s an interesting stat out there that says only 6 percent of people in business can even state with the company’s core values are. But there are a lot of superstars out there. So we’re gravitating more and more towards superstars because they are a lot more fun to work with.

Joshua: And you’re bringing fun. I meant to begin this podcast by asking you for some kind of definition of negotiate because I think a lot of people think of negotiation is like, “I don’t want to do that.” What’s the root of the word is like hard stuff?

Chris: Well, you know conflict can be hard. Conflict is actually necessary for a higher level of performance. I mean we defined negotiation is gathering of information and using it for influence and you know the most dangerous negotiation is when you don’t know you’re in it. So it’s the word “yes”, someone is trying to get you to say yes, you’re in a negotiation. If the words “I want” are in your head. You’re in a negotiation. Seven or eight negotiations happen every day. It’s not just over money. It’s always over time.

Joshua: Sorry. You just blew my mind off of how simple you just made that. So if negotiations happen all the time, if you are thinking the words “I want” or if you sense that someone is trying to get you to say “yes” those are the signs that you’re in a negotiation.

Chris: You’re in negotiation. Yeah, absolutely. Good news, bad news. Good news is you have the opportunity to practice every day. There are small stakes negotiations going on all the time. Bad news is if you’re not aware of it, I mean you’re losing every day.

Joshua: In practice… Now I think if you are taking a skill, a performance, performance art, I think of it as and by mastering that performance you go from I think most people I guess are looking at acting and think it is just stage fright. But when you master it, the master of a craft means you can express yourself through it and you can you look forward to the more challenging things. And like salespeople are really effective. They don’t think of the fear of walking into the negotiation with the sales. They think of how awesome it is when they leave it or when they’re in it. And I feel like you’re bringing that to negotiation which doesn’t necessarily come from just learning the theory. In fact, I don’t think it will come at all from just learning the theory.

Chris: No. And there is a distinction. As soon as you start thinking about how awesome it is to be in it, then outcomes have a tendency to take care of themselves and that’s a hard shift to make because people walk into negotiations really worried about the outcomes. I mean it’s a little bit like walking a tightrope. If somebody is walking a tightrope and their gaze is fixed on where they’re going, they’re going to fall off the tightrope. If they just focus to what they’re doing in the moment, then stand on the tightrope is a pretty easy thing. And then that’s how all the great artists, the great achievers you know they focus on “How do I do this in a moment?” In baseball the great hitters focus on their form and they don’t care what happens to the ball because they know as soon as they focus on the form, the ball is going to start going where they want it to go. So the shift in focus is a critical issue. And all the masters focus on the moment. They don’t focus on the outcome.

Joshua: I don’t know if you do cases but you do do roleplay so that people get into the moment. Is that to put people in the moment to experience that on a small scale first?

Chris: Absolutely. That is the case. In case studies or artificial roleplays, we give somebody a side like here, you’re the owner of this advertising agency or whatever it is that has some application. People tend to love that in negotiation classes but it doesn’t do them that much good because you’re in a fake role. So we just change things up a little bit to put you in stuff that is resonating with you in your life at that moment so that you can get the feeling of being understood and you’ll be on both sides of it. You feel how powerful it is and then you say like, “Well, I want that power. I want to be able to wield that power or you know effectively to create great collaborations.”


Joshua: I’m trying to imagine what your e-mails must be like from people who’ve done your programs afterward. I mean did they come back and say… I imagine you must get a lot of life transformations even though it doesn’t seem like it’s all that life but it’s taking one of the more challenging things in life and giving them the opportunity to feel great, to have fun. Do you get a lot of that?

Chris: Yeah. You know and we get the gamut. In one of our trainings in Los Angeles here just couple of weeks ago somebody came up to me at the site and said, “You know I am three times as effective as I used to be and my company recognized that and they’re compensating me for it.” I got another email where a guy who’s negotiating a hundred million-dollar deals with this stuff used it at a family reunion with a sibling who was under a lot of personal strain and she came at him with both barrels and he used the same stuff with her. All he wanted her to feel was heard because he knew what she was struggling with. He knew how hard it was and he’d seen this happen before and he just knew what she was struggling with. And only making her feel heard she sent him an email the next day saying, “Thank you for being my big brother.”

Joshua: Man. That’s it’s touching. It’s hard to comment on because it’s what I think most people want all the time.

Chris: Yeah, it really is. It is a game changer for people personally and professionally.

Joshua: I feel like from reading your book that that was probably a lot of using the last three words because earlier you said in 90 seconds you got to someone’s core value. Was that the technique there? I’m being a little vague so listeners want to read your book to find out.

Chris: Yeah. You’re referring to a technique that’s great at getting people to [unintelligible] and clarify in talk. And there’s a couple of them, you know that’s one. The other one is what we refer to as labels and labels are insane. I mean a label is a real simple negotiation tool and it’s equivalent of you know a magic wand. I mean you start labeling people and you get people to open up really fast.

Joshua: I’m going to leave that… Partly I want you to get more information but I think people will do better to read your book to find out how to implement what you just said.

Chris: Read the book and do two things. People they subscribe to our newsletter and it’s a great supplement to the book because it’s the short sweet pieces. There’s a lot more “Use these words”, “Say these things”, “In this situation do this.” So nearly everybody who’s read the book also loves the newsletter and it’s very helpful, it’s short, sweet and it comes out once a week and it’s free, it’s complimentary. We don’t charge you for it.

Joshua: You can e-mail me the link after we hang up so I can put it on…

Chris: Sure. And there’s a text to sign-up function too that works really well. If people text the message fbiempathy, all one word, your phone is going to want to put a space between the FBI and empathy. Don’t let it do that. fbiempathy, all one word, lowercase, to the number 22828 and that’s twenty-two eight twenty-eight. You send that message, you’ll get a response and you are signed up for the newsletter. It comes out every Tuesday morning, it’s short and sweet and it’s a great way to get the day rolling.

Joshua: I’m going to sign up. I didn’t sign up at the thing and now I remember that it was just crowded. Actually, I remember [unintelligible] at the summit. And if it’s okay with you I want to switch. This is really a great conversation. I appreciate it. It if it’s okay with you I want to switch to talking about the environment.

Chris: Sure.

Joshua: And one of the reasons I brought you on is that I think the environment shares also that a lot of people look at it and they think of like changing their behavior with respect to the environment it’s something that they’re scared of. And in my experience, it’s very rewarding. You talked about fun. Since my first big change environmentally was in my food habits, I went to avoid packaged food for a week to see if I could do it, and it was really hard at the beginning but eventually it became really delicious because when you cook from scratch I can cook much better than I get at a restaurant or the packaged food. And so I think of all these changes are delicious. So I want to do them. But I think most people look at that, look at environmental things as scary. They don’t want to do it. I think how a lot of people look at negotiation. And I really wanted to bring your experience, your successful experience outside of the environment in that area. That’s kind of the context here. I’m curious when you think of the environment what is it for you? Is it something that you think about much? I know I’ve just changed the topic a lot.

Chris: I think about it a fair amount. I mean I’m pretty conscious of plastic consumption. I’ve seen photos of where it’s accumulating in the oceans and it’s scary. So when we start seeing what’s happening at the other end of the abuse of the environment and realize you know it’s the proverbial “The light at the end of the tunnel is a train coming at you”. When you see where, what, how we’re harming the environment is collecting itself and realize the train is going to run us down but we can stop it, then I think yeah, reacting positively to the environment then it becomes a duty, it becomes a stewardship, that becomes a way to make the world a better place.

Joshua: That’s interesting because this is actually one of most interesting and engaging parts of the conversations I have because when I started asking this question, I thought everyone had the same answer as I did. But so for you it starts off as a kind of scary, I mean very scary because a train coming at you is pretty scary thing if you’re in a tunnel but it ends with hope, expectation of success or… I mean you had a positive light at the end of it.

Chris: Well, the opportunity to make the world a better place it’s one of the things that appeals to me. You know I get a kick out of having a positive impact. I mean I you know I’m sure this is going to sound very stupid and cliché and simplistic but when I was in a boy scout you know one of the things was “Leave it a better place.” You know we’d walk into a camp, a place we’re going to camp, you know just make sure the place looks better than we found it. And that was cool. You know I get into that and I enjoy it as… Let my presence here on this globe, in this world while I may be here let me have an overall positive impact. Leave the world a better place.

Joshua: So it sounds like that’s something that stuck with you ever since.

Chris: It has.

Joshua: So one of the things I ask guests at their option is… Well, here’s what I say. I invite you if you’re interested to act on what you care about and if there’s something you might consider doing… A lot of people have something in their head that they’ve thought of but I always say a couple of things – not that you have to fix all the world’s problems all by yourself overnight because we can’t do that but also not telling other people what to do but something measurable, not just awareness or consciousness but to make the world a better place in some way. Is there anything that you’ve ever thought of doing that you might be willing to do? And then, if so, to talk about the experience a second time?

Chris: Interesting question. Because I am the kind of person that most of the stuff if I think of doing it, I go ahead and end up doing it. The one thing that I really enjoy doing and I’m probably going to…. I would love to celebrate my 70th birthday which is a ways off, not that far off but by going on an expedition to Everest not to climb it but to pick up debris.

Joshua: Wow. Two wows. One, I would never have guessed you’re close to 70, as an aside.

Chris: Less than a decade. I’m willing to admit that.

Joshua: So Everest is really far. So if that takes you on the scale of a decade to do, I wonder if there’s something smaller unless by virtue of this podcast you might say, “You know what? I’ll do it right away.” But I wonder if there’s something on a smaller scale that you might be able to do something similar.

Chris: Yeah. Well, you put a bug in my head. I’m going to start thinking about it now because you know I do like the more immediate impact. I’m sure there will be something and I will be more than happy to come back on the show and talk about it. I just don’t know what it will be right now.

Joshua: If I’m not being too pushy, do you mind… I like to go back and forth a little partly because I think listeners generally feel something similar to what you’re saying that, “Yeah. I do want to do something. I can’t figure out what.” So I try to nudge people to make it SMART – specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time based. And I don’t want to push too much but it sounds like… I wonder it if we go back and forth a little bit I think it might help listeners get to there, find something similar for them to do.

Chris: Am I?

Joshua: I mean I could tell you… What you’re saying resonates with me. A couple of years ago I gave myself another little daily thing for me to do which is I pick up at least one piece of trash per day when I walk around. I do it in New York. Sadly, I usually don’t even have to cross the street. I can do it like steps from my door whereas in L.A. it was no problem and it’s an oddly rewarding experience. Obviously, I wish that I couldn’t do it because there wasn’t enough trash to pick up but it’s so rewarding that’s what’s making me feel not that uncomfortable nudging you toward something SMART.

Chris: Well, I like it. I like that. I could do that because the other issue too is you know how do I fall into my daily life and how hard is it to find that one piece of trash per day to pick up.

Joshua: Yeah. I’m not saying do it for the rest of your life.

Chris: Why not?

Joshua: Well, I mean you could. I actually I think you might if you start doing it. That’s another thing is I think virtually everyone who’s done this afterward they feel really great about it and they tend to say things like, “Well, that was a lot easier than I thought. I wish I’d done earlier.” or “That was hard but I’m really glad because it’s something I’ve wanted to do.”

Chris: Yeah. I like it.

Joshua: OK. Cool. So also to do what I do to pick up at least one piece of trash a day and I just put in the trash or recycling. Actually, I live in Manhattan and most corners have trash cans but a couple have recycling bins. And I make a point when I’m near the recycling bin is to get recycling stuff and not just trash stuff.

Chris: Yeah, that is good work for New York because you’re going to find trash cans on every street corner and in Los Angeles, they do not have that which is an interesting concept because it’s supposed to be such an environmentally conscious place but the infrastructure for trash and recycling here is a joke.

Joshua: Well, people talk about Japan having …It’s very difficult to find a trash can on the street and they’re very clean about things. And in California probably sanitation’s not really being forward thinking. I think Japan is like on a yet another level of forward thinking.

Chris: Yeah. I agree. Tokyo’s one of the cleanest places I’ve ever been in.

Joshua: So to be on a second time how long do you think would take of you picking up trash every day to feel like it’s gotten enough where if we have a second conversation, you can talk meaningfully about it?

Chris: Into the first quarter of next year 2019.

Joshua: So if it’s okay with you, I guess either with you or after we hang up, then if it’s cool, I’ll schedule that because I’d love to hear the experience.

Chris: Yeah, that’d be awesome. I’d enjoy that a lot.

Joshua: Now when you said, “That would be awesome” are you saying that because you’re on a podcast and you’re being nice to the host? Was that genuine? Was that honest?

Chris: What’s your gauge on me?

Joshua: Now I feel silly about having asked the question. Oh, man. Thank you for… How do I put it?

Chris: I’ll follow up and tell you why next time I’m on. [unintelligible]

Joshua: Oh, all right. I’m looking forward to that. And now I am going to say to you something I say to everybody which is that two things I find that make these challenges difficult for people not because I know the answers but just you’ll often face two things. One is other people. So sometimes you’re stuck with someone the entire day and some people feel a little awkward doing their thing and it involves other people. I think yours probably won’t involve other people that much but people have to prepare… It helps to prepare. Not that they can prepare for everything because unknown things happen. But you know if you can’t do it, do you give up, do you say, “I’m going to do whatever it takes to do it.”? You know. I don’t know the answer. But it’s something to think about. And the other is travel. Travel, often when you get out of your world and into another space it can get harder to do these things. So I say that to everyone. I think in your case it might not be as challenging. But I bring this up just to prepare you. And then I usually close with a couple of questions. One is is there anything I didn’t ask that you thought to bring up and is worth bringing up for you, for the listeners, for anyone?

Chris: That’s the catch, of course. No, there isn’t anything that I could think of.

Joshua: Okay and this one is usually more active in the second conversation but is there anything to say to the listeners? Another catch, I guess. But is there anything you want to say directly to the listeners before wrapping up?

Chris: Yeah. Try showing understanding. Try showing you understand the other side’s point of view before you make your point. I dare you. It’s going to be hard. You’re going to be dying to have your say. But just give it a try a couple of times in some low-stakes conversations. See what kind of a game changer it is. And if you find out, you’re going to go, “Ohh! I am going to try this one when it is really important.”

Joshua: So that sounds like a simple exercise anyone can do is to make the other person, to state the other person’s perspective so that they say, “That’s right.”

Chris: Yeah. Right.

Joshua: You know it reminds me of something I recently heard. I heard two people debating and they said, “Let’s start by doing an Iron Man as opposed to…” You know there’s a technique in debate of like creating a strong man argument of the other person defeating a strong man and acting like you actually defeated them. And this was the opposite was to say to state the other person’s perspective so well that they said, “Yes, that’s it.” And it led to a very different debate than I was used to because people weren’t… I think because of what you just said.

Chris: That’s a fascinating idea. The terminology is cool too, Iron Man.

Joshua: Yeah. Was it Robert Downey Junior kind of like…? Well, yeah. I think it’s… And so I was playing with that idea and now you’ve put it in a slightly different way. So I will practice that myself. Well, Chris Voss, thank you very much and I look forward to next time.

Chris: So do I, Josh. Thank you for having me on.


It happens that I just came off a few meetings with EO. I don’t know if you know Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Look it up, if you don’t, but they’re pretty prestigious. So the people in EO that I was talking to were experienced, they started their own businesses, they had at least a million in revenue so they knew what they were doing. And people there kept saying they didn’t have time to improve their leadership as opposed to their management since it was too ethereal and therefore ineffective. I was gratified to see such an experienced and world-class negotiator that he valued social and emotional skills so much. I found his definition of negotiation extraordinarily valuable as you probably heard and that’s why I made it the opening quote and I recommend going back and re-listening to it more than once actually. I was also glad to hear his challenge. I was glad to hear his breaking down regular communication of what he did so I can’t wait until next time.

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