on splitting the difference
Post created: 2021-01-02
I started and finished Never Split the Difference yesterday. Pretty short book, maybe two hours of reading. Author is a little too smug, but the content is reasonable and I suppose being a former FBI hostage negotiator gives them that right.
In high school, I got very into social engineering and human hacking; I'm less of a nutcase now. I don't think there's anything concretely new in this book which previous reading had not covered. But I think the book raised an interesting point that academic theories on negotiation were rooted in rationality, whereas lived experience emphasized people's emotional nature. I like the ten dollar experiment that demonstrates the irrationality of fairness.
I wonder if a similar comparison has been drawn to CBT, the fashionable therapy tool of today.
At some point, I would like to write a more in-depth post on how 1:1 tutoring (office hours) is effectively social engineering; all the hostage negotiation techniques discussed can easily apply.
- I once received a comment from someone I liked on my voice being nice/soothing/calming/etc when I was explaining things to a student, one of those late Gates 4 nights. I didn't reply: part embarrassment, part guilt. But I remember that was intentional, and I suppose the book would label it the "late night FM DJ voice". One of my manufactured voices.
- In a previous post, I emphasized getting students in office hours to summarize what happened and what their plan was going forward. That's the same negotiating buy-in tactics espoused by the book. If at any point the student says something that indicates "your idea", or that you were instrumental in getting them unstuck, you've failed. The book has a concrete example of the suicide hotline regulars -- you want to get them to a place where they can stop calling, a commmitted yes, and you want this to look like their idea entirely.
- Yes can be meaningless. No is just a starting point. Uncomfortable if taken out of context, but extremely true when drilling down to figure out what people need to get unstuck.
So I suppose this means I endorse the book, insofar that I already practice what it preaches when I want to get something done (and in Among Us, back when that was entertaining). I'm still uncomfortable and reluctant to do this on people that I'm especially close to, which I suppose explains how I got into stupid arguments back then. Life is messy...
Decent HN "best book of 2020" recommendation. Would have been much more useful to me eight years ago. Most people would benefit from reading it, though maybe ignorance is preferable.
Heh. This post makes me sound like a nutcase again, even after eliding more examples. Back to work.