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In the book Never Split the Difference, Chris Voss talks about using what he calls “tactical empathy” to humanize yourself to the other side.

One of the best examples of this is what he calls “the clutch question”, best used when the other side is demanding something they probably know is not really possible within the normal bounds, or is simply bargaining hard to see your reaction.

The question is “how can I do that?” This draws them in to look at what they are asking from your side of the table, and join you in trying to solve the situation they caused by making the demand.

“I want the middle scope option, but for the price of the low scope option!”
So, If I understood correctly, Mr Client, you basically want to buy an equivalent of an Audi for the price of a Toyota Corolla. Did I get that right? How can I do that?

“I need this done by Tuesday”
You know, if my math is not off, that would require me dropping every other responsibility I have in the next five days including the weekend, and spend about 16 hours a day to finish this until then. How can I do that?

If worst comes to worst in your negotiations, remember that you have a “clutch move” ready, and don’t hesitate to use it. And if they dare to answer “that’s your problem”, maybe it’s time for them to see how well they do if you suddenly remember you are way too busy for this, it’s really not your problem at all.

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