This One Phrase Can Help You Win Any Argument

Published May 21, 2019

This article is a part of the GLS19 Faculty Spotlight series where we feature fresh, actionable and inspiring leadership content from this year’s Summit speakers.

Around the Global Leadership Network, we have been intrigued by the thought of leadership and negotiation strategies employed by GLS19 speaker and former hostage negotiator, Chris Voss. His insightful book,Never Split the Difference, outlines his approach to negotiation. Take a look at the video below to get window into this thought process.

Voss is the founder and CEO of strategy consultancy Black Swan Group, and prior to working in the private sector, he was the lead international kidnapping negotiator for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the lead crisis negotiator for the New York City Division of the FBI and a member of the New York City Joint Terrorist Task Force for 14 years.


You may think hearing “you’re right” when you’re trying to win an argument or discussion means you’re getting your way—you’re winning.

But it isn’t. That’s according to former FBI negotiator Chris Voss.

Instead, you should hope to hear “that’s right.”

The difference between “you’re right” and “that’s right” is only one word, but the meaning and impact for your negotiations are very different.


What hearing ‘You’re right’ really means

Based on his years working as a professional negotiator, Voss learned to pick up clues from whomever he was negotiating with.

When somebody says, “You’re right,” what they’re really saying to you is, “Please, shut up. Stop talking. I can’t take it anymore. Go away.” Either they like you or they have to act like they like you, so they are being polite by wrapping up the conversation in a way that indicates agreement.

That’s why our coworkers say, “you’re right” when they want us to go away. “you’re right” is designed to get you to shut up and preserve the relationship instead of telling you to “shut up.”


What hearing ‘that’s right’ really means

What you want to hear is “that’s right,” says Voss.

If you can get the person you are arguing with to saying, “that’s right,” they are signaling, subconsciously, that they actually believe you understand their perspective.

“That’s right” is what we say when we feel completely heard, and there’s a chemical change that takes place in our brain—it is a subtle epiphany.

And when the other person feels an epiphany, they feel better. They just don’t know where it came from.

Well, it came from your conversation because you got them to say, “that’s right.” And now, without knowing it, they are willing to listen to you. They don’t realize that you set up that reaction, giving you the go-signal because their brain is willing to listen.


Whomever you are speaking with may not be aware they are releasing their resistance to you. That’s just the way the brain works.

If you can get your boss or colleague to trust that you understand where they are coming from—to trust that they are being heard and respected—then you have a much greater chance of getting what you want.

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About the Author
Chris Voss is a 2019 Global Leadership Summit Speaker.

Chris Voss

CEO & Founder

The Black Swan Group

Chris Voss founded The Black Swan Group, a firm that provides training and advises Fortune 500 companies through complex negotiations. A 24-year veteran of the FBI, he was the lead international kidnapping negotiator and was trained not only by the FBI, but by Scotland Yard and Harvard Law School. In his book, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, Voss breaks down these strategies so that anyone can use them in the workplace, in business or at home.

Years at GLS 2019

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