PRODUCT REVIEW

Chris Voss MasterClass Review (2021): Is it Worth it?

Sam Chapman
November 3, 2021

Chris Voss MasterClass review synopsis

What you’ll learn: How to get more of what you want every day, how to influence people by building trust, and how tactical empathy is the key to successful negotiation. Plus, specific techniques that help steer conversations toward a favorable solution to the problem everyone is facing and techniques used every day by real hostage negotiators.

Run time: 3 hours and 4 minutes, across 18 videos.

Pairs well with: Daniel Pink: Sales and Persuasion, Geno Auriemma: Leading Winning Teams, Robert Reffkin: Buying and Selling Real Estate, Robin Roberts: Effective and Authentic Communication, Bob Iger: Business Strategy and Leadership.

Recommendation: Yes — and not just to people in business. You can use lessons from this class every time you talk to another person.

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header image for the Chris Voss masterclass
Chris Voss – MasterClass

When you hear the word “negotiation,” one of two images probably appears in your mind. Some people picture two groups of people in suits sitting across an enormous table, hammering out the terms of a business deal. Others picture police officers in a tense standoff with armed robbers, while innocent hostages wait in the background.

Chris Voss has been in both of those situations plenty of times over the course of his career.

As an FBI hostage negotiator turned business consultant and author of the book Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, Voss probably knows more than anybody else alive about the art of negotiation.

So when he says that everything in life is a negotiation, I believe him.

In the very first video of his MasterClass, Voss convincingly argues that negotiation isn’t just for police officers and business leaders: “If you say ‘I want’ or you think ‘I need,’ that’s a negotiation.”

I found that Voss’s lessons on negotiation could be applied everywhere: meeting new people, talking to loved ones, or even just running errands.

His focus on empathy over aggression, and on the learning potential of awkwardness, made me feel this was different than just another business self-help seminar.

But will you feel the same? In this review, we’ll break down exactly what the Chris Voss MasterClass offers, how much it costs, and if it’s worth it for you.

Disclosure: In the interest of full transparency, Codeless uses affiliate links in our MasterClass reviews to cover our site’s costs.

Our Verdict

Everybody can get something out of Voss’s style of communication, which mixes empathy with strategy. After taking the Chris Voss Masterclass, you’ll approach every interaction with more confidence, especially if you currently struggle with making appointments or requesting service.

Chris Voss MasterClass Become a Pro at Negotiation

$15 /month
  • Inside information from a highly versatile negotiator
  • Lessons that can be applied to any aspect of life
  • Detailed, but doesn’t feel overlong
  • Exciting case studies from Voss’s FBI career
  • Mock negotiations provide an excellent illustration of Voss’s points
  • Not many visual aids — most of the class is Voss talking to the camera
  • Gets some factual things wrong — for example, Voss repeats the false claim that the NYPD is the world’s 7th largest standing army

A few frequently-asked questions…

Do I need a subscription to access this course?

Yes. All MasterClass content requires a subscription to view. The good news is that it’s easy to afford — you can get a full year for just $180. See How much does the Chris Voss MasterClass cost? for details.

How long is the MasterClass?

The Chris Voss MasterClass spans 18 videos and clocks in at about 3 hours and 4 minutes.

Does MasterClass have a cancellation policy?

Yes. You can get a full refund on any subscription plan if you cancel before 30 days are up.

Is the Chris Voss MasterClass worth it?

Absolutely! You’ll sharpen your conversation skills, learn new negotiation tactics, get better at influencing people, and hear some cool stories along the way.

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Who is Chris Voss?

highlights of chris voss’s career
Chris Voss’s career

Christopher “Chris” Voss was born in 1942. In 1986, he joined the New York City Joint Terrorism Task Force, investigating cases such as the explosion of TWA Flight 800.

Voss joined the FBI Crisis Investigation Unit in 1992, where he trained as a hostage negotiator.

His first case was the 1993 Chase Manhattan Bank Robbery. Using techniques he demonstrates in the MasterClass, Voss and his fellow officers managed to get three hostages out of the bank unharmed.

He’s also worked on international kidnapping cases, including the abductions of Jill Carroll and Steve Centanni in the Middle East — both of which also ended without bloodshed.

Voss retired from law enforcement in 2007 to found The Black Swan Group, a consulting firm that teaches negotiation skills to both individuals and businesses. He regularly lectures at the USC and Georgetown University business schools and comments on news stories for CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and other outlets.

Voss’s goal with his MasterClass is simple: “help you get more of what you want every day.”

How much does the Chris Voss MasterClass cost?

Unfortunately, MasterClass doesn’t let you subscribe to classes a la carte. A full subscription is the only way to take any course.

The good news is that a full subscription gets you unlimited access to all MasterClass content. That’s over 100 classes — with new ones added all the time — plus supplemental workbooks.

A subscription also gets you onto the class discussion boards, where you can connect with other students to talk about what you’ve learned.

Masterclass has three different plan options to choose from:

  • Standard Plan: This subscription is $15 per month and allows you to take any MasterClass, using one device at a time.
  • Plus Plan: This plan costs $20 per month. It includes everything in the Standard Plan, but you can access classes on two devices at the same time. Plus, videos of your classes can be downloaded for offline viewing if you’re using an iOS device.
  • Premium Plan: This option costs $23 per month and gives you everything from the Plus Plan, plus the ability to watch classes on six devices at once.

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What is included in the Chris Voss masterclass?

Runtime: 3 hours 4 minutes

Course Value: 5 out of 5

Lessons: 18

Supplementary materials: Workbook

Supplementary workbook

The Chris Voss MasterClass comes with a 14-page downloadable workbook that helps remind you of everything you learn from the videos.

Chris Voss masterclass workbook
Chris Voss’s MasterClass workbook.

The workbook covers four sections:

  • I: Introduction explains who Voss is and why you should listen to what he has to say about negotiation.
  • II: Principles of Negotiation lays out the basics of successful negotiation — and why you shouldn’t think of it as a zero-sum game.
  • III: Techniques of Negotiation shares powerful ways to get what you want out of any interaction.
  • IV: Strategies of Negotiation builds on section III with more complex negotiation skills to practice over the long term.

There’s also a handy glossary to define terms Voss brings up in the video lectures, like Black Swans, Dynamic Silence, and — the heart of his technique — Tactical Empathy.

The MasterClass Hub

The Hub is the MasterClass discussion forum. Each class has its own page where students can meet each other, ask questions, and start conversations that delve deeper into the course content.

Chris Voss masterclass hub forum
Chris Voss’s MasterClass hub forum

As far as I could tell, Voss himself doesn’t use the forum, but there’s a lot of active engagement just the same. If you have a question, or if you just want to gush about a cool fact you learned, the Hub is a fantastic place to visit.

A complete breakdown of the Chris Voss MasterClass curriculum

The Chris Voss Art of Negotiation MasterClass consists of 18 lessons, each of which lasts just over 10 minutes on average. This section shares a quick overview to help you decide if this MasterClass is for you.

Twelve of the lessons are traditional lectures featuring Voss talking to the camera (he rarely uses visual aids). Five are mock negotiations in which Voss works with an actor named Pam to demonstrate negotiation principles. There’s also one case study, where Voss plays recordings of him speaking to hostage-takers and then analyzes the choices he made.

Curriculum:

  1. Tactical Empathy
  2. Mirroring
  3. Labeling
  4. Exercise: Mirroring and Labeling
  5. Mastering Delivery
  6. Case Study: Chase Manhattan Bank Robbery
  7. Body Language & Speech Patterns
  8. Creating the Illusion of Control
  9. Mock Negotiation: Teenager
  10. The Accusations Audit
  11. The Value of “No”
  12. Mock Negotiation: Rival
  13. Bending Reality
  14. Bargaining
  15. Mock Negotiation: Salary
  16. Black Swans
  17. Mock Negotiation: “60 Seconds or She Dies”
  18. The Power of Negotiation

Course summary

Voss starts by laying out a clear, refreshing statement of purpose: “Great negotiation is about great collaboration.” He strongly disagrees with the idea that negotiation has to be about winners and losers. Your adversary in a negotiation is the problem, not the other people at the table.

Instead of breaking down the other negotiators, a successful deal is “the art of letting the other side have your way.” Voss describes the concept of tactical empathy: demonstrating such a clear interest in the other side’s perspective that you begin to influence the way they think about the problem.

Chris Voss teaching his masterclass
Chris Voss teaching his masterclass.

In one way or another, every technique Voss teaches throughout the rest of the course is a form of tactical empathy.

For example, when mirroring, you repeat the last few words the other person said. This simultaneously shows them that you’re interested in what they’re saying, and invites them to continue, helping you gather more information.

Or take labeling, where you describe what the other person might be feeling: “It sounds like you’re upset.” “Sounds like saving money is important to you.” Then you shut up and let them tell you if you’re right or wrong.

Good labeling builds trust-based influence, which Voss calls “the lowest-maintenance, most durable type of influence there is.”

The importance of tone

Some of the most compelling moments in this MasterClass come when Voss directly relates a lesson to his experience as a hostage negotiator. The case study on the 1993 Chase Manhattan bank robbery, which features real recorded conversations between Voss and the gunmen, is one of the best chapters.

Chris Voss bank robbery negotiation tape
Chris Voss bank robbery negotiation tape.

One surprising lesson from that part of the MasterClass: when negotiating, you should never speak in an assertive, “straight-shooter” tone of voice.

As Voss puts it, “anger always leaves a negative residue.”

Instead, aim for a playful, friendly tone 80% of the time and an analytical tone 20% of the time — only when you need to deliver hard, immovable truths.

Another important aspect of tone is your inflection.

Voss advises using an upward inflection most of the time to convey curiosity and openness. But when you need to make someone feel comfortable while maintaining hard lines at the same time (as in a hostage negotiation), use the Late-Night FM DJ voice, which has a “soothing, downward lilt.”

On the tapes in Lesson 6, you can hear Voss using the late-night DJ voice to put one of the bank robbers at ease.

The psychology of negotiation

Voss’s clear understanding of human habits and emotions adds real value to his MasterClass. Trying to remove emotions from the negotiation to achieve a more “logical” outcome, as he persuasively argues, is doomed to fail.

Chris Voss masterclass mock negotiation
Chris Voss teaching mock negotiation.

Instead, you need to defuse negative emotions while amplifying positive ones.

Negative emotions lose power if you name them via labeling. You can also try an accusations audit, a technique where you list all the worst thoughts the other side might be having about you.

Meanwhile, you can boost positive emotions using tactical empathy.

Another powerful strategy is to ask a calibrated question. Starting questions with “why” makes the other person feel accused and defensive. In contrast, starting with “what” or “how” makes them feel in control — often so much that they don’t realize they’ve given up an advantage.

What I learned

I came into this class thinking I wouldn’t learn much. After all, I’m not a police officer or a sales rep. It didn’t take me long to realize that no matter who you are or what you do, Voss has a lot to teach you.

5 takeaways from this MasterClass

1. Negotiation is not about bullying.

All successful communication starts with a non-adversarial approach. If you try to violently assert your will on the other person, all you’ll do is make them angry. Instead, treat the negotiation as two or more sides working together against a problem.

2. The most enduring influence is based on trust.

To win over the other side of a negotiation, you have to first show them you are seriously considering their perspective on the problem. Try to defuse negative emotions and emphasize positive ones.

3. Let the other side feel in control.

Gather information about the deal by inviting the other side to speak. People like to answer “what” and “how” questions, but you should avoid “why” questions, which might make them feel attacked.

4. Implication is just as important as the words themselves.

If your tone is too aggressive, it won’t matter if you’re saying the right things. Similarly, if it comes in the right context, allowing the other side to say “no” can actually improve your position, since “yes” makes them feel like they owe you something.

5. Look for black swans.

A black swan is any hidden information that can change the direction of the conversation. In any negotiation, both sides are hiding things, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the missing information is malicious. For example, a black swan can be the other negotiator’s love of golf, which could be used to create empathy.

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Memorable quotes from this MasterClass

a memorable quote from the Chris Voss masterclass
Quote from Chris Voss

Image Three

“A hostage negotiator might not say the right things, but if they had a great voice, we were gonna be alright.”

Chris Voss, The Art of Negotiation

“Everybody loves somebody that’ll tell them the truth, as long as they’re worried about how the truth lands.” 

Chris Voss, The Art of Negotiation

“A no to a properly phrased no-oriented question is worth at least five yeses.” 

Chris Voss, The Art of Negotiation

Chris Voss Masterclass pros and cons

Now that you know what the class covers, should you take it? Here are some pros and cons to know before you subscribe.

Pros

Chris Voss’s Masterclass is one of the courses that make a subscription worth it. Here are some reasons why:

  • Inside information from a highly versatile negotiator
  • Lessons that can be applied to any aspect of life
  • Detailed, but doesn’t feel overlong
  • Exciting case studies from Voss’s FBI career
  • Mock negotiations provide an excellent illustration of Voss’s points

Cons

There are a few minor downsides, but they don’t sink the class as a whole.

  • Not many visual aids — most of the class is Voss talking to the camera
  • Gets some factual things wrong — for example, Voss repeats the false claim that the NYPD is the world’s 7th largest standing army

Do I recommend this Masterclass?

Yes, I do. When I started, I didn’t think I’d get any use out of the class since I’m not in law enforcement or business. Now I understand that everybody can get something out of Voss’s style of communication, which mixes empathy with strategy.

After taking the Chris Voss Masterclass, you’ll approach every interaction with more confidence, especially if you currently struggle with making appointments or requesting service.

Learn the art of negotiation — I’m glad I did!

Take the Chris Voss MasterClass