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Black Swans

Chris Voss

Lesson time 10:29 min

Black swans are game-changing pieces of information that you don’t know when entering a negotiation. Chris walks you through an FBI case where uncovering a black swan led to a breakthrough.

Chris Voss
Teaches The Art of Negotiation
Former FBI lead hostage negotiator Chris Voss teaches you communication skills and strategies to help you get more of what you want every day.
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- The origin of the black swan concept was from 16th century Europe, when all they had were white swans. And somebody along the line thought of, well, what would happen if there was a black swan? Well, it's impossible, you know? That would change everything. That would change the complexion of everything. And then not long after that, they discovered black swans in Australia. They discovered that black swans actually exist, and suddenly the impossible was possible. And it was a game-changing concept. And this has been resonated throughout the years and been picked up in other books that the black swan is something that nobody expected would happen, but in hindsight, changed everything as soon as it was revealed. So this is what great negotiation is about, discovering the black swan, discovering the piece of information that nobody expected that would change all the outcomes. It's central to everything that we do. And that's why I named my company The Black Swan Group. If you're negotiating for a salary, you might not know the behind the scenes of the company, that the person that you're going to work for is going to leave in a year, or they're going to retire in a year. You don't know what opportunities are coming in conjunction with that job that the company's already forecasted and budgeted out. You don't know who's planning on moving on. You don't know all the things that are going on behind the scenes. All you know is they've offered you this job within these parameters. But they already know, have a very good idea of the dynamics that they hope to change in the company over the next year. Finding out those dynamics behind the scenes could either make it a wonderful place for you to work or a horrible place, and it has nothing to do with the job description at the moment. The things that they know that you don't know are the black swans. Also, what they don't know about you is, you may really be committed to that company when they're just looking for someone that wants to be there for a year or two. They have strategic needs that they haven't imagined that they can share with you because they don't understand that you're the person that can fill those specific strategic needs. They have no idea what you really want out of life. What you really want out of life may be exactly what they need in that company. Since they haven't met you, they don't know that yet. This is an example of a black swan that you bring to the negotiation that they have no way of knowing in advance. So the idea is to start the communication, and for me to start getting the information flowing from you so that I can find out what those black swans are and I can change the outcome. [MUSIC PLAYING] Since I don't know what you're hiding and you don't know what I'm hiding, there's stuff in that overlap that we really don't know is there at all. You know, a long time ago, Donald Rumsfeld talked about the unknown unknowns. The real black swan...

Take control of the outcome

As an FBI hostage negotiator, Chris Voss persuaded terrorists, bank robbers, and kidnappers to see things his way. Now he’s teaching you his field-tested strategies to help you in everyday negotiations, whether you’re aiming to improve your salary, the service you receive, or your relationships. Get stronger communication skills, game-changing insights into human nature, and more of what you want out of life.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

For sure I have learnt new soft skills and new techniques to try to get results by negotiating with people.

Excellent. Very well done. Thank you. Mr. Voss.

I have read the book Never split the difference and it is great to have the opportunity to hear Chris talk about all the topics himself. I do believe I have to dip in and out of this masterclass as it has so much information that I think I can't implement it all at the same time. I will start with mirroring and labeling!

This was super compelling. The tactics, advice and insight Mr Voss exposes in this class can be applied daily in regular life and business. I am a realtor. The class has taken me beyond asking what compels some one to sell or buy and has turned a lot of what I have been trained to do on its head! Specifically: No is more powerful than Yes. Game changer. Thank you


Bernardo F.

So basically I need to be all-ears to catch crucial information that I can use in a negotiation. How can I proceed if I face a negotiation where I do not have more information that the one I'm presented with?

A fellow student

I enjoyed the lessons that flipped perspectives on their head, such as 'The best answer is No.' I didn't love the mock negotiations, and as someone who has a 16 year old daughter, I can tell you that there's no way they give up that easy when presented with logic and reason.

A fellow student

Impossible is possible. What info no-one expected to find and then it changes everything once it was revealed. black swans can come from either side of a negotiation. Engage in conversation to discover the black swan to successfully negotiate for the win-win.

Corey H.

Anyone else get mad when they think of all the deals they blew or gains they missed out on after watching these videos?

Islam B.

This is one of the best lines in the lesson " Let's worry less about what they want and worry more about what's making them want it". I think that line will inspire me a lot in my daily communications.

iris W.

Great explanation on the Hide & Seekaspects. I like the accent on the terms, the No, the fear of loss, the true interest . Very elegant and intelligent way to unveal a bit of this fine art. Art it is indeed! Need practice now.Thank you.

A fellow student

Love to see this techniques on the wild as a reference point. I been trying these are yard sales

Arun V.

I'm impressed... I'd be more impressed if the mock negotiation is not with an actor instead another negotiator or may be a random person with no clue. Am I asking too much? I think he wants the class to be perfect. But I like it overall.

Markus J.

Great Class! really enjoyed it :) I wonder if those approaches also work if someone has nothing to lose or doesn't care anymore.

A fellow student

Loved this concept of making yourself valuable enough for the otherside to feel a potential loss of something they don't actually have