How to Get a Refund with a Simple Email Mirror


The first two keys to effective emails are simple:

  1. Always be concise.
  2. Make sure you end on a positive note.

We’ve recently identified a third key.

email tactics

I was blown away when I received the following email, where one of the members of the Black Swan Negotiation Nation (let’s call him The Black Swan Trained Negotiator) used a mirror to negotiate a refund.

Very simply, mirroring is a technique where you summarize and repeat what your counterpart has just said, using an inquisitive tone. As a refresher, here is a video on how to use mirrors verbally.

The first conversation, via chat, went like this:

The Black Swan Trained Negotiator: I would like to cancel my subscription and get a refund for this year.

Provider: Hi, I can cancel your subscription, and you will not be charged again. Your account will downgrade to a Free Basic plan, upon the renewal date. I’ve reviewed our refund policies, and unfortunately they don’t allow me to provide you a refund. In some cases, your bank or online payment vendor may be able to help. The refund window as per our policy is 14 days. The payment made for this account has surpassed this date.

The ensuing communication escalated into an email exchange, with the provider telling our Black Swan Trained Negotiator in no uncertain terms that there would be no refund.  

The Black Swan Trained Negotiator requested an escalation: Yes, please escalate this issue. I would like to have the charge removed given I haven’t used the service in three years.

After escalation, the next person responded in an email that the provider had a strict no-refund policy.

The Black Swan Trained Negotiator responded with a one-line mirror in an email: Strict no-refund policy?

Behold the power of mirrors.

The provider’s email response: With further investigation, we were able to provide an exceptional refund for your yearly subscription. Give the tools a chance and always be polite. Throughout the interaction, our Black Swan Trained Negotiator used please and thanks liberally.

Remember: Never be mean to someone who could hurt you by doing nothing. And keep in mind that the flip side is that everyone you interact with can help you if they feel like it.  

Use these skills so they will feel like helping you. Make it rain!

never split the difference study guide

Chris Voss

About The Author

Christopher Voss is the CEO of The Black Swan Group, a firm that solves business negotiation problems with hostage negotiation strategies. Chris founded the Black Swan Group, in 2008 upon his retirement from the FBI where he was the FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator. Chris is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Southern California (USC) Marshall School of Business and Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business where he teaches business negotiation in both M.B.A. programs.