[00:00:06.4] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to The Science of Success with your host, Matt Bodnar.
[00:00:12.4] MB: Welcome to The Science of Success. I’m your host, Matt Bodnar. I’m an entrepreneur and investor in Nashville, Tennessee and I’m obsessed with the mindset of success and the psychology of performance. I’ve read hundreds of books, conducted countless hours of research and study and I am going to take you on a journey into the human mind in what makes peak performance tick with the focus on always having our discussions rooted in psychological research and scientific fact, not opinion.
In this episode, we dig in to negotiation. Why no matter what you do, it’s essential to master the skill of negotiation. We talk about the barriers that prevent people like you from negotiating effectively, why the common sense rules of the real world are a fragile collection of socially reinforced illusions. We examine the most powerful types of questions you can use in a negotiation, look at the single biggest mistake you can make negotiating and much more with our guest Kwame Christian.
The science of success continues to grow with more with more than 1,000,000 downloads. Listeners in over 100 countries, hitting number one new noteworthy and more. I get listener comments and emails all the time asking me, Matt, how do you organize and remember all this incredible information? A lot of our listeners are curious about how I keep track of all the incredible knowledge you get from reading hundreds of books, conducting amazing interviews, listening to podcast and more.
Because of that, we created an epic resource just for you. A detailed guide called How To Organize and Remember Everything. You can get it completely free by texting the word “smarter” to the number 44222. Again, it’s a guide we created called How To Organize and Remember Everything. All you have to do to get it is to text the word “smarter” to the number 44222 or go to scienceofsuccess.co and put in your email.
In our previous episode, it was all about mindset, what is a mindset, what’s the fixed mindset and how does it shape the way we interact with the world, what is the growth mindset and how can it transform the way that we live our lives, we looked at research data from over a 168,000 students, examined the mindset of champions, the danger of blame and excuses and much more with one of my favorite authors of all time, Dr. Carol Dweck. If you want to create an incredible mindset, listen to that episode.
Lastly, if you want to get all this incredible information, links, transcripts, everything we talk about on this episode and much more, be sure to check out our show notes. Just go to scienceofsuccess.co and hit the show notes button at the top.
[0:02:49.9] MB: Today, we have another great guest on the show, Kwame Christian. Kwame is a business lawyer and the owner of The Christian Law Firm as well as the founder of The American Negotiation Institute. He also hots the podcast, Negotiation for Entrepreneurs.
The top rated negotiation podcast on iTunes where he interviews successful entrepreneurs and shares powerful persuasion techniques. Kwame, welcome to the science of success.
[0:03:12.6] KC: Thanks for having me Mat.
[0:03:13.9] MB: Well we’re every excited to have you on here today. For listeners who may not be familiar with you and your background, tell us a little bit about yourself?
[0:03:21.7] KC: Yeah, I am a business lawyer by trade but I’m passionate about teaching people how to negotiate and negotiating on people’s behalf. I started my own law firm about three years ago where I focused on serving the needs of entrepreneurs, startups and negotiating deals on their behalf’s and writing contracts for those purposes.
Like I said, my passion was negotiation so I wanted to find a way that I could really focus my passion just exclusively on negotiation while still building the law firm. That’s where the American Negotiation Institute came from. I started the podcast to really market it and see what kind of market existed for that kind of information and the response was kind of overwhelming.
I really enjoyed growing it and I’m a big time psychology nerd as I’ve told you offline. I really enjoy having the opportunity to teach these skills to people.
[0:04:12.0] MB: How would you define negotiation? Let’s start at the very basics. What is negotiation?
[0:04:17.1] KC: yeah, I prefer a very broad definition on negotiation. I think of a negotiation of any conversation you have with another person where somebody in that conversation wants something. When you think about it, using that broad perspective, you realize that the majority of the conversations we have are negotiations, we can’t go a day without negotiating unless you’re a monk or you know, a hermit or something like that because we’re constantly interacting with people.
Beautiful thing about this broad definition is that it helps you to recognize all of the opportunities we’re presented with day to day to negotiate and get more.
[0:04:58.5] MB: Why is it important that somebody who is listening that may not be buying companies or you know, negotiating deals, why is it important for them to master the art of negotiation?
[0:05:12.1] KC: The reason it’s important for them to master this art is because, whether or not you’re good at it, you’re still going to be doing it daily, that’s the first thing. I think a lot of times we have this myopic perspective on what a negotiation is or what the goals in negotiation should be.
I think of negotiation as having three pillars, you can use negotiation offensively, defensively and for the third pillar would be the purposes of building relationships. Offensive uses of negotiation, that’s what we typically think about, we think about getting deals and getting more of what we want. For offensive uses, think about it as you’re trying to maximize value for yourself.
And then, the defensive uses of negotiation come when you want to avoid something bad. This could be conflict resolution, that’s where I would put that portion of dispute resolution in there. I would also say, let’s say you’re a business owner and you have expenses.
Think about every expense that you have. You have rent, you have utilities, those type of things, you have contracts with independent contractors or freelancers, those are all opportunities you have to negotiate and save a little bit of money because there are two ways really that you can increase margins for your business, either you can make more money, that’s the offensive use of negotiation or you could use it defensively to save more money which has an impact on your bottom line.
And then in my opinion, the third reason and this is the most important reason to negotiate is to build relationships and oftentimes this is the part of negotiation that’s overlooked by the majority of people because when you’re having these conversations, you can actually get more what you want, avoid what you don’t want and have the person you're talking to like you more during the process if you do it the right way.
[0:06:57.3] MB: Let’s unpack these a little bit. I’d love to kind of dig into each of them. Tell me, let’s start with offense of negotiation. When is that the most applicable and how can people improve specifically around that skill set?
[0:07:10.6] KC: The first thing that people need to become comfortable with when they are using these — really, offensive and defensive uses is becoming comfortable with asking for what you want. The first step in any negotiation is the ask and unfortunately, that’s where the majority of people fail and they fail for a number of reasons.
The first reason is, like I mentioned before with the broad definition of negotiation, they fail to recognize the opportunity to negotiate, that is the first barrier that people need to face. Hopefully now that we have a good operational definition for negotiation that will largely be eliminated but first, you need to recognize these opportunities.
The second reason why people fail to ask for what they want is they don’t want to look greedy or needy. Let’s unpack that a little bit. When we ask for things, sometimes we feel as though the person is going to respond poorly because it reflects poorly on us that we want more. We don’t want to seem like a greedy person.
In society, it’s always the people who are seen, who people think ask for too much are the people that are kind of ostracized. We have this societal pressure to not be seen as a greedy person. But then, on the needy side, that’s a little bit different because with that, it’s again, it’s a societal pressure but it’s the fact that we might feel as though the person that we’re talking to or the people around might assume the reason that we’re asking for more is because we don’t have anything and that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I was talking to one of my friends who was a mortgage banker and so he says, it’s actually the people that are the most affluent that ask for the most perks and the most discount on these lease terms, these mortgage terms which is fascinating because they need it the least because they’re already very well off.
That’s probably one of the main reasons they got to where they are today financially because they were willing to ask for what they want. Really, when it comes to being more affective with offensive uses of negotiation, the first step is yes, recognize and then learn to ask. And then, once we get through those simple steps that are the biggest barriers and then we can start to think more strategically and get deeper into the negotiation theory.
[0:09:21.8] MB: I think those are both critical things that a lot of people miss, you nailed it, one is, people don’t even understand that they’re missing really obvious opportunities to negotiate and the second is that, they fail to ask for what you want, the whole phrase, ask not, have not right? I think there’s another one from hockey which is just generally — If you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, right?
How come the listeners or even us, how can we start to one, recognize opportunities and negotiate when they arise and then two, how can we overcome that kind of limiting belief of that fear that we’re going to seem needy or greedy if we kind of push the envelope and ask for more things?
[0:10:03.3] KC: I love this question because I have an answer but it’s going to seem very simple but stick with me. My background is in psychology and one of the ways that people can get over phobias is through a simple technique called flooding. Simple in definition but difficult in execution. With flooding, what you do is you hyper expose yourself to the stimuli that scares you.
When it comes to negotiation, what I do is I engage in what I call rejection therapy. This is something I still do to this day. In rejection therapy, I ask for things that I know I have no right to have and I do this regularly. Here’s an example. What’s really interesting is that sometimes it works. Yeah, I’m a lawyer and I work hard, I study and everything but I still like to play video games so I remember one time I was at Walmart and I wanted to buy a controller for my Xbox. I was like, this will be a good opportunity, low social ramifications for this ask, let’s go ahead and try it.
I tried to negotiate for a lower price on this Xbox controller at Walmart and surprisingly I got it, I got a couple of bucks off. Is it a big win? No. But it’s really awkward asking in those types of situations but I know that when I ask for what I want, engaging in this rejection therapy intentionally. When I come to those situations where I need to ask for something and it matters, I’m going to be a little bit more hardened, I’m going to be ready for those situations because I’ve gotten through that awkwardness, it’s like okay, I ask for something once or twice a week, I engage in this regularly.
So then when the real ask comes, I’m ready. That fear doesn’t affect me, the beautiful thing about the rejection therapy is that we have a few outcomes and they all work well for you. First thing you ask for it, you get rejected, you realize that you didn’t die, you're still there. You say okay.
Asking and failing is not that bad, we want to try to eliminate that fear of failure. The second thing is, sometimes you ask and you get what you want and then you end up with a little bit of extra. That’s another good thing too. Really, the first and simplest step you can take is to practice by engaging in rejection therapy in situations where the stakes are low.
You’ll be ready to perform when the stakes are high.
[0:12:25.5] MB: That’s a great tactic and something that I’ve previously recommended kind of a similar exercise for listeners which is the — I forget exactly what it’s called. Basically, you go to a coffee shop and you order a cup of coffee and then you just ask for 10% off or you ask for a free cup of coffee which is kind of the same thing right?
You want to do something that feels really uncomfortable but actually extremely low stakes and what you realize is that you might fail or get rejected, even let’s say 70, 80% of the time when you do stuff like this but the 20% of the time when it works out, you actually end up with something that you essentially have no right to have right?
It’s something that you kind of, were able to just through gusto, get just by being ballsy enough to ask.
[0:13:10.0] KC: Exactly and think about it too, when people come up with prices, what goes into pricing? We think about the overhead, the cost of overhead, okay. That’s a fixed price and then when it comes to determining the margin to a certain extent, of course, there’s a lot of science that goes into it but to a certain extent, people just make it up you know?
There’s a little bit of fluff that’s built into every price and you’ll be surprised, once you start asking how much flexibility people have when it comes to these various things and I think of it like driving you know? How many times do we actually obey the speed limit, actually go 25 or 35, we understand there’s about five miles per hour of fluff built into that speed limit but that’s an actual law, that’s on the books.
But we often approach these prices for things and these terms within contracts and we assume, the price is written in stone, there’s no flexibility there but there is. For me, in my opinion, the best question you could ask in this situations is what flexibility do you have? I love this for several reasons, the first reason is, it’s an open ended question. I’m definitely going to get into that skill of asking questions later on in the conversation but it’s open ended.
Which means that they can’t just avoid it by saying yes or no. And then, the second thing about it is that if it assumes that there is flexibility and so they need to answer that question accordingly under that assumption. It kind of puts a little bit of subconscious pressure on them to admit that there is flexibility.
The last reason why I like that question is that it’s really nonthreatening. Nobody’s going to get too offended when they hear somebody say, well what flexibility do you have on that price? It seems as though you’re just opening up a conversation, not making a harsh demand.
We’ll get in to this later but beyond making the ask, it’s really important to know how to make the ask in a way that’s tactful and nonthreatening because whenever people perceive risk, it makes it harder for them to give you what you want.
[0:15:14.5] MB: It reminds me of a quote form Tim Ferris and I’m paraphrasing a little bit but it’s essentially the idea that reality is negotiable and the common sense rules of the real world are a fragile collection of socially reinforced illusions. Which you know, really, I think dovetails really well what exactly what you're describing. All of this, even laws in many cases are things that are kind of fuzzy and we can actually push the boundaries a little bit and extract things from them that may not be obvious initially.
[0:15:43.9] KC: Exactly.
[0:15:45.8] MB: Let’s take a little bit more, tell me about how can we make this asks in a way that’s nonthreatening?
[0:15:54.3] KC: That’s huge, one of the major things that we need to do is understand our audience too. One of the things that I always tell my audience is, before the podcast is that whenever I’m presented with an opportunity to negotiate, even if it’s a five, 10, 15 minute call. I’ll prep for about 30 minutes to 45 minutes beforehand because I want to make sure that I’m ready and so in that preparation.
I come up with a list of open ended questions because it’s really difficult to come up with a great question off the fly. When it comes to asking this questions in a way that’s nonthreatening and going back to knowing your audience, I try to put my audience, that person that I’m negotiating with through what I call the dating test and so the dating test answers the question, how much do I need to know about this person if hypothetically I wanted to date them.
That takes research to a whole new level and so that means I’m going to your LinkedIn, I’m going to your blog, I’m going to your social media, all of those things and trying to get as much of a profile of this person as possible.
From that, you can gleam a lot of information. You know, certain things that you should talk about, certain things you should avoid talking about, different ways to lead into the conversation, it can be powerful and so for instance, last week I have a client that’s a preschool, a large preschool and they were having trouble with one of their leases and so the person with whom I was going to negotiate, it turns out that this property manager was the founding member of a preschool for his church.
Knowing that, I started off the conversation, just kind of applauding him because it’s like, I realize that you’re the perfect property manager to talk to because you care about kids and I know that because you’re the founding member of this preschool. I started the conversation talking about his passion for children and then talking about his children and my children and I knew he had children because I found a random video that he posted, talking about his community service.
I started the conversation there and then went into what my client needs so establishing the foundation that he loves kids, my client loves kids, we’re doing this for the kids and so coming in to it with that firm foundation where we can all agree made everything that I ask for in that conversation seem a lot less threatening because it was couched in terms of we’re doing what’s best for the kids.
[0:18:25.7] MB: That’s a great example of how you can use framing to shape a conversation right? You kind of pause at that and it completely shifts the direction and the tone and even the subconscious elements of how that conversation flows.
[0:18:39.8] KC: Absolutely. Framing is something that is one of the most underutilized components of negotiation and a great book for that is, I will give two book recommendations, the first one is, Persuasion by Cialdini. It’s his most recent book, he’s the author of influence which was one of the most pivotal and instrumental books in persuasion theory over the past quarter century.
And also, Negotiating the Impossible by Deepak Malhotra. Those two books really get into framing. What framing is, it’s essentially setting the stage with a conversation. You want to frame this issues in a way that’s beneficial to you. Let’s go back to that same example with the preschool.
At the beginning, just based on the way that my client was communicating with him and his responses to my client, I could tell that this conversation, everything that we were talking about was framed in an antagonistic kind of way.
The interactions were framed as us versus them. As soon as I started that conversation, my first goal, my primary objective was to completely change the frame from something is combative to something that’s collaborative. We’re all here working for the same team, we want this preschool to do well because we care about the kids and now changing the frame in that way completely changed the dynamics of the conversation from a combative town to a collaborative tone.
Now we’re not working against each other, we’re working with each other to solve this problem together.
[0:20:10.7] MB: You also talked about open ended questions and why they’re so important. Tell me a little bit more, why open ended in particular?
[0:20:17.8] KC: Yes, open ended questions, this is without a doubt the most powerful negotiation tactic that we have and you’ll see. Asking open ended questions, that’s it? Yes. If I could go into a negotiation with one tool and one tool alone, it would be open ended questions.
Why is it so powerful and like I said before, it decreases the amount of threat the person is going to face and that’s one of the major mental and emotional barriers we need to get through. People want to feel as though they’re in control and this is what open ended questions can do.
First of all, it gives the person an opportunity to feel as though they’re in control. Even though it’s really you in control. Think of yourself almost like a puppet master. They’re doing the movement but you’re controlling the arms and the legs and then the second thing about open ended questions is that it creates an information asymmetry in your favor and so in negotiation, when it comes down to it, it’s an information game.
You want to get as much information as you can relative to the amount of information they have about you in your situation because that gives you more power. When I’m negotiating, my goal is to have the breakdown of communication about 70/30 or 80/20 where I’m only speaking 20 to 30% of the time and the other person is speaking 70 to 30% of the time.
When I do that, I know that I’m getting great information and I know that I’m actually the one controlling the direction of the conversation. Because one thing that I want your listeners to understand is that when you actually get into negotiation, it doesn’t take much to become better than the average person at negotiating.
Considering that and considering the psychological interest that your audience has, I would assume that they’re already more well versed in this than the average person. I wouldn’t want you controlling the conversation and dictating the conversation, not in a manipulative way, to take advantage of people but simply because you have the requisite skill set to push this conversation in a productive manner.
That’s why I feel comfortable taking control of these conversations and guiding people to the right answer. What you want to do with these questions and this is why it takes so much time beforehand to write out all of the questions that I want to ask is that you can actually lead somebody down a logical path where they allow themselves to convince themselves.
Because this is what you don’t want to happen, you don’t want somebody to concede to your point of view. Simply because they lost a war of attrition and you just wore them down. You might have gotten a yes but you probably didn’t get commitment and there’s a big difference between that.
If somebody says yes, that just means they might just want the conversation to end but if somebody commits to your solution or to an outcome, that means that they bought in and they’re actually going to see it through to the end. That’s really what you want to do, you want to create a situation where they feel as though they had some kind of autonomy when it came to the decision making process and so by asking these questions, you can lead them to the conclusion and at the end of the conversation, let’s say if there was like an ESPN breakdown.
They put a microphone in their face and they say “Sir, why did you come to this conclusion?” You want them to say something like “Well, I started to think about it a little bit differently and it seemed like this was the right answer.” That’s the way you want them to think about the conversation.
You don’t want them to say, “Well, the reason I came to his conclusion is because Kwame outsmarted me and I really had no choice but to relent.” That’s not the way to do it, nobody’s pride will allow them to come to that conclusion you know? They want to feel as though they did it on their own and you can do that by asking open ended questions.
[0:24:01.3] MB: It’s such a great tactic and one that I use all the time in my own negotiations is you know, I practice the same strategy, I speak very little, it’s all about asking questions, understanding, kind of getting the other person to talk and provide me with as much information as possible.
As you said, one of the most powerful tactics that I’ve seen is not about convincing somebody by arguing with them. One of the best ways to convince people of something is to ask questions that get them to convince themselves of whatever you’re trying to show them.
[0:24:32.3] KC: Exactly. It’s so powerful and so subtle and that’s the key to persuasion. If you come up to somebody and say, I’m going to persuade you, that XYZ, automatically they’re going to put up barriers because people don’t want to feel like they’re being manipulated. You want to let them feel as comfortable as possible.
And then, I guess here’s a tip that your listeners can use when it comes to trying to master this technique because it’s tough, it really is, to kind of just sit there in silence and not jump in, it’s really tough especially when you feel like you have the right answer, but you need to be patient.
That’s one of the things about persuasion that makes it so difficult, it’s not like these theories are very complex, the thing that makes persuasion difficult is that sometimes it doesn’t feel good doing it because it’s just like, I want to jump in and say something.
No, you have to sit down and be quiet and let it go. One thing that I do to help practice in this situations is when I’m networking with people, talking to friends and things like that, I would say to myself, see how little you can talk in this conversation, just practice that. Try to see how little you can talk in a conversation.
The beautiful thing is, people don’t notice it, people don’t notice like, “Kwame’s kind of not talking, why is that?” Because people like to hear the sound of their own voice and what I’ve noticed is as I’ve started to talk less in this conversations, people would start to applaud me more.
“Man, it was great talking to you Kwame, you’re such a great listener,” or, “You know, Kwame’s a really smart guy and I never said anything you know?” I didn’t say anything to you but the thing is, people typically think that they are incredibly smart and if you give them an opportunity to show how intelligent they are to you, then they would reflect that on you too.
They’ll be like, “You know, that was a really intelligent conversation. Kwame must be intelligent too.” It’s a really interesting psychological trick you can play but doing this, again, during this nonthreatening conversations, when the stakes are low. Once these negotiations come about, you're going to be better at keeping that balance of communication in your favor.
[0:26:44.3] MB: How do we get better and cultivate the skill of asking good questions?
[0:26:48.9] KC: You have to develop the characteristic of curiosity. We really genuinely need to have curiosity and not a kind of tactical curiosity just for the sake of getting what we want at this conversations, you need to be genuinely curios in the person, in the situation and the thing is too, something that’s really interesting about curiosity and becoming somebody who is very persuasive is that you need to be willing to be persuaded in order to be persuasive.
What does that mean? When you ask these questions, you’re going to be continuously getting more and more information. What might happen is you might find out that you're wrong, you might find out that you were misinformed before and when that happens, you have an opportunity to come to the right side because sometimes we engage in these arguments and we have these really strong feelings.
We come to these conclusions simply because we’re misinformed, there a number of times in arguments or discussions or negotiations where I said, I didn’t realize that. I’m going to come to your side now because you were right and what happens is that coming in to this conversations with a genuine curiosity to learn the truth, not just for tactical purposes.
It creates good will in the conversation. And then, what’s going to happen is that typically, we’re negotiating multiple issues. If I show myself to be reasonable in an issue where I recognized I was wrong, they are going to reciprocate because they’re going to say, “You know, Kwame’s a reasonable person, I trust him more.” Asking questions and I mean people, the space to talk and educate you makes them feel better in the conversation but also creates trust.
When you have trust, people are willing to share more information and they are willing to consider the fact that you're not trying to persuade them or negotiate against them in a way that’s going to be detrimental or unfair. They’re going to trust you when you come up with a good point and they say, I didn’t think of it that way.
I’m willing to change too because you did it as well. Yeah, it’s tough though. It’s tough, because the thing is, in order to get better at asking these questions, we need to be more curios, yes. But the barrier that we’re going to face internally when it comes to having that genuine curiosity is our own defensive posture.
Because we feel like we’re right. We need to start to fight that self-serving bias that we have where we think they we’re right, we need to go in genuinely tabula rasa and go in there trying to gather as much information because the thing is, when we have this biases, sometimes we’ll get the information, the information will be delivered to us in the proper way. But because we’re so biased, we won’t be able to see it even though it was delivered properly. You have to go in there with a genuine spirit of curiosity with a genuine interest in learning.
[0:29:42.6] MB: It’s so vital to get rid of kind of combat against that, that defensive posture, that idea that you have to be right all the time and it’s all about you know, proving how smart and awesome and great you are.
I mean, there’s tons of stuff about that, the book Mindset is an amazing example of something that goes really deep and how to undermine that but I think I wanted to just understand to that point that it’s really important to be able to be curious, to be able to truly understand the other person in the negotiation. You have to let go of the need to be right and the need to show how awesome you are.
[0:30:18.1] KC: Exactly and when it comes down to just establishing human connection and creating stronger relationships in general, you are going to get a lot farther when you try to seek first to be interested than to be interesting and that is one of the biggest barriers we have and that I think too the media models really poor communication techniques and the thing is because it sells, that’s what’s interesting. We think about all the shows about the reality TV shows where people are just constantly arguing with each other.
Especially on the news where you have somebody on the right side of the screen, somebody on the left side of the screen and they just yell at each other and they are not willing to concede any points when that behavior is modelled to us over and over and over again. It has an effect on the way we talk to each other and so we really need to take the time to be interested in what other people have to say and where they are coming from in order to establish strong connections and inevitably or eventually be persuasive.
[0:31:19.9] MB: So you talked about the time that you’ve spent preparing for a negotiation. Tell me about the importance of preparation?
[0:31:28.1] KC: Yeah, it’s everything and this is something I really need to walk my clients through sometimes because I am sure when they look at my invoice they’re like, “You spent an hour just thinking? What were you doing?” But that’s really what separates great negotiators from good negotiators because you need to take the time. These things don’t — at least let me say this, let me say it this way: I can’t always come up with a great question off the fly.
And that’s why it’s important for me to write down an exhaustive list of the questions that I want to create. I created this free negotiation prep guide. So if you go to americannegotiationinstitute.com/prep, you can get this guide and it would walk you through step by step things that you should be considering and things that you should keep in mind before your negotiation so like I said, I would put the person through the dating test.
I would create this list of open ended questions. I would create a list of questions that they possibly have for me and my responses for those questions but also I would create a list of things that I can’t say especially when I am practicing law. Not only as a negotiation consultant but when I am practicing law, some of these things need to remain privileged. So if somebody asks you a really direct question and you just stutter, it doesn’t look good especially when it is something compromising.
And so that could be a serious tale that gives away too much information that even if you don’t answer it, they might gather too much information that puts you at a disadvantage. So I want to think about all of these situations beforehand so when I come into these conversations, I can feel confident and adjust accordingly to the ebbs and flows of the conversation.
[0:33:12.5] MB: So you talked about preparation and asking open ended questions being some of the core components of effective negotiators. What are some other characteristics that great negotiators have?
[0:33:24.2] KC: The two other ones I would say are creativity and confidence and so with creativity you need to be willing to think outside the box and again, this is why it is so important to gather information and so when I’m going through the dating test and asking open ended questions to gather this information, I’m not focusing so heavily on specifically what the person is asking for and that’s really important. There’s a very big distinction between what somebody is asking for and why they’re asking for it.
The perfect example comes from the classic book, Never Eat Alone — Sorry not Never Eat Alone, that’s not a great networking book but Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Yuri and so in that book, they talk about the story of two children arguing over an orange and so the brother wants the orange and the sister wants the orange but there is only one left. They go to the mother and what does the mother say? We’ll cut the orange in half and so the brother peels the orange and eats the fruit.
And the sister peels the orange and uses the rind and so that’s an example of if they would have taken the time to ask questions, they would have gotten all of what they wanted but since they focused only on what the other person wanted, they got half of what they could possibly gotten and so you always wanted to figure out the why behind the ask and you know I think we came full circle Matt because didn’t you share that story on my podcast when you were interviewed? I think you might have.
[0:34:54.3] MB: It’s possible. I don’t know but I think it’s great and kind of classic negotiation example and obviously the brother wanted to eat the orange and the sister wanted it for the rind to bake a cake or something like that but it’s so true that if you don’t seek to understand why somebody has a certain position, why they want what they want, you’re missing out on the key components of the negotiation.
[0:35:16.2] KC: Exactly and the thing is too and that’s where creativity comes from because you ask questions you gather information and then you can find ways to satisfy people’s needs without giving up the substance of what you want and that can only come through creativity. The basis of creativity is finding inexpensive ways to solve other people’s problems and so you want to give something to somebody that they find valuable that you don’t find as much value in. So the goal is to trade things up on equal value and that’s where creativity comes from.
[0:35:52.2] MB: So within the context of negotiation, how can we cultivate the ability to be more creative? How can we improve our creativity?
[0:36:00.6] KC: Yeah, it’s tough and again I think we need to be willing to think outside the box and not be as defensive and one of the assumptions that people have that really is a huge barrier when it comes to becoming a better negotiator is the idea that negotiation is a zero sum game where my winning necessitates your loosing and vice versa. Great negotiators go out of their way to try and solve other people’s problems because when you do that, they’ll reciprocate and try to solve yours too.
And so when it comes to creativity, your goal is to try to figure out — Well first of all, gather a really strong understanding of what they want and why they want it and then figure out ways that you can solve their problems too and ask them questions to that end as well. So if they’re focusing on a specific thing, let’s figure out a really clear example. Let’s say in a situation where somebody is getting sued for $10,000 and so somebody keeps asking for $10,000.
It’s like, okay before we even get to the point that I don’t think you deserve $10,000 what is the circumstance that makes you want this specific number of $10,000? Why $10,000 and somebody might talk about how because of this accident they lost their job, etcetera, etcetera and then perhaps in your organization you think this person is a good decent person. You could say, “Well in the meantime I could give you a job here as a secretary” something to that effect.
And that might solve one of their problems in a way that solves your problem. You might have a vacancy and then at the same time, it solves your problem of not wanting to pay out a full-time $10,000. You have to be willing to think outside the box and come up with non-traditional ways to solve these problems because sometimes we just focus so much especially in business, we focus so much on the money and we don’t think about the rationale behind the ask and we miss out on opportunities to solve problems in creative ways.
[0:38:02.0] MB: We talked about how people can get tripped up at the beginning of a negotiation by either not realizing that this is an opportunity to negotiate or not asking for enough. What are some of the other mistakes that you see people make in a negotiation?
[0:38:16.3] KC: I think building off what I just said, one of the biggest mistakes is the belief that it is a zero-sum game and what often comes from that is an unnecessarily combative stance and so when you have that kind of stance, you are going to be seen more as an opposition not as somebody that could be the catalyst to solving people’s problems and when people start to see you as an issue, as a deal stopper, that is really bad. It’s really difficult to come back from that.
And so, when you are in that position where you think it’s a zero-sum game, your attitude changes. As a result, their attitude changes and it becomes combative so there is going to be less creativity and less wiggle room that’s one thing and then the relationship is going to struggle too and remember, going back to the beginning of this conversation, you have to consider the three pillars of effective negotiation. When you think it’s a zero-sum game, pillar number three is in jeopardy because the relationship is going to have issues.
Then typically, you try to blend pillars number one and two of offensive and defensive uses but sometimes you can’t when you have that really myopic focus on winning and so you are just going to be focused on maximizing your value and not considering the way that you can maximize other people’s value too. So that is one of the biggest barriers, just your approach, the way you frame the conversation as something combative when it doesn’t need to be.
[0:39:42.0] MB: I’d love to dig in a little but on the third pillar as well. Tell me about how can we and I know we’ve gone over some of the building blocks of how to do this but how can negotiation be a tool kit or a tool set to build better relationships?
[0:39:55.5] KC: Yeah and this again like I said is one of my favorite parts of negotiation because it’s so key because we think so much about value in terms of money that we don’t realize that there is immense value in relationships. Sometimes I don’t get deals just because the numbers don’t add up but even though it seems as though both parties are walking away from the table with nothing there still has value because we created a strong relationship and that rapport can lead over to the next deal if I’m involved in a deal with this person again.
And so in those conversations I think one of the keys to creating trust and improving the relationship is the willingness to be patient. Sometimes we go on to these conversations and we feel as though we need to get all of what we want all in one go and again, one of the biggest barriers to agreement and movement in negotiation is I wouldn’t say risk but I would say perceived risk and when people feel as though things are moving really fast, they are going to pump the breaks even if things are going well.
Think about how sometimes people in relationships, the relationship might be going really well and the person says, “I think we’re just moving too fast” it’s like really? But things are going well. But we are just moving too fast. It seems risky, what are we moving quickly too? And so instead of trying to get things done in one or two conversations, recognize that it might take a few conversations over the course of a couple of weeks in order to build that requisite about trust to get things moving.
So taking the time to build up that relationship before making an ask is going to be incredibly important. So always consider what you can do with the relationship in order to create value in the relationship by itself and again, going back to my preparation I consider where the relationship is currently, what barriers there are to a stronger relationship and how I can work to eliminate those barriers in order to create a strong working relationship with the person and that’s the goal.
The term that we want to keep in mind here is a strong working relationship. We don’t need to be best of friends and hang out on the weekends but we need to have a relationship where that’s typified by trust and a relationship where the free flow of communication can exist and when those things are established then people are going to be a lot more willing to answer those great open ended questions that you’ve prepared for before the conversation.
But we really need to focus on establishing that firm foundation of the relationship before we start making those big asks.
[0:42:30.6] MB: On the topic of building relationships, I know one of the other core components of your practice that you spend a lot of time on is resolving disputes and mediating when things don’t work out between people. What are some of the core skills that help people resolve disputes?
[0:42:47.6] KC: Yeah and this is huge because I’ve seen a lot of good businesses fail because of bad relationships and so what I do is mediation between business partners. It’s like marriage counseling between you and your partner and so one of the things that I have seen in these relationships where there are issues is the dangerous assumptions that they have of one another. So here’s an example, when you are dealing with people and somebody wrongs you in some kind of way and now there’s a dispute or a conflict, people often conflate the behavior.
With a negative outcome when it comes to the behavior with negative intent and so sometimes people can just do something with little regard to the outcome but they didn’t do it with malice. Maybe it was done with ignorance and maybe they just acted too quickly but the person who is on the receiving end who was impacted negatively by the situation can impute negative intent and that’s where problems come because we were able to separate problem behavior from the mentality.
It’s a lot easier to address the behavior because really what it comes down to is the reason I am upset is because of the impact that somebody’s behavior had on me but the problem is sometimes when the aggrieved party addresses the issue, they approach the person almost like the prosecutor because in criminal law, you need to have motive. You need to have some kind of intent, you need to prove that the person did this on purpose.
And so they go in and say, “You don’t respect me” blah-blah-blah and throwing these accusations that really dig deep into the person’s mindset when doing this and the person will be arguing, “No, I didn’t mean to do that” and now we’re having unproductive conversations about what the person was thinking when the behavior in question happened when instead, they would be much better served to just focus on the behavior and the outcome and what kind of effect it had on you.
Because when you focus on those things, there’s really no argument. Did you engage in this behavior? Yes. Was this the outcome? Yes. Is this how you feel about it? Yes. Those things cannot be controverted. Now we can have a productive conversation on the topic but when we start going at it like a prosecutor trying to determine whether or not this person did this intentionally, it’s really unproductive. So the first thing that we need to focus on is just avoiding the idea of intent and just focusing on the behavior itself.
[0:45:21.1] MB: It’s amazing how you can open up the channels for communication and understanding if you simply take a step back, pull your own ego and your own need to prove your point and really try to understand the other person.
[0:45:36.1] KC: Absolutely and ego is big. Ego is one of the biggest barriers to resolving conflict and another thing that our ego prevents us from doing is acknowledging our own contribution to the issue and so you want to shift from blame to contribution. So what did your partner contribute to the situation and if you need to be honest and put your ego to the side and admit what you did to contribute to the situation.
In most of these situations, there is something that you did that helped to create this atmosphere where that behavior is deemed to be acceptable by your partner and when you come into the conversation, acknowledging that you contributed in some way, they are going to feel a lot safer when it comes to admitting that they contributed in some way too but again, you don’t want to create this situation where it seems that now you are prosecuting their crimes.
Because when you think about it especially in a situation where it’s a business partner relationship the foundation is the same. You both want the same goals so let’s approach this as a problem solving endeavor as a team and whenever those barriers are put down when it doesn’t seem like we’re going against each other, people are going to feel a lot more comfortable trying to work with you to address the problem than they are working against you to try to defend themselves.
[0:46:59.0] MB: So what is one piece of homework that you would give for listeners who want to go out and start to implement some of these ideas and improve their ability to become better negotiators?
[0:47:08.5] KC: I’m going to stick with the same theme and focus on those questions like developing that sense of curiosity, asking great questions and then genuinely listening to those responses and one thing that I found that people struggle with is let’s say you do this, you execute it perfectly. You go in with the spirit of curiosity, you ask great questions and you listen. Sometimes, we ran into the barrier of not getting credit for listening when we listen.
This was actually brought to my attention from one of my listeners in Australia. He said, “I did everything you told me to but the person, they didn’t acknowledge I was hearing them so what should we do?” and so that is where the power of summarizing comes into play and so there’s something called the empathy loop. That’s where you listen to what somebody says and you say, “Well correct me if I’m wrong but it sounds like you’re saying XYZ and in XYZ, you provide a brief summary of what they said, the major points of what they said and then you end it by saying, is that correct? Then you give the person the opportunity to confirm your understanding.
Either you got it or you didn’t. If they say yeah, you got it. That is them confirming their understanding that you are listening. You know, that’s one of the — kind of like the icing on the cake when it comes to asking great questions. When you ask great questions, you listen and then you prove it by summarizing and giving them the opportunity to correct you.
[0:48:35.6] MB: So for listeners who want to do more research, dig in and learn more about this, where can people find you online?
[0:48:42.8] KC: Yeah, if you can, if you’re a podcast listener which I guess obviously you are, you can check out The Podcast Negotiation for Entrepreneurs, you could also check out The free course for Business Partners Who Are at War and this is really a great course for anybody who is in the situation here you want to try and resolve conflicts.
If you go to americannegotiationinstitute.com/course, you can get this free five day course on how to resolve conflicts with your business partner or people on your team. And then, if you have any questions for me directly, shoot me a message on LinkedIn. Anybody who connects with me on LinkedIn gets a personal message from me, I actually respond.
This is something that is becoming more and more difficult to do as my audience grows but I’m going to stick to it and I’m going to get to everybody eventually. It might be a while but I will because I genuinely want to hear what people have to say and I don’t know if you have this problem Matt but as a psychology nerd and a negotiation nerd, I know I can get in to the weed sometimes with my content.
Hearing people’s concerns and questions really helps me to focus my content on things that are actionable and practical. Please, reach out to me, I really appreciate it when people touch base and tell me what they want to hear.
[0:49:53.8] MB: Well we will make sure to include all of that in the show notes so listeners can check that out but Kwame, thank you so much for being on the show, this is a fascinating conversation, I know I learned a number of negotiation strategies and that’s something that I do all the time.
This was great for me but just thank you very much, it’s been a great episode.
[0:50:10.7] KC: My pleasure, and as a listener, it is an honor to be on this show so thanks Matt.
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