[00:00:19.4] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to The Science of Success. Introducing your host, Matt Bodnar.
[00:00:11] MB: Welcome to The Science of Success, the number one evidence-based growth podcast on the internet with more than 2 million downloads, listeners in over a hundred countries and part of the Self-Help for Smart People Podcast Network.
Do you feel uncomfortable in conflict with others? Do you experience fear and anxiety when dealing with tough situations? Most negotiation tactics and strategies assume you're already a master negotiator with nerves of steel. But that’s the wrong starting place. In this episode we discuss how you can get comfortable with having tough conversations and build the foundation to become a real master of negotiation using a simple and easy to apply framework. We get into how you can deal with tough situations and conflict from a place of poise, curiosity and confidence with our returning guest, Kwame Christian.
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In our previous episode, we discussed how to deal with never feeling like you're enough. Showed you how to overcome the insidious trap of people pleasing, looked at the most effective treatments for OCD, panic attacks, anxiety and stress, discovered the dangers of toxic perfectionism and how it might be holding you back, told you why should is a dangerous work and much more with our previous guest, Taylor Newendorp. If you want to banish procrastination, people pleasing and anxiety from your life, listen to that episode.
Now, for interview with Kwame.
[00:03:03] MB: Today we have another exciting guest back on the show, Kwame Christian. Kwame is a business lawyer and the director of the American Negotiation Institute, where he puts on workshops designed to make difficult conversations easier. As an attorney and mediator with a bachelor’s of arts in psychology and a master’s in public policy as well as a law degree, Kwame he brings a unique multidisciplinary approach to the topic of conflict management and negotiation. He also hosts the top negotiation podcast in the country; Negotiate Anything.
Kwame, welcome back to The Science of Success.
[00:03:34] KC: Thanks for having me, Matt. It’s a pleasure to be back.
[00:03:36] MB: We’re excited to have you back on the show. Longtime listeners will deftly know that negotiation is a topic that I'm a huge fan of, kind of digging deep on and one of the most popular kind of topics that we talk on the show. So there's definitely a lot of meat and a lot of things to kind of dig into, and you’ve been on to a lot of stuff since you were last on the show.
[00:03:54] KC: Absolutely. I would say the highlight since being on the show is having the celebrity name, the Matt Bodnar on my show, the Negotiate Anything podcast, to share his knowledge on negotiations. That was pretty cool. But since then, I've done a TED Talk called Finding Confidence in Conflict, where I introduced the new concept called compassionate curiosity and did pretty well, and since then it's taken me on this journey where more and more people were asking me to elaborate on that idea. So it’s leading to a book. So by the time this episode airs, the book will be out, and it's called Nobody Will Play With Me: How to Find Confidence In Conflict.
[00:04:33] MB: So let's dig into that, that kind of idea, confidence in conflict. A lot of people, and I think a huge majority of people probably actually sort of seek out to actively avoid and steer away from conflict usually in their lives. Is that a healthy sort of habit or practice or should we be kind of embracing conflict or even seeking it out in some cases?
[00:04:53] KC: It is something I see all the time. Is it healthy? No. But is it human? Yes. It's a defense mechanism, and what's interesting is before I did the TED Talk, as somebody who believes in evidence-based approaches to solving problems, I surveyed the audience. I asked my audience of the podcast, “What is your biggest concern? What do you need help with? What would you like to hear?”
For me as a lawyer, I’m strategists. I’m a tactician. I really like getting into the nitty-gritty, and I was really shocked to hear what people said. They said their biggest issues are, first, they don't have confidence in these conversations. Secondly, they’re experiencing a lot of fear and anxiety before and during the conversations. Lastly, when they're in the midst of the conversation, they feel as though they don't know what to say.
That really forced me to change my approach and help people to feel more confident and address that foundational issue first. I realized that in the past I was essentially giving recipes to people who are afraid to get in the kitchen. So it really forced me to change my approach and it’s been helping people. So now people are more confident and actually moving towards these conflicts, because they’re seeing it as an opportunity to get more of what they want, avoid things that they don't want and strengthen the key relationships in their lives.
[00:06:09] MB: I love that analogy of giving recipes to people who are afraid to go into the kitchen, because I mean it's such an important skillset, and yet I think that sort of framework that the fact that the fear and anxiety of these tough situations holds people back from ever even kind of coming to the table in the first place is a tremendously common problem I think, obviously, with negotiation, but really if you look at it in a ton of different kind of endeavors.
[00:06:32] KC: Absolutely, and that’s the thing. It really hit me hard, because I would have these very nuanced episodes that introduced tactics and strategies that are powerful and evidence-based, but then I realized it doesn't matter if people are unwilling or unable to use them in the heat of battle.
So when you think about it psychologically, when somebody's engaged in a difficult conversation and they are feeling emotional about the situation, they’re afraid, there's a lot of activity going on in the limbic system. What we found is that when there is a significant amount of activity on one brain structure, it takes away energy from the other structures.
For example, the prefrontal cortex, where we have logical reasoning, is not as engaged. So what we’re finding in addition to that is that when you're stressed out in these conversations, your body is going to be filled with cortisol, the stress hormone, which clouds your judgment and ability to think clearly. At the time when we need to be at our best cognitively, we are inhibited significantly. So that's why it forced me to realize we need to address these foundational issues of fear and anxiety, and when it comes to the strategies we use during the conversations, we need to simplify it and give people a tool that they would actually be able to use easily in the midst of a conflict.
[00:07:49] MB: Let's dig into that. How do you think about dealing with that fear and anxiety that often kind of comes up around conflict and negotiation and having difficult conversations?
[00:08:00] KC: As a young Kwame, I wanted to be a clinical psychologist. One of the things that I really enjoyed learning more about was the cognitive behavioral therapy. So it's a really action oriented hands-on approach to moving forward when it comes to pushing through phobias, anxiety, fears, those types of things. When it came to negotiation and working with people and teaching them how to be better at conflict, it forced me to realize that I can use this same kind of approach when it comes to making people more confident and feel less fear and stress during the conversations.
On my podcast and in these sessions that I do when I go and travel the country and do these conflict management and negotiation seminars, I encourage people to do what I call rejection therapy, where they actually seek rejection. So it's mundane everyday situations where you take the opportunity to ask for what you want to kind of fabricate that fear of rejection, because that’s one of the biggest fears that people have. What you do is slowly you become desensitized to it. So it's taken from the idea of exposure therapy.
For instance, if you're afraid of spiders and you have a therapist that’s working with you, what they would do is they would first have you look at a picture of a spider from a distance and then slowly bring the image of the spider closer. Then maybe have you see a real spider from a distance and then have you bring the real spider closer, and these are separate sessions. Then eventually you get to the point where you might be able to sit in the same room with your heart rate not being too excessively elevated and then maybe even to the point where you could touch it.
I want people to be intentional about exposing themselves to these difficult conversations, because it's going to make you stronger for the next one, and there are opportunities to practice these techniques that we teach on the podcast and the framework that I introduce in the book.
[00:09:56] MB: It’s such a great toolkit, and we've actually had Jia Jiang who had a TED Talk that sort of really popularized rejection therapy on the show. So we’ll throw that episode in the show notes. But I couldn't agree more, that intentionally kind of facing your fears, getting uncomfortable is such a powerful framework and powerful method for building those skillsets of kind of mental toughness and emotional resilience, right? We kind of talked about what we sort of call the sphere of discomfort, which is basically this idea that the options and opportunities available to you are only as big or as good as your ability to sort of get uncomfortable. The more you do something, like the first time you do anything, it’s kind of scary and new and frightening, and if the 50th time you do it, you’re kind of getting the hang of it. The thousand time you do, you're practically bored, right? It such a relevant and useful tool of building up that emotional skillset. So I think it's a really good strategy.
[00:10:50] KC: Absolutely, and I'm glad you mentioned him, because I was just finishing up a chapter in a book called Confidence, and there is almost an entire page dedicated to explaining that TED Talk, because it really forced me to realize like this is something that I could overcome. I remember when I was younger and I discovered that TED Talk, I was working at a nonprofit Institute, and one of the things that they did was they offered professional development training and job opportunities for youth that were disadvantaged.
For example, you needed to be below a certain level of income in order to participate in the program. For a family of four, it was about $56,000, and if you had one penny more, then you were poor, but not poor enough to take it vantage of the program. What we had to do is intern coordinators was to have those difficult conversations with people and let them know that even though they were so excited to take advantage of this opportunity, they didn't meet the income requirements, and it would break our hearts, it would break their hearts. It was incredibly difficult.
After watching that Ted Talk, what I did is I told my colleagues, “Listen, everybody that you have to reject for this particular reason, give them to me. I'll have the difficult conversation and I will do it,” and this was one of the hardest things to this day still. One of the hardest things I ever did, but I forced myself to do it just so I could become a little bit more comfortable. Did I ever become fully comfortable? No, but I was at least comfortable enough to take committed action and I carry that strength with me now even today.
[00:12:25] MB: Wow! What a great example of how to really kind of concretely implement that in your life and sort of step up to the plate. I'm sure it wasn't hard to convince those people to give you the difficult conversations, right?
[00:12:36] KC: No. They were very happy.
[00:12:38] MB: I mean, it kind of reminds me of firing people too, right? The first time you fire somebody, it's really scary and kind of awkward and then by the time you – I don’t know how many people are listening who’ve hired a lot of people, but I fired a fair amount of people over the course of my career, and like the more you do it the more you realize that it's actually almost like cathartic and can be really sort of healthy to fire somebody once you realize that there is a misalignment. But to get to that place, you have to kind of soldier through all these really uncomfortable conversations to get to sort of the position where you have a really healthy perspective.
I mean, I've been in situations where we had to fire a long time employee and they literally like thanked us and we’re like so grateful and happy and like felt like they were sort of being freed to pursue this new opportunity, but without the developing, building that kind of muscle and getting in those difficult conversations, you're never able to really truly do that.
[00:13:28] KC: Absolutely, and I love the term that you used where you said soldiering through. Right now I'm reading a book on neural plasticity, and it's about how you can actually change your brain structures and the wiring of your neurons through action and consistent action. I'm realizing now when it comes to these difficult conversations and soldiering through, like you said, and consistently putting yourself in the position to have these conversations, you're actually changing your brain, their different connections. Because as they say, neurons that fire together, wire together. So these connections become stronger. So that's why it gets easier overtime, because your brain is actually changing. So it's a mental workout. It's like another body part. The mechanics of it and the structure can change based on the experiences that you put in front of your brain.
[00:14:18] MB: I think that’s a great way to phrase it too, is the mental workout, right? These kind of rejection challenges or difficult conversation challenges are a great way to work out your brain, work out that skillset so that when you step up to the table at a really kind of tense, high-stakes negotiation, you're much more comfortable and much more confident.
[00:14:37] KC: Absolutely. The thing is too, the way I look at this, is like a sports psychologist. When you look at sports psychology when it comes to athletes, they realized that, of course, the athletes need to have a firm physical foundation and then they also have a firm technical foundation. But what they're realizing more and more is that we need to have a firm psychological foundation too. I think it kind of takes people off guard when I go into the companies and I’m working with their negotiation teams or their HR teams and I start off by talking about these things that most people would consider soft, like talking about emotions and psychology. But then as we go through the process, they realize, “Wow! This is important.” It’s important, because it not only helps me to understand myself on a deeper level, but it also helps me to understand others on a deeper level. A lot of times during these conversations, because the other person isn't as emotionally aware, we find ourselves having to ask questions in unique ways, in strategic ways to lead them from a specific mental state that is unproductive to a place where they can actually process the high level information and arguments that were given to them.
[00:15:44] MB: This might be a little bit of a sidetrack, but I want to dig into that sort of skillset as well, because I think that's something that has been really impactful for me. How do you think about kind of using questions and using the right sort of framing to get somebody out of sort of a hole that they've trapped themselves in from a positional standpoint or kind of an emotional state that’s really unproductive for what you're sort of trying to negotiate towards?
[00:16:09] KC: Yeah, I have a story for this that could help. I am the father of an almost three-year-old. So every morning I'm in hostile negotiations. As I was trying to think through the steps of compassionate curiosity and how I could apply it to negotiation, this situation came up with Kai. So every morning before we would go to school he would fight me on the same topic. My wife is a doctor, so she has to go in early, so I take him to daycare.
What I would do is I would say, “Kai, it's time to go to school,” and he would say, “I want mommy,” and then I’d say, “Kai, we need to go to school. Mom is not here.” “No, I want mommy,” then he would cry.”
So what he would do is he would start off the morning just telling me everybody he loved more than me. First, it would be, “I want mommy.” Then he would say, “I want grandma,” and then he would say, “I want uncle Kobe,” and that was a bit hurtful, because that's my brother who lives in a different city. This was the last draw for me. He said, “I want Buxton,” and Buxton is my brother's dog, and I realized I had a problem on my hands.
So I read this book called How to Talk So Children Would Listen and Listen So Children Would Talk, and what they said was you need to acknowledge emotions. So I said, “Okay. I’ll give it a try. Let’s try it out.” So the next morning I went up to Kai and I said, “Kai, it’s time to go to school,” and he said, “I want mommy. I don’t want to go to school.” I said, “Do you love mommy?” “Yeah, I love mommy.” “Do you wish mommy were here?” “Yeah, I wish she was here.” “How about you say, “I love you mommy?” and he would say, “I love you mommy.” “Okay, Kai. Are you ready to brush your teeth?” “Yeah, I'm ready to brush my teeth.”
So that's an example of where what he was requesting was substantive. He wanted his mother. That's a tangible request. But what he was really saying beneath the surface, it was an emotional request. He wanted me to acknowledge and respect the fact that at this moment he was missing his mom, that he was willing to accept the fact that she wasn't there, but he wasn't willing to accept the fact that I didn't respect it and acknowledge it.
So when it comes to our difficult conversations, a lot of times at the beginning we need to take some time. Like I said with compassionate curiosity, the first step is to acknowledge emotions. So we need to ask questions, dig deeply into that psychology to figure out what the emotional need is. Then we can move on to the second step, which is getting curious with compassion, and that's what digging more into the substance of the negotiation. Then the third step is just joint problem-solving, which is the fundamental of collaborative negotiation.
[00:18:40] MB: What a great example, and it's funny – Yeah, I just added that book to my to read list. One, because I recently had a kid, but also because I think that the reality is that skillset is probably incredibly applicable to dealing with the vast majority of adults as well.
[00:18:53] KC: Absolutely. The thing is Kai has really helped me to understand the psychology of it, because, yeah, he’s two years old, but that part of our brain doesn't go away. The prefrontal cortex evolves and grows on top of it. So a lot of times what we see in these negotiations is that we’re frustrated because we’re talking to somebody and we’re making all of these logical points, but it’s not getting through. Then we say, “This person is crazy. They don't get it.” It’s not that the person is crazy. It’s that you are talking to their inner two-year-old like they are a full-grown adult.
So when you’re willing to understand that emotion still play a role in it, then you can speak to that two-year-old, help them grow through the conversation by acknowledging their emotions, and then once you're satisfied and recognize that, “Okay. I can see you now. It seems like they're getting it. It seems like they reached a state of somewhat of equilibrium insanity, now I can put forward my arguments.” But it doesn't it make sense to make any points to a person who is not in emotional and psychological state that is prepared to receive it.
[00:20:01] MB: So in the context of dealing with an adult who is maybe reacting emotionally, how would you think about kind of using that sort of skillset of acknowledging emotion? What does that look like?
[00:20:12] KC: What you would do first is, well, state what the obvious is what I would say. For instance, if a person seems frustrated, what I would do is I would guess. I would say – But I wouldn't put it on them, but I would put it on me, because a lot of times people don't feel comfortable if you say what they are feeling and put it in their terms, because they don't really want to own it. If you put it on you, then they could say, “Yeah, you're right.” It feels a little bit less threatening to them. Because in the business world, a lot of times people live in this fiction where they believe that emotion shouldn't exist. So they don't feel comfortable sharing it.
What I would say is, “Listen, this is probably pretty frustrating for you. I know if I were in this situation, I would feel frustrated,” and then I wait to see what they would say. Then if they can kind of confirm that, I would say, “Can you tell me more about what you've been experiencing or some of the challenges you've been experiencing?” So I’m digging deeper into the issue that they’re feeling and the emotions around that. Then once I feel satisfied based on their responses that they have gotten that out of their system, then the questions that I ask would shift more towards substance, more towards problem-solving.
What kind of things do you think we could do to make sure this doesn't happen in the future? How can we help to make you feel more secure in this situation? Those type of questions. So we’re transitioning from the acknowledging emotions to the compassionate curiosity stage where I'm asking questions. The reason I call it compassionate curiosity is not because I want to really get into a nuanced conversation about what compassion is or isn't. It’s meant to help you moderate your tone, because a lot of times in these difficult conversations, even the best intentioned statements can be read as hostile simply because we are at a heightened emotional state.
So what I do is ask people to think about somebody who is compassionate. About 90% of the people would say Mother Teresa is compassionate. Then I would say, “Okay. In this conversation, if Mother Teresa was here asking an open-ended question, how would she say it?” So it forces you to moderate your tone, approach it a little bit more than a softer manner and approaching it in the nonthreatening way allows the person to feel more comfortable sharing more information.
[00:22:29] MB: I want to dig into the compassionate curiosity piece, but before we kind of go down that rabbit hole, coming back, the idea of acknowledging emotions. Is the goal of that sort of step in the framework to help them process that emotion and get it out of their system?
[00:22:44] KC: Absolutely. Absolutely, because if you don't, it will still fester underneath the surface. The thing is a lot of times with these emotions, they're hidden under a veil of professionalism where they recognize there are certain things they can and cannot say, they can and cannot do. So they simply won't do those not because they don't want to, but because they know that they can’t. So they will hide those emotions from you.
I really go out of my way to make sure that I explore that emotional side before I get into this. Remember, this is me as a business attorney who negotiates with opposing counsel, as a mediator who is in the middle of these difficult hour-long, hours-long mediations between attorneys on opposing sides and I use this successfully in those situations too. That's what I wanted to create a framework that could be utilized in every type of situation or we can see how it could be utilized in these social interactions we have with our friends and all the way up to the highest level of negotiations we have within our businesses.
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[00:25:57] MB: So let's dig in to kind of the compassionate curiosity piece and explore that a little bit more. Once you've identified the kind of emotion that they’re struggling with, did you sort of frame the questions you're asking around how do you help them solve that emotion or how do you kind of transition that into from sort of the emotional to kind of more substantive and issue based things?
[00:26:18] KC: Yeah. So what we do is, like I said, once we’re satisfied there, we transition into the substance and issues. Typically, before this conversations, especially in the business world, I'd like to set an agenda. I would have it so that maybe not on the agenda it doesn't say emotional issues, number one. It will talk about concerns and problems. So, really, one of the easiest ways to do this is to change the tense.
So when we were dealing with those emotional issues, most likely those issues originate from things that happened in the past. So I'm doing a fact-finding endeavor based on things that happened in the past and their perception of those things. Then what I’d shift more to or the substance, the compassionate curiosity stage, this is where I am looking into the future, because most of the time, almost all time when we’re having these conversations, they're going to be with people with whom are going to have an ongoing relationship in some capacity. So I want to kind of outline what the future of the relationship could look like.
At this stage what I'm doing is I'm changing the tense to focus on the future to outline the parameters of what our relationship could look like going forward and things that we would like to avoid going forward. Then once I feel as though I’ve gotten enough information, then I'm going to start moving into the problem-solving, but not until I feel as though I have a solid lay of the land when it comes to these conversations.
[00:27:43] MB: So it’s essence it’s kind of figuring out, “Hey, if I was in your situation, I feel really frustrated kind of,” etc., get that out and then you say, “So, what could we do in the future to help you feel – To help you not be frustrated?” or would you couch it specifically in terms of their emotions or would you kind of frame it more broadly than that?
[00:28:03] KC: What I'd suggest doing at this stage is using something that I call the funnel technique, where the beginning of my questions they start off incredibly broad. Then as I start to get a better idea of where we’re going, where they want to go and where I want to go, the questions will become more and more narrow.
For instance, a lot of times in in these mediations even though I've read the whole case file, I’ve talked to the opposing counsel and all these things, I would talk to one of the parties, and after I feel as though I’ve explored that emotional side I'd say, “So what are you looking for?” Think about how incredibly broad the question is, especially in the case of litigation where in their complaint they need to say to a specific dollar amount exactly what they're looking for. So I know what they’re looking for, but I want to see where they take that question, because within their answer, within their response to that incredibly broad question, they're going to signal to me what's important to them. Then based on that signal, that's where I'm going to start to get more and more specific. So I need to be able to follow their lead and kind of think on my toes. That's why I'm so intentional about preparing beforehand. So time I was on the show I probably mentioned this free resource, but if you go to americannegotiationinstitute.com/guide, you can get a negotiation preparation guide, a conflict management guide and a salary negotiation guide.
Before all of these difficult conversations, I’m systematically preparing and thinking through what questions I could potentially ask on what specific topics, because it helps me to be a little bit more nimble, because it's really difficult to come up with high-level questions on the fly. So I want to think through it as much as possible beforehand.
[00:29:47] MB: I think that's so important, and I want to dig in to preparation actually in a second. But I think it kind of bears repeating too, and you’ve touched on this as we started out this exploration with the example of the three-year-old, but the reality is you're using the same skillset and legal negotiations with other lawyers in board meetings and all kinds of really high level business encounters. This is part of the reason I'm digging so specifically into it, because I do the same thing. I use a lot of these tools and a lot of these skillsets and try to bring kind of emotional intelligence into the communications I have with people, especially difficult communications. I think it's really important for the audience to understand that point that these are not just skillsets for dealing with people who are being kind of emotional or rational children. This is really a powerful framework they can apply across a huge array of interactions.
[00:30:38] KC: Absolutely, and that's the thing. These interactions, these business and social interactions, they're definitely going to be complex. But our approach to them does not need to be complicated, and that's why I really want to harp on the use of this framework, because the beauty of a framework is that it gives us a roadmap of where we can and should go, but it also tells us where we shouldn't go and helps us to avoid those red herrings, because those things could be more damaging than doing the right thing could be positive to the conversation. I want to help people to understand what things they should ignore as well as tell them what to do.
Like I said, one of the things that people struggle with is not knowing what to say, and I think they don't know what to say because they see all of the moving parts. They see the complexity and they believe that a complex problem requires a complex solution, but that's not the case. If we stay focused on a simple framework, our outcomes in these negotiations will be significantly better.
[00:31:37] MB: I like that phrase, the complex problem doesn't necessarily require a complex solution. Let's come back and get into the preparation piece now, because I think that's so critical. I mean, if you look at a lot of the research around negotiation, you see the power preparation. But tell me little bit more about why you think it's such a vital step of being a successful negotiator.
[00:31:59] KC: When it comes to the preparation, one of the benefits beyond the substantive is the psychological and emotional. Ones we feel as though we are familiar with the situation, it gives us more a greater sense of control. When it comes to feelings of anxiety and frustration and fear, a lot of that for us as humans comes from the fact that we don't feel like we’re in control and it's often irrational. As you know, humans tend to be irrational.
For example, more people are afraid of flying than they are driving, but we know statistically driving is one of the safest modes of transportation, especially relative when compared to driving. But why is it that we feel so much safer and so much more at ease behind the wheel of a car? It's because we have control.
So we’re taking the principle of control and applying it to our negotiations by giving ourselves a framework and strategic systematic approach to the negotiation, and the more you know about the situation, the more control you will feel. Because you have a greater feeling of control, it will diminish your level of anxiety, which will increase your level of performance when it actually comes to the conversation.
[00:33:07] MB: So what are you – I mean, obviously, the listeners can kind of go check out that guide and get some really kind of compelling and specific resources. How much – Let's say, how much preparation are you doing for an average negotiation? I know it varies a lot. But just as kind of a rule of thumb, how do you think about sort of how much prep work to do before you feel like you're ready to rock?
[00:33:27] KC: Yeah. Well, it depends on the gravity of the situation. For instance, I remember a few weeks ago I had a presentation, and all day negotiation training at a tech company in San Diego, and we had a preparation call, like a prep call just getting things in order, knocking out the final details of the engagement, and I was feeling really nervous. I was like, “Wow! That’s kind of strange. I’m nervous.”
Like I said, I still get nervous for conversations to this day. Then I ask myself, “What would you tell a listener if a listener asked you what to do?” I use the same guide that I had there and I walke through it. After going through it for about five minutes I felt good, I felt at ease and I felt good during the conversation when it did happen. Now, compare that to a business negotiation, I remember one time I had a negotiation on behalf of a client and I prepared for that negotiation for 45 minutes using the guide, and then the negotiation on the phone ended up being three minutes long. But it went really, really well, but it only went well because they put in those 45 minutes of preparation. It's important to strike the balance.
If you're one of those people who is a perfectionist, a lot of times we think ourselves into inaction. So if that's your issue, what I would do is I would set a time limit on the amount of time you prepare, because sometimes we can get a little bit too deep into it and it really turns into a style of productive procrastination, and I don't want people to fall victim to that. So it is really a matter of degree. So I guess if I were to summarize that whole thing, I'll give a very lawyer response and say it depends, but I would always say that it requires preparation in some capacity.
[00:35:11] MB: I think the answer to many incredibly important questions is it depends, but I'm also a former debater. So that probably shapes that in a way. So let's come back to kind of the third step, which we touched on a little bit, but this kind of idea of joint problem-solving or collaborative negotiation. Tell me little bit more about that. How do we sort of transition once we started to kind of develop that compassionate curiosity? How do we move into that next phase and what does it really look like?
[00:35:37] KC: So when it comes to this phase, what we’re doing is – Really, it's a joint problem-solving situation, joint brainstorming I should say. So the reason I use that term is that it’s intentional, because people typically aren’t afraid of a brainstorming session. As a lawyer, when I am going into these conversations, framing it is going to be important, because lawyer versus lawyer, whether it’s a lawyer versus a lawyer, me versus an unrepresented party, I typically don't use the word negotiation. I don't say, “Hey, now to the next stage of this negotiation,” or “I'm looking forward to our negotiation.” I would say, “Chat, or let's try to figure it out,” because that's really what it is. I want them to be in that mindset to where once we get to this stage, we’re working together to figure it out.
As far as the way that I actually transition, I would probably say something like this, I would say, “Well, I think I have a pretty good understanding of where you stand, and I hope I’ve given you an opportunity to understand where I stand. Here's what I think we could possibly do to work this out.” Then I would get my proposal. It's important to understand this important rule of thumb when it comes to when to make the first offer. The rule of thumb I use is when I know more than the other person or an equal amount to the other person, I will make the first offer, because when you think about the impact of anchoring and the first offer advantage, I don't want to miss out on that opportunity. But if I'm in a situation where the other person knows substantially more than me, then I'll sit back and I'll wait for them to give me an offer, because above all else, an offer is information. Once somebody makes an offer, they need to substantiate that offer with credible facts and objective criteria.
Once that offer goes on the table, I’m going to ask more questions to learn more about it before I counter. So that's how I would transition it. I would just try and put a bow on it and say, “Okay, this fact-finding part of it, I feel we wrapped that up and I feel like we have a good understanding.” So the person then, psychologically, they know that we’re transitioning to the next phase. It kinds of puts a nice stamp on the part of the conversation and allows them to transition a little bit smoother to the next part of the conversation.
[00:37:47] MB: So that brings up a really interesting point, because I think there's kind of a common misconception that you should never name a price or you should never kind of make your offer first. You should always wait for the other person. But if you really actually look at it, I think there's actually studies that have been done, and we’ll try to find them and throw them in the show notes. But anchoring is such a powerful phenomenon, that there's actually a huge advantage to being the first person to make an offer in many contexts.
[00:38:08] KC: A massive advantage. Matt, I’ll quote a few studies here. I don't know the author of these studies, but here's one of my favorites, because it just shows how weird humans can be psychologically. Here's the study. So they had people in two different groups, group A and group B, and they ask them similar but different questions. So the first group they said, “Do you think Gandhi was a greater than or a less than 140 years old when he died?” Now, the obvious answer is less than 140 years old. Duh? Right?
So then they asked the other group, “Do you think Gandhi was greater than or less than 13 years of age when he died?” So, of course, the answer is greater than 13 years. Now, this is where it gets good. So they asked both parties, “How old do you think Gandhi was when he died?” So group A, who was anchored with 140, guessed that he was 20 years older, on average, than the people in group B. So this question was a nonsensical question, but it was the number that served as the reference point for the subsequent question. So the first offer that goes on the table will have a disproportionate amount of persuasive power. So that's why, if possible, you want to learn as much as possible for you to be able to put down a solid anchor.
So I say the anchor needs to pass the because test. If you can't come up with illegitimate way bolstered by objective criteria to explain why you're asking for this, then the anchor is illegitimate, because if you are too aggressive with the anchor unreasonably so, it loses persuasive power and you lose credibility which can hurt you throughout the rest of the negotiation. Use it carefully. Just make sure you'd be able to finish the statement I'm asking for this because.
[00:40:00] MB: That reminds me of two things. One, there's another really funny study about anchoring that talks about like the power of sort of totally arbitrary information. I think they had people write their Social Security number on the top of like a survey and then they priced out how much they thought a bunch of everyday items cost, like a pencil, an apple, a coffee cup, that kind of stuff, and the people who had – Or the last two digits of your Social Security number. The people whose last two digits ended in like 96 had much higher prices across the board for all these everyday objects than the people whose last two numbers of their Social Security number were like 1, 3 or whatever. We actually have a whole episode that will throw in the show notes too on anchoring, that listeners who wanted to get a lot deeper on that stuff.
But I also think there's a ton of psychology research that just even just saying because, even if the reason is completely nonsensical in some cases, that actually can increase people's likelihood to sort of agree with whatever you're offering them as well.
[00:40:55] KC: Absolutely. That’s the classic copying machine example, where the first group they said, “Can I get in front of you? Can I cut in line because I need –” They just asked if I could cut in front of you, and so the success rate was something like 60%, “Sure. Go in front of me. I don’t care.” But then when they said, “Hey, can I cut in front of you because I need to make some copies?” The success rate went up to above 90%, which is crazy, because everybody's in line at that time to make some copies.
People, they’re primed to focus on the word because, because they just assume that something legitimate is going to come after the because, and thus it receives more persuasive value.
[00:41:33] MB: The human mind is fascinating. I guess that's why we have a podcast, right?
[00:41:38] KC: Exactly.
[00:41:39] MB: So let's come back to kind of negotiating tactics and strategies. One of the other things that I know you’ve talked a lot about is the importance of timing and how you sort of time things within a negotiation. I’d love to dig into that a little bit more.
[00:41:50] KC: Absolutely. Let me give a book reference on that. So after you read my book, of course, shameless plug, check out Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini. So Cialdini, of course, is the person who created the book about a quarter century ago now called Influence: The 6 Principles of Influence, and now he came out with this most recent book about two years ago called Pre-Suasion. So it talks about the timing of your requests.
So he gave an example of reciprocity. Reciprocity is one of the six principles of influence whereby if you give somebody something, it creates the level of psychological debt where they feel indebted to you and it makes it more likely for them to give you something in return. So in the case of a negotiation, that means if you give a concession it makes it more likely for them to reciprocate that concession.
Now, the most recent studies when it comes to timing demonstrates that it's almost like a bell curve with regard to the timing of the persuasion. For instance, if I give you something, Matt, and then you say, “Thank you.” Now we’re at the top of the bell curve of persuasion. So at this time, if I were to ask for something in return, you are significantly more likely to give it to me than if I were to wait two days. Then, of course, if I were to wait another week, it will be less likely and then if I wait a month, it will be even less likely.
So there is a timing aspect to when we make these requests. So what I would suggest doing is reading that book and see what are those triggers that people respond to and then timing your requests accordingly. But I think that reciprocity example is a perfect one, because that's something that we see in the business world and in the our everyday lives all the time.
[00:43:31] MB: Yeah, Pre-Suasion is a great book. We actually had Cialdini on the show right around the time the book came out. So we’ll make sure to toss that one. There’s going to be some pretty detailed show notes on this episode, lots and lots of book references and things to check out.
[00:43:43] KC: Nice.
[00:43:44] MB: Another thing that we actually touched on in our previous interview with you that I thought was really important that I think a lot of people miss about negotiation and I think bears kind of digging back into is this idea that many people sort of think that negotiations are kind of zero-sum game, right? And hat my win is your loss, and that's not necessarily always the case.
[00:44:05] KC: Exactly. Going back to what we said about collaborative negotiation, in order to be an effective collaborative negotiator, you have to reject that mentality. I think that is one of the reasons why people are so afraid of negotiation. So they think it's a zero-sum game where my winning necessitates you are losing and then they assume the other person thinks the same way. So they’re really conflating conflict and combat, where with combat, your goal is to do destruction and mutual damage. But conflict is the problem-solving endeavor, a fact-finding endeavor. It's an opportunity to learn more.
So when you think about it in terms of, “I want to satisfy my interests. I want to try to meet my needs,” and then recognizing that you can help yourself to meet those needs by helping somebody else meet their needs. It makes this exercise a lot less threatening, because, like I said, the way I think about it is we are two people coming to the table. You have needs, I have needs. Let’s chat about them and figure out what we can do to make this relationship work.
I think it will acquire also a comfort level with recognizing that the deal might not work, and that's okay. So one thing to keep in mind is that negotiation isn't the art of deal-making. It's the art of the deal discovery, and if we think it's deal-making, we might try to push through or bully through a deal that really shouldn't happen, because our interests simply don't align. if they don't it, it's completely okay.
[00:45:34] MB: I found that to be incredibly true, and I think one of the fundamental things that that I, in any negotiation, it's all about trying to discover what is the other party want. Is there sort of an overlap of the two sort of Venn diagrams of your interests and theirs? If there's enough sort of space in there, there's an opportunity to make a deal. But trying to sort of force a negotiation or a transaction or whatever with somebody where there's not enough kind of shared interest and mutual sort of win-win overlap is never going to work out in the long run.
[00:46:04] KC: Absolutely. I think that's why I focus so much on letting people know that there are three pillars to negotiation or conflict. The first goal is to get more what we want. The next pillar is to avoid things that we don't want them. Then the last one is strengthening relationships. Now we might not be able to maximize pillar number one. We might not be able to maximize pillar number two. But in every negotiation, if we approach the other person with respect and engage in collaborative problem-solving, we can still maximize pillar number three. Even if we don't get a deal, there’s still value that can be achieved from both parties simply by strengthening the relationship through the process.
[00:46:44] MB: So kind of coming back to this core framework and sort of summarizing it for the listeners, as you call it, the simple framework for approaching any conflict, whether it's in the boardroom or the dining room, is this idea of starting with the acknowledgment of emotions, moving to compassionate curiosity and then ultimately engaging in a framework of joint problem-solving.
[00:47:05] KC: Exactly.
[00:47:06] MB: Very cool. I think it's a great framework, and I was really curious of kind of digging into some of the meat of the quite specific how to phrase this question, how do you phrase that question? Because this is such a relevant skillset and something that I'm going to absolutely kind of integrate into my own negotiation skillsets and I'm constantly negotiating with people. As you said, really, the realities were many, many conversations that we have throughout our lives are negotiations whether we realize it or not, right?
[00:47:33] KC: Exactly. So it’s not a question about question of whether or not we are going to negotiate. It’s a question of whether or not we’re going to do it well. So we might as well learn these skills and get better at it, because negotiation is not going anywhere.
[00:47:47] MB: So what would one kind of piece of homework be as sort of an actionable step that listeners could take to concretely kind of implement some of the ideas and tactics we’ve talked about today?
[00:47:58] KC: The first step, I guess I need to promote this book and say check out the book if you're interested, if you find any of this interesting. The next step would be to take action, because I know I'm one of those people who can be very heady and stay up in my head when it comes to these types of difficult situations in general, not just typical conversations. So what I would do is I would sit there, I’d learn more about it I’d create a strategy, then I’d adjust that strategy. Then three months later, nothing has happened. So this really is an action oriented approach. If you want to develop your confidence in these conflicts, you really need to take action.
If you’ve listened to this point of the podcast, you are probably more equipped than most, because most people don't take the time to learn these skills. So to take action. You have enough knowledge and skillset just from this to take action in an improved fashion. So whenever you see the opportunity to engage in conflict, don't look at it as a threat or something to avoid. Look at it is something to approach. It's a signal that something is wrong with the relationship or there’s something to investigate, and use it as a tool to get more of what you want, to avoid things you don't want, and strengthen the relationships around you.
[00:49:09] MB: One more time for listeners who want to find you and the book and all of your work online, what is the best place for them to do that?
[00:49:15] KC: Yeah. Since you all are podcast aficionados, check out the Negotiate Anything Podcast, and the book is called Nobody Will Play With Me: How to Find Confidence In Conflict.
[00:49:26] MB: All right, cool. That is a wrap. Lots and lots of actionable takeaways, lots and lots of things in the show notes, and great conversation.
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