459: How To Improve Your Conversation & Negotiation Skills With Kwame Christian

Kwame dives into how to improve negotiation skills and alternative ways to resolve conflict.



Kwame Christian, Founder and CEO of the American Negotiation Institute

Kwame is the host of one of the world’s most popular negotiation podcasts, “Negotiate Anything,” and has a well-known Ted Talk: “Finding Confidence in Conflict.”

on this episode

We use negotiation every single day, many times without even realizing it… from getting our kids out the door in the morning to getting a raise at work.

Kwame Christian is a lawyer, negotiation expert and respected voice in the field of conflict resolution.

In this episode, Kwame dives into overcoming your unique psychological challenges, and finding confidence within yourself, before stepping into a difficult conversation.

As he points out, it doesn’t make sense to give recipes to people who are afraid to get in the kitchen! He also discusses how to use his 3-part framework to become a better negotiator in every aspect of your life.

Want to know more about Kwame?
Book: Finding Confidence in Conflict: How to Negotiate Anything and Live Your Best Life
Podcast: Negotiate Anything
Ted Talk: Finding Confidence in Conflict

What you’ll learn

  • Using Kwame’s 3-step framework to improve your negotiation skills.
  • Finding alternate ways to resolve conflict
  • Preparing yourself for salary negotiation and managing your emotions during the conversation
  • Finding negotiation opportunities in your current role
  • Overcoming your fears in order to be the best version of yourself in the midst of difficult conversations.
  • Getting curious with compassion

Success Stories

I had listened to the Happen To Your Career podcast for several years before reaching out to Scott about getting career coaching. I'd been in my role for nearly 10 years, wanted to stay, but felt like it was time to renegotiate. What I expected/hoped for was maybe a 10% raise MAX, as I was already near the top of my salary range for the area. Scott pushed me to ask for more, helped me feel confident I was worth that ask, and coached me through how that will probably go, what to say, when and how to say it, what not to say, etc. I walked into my boss's office prepared and he knew it. As my request went higher up the chain, they knew it as well. My preparations and HTYC's great coaching paid off, in a few week's turn around time I was given a 20% raise, and renegotiated job duties which will help me enjoy my job even more! I highly recommend both their podcast and coaching services, Scott and his team are the real deal!

Justin, Engineer

I greatly appreciate your help in bringing this along because I wouldn't have had the confidence to negotiate and to be where I am today without the help of a lot of other people. You played a really significant role in it. I'm not going to be that everyday person that hates my job, I'm going to stretch and I'm going to aspire to be better and I'm not going to make that everyday salary. Thank you Scott for putting this out there for all the people that are trying to do a little bit better and trying to go a little bit farther. This is awesome. I love this. This thing that you do, the whole HTYC thing, from the paperwork all the way down to the podcast and just helping people understand that there is success out there and it is attainable but you've got to work for it.

Jerrad Shivers, Market Manager, United States/Canada

I was able to negotiate a higher salary, accepted the offer and I can not be happier! You truly helped make this process as painless as possible! I would (and will) recommend your services to anyone and everyone looking for a new job (or current job pay raise).

Kevin Larsen, Manager of Maintenance, United States/Canada

I have worked my entire career in behemoth companies (Hershey, Kraft, Pepsi), but I never felt like my creativity could really be stretched. I was often told I have great ideas but there was no way they would happen. So I found myself really discouraged and wanting a more challenging, creative career. And to top it off, I’m making almost $40,000 more a year. I certainly don’t expect that kind of increase every time I make a career move, but I knew my skill value and what I bring to the table. I held my own and negotiated. Now my salary is on par with my male colleagues.

Julie Laughter , Senior Manager, Sustainability

Kwame Christian 00:02

My motto is the best things in life are on the other side of difficult conversations. If you look back over the course of your life, the most influential parts of your life, the most impactful things that have ever happened in your life, there was a conversation that happened around that.

Introduction 00:20

This is the Happen To Your Career podcast, with Scott Anthony Barlow. We help you stop doing work that doesn't fit you, figure out what does and make it happen. We help you define the work that's unapologetically you, and then go get it. If you're ready to make a change, keep listening. Here's Scott. Here's Scott. Here's Scott.

Scott Anthony Barlow 00:45

I would guess that if you and I were talking, and I asked you, "Hey, would you like to make $100,000 more a year, and make sure that your kids go to bed on time every night, and be able to watch the show you want on Netflix and be also able to set really solid boundaries with everyone that you work with?" If I asked you, "Do you want that?" You'd probably say "yes", right? Most people would. But what if I asked you, "How would you think you would get all of those things? How do you think it would be possible?" Well, it turns out that it's possible using just one skill set. And in fact, that's what this conversation is about– negotiation, and how negotiation is a learned skill that can be leveraged in every single aspect of your life.

Kwame Christian 01:36

Most people fail in these negotiations and difficult conversations because they're unable to address the emotional component. And so when it comes to thinking about high level negotiation strategies and tactics, we can't get into that, because people are failing before we get to that point. If you're unable to deal with the difficult emotions of a conversation, you're not going to get to that next level.

Scott Anthony Barlow 01:59

That's Kwame Christian. Kwame is the director of the American Negotiation Institute, and a respected voice in the field of negotiation and conflict resolution. I'm also extra excited to have him on the podcast because he's a really good friend, and HTYC alum. Kwame is a lawyer. And when he was making the switch from working in an organization to starting his own organization, we worked together right around that time, and he's continued to become a friend over the years. And he's been doing a really wonderful job of blending his experience in civil rights work with his expertise in negotiation and conflict resolution. And he's created a lot of pretty amazing trainings on how to have difficult conversations about race. He teaches people how to have difficult conversations and negotiate using a three step process, he's called the "Compassionate Curiosity Framework". So take a listen to the conversation. Here's Kwame going back to where his career began.

Kwame Christian 03:01

Yeah, so for me, I'm a psychology nerd. When it comes down to it, that's what I love. So my undergrad degrees in psychology, I wanted to be a therapist. And then I started to get interested in politics, because with therapy, I wanted to help people one on one, but then I said, "Well, if I could, you know, have an influence on policy, then I can help more people." So that's why I decided to get my law degree and Master of Public Policy at the same time. And I slowly fell out of love with politics, thankfully, avoided that mistake, but I said, "Wow, what am I doing here?" And so...

Scott Anthony Barlow 03:34

Hold on. Why is that "thankfully"? I'm curious. I don't ever want to be involved in formal politics, necessarily. However, I'm curious why that is for you.

Kwame Christian 03:44

Oh yeah, it would have been a horrible lifestyle, horrible for my family, horrible for me, I would have had to sacrifice a lot of what I believe in and care about in order to please the political gods in order to get to those type of positions. I just wasn't willing to compromise myself. In American politics, it's a binary choice, Democrat and Republican. And I know very few people who feel fit perfectly in either category. And I'm not one of them. So I said, "Well, you know, it's not for me. I'll start a business and do something else." But it was a tough transition, because that was the whole purpose of that dual degree, JD and Master of Public Policy is pretty specific. But it all started to make sense when I discovered negotiation because that was the first time I saw psychology utilized for a legal or business purpose, and I fell in love.

Scott Anthony Barlow 04:34

So I think somewhere along the way, you did have a background as a bit of a people pleaser. I've heard you mentioned that several times in a variety of different places. I think even in your TEDx talk, if I remember correctly. So tell me a little bit about that evolution, because you just mentioned it again too, like, in a bit of a negative light as it relates to politics. So help me understand how that evolution took place for you.

Kwame Christian 05:02

Yeah. And so with my book, my book is called "Finding Confidence in Conflict" recently rebranded as of yesterday, but the original title was, "Nobody Will Play With Me". And that really was the root of everything. So, for me, I grew up as a... I'm a Caribbean American, first generation. So I had a really strong accent. I was in a small town, Ohio, so there weren't very many people who looked like me either. And I remember very clearly this incident on the playground where nobody would play with me, I would go to different kids on the playground, and nobody wanted to play with me. And it was incredibly painful. And so from that day, I decided, "listen, everybody's going to be my friend, I'm going to be very likable. And this will never ever happen again." And so that made me really popular because I was focused on collecting these friends. But at the same time, it had a negative impact, because I wasn't willing to challenge those friendships, I wasn't willing to challenge people who are doing something that was wrong. And if they asked me to do something that I didn't believe in or wanted to do, or they did something that offended me, I would just let it go. I was always avoiding conflict. And so for me with my transition to who I am today, that's a big part of it. And so that's why in my book, about 60 to 70%, is all about how you can overcome your unique psychological challenges when it comes to having these difficult conversations. Because it doesn't make sense to give recipes to people who are afraid to get in the kitchen, we have to build you up from the foundational pieces first. And that's where the psychology comes into play.

Scott Anthony Barlow 06:34

That is so fascinating. And I'm also recognizing right this very second, because we started this conversation, I was telling you before we even really got into it that you're so dang likable, you're sitting lovable, Kwame. And it comes from way back when and now you have done a really nice job removing out the pieces that are less, I'm gonna say productive for you or unhelpful in many different ways the people pleasing aspect. So I'd like to continue to talk about that, but also begin to layer in some of the things that I love about how you approach negotiation. And one of those things in particular, is you have this idea of what I've heard you call in many different formats, "compassionate curiosity". Tell us about that, first of all.

Kwame Christian 07:26

Yeah, so the compassionate curiosity framework was born of this love of psychology, and recognizing too, that most people fail in these negotiations and difficult conversations because they're unable to address the emotional component. And so when it comes to thinking about high level negotiation strategies and tactics, we can't get into that, because people are failing, before we get to that point. If you're unable to deal with the difficult emotions of a conversation, you're not going to get to that next level. And so I really wanted to give somebody, give everybody a foundational approach to it. And so it's a three step framework. And it's intentionally simple, because most likely, you're going to be in a mental state where you're not performing at your best either, cognitively speaking, so I want you to be able to remember it. And so step one is getting... is first acknowledging and validating emotions. Step two, is getting curious with compassion. And step three, is engaging in joint problem solving.

Scott Anthony Barlow 08:24

I am curious about how that happens and specifically what I mean is how we lose control. Because I think that we... to create that fundamental approach that you're talking about, and give people the, I'm going to call it the baseline, or you know, the basics of the fundamental, it's not really very basic, most people can't do it. But what does that look like? Why do things go wrong in the first place?

Kwame Christian 08:50

Yeah. So when we think about conflict, there's an emotional aspect to it. That's what differentiates it from a standard negotiation. I call it a negotiation with attitude. That's what occurs when you really break it down. And so what we need to do is first address that emotional component, but where does it come from. And so from a psychological perspective, when we think about it, in terms of neuroscience, we're talking about the amygdala. And so that is the mother of all emotions, both positive or negative, but we're more focused on the negative because bad things can kill us back faster. So that's why our brain is a lot more responsive to the negative things, or things that we perceive to be negative in our environment. And so the thing that's really interesting is that there's another part of the brain called the frontal lobe, and this is where you have the most evolved part of your brain. So logical thinking or the ability to reason avoid temptation executive function, all of that is in the frontal lobe. So this is the best part of you. But there is an antagonistic relationship between those two brain structures. So the amygdala within the limbic system, once that is firing, and you're really, really, really emotional, you can't think very clearly. But then on the other side, if you're able to think logically and rationally, you're not going to be as emotional. And so in many cases, an either or type of situation. And so one of the things I always say is that "it doesn't make sense to send a message to somebody who isn't psychologically ready to receive it." And if they're in that emotional state, it doesn't really matter. The rules, or the facts, or anything what's right or wrong, it doesn't matter to them, because they can't process it at a higher level. So that's why we need to start with that emotional component. So we can at least then matriculate into a conversation that's at a higher level.

Scott Anthony Barlow 10:34

Okay, so let's say then that we find ourselves in that situation where, hey, you know, we are massively triggering the amygdala in whatever way for whatever reason. And let's take it real world here for just a moment. So we've got somebody we're working with right now that's in the process of job offer negotiation, specifically, and they are at the stage where she anticipates receiving an offer here very, very soon. Okay. Also, at the same time she is, how shall I say it, she's getting antsy will probably say that, because, stop and think about it, she's worked really, really hard to get to this point in the first place. And although there's probably to be more job offers on the horizon for her, she only has this one where we're anticipating receive it at the present moment. And for that reason, I think it feels a little bit scary. So she's fluctuated back and forth, in and out of this state. So what advice would you give to that person in that situation where, like, friggin amygdala triggers like crazy all over the place? How do we back ourselves out of it, so that, you know, if we're the one experiencing this, we can do something about it?

Kwame Christian 12:00

Oh, this is great. This is exciting. Well, first of all, what they need to do is go to americannegotiationinstitute.com/guide, and download our salary negotiation guide. So you have to prepare. So that's number one. The more prepared you are, the less emotional you're going to be about the salary negotiation that's coming up. So that's number one. The cool thing about the compassionate curiosity framework is that it helps you to win not only the external negotiation, but also the internal negotiation we have to have with ourselves in order to be effective in the conversation. So you can use it as a tool of emotional regulation. So again, three steps, exactly the same. Acknowledge and validate emotions, getting curious with compassion and joint problem solving. So what I would suggest doing in this situation is first acknowledging your own emotions, "what is it that you're feeling?" Fear? Well, why are we feeling fear? Let's get curious with compassion. And it's important to do it with compassion directed at ourselves, because sometimes we judge ourselves too harshly, we're our own worst critic. And so this introspective process feels painful when we're mean to ourselves. And so asking, "why are you afraid?" Okay, "because I haven't had a job offer in a long time." Okay. "Well, what else is bothering you?" "Well, I'm afraid that I might not get another opportunity like that." "Well, why do you think that?" "Oh, okay." "Well, you know, I have been positioning myself a little bit better. I guess, really, that fear is a little bit unfounded." Okay. And so now we start to calm down through the process. And so then when we get to joint problem solving, what we're doing is we're reconciling the differences between our hearts and minds. What do we want emotionally? What do we need substantively? And so in that situation with the person that you're talking about, what it might be like is, what I want emotionally is a feeling of security. Okay, great. That's really what you want. It's not that you want this specific job, necessarily, that you need this specific job is that you want a sense of security. So what can you do in this conversation to give you that sense of security, while at the same time putting you in the best position for success during the negotiation? Then you actually have the negotiation, again, compassionate curiosity framework, and you use that as your guide throughout each interaction.

Scott Anthony Barlow 14:11

What do you feel like are the areas where compassionate curiosity and this framework that you're talking about get more difficult? What ups the empty so that we can watch for it?

Kwame Christian 14:23

Yeah, so what makes it more difficult is when there is a persistent negative emotion. And so for instance, if you acknowledge and validate the emotion and you do this for a long time, a few times, maybe you're talking 10, 15 minutes, "Hey, Kwame. I've been acknowledging and validating and summarizing for a really long time, the person really isn't calming down." Then what I would suggest doing is question to yourself, is the person emotionally prepared to have this conversation today? Maybe I need to push it to tomorrow, maybe two days, maybe they need to cool off. And so maybe what you do is say, "Listen, you've given me a lot of information. I really appreciate that. Let's come back tomorrow and finish this discussion. I want to process some of the stuff that you thought that you told me. So I appreciate your candor. And let's just continue this another day." And so that's one way to move through it.

Scott Anthony Barlow 15:13

And I want to ask you about that before we move on, because I think you just talked about a particularly effective both tactic and approach. However, it's also I found one that's particularly scary for many different people, which is delaying in any way whatsoever, or deferring. And I think that that can be really, really useful, but also really challenging for people to implement. So my question to you becomes, what are the things that you can do to make that easier? Or what can I actually do in reality to use that? Let's keep going with the idea of job offer negotiation, because that's a place where that happens, too, people get the offer, and they feel like they need to respond, like, immediately, right?

Kwame Christian 16:04

Yeah. It's tough. It can be tough. And so I don't want people to think that this is easy, right? It's really difficult. And what I would suggest doing is, again, slowing down the pace of the conversation, so you can think in between the words that are happening, right? That's one thing. The next thing you want to do is, I never want to say during the conversation, "Hey, you know, I can tell you that you're getting really emotional. So maybe you should take a break." Not good. I always put it on myself. And I say, "Listen, I've gotten a lot of information. Let's just slow this down and let's have another conversation." Because again, you don't want to procrastinate, that's the last thing we want to do. And a lot of times we want to do that, because we're afraid during the conversation. So we can't do that, right? But we're giving it a specific timeline. So we need to make sure that we schedule it. And so again, I think about it in terms of a completely different negotiation. So in the salary situation, yes okay, so I'm trying to get a higher salary. But as I realize I'm running into more resistance than I anticipated. Now the negotiation shifts toward when is the best time to have that. That's one thing. And then oftentimes, with a salary negotiation, it's a little bit, it's different from a regular conflict. It's more of a business transaction type of negotiation where, honestly, nowadays, a lot of it can be handled via email. And so we have to recognize that one of the biggest mistakes we can make in a salary negotiation, doesn't come from the negative emotions that we feel. It comes from the positive emotions that we feel. We feel too excited, too happy. And a lot of times when it comes to effective decision making, not only are we going to make decisions, because we're angry, frustrated, sad, mad, upset, we're also going to make bad decisions, because we are just too giddy to think clearly about what's happening. And then we commit. And then afterwards, it's almost like a situation where you had a night where there was too much to drink. Once the high of happiness goes down and you're thinking rationally again, you say, "Oh, man, I regret doing that." So we need to be mindful about the extremes emotionally of both positives and negatives.

Scott Anthony Barlow 18:15

What will assist with that, in particular, you mentioned the highs, and what will assist with helping us remove ourselves. So we've mentioned, you know, one thing in particular as it relates to slowing it down, whether it's in person conversations, slowing down the literal pace of the conversation, but also if it slowing down the pace as it relates to being spread over time. What else will help with that?

Kwame Christian 18:45

Well, the simple answer is practice. And when it comes to this, I think one of the most important things for us to recognize is what a negotiation is. And my definition for negotiation is anytime. Anytime you're in a conversation, and somebody in the conversation wants something. And so when you think about it, you're negotiating all the time. You have a wife and kid, multiple kids, right? And so you're negotiating all the time with them. And so I have a four year old, I'm married. And so now I don't just identify these conversations as difficult conversations, frustrating or annoying conversations. I said, "Oh, this is a negotiation. Yeah, I'm going to use the compassionate curiosity framework. I'm going to use these everyday interactions as opportunities to practice. So then when the big negotiations and conflicts occur, I'm ready. I've been there before." And so you're using these everyday opportunities to improve your skills so you don't feel like you're in on shaky territory where that's unfamiliar when it's actually time to perform.

Scott Anthony Barlow 19:48

What do you feel, like, are the biggest mistakes that you see especially as it relates to, not just negotiation, but those conflict, like, some conflict conversations?

Kwame Christian 20:03

I think the biggest one is not managing emotions. That's the biggest one. So your own and other person's emotions. And so with the compassionate curiosity framework, obviously, we have the acknowledging emotions portion first. And so the next thing is most people don't take the opportunity to negotiate at all. I think that's a big...

Scott Anthony Barlow 20:21

Hold on! Back up. What do you mean by that, when you say, "they don't take the opportunity to negotiate at all"?

Kwame Christian 20:25

So I think one of the biggest challenges is a low level of negotiation awareness. So like we said before, a negotiation is anytime you're in a conversation, and somebody in the conversation wants something. And so we can now identify all of these interactions as negotiations. But if we don't have that higher level of awareness, these negotiations are happening every day, and we're not taking advantage of these opportunities. And so for instance, imagine if you're working in a job and somebody gives you a project that you don't really particularly enjoy, because of the roles that you have. A lot of times we just accept that, that's a negotiation opportunity. You don't need to take those positions, you can have a discussion with your manager to talk about which roles are appropriate for you, and which role somebody else should have in this situation. When it comes to salary negotiation, okay, yes, we talk about the money. But did we talk about title? Did we talk about benefits? Maybe not. Did we talk about mentorship? Did we talk about remote work opportunities? Probably not. And so these are things that we just don't discuss. And it's not even that people aren't performing well, it's that they're not performing at all.

Scott Anthony Barlow 21:31

What do you believe stops us then from... take the last example you gave. We'll just keep going along that thread of job opp for negotiation here. And you mentioned, it's not even mentioned most of the time, as it relates to title, as it relates to flexibility, as it relates to any number of other pieces that you just rattled off. And I think that that's true. I've seen a lot of evidence of that. But why do you think that that happens in your opinion?

Kwame Christian 22:01

I think a big part of it, number one, comes from schooling. I mean, unless you are intentional about finding opportunities to learn to negotiate, you're not going to have those opportunities. So if you went to business school, for instance, you might have had to take a class. In law school, surprisingly, that's not a required class. It's still niche, which is insane, when about 95% or more of cases settle. So you're always... every lawyer is negotiating to a certain extent. And then going through elementary school, we don't have those types of conversations either about how to resolve conflict and how to negotiate. I think it's one of the biggest omissions in our education system. I mean, I you know, I did high level calculus, I have no clue why, I had to use the Pythagorean Theorem post high school, but I had to learn that. But I'm talking to everybody, I'm talking to people every day, I'm negotiating every day. And we never taught that. And so it's difficult to feel confident in a skill that was never taught to you.

Scott Anthony Barlow 23:02

I want to mention one other thing on that, because you brought up a few really great points overall. Well, first of all, hold on, let me back up. Negotiation is not taught in law school, or it's not required rather in law school?

Kwame Christian 23:15

Yeah. How insane is that?

Scott Anthony Barlow 23:17

That just hit me. Severity of that we'll call it.

Kwame Christian 23:24

Exactly. Negotiation is still a niche skill. And it's the thing that we do, we all do, no matter which profession you're in, we all do it every day, at work and at home, but it's not taught. It's mind blowing to me.

Scott Anthony Barlow 23:38

What do you feel like is the difference between negotiation and persuasion in your mind? Because I do think that what you had mentioned, you know, we all do negotiation every single day, constantly, we just don't recognize it– is very, very true. What do you feel like the line is drawn? Help me understand that from your perspective. Negotiation and persuasion.

Kwame Christian 24:01

So now you're having me put on my professor hat. Yeah, so we've gone later in the semester. So yes, so the definition I use for negotiation, any conversation where anybody in the conversation wants something. When we're getting really technical about it, that's more of a description of persuasion. And negotiation in the true business term, in the true business sense, which I'm actually trying to change. But negotiation in the true business sense, is when both parties are aware that there is something at issue, not necessarily at issue in a negative sense, but also, but there's something that needs to be discussed. And so that's more of a traditional negotiation where both parties are aware. Now when we talk about persuasion or influence, that's a little bit more nebulous. That's more in line with the definition that I gave you earlier. And so when we're thinking about persuasion, it's really anytime you're starting to steer somebody and change their perspective, change their behavior, and the person may or may not be aware of your intent. And the difference between influence and persuasion in general and the manipulation comes down to intent. Because when I talk about the desire to change people's behavior and change their perception whether or not they're aware of it, they say, "Well, that sounds a little bit manipulative." It's only manipulative if you're doing it with malicious purposes. And as long as your purposes are good, then you're good. And knowing your people who listen to the show the, Happen To Your Career, which I am one, Scott, you happened to my career, and now I am where I am. Yeah, I don't have any doubt that everybody who's going to listen to this episode is going to use these skills for good purposes. But yeah, that's going to be the distinction.

Scott Anthony Barlow 25:51

Very cool for a little bit of backstory on that, Kwame and I got the pleasure of working together early on. And that's... is that how we met? I was just trying to think the little bit earlier, it's been so long, Kwame, since... you've just been there forever.

Kwame Christian 26:08

Right? Yeah. So Scott was my career coach when I was transitioning from working within an organization to starting my own law firm and starting the American Negotiation Institute. And that transition was successful because of your guiding hand. So I appreciate that.

Scott Anthony Barlow 26:25

Well, I appreciate you saying that very, very much. So it's been so much fun to see it grow into what it is today. Because it's turned into a bit of a powerhouse to put it mildly, like the impact that I get to see you just following and I definitely recommend, if you're on LinkedIn, go follow Kwame Christian on LinkedIn, you're always almost daily, putting out something that is rather profound, amazing or entertaining, sometimes.

Kwame Christian 26:57

Thank you. I appreciate that.

Scott Anthony Barlow 27:00

And, you know, it's been really interesting to just occasionally, when I'm on LinkedIn, be able to see some of the real impacts that you're having, and some of the messages that go into the threads. And that's so, so cool. So really, really, really nice job. And that's probably a perfect opportunity now to segue into as people are listening to this, as HTYCers are listening to this, and they recognize the need to become better negotiators, and they want to practice, they want to improve all the negotiations and conversations in their lives, not just around job offers, what advice would you have for them to get started, things that they can actually do in real life, real time when we're all busy and everything else that goes along with it?

Kwame Christian 27:49

Yeah, so one thing I would suggest people start doing is start thinking like an athlete. And this is what I mean, so when I think about professional athletes, I think about them in terms of the fact that it seems like they take their profession just a little bit more seriously than any other profession. Because me, I'm a lawyer, I take my profession seriously. But do I practice like an athlete does? I certainly do not, you know. And so when it comes to negotiation, we have to think of ourselves as our own coach. And so not only are we actually intentionally having these conversations, and intentionally using these everyday interactions as opportunities to use the compassionate curiosity framework, and become better at the skill, but we're also saying, "Hey, alright, what did we do well? What did we do poorly?" We were replaying the tape, like a good coach would. And so we want to review the tape and say, "Okay, what did I do well? Let me try and do more of that. What did I do poorly? Let's try not to do that again." Right? And as you start to re-evaluate these conversations that you had immediately afterwards, you start to get incrementally better every single time. And that's the goal. In any negotiation, you have two goals, simply two goals. Number one, put yourself in the best position for success by using the skills that we talked about. Because you can't control the outcome, necessarily, the other person still needs to agree. But you can use the right skills and approach it the right way to put yourself in the best position for success. So that's number one. And number two, improve your skills. That's it. No matter how the negotiation ends up, you can still engage in the negotiation in a way that puts you in a better position to improve your skills, you should always be getting better. And constant improvement is the thing that is really going to start to set you apart when it comes to your negotiation abilities.

Scott Anthony Barlow 29:40

My experience personally is that it doesn't take that much. It doesn't take that many... if you're doing what is, like, Anders Ericsson called "deliberate practice", and you're replaying that tape or you're getting feedback or your brain intentional feedback in one way or another, and engaging in some type of practice, like you're talking about to improve your skills, then it just doesn't take that many interactions to become a better negotiator than most of the rest of the world. And maybe that's the case, because the bar is so low and I know you're trying to help people with that, however, it moves rather quickly, much more quickly than I think most people would realize. And I love your point of, you can always, always, always, no matter how the negotiation ends up, position it in a way, so you're learning something from it as well.

Kwame Christian 30:35

Absolutely. And see, Scott, this is just one of the many reasons why I like you, because I was doing the negotiation training earlier today. And I referenced Anders Ericsson with the 10,000 hours rule. Because people often make the mistake of saying, "Yeah, I've logged my 10,000 hours." It's like, have you really though? Because deliberate practice is different from just doing it. Deliberate practice is intentionally trying to improve your skills. For the vast majority of professionals out there, what they do is that they rapidly increase their amounts of skill, when they first entered the profession. And then they get to a point that's called the "OK plateau". This is good enough. And that's when they start to plateau. And so what I want to help you to do, and what I tell people to do, and in the trainings that I do, is we want to break through that, "OK plateau", so you can continue to improve, because my motto is the "best things in life are on the other side of difficult conversations." If you look back over the course of your life, the most influential parts of your life, the most impactful things that have ever happened in your life, there was a conversation that happened around that. And your success and failure in life is really largely going to be based on how you present yourself in these difficult conversations. So the stakes are higher than we recognize.

Scott Anthony Barlow 31:48

You mentioned something in there that leads to my final question for you, let's go all the way back to what we've been weaving in here as a thread using that job offer type scenario. And you mentioned this idea of defining your goals, I can't remember exactly what you said. But that's what it made me think of as you were talking about it here. So as people are thinking about their goals, and what they want out of it, that's how you put it what they want out of it, as it relates to job offer negotiation, maybe people are getting ready to go into a job offer, they anticipate that they're going to have one at some point in the near future, and maybe they just received one in one way or another, maybe they just got through one and they're trying to, you know, take a deliberate reflective stance on it, whatever their situation, what advice would you have for them as it relates to defining and getting what they want out of the situation and their own personal goals?

Kwame Christian 32:45

Yeah, I think a big part of this is going to be interesting, because you have, obviously you have the internal negotiation that we discussed. But then you also have to talk to people around you, you have to talk to people around you who know you really well. And sometimes because of your emotional state, you're going to develop tunnel vision focused on a couple of key issues. But then somebody who knows you really well would say, "Hey, you know, you mentioned that your goal is to do this eventually. Does this job put you in that position?" "I completely forgot about that. Well, thank you." Right? And so we have to recruit what I call our personal board of directors to help us to make effective decisions in this, because we can't assume that we're seeing the playing field perfectly. Anytime there's an element of emotion, you should just assume that you're missing something, just start to develop that type of humility that says, "You know what, I'm probably missing something. Let me try and get somebody else's perspective here." And then once you get a little bit more perspective, you can be a lot more effective in the negotiation. And then one thing that I never mentioned, but that I think would be really helpful and start to pay immediate dividends, is what I consider to be one of the most powerful questions you can ask in any negotiation. And it is simply, "What flexibility do you have?" And so this is why it's so powerful. Number one, it's open ended. The questions that you should ask, and these negotiations should be more leaning towards open ended questions, because you get more information. Number two, it's non threatening. Okay, so you're requesting more, but you're doing it in a way that won't register as a threat. And number three, it assumes that there is flexibility. And so even if they say something that says, "Well, you know, we don't have very much." I was like, "Oh, my negotiation ears tell me that you do have some. So I'm going to try to get it." And again, when I mentor people who are coming through law school, you can negotiate your scholarship package, they just say that, "Just what flexibility do you have?" And people have gotten every single time they get more, up to the most I've seen is $7,000 more on your scholarship just by taking three minutes to send a simple email with one question.

Scott Anthony Barlow 34:52

I love that. I so appreciate you. Just one I think we've got a whole bunch you pull out the big guns at the end. And I really appreciate you taking the time and coming on the show. And it has been a long time coming. And this has been a ton of fun for me every single time I've ever got an opportunity to chat with you, I just leave feeling like that was an amazing time. So I would highly recommend giving the book which has now been retitled: "Finding Confidence in Conflict", and it is very, very helpful, puts that framework into action that we were talking about here. Watch the TEDx Talk too. Google, Kwame Christian TEDx, it'll pop right up. It was the most entertaining and funny and useful 12 minutes that I've had in a while. So I really appreciate that because I know how much work goes into a TEDx Talk, to get just those 12 minutes that were packed with goodness. So, Kwame, where else can people find you or connect with you?

Kwame Christian 35:57

Thank you. Yeah, so check out the podcast, Negotiate Anything, lots of fun there, have guests on there, Scott was a guest, which was fantastic. And we also do sparring sessions, where I pretend to be the manifestation of your worst fear. And the guest has to negotiate with me unscripted. And then we do a kind of ESPN style breakdown. I tried to do this. And then you did that. So you get to see a really cool angle on these difficult conversations. And then of course, connect with me on LinkedIn, I make the promise, everybody who connects with me on LinkedIn gets a message and individual message from me. Now, I don't know when that message will come, but it will come. So yes, please connect with me there.

Scott Anthony Barlow 36:43

Many of the stories that you've heard on the podcast are from listeners that have decided they wanted to take action, and taking the first step of having a conversation with our team to try and figure out how we can help. And if you want to implement what you have heard, and you want to completely change your life and your career, then let's figure out how we can help. So here's what I would suggest, just open your phone right now and open your email app. And I'm going to give you my personal email address, scott@happentoyourcareer.com just email me and put 'Conversation' in the subject line. And then when you do that, I'll introduce you to the right person on our team. And you can have a conversation with us, we'll try and understand your goals and what you want to accomplish in your career no matter where you're at. And we can figure out the very best way that we can help you and your situation. So open up right now and send me an email with 'Conversation' in the subject line; scott@happentoyourcareer.com.

Scott Anthony Barlow 37:47

Hey, I hope you loved this episode. Thanks so much for listening. And if this has been helpful, then please share this podcast with your friends, with your family, with your co-workers that badly need it. Here's a sneak peek into what we have coming up in store for you next week.

Angela Barnard 38:04

One of my favorite things to do is to blow your mind around what you believe is possible for you.

Scott Anthony Barlow 38:10

That's Angela Barnard, better known as "Anj" and she's awesome. She's also a career coach. She has many of the career coaching certification designations MPA, CPC, ELI-MP. And she's also on the HTYC team, as it turns out. For the past 10 years, Angela's coached people all over the world on how to live more intentionally and find their own version of career happiness. Today, she's coming to talk with me on how she found career happiness by identifying the themes in her life that helped her find success, create success and more importantly, fulfillment and enjoyment and how she's able to help other people find those themes in their lives. All that and plenty more next week right here on Happen To Your Career. Make sure that you don't miss it. And if you haven't already, click Subscribe on your podcast player so that you can download this podcast in your sleep, and you get it automatically, even the bonus episodes every single week, sometimes multiple times a week. Until next week. Adios. I'm out.

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