086: Honing Your Persuasive Skills with Kwame Christian, Esq.

By November 16, 2016Podcasts

 

Lawyer Kwame Christian guides us through effective persuasion and negotiation in any situation.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The first crucial step to negotiation
  2. How to discover your limits by practicing rejection therapy
  3. What it takes to be a confident, powerful negotiator

About Kwame
Kwame is passionate about teaching business professionals how to negotiate and be more persuasive. He sees himself as a professional problem solver and works with businesses and individuals to come up with tailored negotiation solutions to improve the bottom line and resolve conflict.
Kwame is an attorney at The Christian Law Office, specializing in business law for startups and entrepreneurs. He is a Legal Analyst at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at the Ohio State University, focusing on health disparities and the social and political structures that create and maintain them.
He is a consultant at the American Negotiation Institute and produces “Negotiation for Entrepreneurs” the top negotiation podcast on iTunes.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Kwame Christian Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Kwame, thanks so much for joining us here on the How To Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Kwame Christian
Thanks for having me, Pete. I appreciate it.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I really got a kick out of… So your last name is Christian and you’re also at the Christian Law Office. And that doesn’t mean you’re dealing with Jesus-related legal issues, but rather, it’s your last name. Is that true?

Kwame Christian
Exactly. So with my church crowd, it works, so I just roll with it. But with every other client, when they come up to me and ask me, “Well, you know, I have a business problem, but do you do business law or do you just do church law?” I’m like, “Well, I’m a business lawyer. I do business law.” But because of the professional rules of conduct, I am legally required to use my last name in my law firm. So I had two options: the Christian Law Office or the Christian Law Firm. And I guess Office sounded good.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so fascinating. And I always thought that maybe just lawyers were kind of unoriginal in terms of naming their firms, like “Last Name, Last Name, and Last Name, Attorneys-at-Law.” It’s like, “Is that the best you could come up with?” How about like “Optimization Partners”? I don’t know. That’s just my style.

Kwame Christian
Right. Yeah. It’s funny. I mean, typically, lawyers, we kind of are unoriginal. I will say that. But not that unoriginal. So that’s the reason why we’re always with the last name.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. It’s, I guess, a requirement. So now I know. I’m educated. And you’re going to educate us. So tell us, you mostly work with entrepreneurs, and we’re talking more about the professional audience here. But first and foremost, when it comes to negotiation, your area of expertise, you say most don’t even know it’s possible to negotiate certain things. Tell us, what do you mean by that? And what might we be overlooking in terms negotiating opportunities?

Kwame Christian
Exactly. And I think that’s the first step to becoming a better negotiator: developing your negotiation recognition. And so let’s start off with the definition. I think this would help. So my definition of negotiation is anytime you’re having a conversation with somebody, and one or more of the people in that conversation want something.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Kwame Christian
And so, when you use that definition, you realize that it’s very broad, and negotiation is everywhere. And for those of you who have a significant other, you’re negotiating all the time. So it’s almost impossible to go 24 hours without having a negotiation. And then once you develop that recognition, now you can implement these negotiation skills to try and get more value out of your life.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, that sounds helpful. So I’m intrigued, then. Are there some things that we just sort of accept as given?

Kwame Christian
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
That maybe we should maybe question and see if we can do some negotiating work on them?

Kwame Christian
Yeah. And I think once you start to really get into this, one of the things you need to do is try and push the limits to experience for yourself what is and is not negotiable. So for me, one of the things that I do to become a better negotiator is do rejection therapy. And so I realized that one of the biggest things standing in our way is our fear of asking for what we really want. So in my rejection therapy, I ask for things that I have no right to get.
So for example, a couple of weeks ago, it was my birthday, and so I was at Panera Bread, which is a coffee shop if it’s regional, and I was with a mentee. And so they said, “Hey, Kwame, happy birthday. Here’s a free pastry for you.” And I said, “Thank you. Well, I’m here with my mentee. Can he get a free pastry, too?” And we got one.

Pete Mockaitis
There you go.

Kwame Christian
No right to get it. And the majority of times, when I ask for these silly things, I don’t get it, but it has two effects. I win either way because either I get what I want, and that’s really cool, or I don’t, and I feel the rejection, and I realize my heart is still beating and nothing bad happened. So it makes me more apt to ask for what I want when the time really comes that it really matters.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is a lovely perspective. And so that reminds me of Andrea Waltz at Episode 16 with her “go for no” philosophy. And you just took it one step further in terms of when you get a no, not only do you know “Okay. That’s the limit. That’s where it ends,” but also your character itself is enriched or strengthened.

Kwame Christian
Exactly. You get stronger every time.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. You know, that’s what I used to tell myself in high school, college. When I was asking out girls, I’d say, “All right, Pete. Even if she says no, you win because you summoned the courage to go there, and that makes you a baller.” That’s what I told myself.

Kwame Christian
That’s right. Pete the Baller. I like it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you. So let’s talk a little bit more about “no.” So you talked about on the receiving end and just boldly going for it, which is cool. And so you said in some of your work that really we have the ability to say no to certain things maybe more often than we think. What’s the story there?

Kwame Christian
Right. And I think we should say no more often than we do, because when you look at your success, success in business and success in life in reality is predicated more on our ability to say no than our ability to say yes, because today, more than ever, we are presented with a number of opportunities. Just a wellworth of opportunities. And we need to decipher which opportunities are for us. And we need to say no to a lot of opportunities.
But it’s difficult to say no because, a lot of times, when we say no, we’re afraid that we’re going to hurt the other person’s feelings. So learning how to say no in an effective way, in a way that actually can strengthen the relationship, is one of the most important skills you can develop as you’re becoming a better negotiator.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so how do we do that?

Kwame Christian
Okay. So the first step is to figure out your yes, because every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to thousands of other things. So for me, talking to you right now, I’m saying yes to this interview with you, and frankly, I’m saying no to other client work that I need to be doing.

Pete Mockaitis
I hope it’s worth it.

Kwame Christian
Me too. It’s feeling pretty good thus far, though.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Kwame Christian
So yeah, you need to find your yes. So that’s the first step. And then the next step is to use what I call the no sandwich. So first, you take that yes and you put that in the first line, and then you say no, and then you say something that would strengthen the relationship. And it’s actually perfect timing because I had to do this earlier today with a client.
And so one of the clients I was working with, they were doing this multimillion-dollar commercial real estate deal, and the deal fell through. And so they had some bills that were past due, and so the mortgage holder filed for foreclosure. And so I don’t do foreclosures. They’re not fun for me. And actually, you know Lisa Cummings. She said, “You either say hell yeah or no.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Kwame Christian
To what you’re interested in. So I was like, “This is a no.” And so this is a client I’ve been working with for a while, and so I wanted to maintain the relationship and do work for them in the future. So I had to say, using the no sandwich technique, number one, “I really enjoyed doing this business law work for you, and I hope to continue to do this in the future.” So that’s my yes.
And then, “But since foreclosure is not my focus, I want to make sure that you are in the hands of a lawyer that is operating well within his practice area. So unfortunately, I’m going to have to decline the opportunity to represent you in this case.” So that’s my clear no. And then I say, “However, what I’m going to do is I’m going to scan my network and figure out which attorney would be best for you and get him or her in contact with you this afternoon. And then once another deal comes forward, let me know, and I’ll review the contract for you.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Thank you. And I understand that lawyers, in particular, love referring work to other lawyers because what goes around comes around.

Kwame Christian
Exactly. And what’s funny, too, is that I was not even thinking about this, but we can do referral fees. And so the guy I referred her to said, “Oh yeah, I’ll kick a little bit back for you.” And I wasn’t even looking for that. And so the benefits of saying no in a really intentional way are twofold. It’s not just the fact that you’re avoiding something you didn’t want to do, but you’re strengthening the relationship with the person you’re talking to and the community as a whole, if you do it the right way.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, very good. That’s helpful. Thank you. And so now, maybe digging in a little bit into the nuts and bolts of negotiation, can you maybe lay out for us, what are some of the key principles when you’re having these conversations in which someone wants something? What are some of maybe key things to keep in mind? First, in terms of mindset, and then we’ll go deeper after that.

Kwame Christian
Okay. Yeah. So let’s talk about mindset. So I think the first thing we need to do is focus on why, not what. So when we focus too much on what the other person wants in the discussion, we can see it as a zero sum game, where what they want necessitates us losing what we want. And so instead of focusing on the what, focus on the why. Ask questions and be more curious. Figure out the reasoning behind the what, because especially if we’re negotiating with a colleague, let’s say we’re talking about what’s next for our team and we have two different positions, our reasoning might be the same, but we might just come to different conclusions. And if we start with the reasoning, it’s a lot easier conversation to have.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s very helpful.

Kwame Christian
Yeah. And then the next one—and this is the most powerful one. This is my favorite one—is ask open-ended questions. So here’s a question for you. If you had the choice, Pete, would you rather have your hand on the steering wheel or your foot on the gas or brake pedal?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, wow. I can think about this for a long time. And so I’m going to say the brake/gas pedal, it feels like the ultimate kind of shut down or go, which is cool. It’s like a power trip. I like that. But the steering wheel is like “Where are we going?” So my hope is that I’d take the steering and I’d just have faith in my ability to collaborate with the gas/brake person in order to get some sort of motion. But that’s tricky. You’ve got to have them both.
Kwame Christian
It is tricky. No, you were right. Steering wheel. That’s what I would go with. And you said the right word. It’s about control, because you can control the direction. And so the question is, now, how do we have our hand on the steering wheel during a negotiation? And we do that by asking open-ended questions. So this interview is a great example because I’m doing the majority of the talking, but I am going exactly where you want to go, because you’re asking really great questions.
So for me, in my negotiations, my goal is to keep the breakdown of conversation about 70/30 in the other person’s favor, where I’m listening 70% of the time and only speaking 30% of the time, because if that’s happening, I know I’m in control of the conversation because I’m asking great questions, and I know I’m getting more information, because it’s like we always say: “Knowledge is power.” And I can’t really learn if I’m talking. So listening is going to be key.
And so when you ask the right questions, you can take somebody down a logical path and have them convince themselves. And in reality, when you think about the times that you’ve been persuaded, if you were to ask yourself, “Why did you change your mind on that?” you wouldn’t say, “Well, the person beat me in an argument.” That doesn’t sound good. It’s like, “Oh, you know, I thought about differently, and I realized that this was the way to go.” And that’s the way you want it to happen. It’s almost like “Inception,” if you do it the right way.

Pete Mockaitis
Having a dream in which they have the idea.

Kwame Christian
Exactly. We planted the questions deep into their mind, and lo and behold, they ended up our way. And so it’s powerful.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s cool. Any other kind of principles or mindset pieces? Or should we move on a bit?

Kwame Christian
Yeah. There’s one more thing. And it almost seems too simple, but prepare. Preparation is key. So for me, if I’m having a 15-minute conversation, a 10- to 15-minute phone conversation, I prepare about 45 minutes for that. I take this very seriously. And so when you go into these negotiations better prepared, I mean, that could be the difference between winning and losing. And so here’s an example. So I did this car negotiation series on my podcast, where I walked people through my negotiation’s preparation, and then it culminated in a recorded negotiation with the salesman.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, like real people buying cars and selling cars?

Kwame Christian
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Do they know they’re being recorded, or is it undercover?

Kwame Christian
It was undercover.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, man. This is juicy.

Kwame Christian
Oh, it was good. And it was cool because Ohio is a single-party consent state, so only one party in the conversation needs to consent to recording, so I could record. And so I ended up getting 13% below market. But what was really interesting was what happened with the preparation because I thought it was going to be pretty straightforward. And then it took me like two hours, and I had nine pages of materials prepped, and the conversation ended up being like 15 minutes. But I won it. I really did well in that negotiation simply because I took the time to prepare in a systematic way.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so cool. Now, in your preparations, were there any kind of particular discoveries or opportunities that really opened it up for you to get that discount?

Kwame Christian
Yeah. So timing was key. So figuring out the proper time to have the negotiation, because leverage and power in negotiation is relative. And so if I negotiate at a certain time, I have more leverage and power compared to another time. And so it was funny. When I actually had the negotiation and I finished the recording, I was really hesitant to post it, because I was like, “Did I really do anything in this conversation? He just kind of folded.” And then I was like, “This is exactly what you want to do,” because it was the preparation that really did all the work.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Kwame Christian
And have you ever read “The Checklist Manifesto”?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh. I have skimmed it, but the author is on my list.

Kwame Christian
Right. Nice. Yeah. It’s a great book. Well, essentially, it’s just using checklists in really complex situations to make your outcomes better. And so the use of checklists in hospitals reduced the mortality rate by 47%.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Kwame Christian
Just by using checklists. So that’s what I do with the negotiation preparations. So I made, or I will make (by the time this is posted, it will be ready) a negotiation checklist for your audience.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you.

Kwame Christian
My pleasure. And so if they go to americannegotiationinstitute.com/prep, they can get a negotiation preparation sheet. So it can walk them through a systematic negotiation preparation for their everyday negotiations at work and at home.

Pete Mockaitis
That is super handy. Thank you. Now, I’m still fixated on the car story. It’s the power of narrative in the human mind. So it was about preparation and it was a discovery about timing that made all the difference. And so what did you learn about timing that meant that you’d get a discount? Was it their quotas, or at a certain month of your quarterly time, you show up at just before the cutoff? What did you do?

Kwame Christian
Yeah. So here are the key things about timing when it comes to car negotiations. You want to get them at a time where they’re up against it for their quota, where there’s a need to make certain numbers. And you want to show up at a time when there is little traffic. And so this is when there’s little traffic: if you show up in the middle of the month, and if you show up on a day that is raining. And so it just so happened. I think it was August 30th I had this conversation. August 30th or 31st ended up being a Wednesday, and it was rainy, and it was the last day of the month. So they were ready to make a deal. And what was interesting is they already lowered the price that morning, and I still got over $1000 off.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Okay. Now, I want to make sure I heard you correctly. In this particular instance or this particular dealership, it was the end of the month? That is where the quota hits?

Kwame Christian
Mm-hm. Typically, that’s when it is. And there are various quotas. So there’s going to be the monthly quota, and then the big one is at the end of the year. So if you’re able to hold off on buying a new car until the end of the year, the discounts are going to be pretty significant.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s very handy. And so, now, how did you learn this? Just basic Googling, or did you interview former employees?

Kwame Christian
It was both. So I found the best car negotiation resources online and just made my own uber guide and did like a 45-minute episode on negotiation preparation. Then the second episode was an interview with my friend. He negotiates every day for his job in commercial real estate, but his dad owned a dealership for 50 years. And it just so happened that earlier in the week, when I interviewed him, he negotiated for a car and got a really great discount. So he was fresh. And so he talked about the various tactics you can use actually in the conversation with the dealership. And then I used it in the next episode, and it worked like a charm. It was crazy.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s exciting. And which car was it?

Kwame Christian
It was a 2016 Ford Explorer.

Pete Mockaitis
I love them.

Kwame Christian
Yeah. It was nice. And that’s another freebie, too. If anybody is in the market for a car, and if you go to americannegotiationinstitute.com/car, you can get that negotiation guide for that one, too. Really, really handy.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Thank you. So now, I’m thinking a little bit about negotiations in the workplace, day in day out, in terms of I’m imagining conversations where somebody wants something. I was just doing a training this morning with a group and teaching them about pushback, which is where you artfully decline to do something based upon not being in the best interest of the team, like “Our resources are best spent maybe elsewhere,” or “Could you help me prioritize?” That kind of thing. So I want to think about some common scenarios. One is negotiation in which you’re persuading. “No, I really don’t think I should do that.” Or you’re negotiating “Hey, I’d really love your help in doing this for me or with me.” I think the webs of collaboration and investing are limited resources.

Kwame Christian
Right. And I think the reason I love talking about negotiation in the workplace is because there are so many opportunities, especially when you’re working on teams. And I think one of the best opportunities is when you are working on a team and you’re having that battle of ideas, those discussions. And so when we’re trying to figure out the direction of the team, which way we’re going to go, and how the allocation of resources is going to be distributed, I think that’s another big opportunity to negotiate. And so, once you recognize those opportunities, you would recognize the opportunity to implement these negotiation skills to get the outcomes that you want.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Certainly. And so, could you maybe play through how a conversation might unfold? And feel free to just make up facts left and right.

Kwame Christian
Okay.

Pete Mockaitis
Put you on the spot.

Kwame Christian
Is this going to be a role-play? Are we going to go back and forth? This could be fun.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. We could do that. Yes. Let’s say I am a collaborator. Well, you would like me to become a collaborator. You’d like me to do some things to help out you and your team. And I’m thinking, “I got a lot on my plate already.” And so let’s roll from there.

Kwame Christian
All righty. Well, Pete, you know I’m working on this project. Have you heard of it, the How To Be Awesome At Your Job Project here at Kwamecorp?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s making tremendous waves, and it’s highly ranked in the iTunes charts. So yes, I’ve heard of it.

Kwame Christian
I like that. So where do you see yourself going in this company, as far as how you see yourself positioned with regard to the various projects that you’re working on?

Pete Mockaitis
Position. Well, I mean, I’m doing a lot of the work associated with kind of synthesizing the data so that we have a clear action plan for what we should do with all of these inputs.

Kwame Christian
Okay. And I’m glad you said that because that’s something that I’ve noticed you’re really great at, and I know we have a need for that on our team. But I also know that you’re really busy. So what kind of things do you think you could do, even though you’re busy, to help us out?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I mean, I don’t know. I could take a quick look at your pivot tables and make sure that you’re not overlooking something. Or what do you think you need most done?

Kwame Christian
The pivot tables would be incredibly helpful. That will be great. And honestly, just having your experience, being able to lean on your experience, to just run some ideas by you would be incredibly helpful.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Sure.

Kwame Christian
Yeah. So when do you think would be a good time for you to meet with the team?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh. How about tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.?

Kwame Christian
Good! I think that was really good. I was really nervous, like “Oh my goodness. Could I focus?” because you know how I’m so obsessed with the preparation. I’m like, “On the fly? Are you kidding me?” But really, I think that showed the power of open-ended questions.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. That’s kind of what I was feeling there. Of course, you know, we just made things up, but it’s sort of like… It’s almost like I felt a little bit like… Well, we’ve said this earlier in the no part, so maybe part of this I should get over, and we’ll see.

Kwame Christian
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
But I kind of felt like if I shut you down entirely, what role do you think you could play? I’m like, “Absolutely no. I’m swamped.” I felt like if I shut it down that hard, that 100% out of the gate, I felt like I was a real jerk and not even remotely a team player.

Kwame Christian
Right. And that’s the reason I phrased that question that way.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Kwame Christian
And there were a couple of little skills that I put in. So the first one is prefacing my points with saying, “I recognize that you’re busy.” A lot of times, we say, “I don’t want to be a bother,” when you know you’re being a bother or something like that. But psychologically speaking, when you kind of clear the air and say, “Listen, I recognize that this is the elephant in the room. Let’s go ahead and address it. You’re really busy, and I’m asking you to do something,” it makes my ask a little bit more palatable because it demonstrates that I recognize that.
So that was one thing. The next thing is the way I phrased the question wasn’t a yes or no question (and that’s closed-ended), because if I said, “Can you help me with this? Yes or no?” it’s an easy escape when you could just say no. That’s easy. I set it up for you. But when I ask it in a way that kind of assumes that you do have the time, and ask it open-ended, and just say “Elaborate on my assumption that you do have the time,” I kind of led you to telling me you had time and led you to tell me what you could do.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. That’s great. Well, thank you for that. That was illustrative, even without doing the prep in advance. And so now I just want to kind of shift gears. And maybe you were feeling it right there, even in this role-play, you know? Sometimes, in the midst of negotiation, we could feel like “Oh boy, there’s high stakes.” The pressure is on. There could be some kind of nerves or anxiety associated with it, whether you’re asking someone to help out, or to be a mentor, or for a raise, or any of those kind of workplace negotiation situations. Do you have any perspectives on what to do to just kind of calm your own nerves and be sort of confident as you’re engaging in these discussions?

Kwame Christian
Yeah. And I know you would like this because I’m a psychology nerd just like you. That was my undergrad degree.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Kwame Christian
And so I like to play mental games with myself. It works on me, and I feel like it’s worked with some of my clients as well. I would have people reframe the negotiation. Not as a negotiation or a conflict resolution or something like that, but really have them shift the conversation to more of an information gathering session or a brainstorming session. And the benefit of that is, when we think of it that way, it’s just an exchange of ideas.
And additionally, it has the benefit of making us go into the conversation with curiosity, which is one of the keys to being a great negotiator. And when you’re curious, it has the natural effect of causing you to ask more questions. And so you go in there. You ask questions. You take your time. And that’s one great way to get over it. Just think about it as sharing ideas where you’re only in there trying to get more information about them and their perspective, and your goal is to share information on you and your perspective. And that usually helps ease tensions in negotiations.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s cool.

Kwame Christian
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Anything else on the tension-easing side?

Kwame Christian
Taking your time is huge. And I think that’s something that is really underrated. Being incremental in negotiation is really important because one of the big barriers between agreement and non-agreement is the perception of risk. And when you are trying to make huge gains in one conversation, the person perceives a lot of risk and it feels safer to say no.
So what I would suggest doing is going step by step. So let’s say you’re very anxious about this discussion and then you just phrase it as a brainstorming session. It’s like, “Hey, Pete, I’m working on this project. You’re at Kwame Corp. Do you have a second to talk about it a little bit? I just want to brainstorm with you real quick.” And so I hear your perspective. I see where you are. And in that brainstorming session, I would ask about your time constraints and where you want to go in the company. Now I have more information. And so I say, “Thanks, Pete. I appreciate it. Let’s follow up next week.”
And in that time, I go through this preparation, the checklist, now that I have more information. And now that I know you a little bit better and I know the situation better, I feel more confident. And then I come back prepared with more questions and some possible solutions. And taking that time, taking it just step by step really helps ease tensions because you don’t feel that pressure of coming to some kind of conclusion right then.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s cool. Thank you.

Kwame Christian
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Clever. So bit by bit, and then you’re super prepared as a result, kind of with each step along the way. And that’s handy. Thank you.

Kwame Christian
My pleasure.

Pete Mockaitis
So now, you talk a bit about bluffing in some of your work. And just even the idea of bluffing in real life and not poker, like with coworkers, sounds kind of spooky. How should we think about bluffing, and when should we do it? It seems kind of intense.

Kwame Christian
So here’s the easy answer, and then I’ll go more in-depth. You should never do it. So that’s the easy answer.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. There we go.

Kwame Christian
Okay. So here’s the thing about bluffing. This is how I think about bluffing. So it’s me saying that I’m going to do something that I’m really not going to do. And so it’s unnecessarily risky. So let’s say you take the time and learn all of these persuasion techniques, and then you try and do this bluff. It’s the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass. The reason why people in football, we don’t do Hail Marys all the time is because it is a high risk play.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Kwame Christian
You know? And so let’s look at what happens if a bluff fails. I start pounding my fist on the table and say, “Listen. If this doesn’t go my way, I’m going straight to HR and we are going to rain fire and brimstone on you.” And then you say, “Okay, well, I can see where you’re coming from there, but this is where I stand. So you can go ahead and get HR.” And you don’t do it.
Then what happens? You lose credibility. And your credibility is one of the most important things when it comes to persuasion, because if I think you’re lying, now going forward, that’s going to be in my mind. It’s like, “Hey, I remember that time Kwame made this whole big statement saying he was going to do something and he never did it in this negotiation. I don’t take that man seriously anymore.” And so you’re really putting your credibility on the line when you bluff.
But there’s an alternative. And so what I do is I don’t bluff. I offer warnings. So let’s imagine we’re at the Grand Canyon and there is the cliff coming up and we’re walking towards it. And then we see a sign that says “Attention: If you proceed further, you risk falling off the cliff.” The sign wasn’t being aggressive or anything like that or hostile. The sign was just stating the facts of the natural consequences of your continued course of action.
And so that’s what I do when I negotiate. So there was an instance earlier this week, where I was trying to negotiate with the person on the other side. They owed my client money. And so I was like, “Listen. If you are not able to come up with $2000 this month, then we’re going to have to go about this through the court process.” Just stating the facts.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Kwame Christian
He said no, and now we’re going to sue. It’s just really simple. But I would never have said that if I didn’t plan on doing that, because credibility is incredibly important to me.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Very good. Well, that makes sense. Thank you. So you tell me, is there anything else you want to make sure that you get to cover before we shift gears to the fast faves segment?

Kwame Christian
Yeah. So the last thing is I want people to recognize. Negotiation often seems intimidating because people are like, “Well, you know, maybe I’m an introvert. I just don’t feel comfortable doing it,” etc. But the thing is negotiation is a skill, not a talent. Some people might feel more comfortable doing it, but ultimately, it’s a skill.
And the reason why that distinction is important is because you can improve upon skills. And so when you take the time to really invest in improving this skill, it pays dividends quickly. And one of the easiest ways you can do that is by taking the time to just listen to podcasts. I know a good one. Read books. You had Jay on the podcast earlier. His book is phenomenal. Just taking the time to educate yourself and having the opportunity to negotiate and ask for what it is that you really want.

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect. All right. Thanks. So now, why don’t you start us off by sharing a favorite quote?

Kwame Christian
So my favorite quote, and this is more of an entrepreneurial quote, but I think it applies in the corporate world, is “Fail faster,” because the thing is, if you’re not failing, you’re really not pushing yourself.
And so my thing is I need to take risks in order to continue to advance. And I know I’m going to make mistakes. I know I’m going to have failures along the way. But I know it’s going to happen whether I do it quickly or I do it slowly. So let’s go ahead and get it over with. Let me learn, adjust, and be better.

Pete Mockaitis
Great. And how about a favorite study or experiment or piece of research?

Kwame Christian
The checklist one was pretty big for me. But there’s an interesting one that pertains to negotiation. I forget the name of the people who actually did the research, but it shows up in a lot of the negotiation books that I read. It’s a simple technique, and it’s simply just giving an explanation for your request. So here’s the situation. So they had a line at a copying machine, and they had the person come up and say “Hey, excuse me. Can I cut in front of you in the line? I need to make a copy.” And then it had a success rate of, I think, 40%. And then they had the same person come up at a different time and ask, “Hey, can I cut in front of you to make some copies? Because I really need to make some copies.” The success rate went up by like 40%.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Kwame Christian
It’s crazy. Just by simply adding “because XYZ.”

Pete Mockaitis
Powerful. Thank you. And how about a favorite book?

Kwame Christian
I would say “Negotiation Genius.” It was a book that I got because I was the best man in one of my friends’ weddings. And it was at a time I think I was feeling really arrogant and I was like, “Ugh. A negotiation book. I know this stuff.” But what’s funnier is that as I learned more in business, in life, and in negotiation, I realized how little I know. And that book just blew me away. Even in areas of the book where it reviewed studies and skills that I already knew, it just hit it from a different perspective and really got me thinking about negotiation in a completely different way. It was just a phenomenal book. So “Negotiation Genius” is the book I’d recommend.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. And how about a favorite tool?

Kwame Christian
Okay. You’re going to get a kick out of this one.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Kwame Christian
A month ago, I started using Snapchat. And it’s like, “Wow. Snapchat made you more productive?” But it really did, because before I downloaded Snapchat, I posted on Facebook and I said, “Listen. Snapchat is going to be my productivity diary. So if you ever see me slipping on my productivity, you can publicly call me out on social media.
And so that scared me because it’s like, “That’s a serious public declaration. I don’t want people to embarrass me online.” So after that, my productivity just went through the roof because I was consistently documenting what it was I was doing throughout the day. And I guess that really speaks more not necessarily to the application, but to the benefit of accountability when it comes to making goals.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. And how about a favorite habit, a personal practice of yours that’s been really handy?

Kwame Christian
So back in the day, when I had an internship at a big law firm, the lawyers are always complaining about billable hours, but really it’s the clients that should be complaining about billable hours. And so one thing that we had to do is we had to write down everything that we were doing when we were billing our time. And so I had this timesheet, and I would need to bill in 6-minute increments. So it really forced me to be intentional about the way I’m spending my time.
So now, every day, I start the day off, about 15 minutes, writing down everything I need to do and then putting it into that timesheet. And then, of course, taking a picture and putting it on Snapchat to prove I’m being productive. But it really helps my productivity and my organization because now I know “Okay, from 9:30 to 10:30, I’m going to be billing this client. From 11:00 to 12:30, I’m going to be recording a podcast.” And it just keeps me incredibly organized. And it’s been one of the keys to productivity over the last couple of months.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Thank you. And how about maybe a particular nugget or piece that when you share on your podcast or your other work, it really seems to resonate with people in terms of them retweeting or taking notes and nodding their heads? What might be a gem or two from you?

Kwame Christian
I think the biggest one, and I think this is really surprising to me, and I think it’s because I’m just too close to it. I’m just really shocked at how many people send me messages on LinkedIn and say, “I never thought about these opportunities to negotiate.” It’s almost like they’re blind to it. And it makes sense because think about when you’ve recently bought a car, and now, after you bought that car, you start seeing it everywhere on the street. That’s how my listeners are with negotiation. It’s like, “Now that it has been brought to my attention, I’m seeing it everywhere. And before, I had no idea that all of these were opportunities for me to get more.” So I guess it’s really that first step, that recognition. It has been resonating the most.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Thank you. And how about a favorite way to be contacted, if folks want to learn more, hear what you’re up to?

Kwame Christian
Yeah. LinkedIn is the best way to contact me. So everybody who connects with me on LinkedIn gets a personal message and we chat. It’s not a joke. So I dedicate hours every week connecting with people who connect with me on LinkedIn through the podcast, because I really want to make sure that I’m tailoring my information and content to what people want to know, not just my own personal interests. So connect with me on LinkedIn, and we can have a conversation. I chat with people all the time. So that would be the best way to contact me.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for those seeking to be more awesome at their jobs?

Kwame Christian
Absolutely. The challenge is engage in some rejection therapy. Go out and try. See what you can ask for, and see what you can get. And remember, either way, you win.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Thank you. Well, Kwame, this has been so much fun. I wish you tons of luck over at the Christian Law Office and the Negotiation for Entrepreneurs Podcast.

Kwame Christian
Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
And negotiations and all that you’re up to. It’s been a treat.

Kwame Christian
Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it, Pete.

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