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Persuasion & Negotiation

413: How to Exude Credibility with Rob Jolles

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Rob Jolles provides practical wisdom on how to come across as more believable.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The number one reason why people don’t believe you
  2. How method acting can lead you into peak presenting performance
  3. Why you should embrace your own dysfunctions

About Rob

Rob Jolles is a sought-after speaker who teaches, entertains, and inspires audiences worldwide. His live programs around the world have enabled him to amass a client list of Fortune 500 companies including Toyota, Disney, GE, a dozen universities, and over 50 financial institutions. He is the best-selling author of six books, including his latest release, Why People Don’t Believe You…Building Credibility from the Inside Out.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Rob Jolles Lederman Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Rob, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Rob Jolles
Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m excited to dig in. I think you’ve got so much good stuff to share. Maybe you’ll be able to share it, if necessary, in a rapid format because you are a licensed auctioneer! How does one get licensed to be an auctioneer and tell us a tale or two of your auctioneering adventures?

Rob Jolles
Okay. Well, when you have a big mouth and you run it around for 30 years giving seminars, everybody assumes, “Hey, this guy can do anything on a stage.” But I want to tell you, in the State of Virginia, where I initially got licensed, it’s harder than it looks. It was 80 hours of certified instruction.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh wow.

Rob Jolles
To be allowed to take the three-and-a-half-hour exam. I had to study cattle and cars and horses and antiques. But really all I wanted, unfortunately there isn’t a license like this, all I wanted to do was be able to work charities. I felt like it was a good way of giving back, maybe using my skills for something really valuable.

That’s about nine and a half years ago. I took my courses. I got certified. I’ve been probably averaging an auction a month, maybe an auction every other month, but 95% for charities.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s awesome. Then I guess if you’re doing it for charities, then you’re doing it for free. I’m wondering with all that education, what would an auctioneer be paid if he or she were doing a gig for a bankruptcy? Hey, we’ve got an auction. I’m the auctioneer. I’m well-trained and licensed and educated. What would that return in a gig?

Rob Jolles
Actually, it’s usually a percentage of profit there. For charity auctioneers, we’re not quite as fortunate. It’s a fraction of what I normally get paid. Actually, what I typically do with a charity is, I sort of get paid a little and then I never walk out the door with it. I just simply hand it back so that I can deduct from my taxes.
I want to stay true to the intent, which is there are certain things that we do in life that really have to pay the bills and keep the electric running and there are other times in life where we do things that are really just to help others.

When I speak at universities and things like that and they have a little honorarium, what’s the sense of me really taking that? I’m going to do something nice, let’s go all the way. That’s for charity. Now sometimes I’ll do a shopping center or I’ve done some universities. I’ll take a little something, but it’s a fraction of what I normally get.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Have you ever auctioned off anything crazy or strange or just noteworthy?

Rob Jolles
Yeah, I’ll tell you the best thing I ever auctioned off. Believe it or not – and this is for anybody that’s ever thinking of putting an auction together, this is what you’re looking for. It’s not a yard sale.

When Letterman was still doing his show, we got two tickets to Letterman. Well, they’re free, but we got backstage passes and you can’t always do that. Then Marriot threw in a couple nights and we got two train tickets. When we packaged that altogether and particularly with that unique ability to get back stage, something you can’t really get on your own, sort of like Saturday Night Live tickets, that item went for a little over 30,000 dollars. It was fairly simple.

That and we also got one time I auctioned off tickets to the Academy Awards. Again, something you can’t normally get on your own. You’re not going to find it on Craigslist. Other than the limo, I think that was in the 30 – 35,000 dollar range. Those are the kind of things that really actually will excite an audience.

Pete Mockaitis
That is very clever. If there are any fundraisers in the house, there’s the trick. You get something you can’t get under normal circumstances. Then you package it together into a cool experience and there it is, the secret to a successful fundraising auction. Didn’t even know we were going to learn that today. Thank you.

But what I was planning on learning a bit about was some of the wisdom in your book, Why People Don’t Believe You. Great title. Tell us, what’s the big idea? Why don’t people believe you?

Rob Jolles
When you say big idea and I’m ready for you now because I actually thought, “What is the big idea? I better know that. It is my book.” I think the big idea is, there’s two of them. First of all, I’m pleased you like the title. It wasn’t my title, but most of us who write books, we’ll get everything but our title in there. The publisher typically knows more about titles than we do.

But the big idea in my original title was it’s not the words; it’s the tune. A lot of times, and I’m guilty of this spending 30 years of my career, of my life, running around the country teaching people what to say, what to say, what to say. We don’t really stop and say wait a minute. Let’s forget the words. How are we saying it? I’d say in a sense that’s part of the bigger picture of the book.
But to really drill down on your question, I think the biggest reason why people don’t believe us, as strange as this may sound, is we don’t believe us. Things in the book, I know they sound simple, but so are asking questions and listening, but who does that? It’s such a fundamental communication piece. The easiest way to be believed is to actually tell the truth.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Rob Jolles
When you stop and think about that, do you have the best podcast out there? Well, from what I hear, it sure is, but you have to believe that. If it isn’t, you have to do everything you can to make it a great podcast, to put your heart and soul into it. If you go to bed at night and you truly believe that, you don’t have to worry about sounding authentic. Now you believe it and the tune will follow.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that a lot. Now, you’re getting me thinking here because we were talking just beforehand when I was stalking you and deciding whether or not to invite you. You passed. Nice job. You made reference to the greatest life insurance salesperson ever; Ben Feldman is his name, if anybody wants to take a look. I’m always intrigued by the greatest in the world.

I sort of listened to an interview with Ben Feldman. He doesn’t sound super engaging in the interview, but boy, does he believe in life insurance being just a powerful force for goodness for humanity. It’s clear that he believes that with a deep abiding passion, which is striking because I hadn’t thought of life insurance in that way before, but there you have that. The best in the world had that at a really high level.

Rob Jolles
Let’s put a cherry on that sundae because yup, he completely dominated the insurance industry for decades and I mean dominated from the sprawling metropolis of East Liverpool, Ohio. But how about this that we add to that story, the fact is he was the greatest that ever lived by the numbers. He spoke with a lisp. He was actually a fairly quiet guy.

He didn’t have any of the attributes that we naturally associate with the greatest salesperson, that Glengarry Glen Ross kind of Alex Baldwin character. He was the complete opposite. I guess when you hear that, whoever’s listening just remember that he was true to his own unique style. You can’t imitate this guy. The best imitation you do is of yourself. Not only did he believe in his product, he was true to his style. He didn’t emulate anyone but himself. That’s what made him really successful.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, you’re telling the truth, you’re believing it deep down. If you’re not yet believing it, you’re doing all you can to get there with believing it in terms of improving the actual kind of facts of the situation. Then when it comes to the tune, how do we sing a tune that’s more appealing?

Rob Jolles
That’s interesting you say sing because as I was working through the manuscript I was actually at one point trying to create a musical score in a sense of the tune, but my musical score had places where we would pause, had places where we would change our pitch, had places where we would change our pace. Actually all found in music if you think about it.

Unfortunately, although I’ll work on pitch and pace and pause with people, the problem is every question you just asked me right now, I can’t go, “Okay, hang on one second. Let me figure out where my pitch goes up and let me figure out where I’m going to slow this down and where I’m going to speed it up.”

We do focus on pitch, pace, and pause, which to me are critical pieces. But the key is to get that authentic voice to do it without having to sort of stop and micromanage where those pieces are. I don’t know if when you’re talking to me, for instance, you’re gesturing with your hands, but imagine if we stopped and I said, “Point here. Put your hand up over there.” We want that to kind of become as natural as we can.

I think one of the secret sauces, if you will, of the book is actually thinking more like a method actor. What if we took ourselves and actually placed ourselves in the moment. I don’t mean just in the moment. I mean even the point we were just talking about, truly believing.

Well, maybe we’re getting beat up a little bit out there right now. Maybe our product is – it’s just been tough for us but weren’t there times in our life where everything we touched sort of worked out well, where we knew the next time we picked up the phone or knocked on a door, it was going to go well. The other six did.

Why can’t we as a method actor take ourselves to that moment? Are you telling me that when we knock on the door this time, we’re going to be less effective with that in our mind? That’s where that pitch, pace, and pause sometimes can come more naturally.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got you. You’re saying let’s not put our focus on “Okay, at this point in my second sentence, I’m going to drop my pitch low,” and sort of plan that out in great detail, but rather to get in the zone associated with when you were rocking, rolling, and believing and nailing it and high performing, so just sort of method acting into that spot and these things will sort of naturally follow well.

Could you maybe bring this all together in an example or a case study of someone whose credibility wasn’t so hot and then they did some things and they saw it really get hot again?

Rob Jolles
Sure. Actually, this whole book really began with me in a bad mood in a bad evening being asked to speak to a group called the Career Network Ministry, a group that just helps people in career transition. I don’t necessarily like to speak free a whole lot, but I bumbled my way in and figured I’ll talk to a dozen people and get this over with. There 250 to 300 people in the room. I’ve been volunteering for six years ever since. It was such a moving experience.

But one of the things I noticed in that room – and that was my petri dish, that’s where this started – was I noticed words. We were working on resumes – words. We were working on elevator pitches – words. We were working on LinkedIn sites – words. We were working on the words and nobody was focusing on the tune.

To answer your question, I actually stated about five and a half years ago I put together my first group of a dozen people. To get in this program, two days, you had to be unemployed a minimum of two years. Half my room was unemployed for over five years. That’s chronic unemployment.

We put on a two-day program. I bumbled and fumbled my way through it, but we were hitting on something because 10 of the 12 people were hired within three months. That’s when I realized, okay, we’ve got something.

But I’m telling you, going back on some of the questions you asked, I wasn’t working on the words in there. I took that elevator pitch – there’s some value in those – but I put it in the corner and we worked on their character. We worked on who they were, what they were, taking them through those moments of success and man, the hands and the words, and the pitch, and the pace, it followed.

But there’s an answer to your question. It was 10 for 12 coming out of the gate. That’s when I knew, I think we maybe even have a book here, but I’ve got to keep digging into this.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s fascinating. Do tell, what are some of the most impactful transformational exercises or practices that make that come alive?

Rob Jolles
Wow, that’s a good question. One of them we were talking about is whenever I ask them anything, I really try and trim people down to what I call a communication shot clock. Look, there’s a shot clock in basketball. It keeps the game moving. There’s a shot clock in football, actually. It keeps the game moving. There may very well be a shot clock in baseball, they’re going to try it in preseason, to keep the game moving.

We are in a society now where books are getting smaller and people just don’t have that bandwidth to stay with us. Even our videos are four to six minutes in length. One of the things as an example was, stop talking to them, getting them up to speak, getting them into character, and working on their shot clock, meaning, trimming those questions down and saying, “Rather than giving me your three best points. Give me your best point. If I want more, I’ll ask for it.”

It was an example of really trying to get them a little bit quicker, a little bit lighter on their feet. As an example, that was one technique that we used.

Pete Mockaitis
Then you said with the shot clock, is there an optimal do you recommend time that you would put on the shot clock in terms of number of seconds that you would speak before being quiet?

Rob Jolles
Yeah, I actually have a number and I’m going to give it to you, but please understand I’m answering your question, so it’s sort of like when I teach people to sell and I’m saying you’ve got to ask second and third level questions. The hand will go up and say, “Exactly how many?” It’s like, “Well, that’s going to really depend on the personality of the client, etcetera.”

But I really actually like 45 seconds. I think it’s a great number. If I go a minute and ten, that’s okay. If we go shorter, that’s okay too. A lot of the times if I’m dealing with a more social environment, more social client, I’ve kind of got the green light to go a little bit longer. If I’m dealing with a more dominant client, I’m probably going to trim back. There’s other variables.

But I love the conversation we’re having because I get frustrated when people are bobbing and weaving, saying, “But …” I think 45 seconds is a good target, but read your audience.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly, yes. That is a helpful benchmark because I think it’s possible that you can under speak as well. I’m just thinking about this. I said, “Hey, tell us about you becoming a licensed auctioneer.” It’s like, “I had 80 hours of instruction and then passed a three-hour exam.” It’s like, “Okay, well, Rob, this is really interesting.”

Rob Jolles
… on the show. You’re really talented.

Pete Mockaitis
I think that makes good sense in terms of it’s a very rough ballpark zone, but if you’re five seconds, it’s like, “Okay, do you hate me? What’s going on here?” It’s hard to form a connection. If you’re too long, it’s like, “Okay, I already sort of got the message I was after way earlier and ready to move on to something else.” I appreciate that. That’s one principle is the communication shot clock. What are some of the other practices or exercises that are really transformational here?

Rob Jolles
Well, I’m going to give you a couple more, but I want to give you a big picture here because if you study my career, I’m actually going at a different angle right now. I got my hardcore training with Xerox. You didn’t tie your shoe without a process of some sort at Xerox. But when you have a process, you have a way of measuring what you’re doing. When you can measure it, you can fix it. Boy, am I a repeatable, predictable process person.

Yet, the topic that we’re in, I’ve sort of had to look at the mirror and go it’s not all process-oriented. I sort of reframed it in my mind and I said it’s more about percentages, meaning. It’s sort of like when we eat, okay? “I’m a healthy person.” “Good. Well, what do you do?” “Well, I no longer put sugar in my coffee, just Stevia.” “That’s it?” “Yeah, that’s it.”

Well, okay. If you really do that all the time and you’re a big coffee drinker, I guess that’s about a one percent – two percent play. I don’t know if you’re healthier yet, but I guess it beats the alternative. But you look at healthy people’s example and they’re doing 15 – 20 things, exercise, this, that. Together, they create a formidable percentage.

What we’re talking about right now is really percentage plays. A communication shot clock gives us a couple of percentage plays. Truly believing in yourselves gives us percentage points. Taking ourselves mentally to a place where we’re successful gives up percentage points. I’m going to give you percentage points as opposed to process. Like I said, I’m almost arguing with me right now because I’m so bred into process, but we’re into a topic that is more percentage than process.

Pete Mockaitis
When you say percentage, you’re sort of using this as a label of a different means of thinking about approaches such that a process seems to apply if you do A, B, C, D, E, F, you’ll arrive at this end result, whereas percentage says, “Of the result you’re after, one thing can account for 5% of getting to the result and another thing can account for 10% of the thing.” Thusly, you’re kind of suggesting that an A, B, C, D, E process ain’t going to get you 100% of the way to where you want to be.

Rob Jolles
Exactly. Let me give you a percentage move as an example. Thank you because that’s exactly what I’m saying, by the way.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh cool.

Rob Jolles
A percentage move for me, a lot of people, for instance, when they’re struggling to be believed and they’re, “Okay, I’m going to believe in myself, this and that, but this company, they’re looking at four other people. One of them, I don’t know, they may have a better relationship.” Well, they might. They might not.

I love really actually focusing the brain on playing the course and not the opponent. I’m going to get percentage pieces out of this because by that I mean if you watch actually a good golfer it’s shocking. They never look at the scoreboard. For three days, they don’t look at the scoreboard. They don’t care.

They’ll look in the final two holes, three holes because they may have to change their strategy, but how in the world do you play a competitive event without looking around at your opponent? The answer is well, what value does looking at the opponent really have? If you sink a 40-foot putt, good for you. Me focusing on that not only doesn’t change a thing, it removes the focus from my putt. It removes the focus from what I’m doing.

I think, as an example, we spend too much time worrying about things we can’t control. Honestly, if I thought worrying about it would move the dial one percentage point, I would be the most competitive worrier you ever met, but it actually takes away. It doesn’t add. Things like playing, the course, not the opponent, things like accepting your limp.

You started the conversation about Ben Feldman. Again, look him up folks. Like I said, appearance-wise, he wasn’t necessarily that natural salesperson look or sound, but in a sense he had his own limp. We all walk with a limp. Do you know how many people are held back from their own ability to convince others because of their limp?

I lost my hair, I wasn’t thrilled about it, but I had to accept it. It’s one of my limps. But what I found is, the moment it stopped being important to me, it was never really important to anybody else. It was me that was focused and obsessed. If we take that example and look at people that just have certain issues, maybe they don’t have that natural punch in their voice, it’s okay. Don’t be somebody you’re not. Just move it from a two to a four, that’s all I’m asking.

But if we accept our limp, if we play that course.
We don’t have to misuse our imagination. That lovely quote I actually have by my coffee bar, “Worry is the misuse of your imagination.” It’s a wonderful quote. If we start removing those pieces, each thing I’m talking about is getting us a percent here and three percent here and two percent there. I can give you five more, but I think you’re getting the drift of it.

Pete Mockaitis
I am, I think, getting the drift of it. I imagine you’ve given me the biggest percentages already upfront. Is that fair to say?

Rob Jolles
It depends on the mood that I’m in. It actually depends on the person because when you’re communicating, for instance, if you just pay attention to your transitions – so many people will micromanage the body of whatever they’re communicating about, particularly presenters. If they actually micromanage the transitions and stuck their landing in the end and spent 90% of their time on the opening, they would increase their credibility.

Again, because it’s percentage plays, each percentage move will fit a different customer a different way, but yeah, I’m not wasting your time. I’m giving you ones that I think really resonate and I see get a big bang for the buck for most of the people that I’m working with.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh great. Now, I just want to make sure I got the transitions point clear. You’re just saying if you’re doing a presentation or a speech, you want to give some extra attention to how you’re transitioning from one section to another instead of fumbling or being awkward during those moments?

Rob Jolles
Yeah, I did chuck that one in from left field, didn’t I? Absolutely. I train a lot of speakers. The irony is usually that the core of most presentations have oftentimes, particularly for corporate America, but oftentimes they’ve gone through a legal read. We can’t really change them all that much.

What makes a great communicator and an average communicator? It’s not the body of the message. It’s them coming out of the gate with an interesting story and idea, really addressing what’s in it for the client. Thinking out the beginning.

But to get right at what you just asked, the transitions, yeah, we probably have three or four major points. If I really think those out – I’m not a guy who believes in scripts – but if I actually write them out, maybe back them down to a Word outline, if I spend my time working on how I’m going from Point A to Point B and sewing that body together, as I said, coming out of the gate strong and sticking my landing, closing strongly, yeah, I’ll probably give one of the best presentations I’ve ever given. But it has very little to do with memorizing the body. That’s not where success lies.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s interesting because the big chunks one, they may be unmovable because of legal review, two, you probably remember them just because one thing leads to another. “This is the story about how I formed an accountability group in college.” Hey, that’s one chunk and I know it. We’ll go and make it happen. But what I don’t know so much is how I’m going to move from maybe that piece to how friendship is important.

Rob Jolles
By the way, that’s the way most people do it. They’ll go … “Friendship is important,” but when they transition with, “We all have these different pieces I just mentioned, but there’s one piece that we don’t pay attention to and that’s friendship. You see, friendship is important,” something along that line so that it’s effortless. When people walk away they go, “Boy, that was really good.”

Now look, we could spend our time talking about presentations. I’m going to involve that audience. The more they talk, the more they typically like and trust that presenter. I’m going to do other things, but it’s the transitions even when we communicate and are not giving presentations.

What if we’re just in front of somebody giving a proposal, what if we’re having a conversation and we want to get the three major points, it’s that smooth transition as opposed to that bumpity, bump, bump, bump. It sounds like Pete wanted to talk about this one. That’s the one I want to avoid. That doesn’t sound authentic. We circle back to our topic, which is why people don’t believe you because it’s not sounding authentic.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh certainly. I get a real kick out of when the transition is too, “So, can I have your money?” and it’s done poorly. It’s like, “Oh, you poor guy. Well, I’m already on board with your vision, so it’s fine, but-“ Okay, awesome. Let’s dig into a little bit of this now. Believing in yourself, that sounds classic and helpful and essential, but in practice, if your belief in self is moderate, like “Yeah, I can do a decent job most of the time I guess,” how does one elevate that?

Rob Jolles
Yeah. Did you ever see there was a commercial done years ago by FedEx? It’s actually on YouTube. You can find it online. It was called The Stolen Idea.

It deals with a boss who’s asking for ideas. One guys says, “Well, we could probably save money by putting all our shipping in one area and using FedEx.” You could hear a pin drop. Five seconds later the boss says, “I’ve got it. We can put everything in one area. We can use FedEx to do it all. That’ll save us on shipping.” Everybody goes, “That’s brilliant.”

The guy says, “You just said the same thing I said only you did this,” and he’s moving his hands horizontally. The boss says, “Nope, I did this,” and he moves his hand vertically because that was his gesture. I actually look at that commercial and I think that’s our jumping off point. Yes, I know what FedEx was after and shame on that boss for stealing that idea. But we need to teach people how to do this. This matters. That moving of the hands, that really matters.

To me, it’s a matter of kind of oftentimes finding your real voice. Not finding some voice you saw on television or who you heard on a podcast, but finding your real voice.

I don’t know last time you’ve been on a plane, but when you’re on a plane and the flight attendant starts speaking, you think “It’s funny, he or she was just here. We had a nice conversation. But now I’m hearing this really weird singsong ….” That’s not a real voice.

Why is it that a lot of times when we’re presenting or when we’re under pressure, we start going after this I guess the voice we thought we were supposed to have? Nobody wants that. People just want to believe. They want that to be authentic.

I always look at people and I think, if we were two people having a beer or having a cup of coffee, would you still talk and walk and behave this way or would you just drop all that and have a conversation? It’s really about finding that real voice. Honestly, you don’t have to look that far.

I’ll whisper this to presenters right before they go on stage when they’re a little bit tight. The last words I’ll typically tell somebody is, “If you were walking into your living room, what would you feel and how would you take that stage? That’s your living room. Now go enjoy yourself.” Forget all that other nonsense. In the living room, it’s pretty easy. Well, that’s all the audience wants. Whether it’s 50 people, 500 people or 1 person, they’re in your living room. Go have a conversation. We don’t need anything but authenticity.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s funny when you say the living room, my first thought is, “Well, I’m taking off these dress shoes and putting on my slippers.”

Rob Jolles
Well, I knew a presenter who was actually very successful. Now this was in the ‘90s. But he was a finance person and a finance specialist, which already you think, “Well, okay. Here’s comes that big old suit.” But he would take his shoes off when he went on that stage.

It was kind of his shtick. It was like George Burns smoking a cigar or something. This was his shtick. He was the guy who would take his shoes off. But it worked for him. It wasn’t shtick. I got a chance to speak to him a couple times and he just wanted to get to a place where he was as comfortable as he could be because then he could take that communication and make them as comfortable as they can be.

Last thing about that, but it’s really important to understand that an audience really they want to enjoy themselves. They want you to be successful. The best way to make an audience uncomfortable is for you to be uncomfortable.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s very true.

Rob Jolles
Then they feel badly for you and then they have a problem. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Right, yeah. It hurts to watch somebody who’s bombing. They know they’re bombing. They’re nervous about bombing. It’s like, “Oh man.” It’s just fun to watch someone having fun. It’s like, “I’m not super into the content of what you’re saying, but it’s kind of enjoyable to watch you be into it. Yeah, take it away.”

Rob Jolles
Yeah, that’s the funny thing. If you think about some of the great – Johnny Carson or Jay Leno or Jimmy Fallon, what are some of the most enjoyable parts of the monologue or the conversation? When something bombs. They don’t put their head in their hand and they go, “Oh no. What happened here?” What they do is they just work with it.

The audience loves it because you didn’t make the audience feel sorry for you. You said to them in a sense, “I’m glad this happened. Let’s just work with it.” When you can take that with you and realize that what’s the worst happen, really just making them feel badly, so don’t. Away we go. It’s a lot easier up there than you think.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true. I think I made some references to maybe college audiences and they’re just like, “We have no idea what this.” I was like, “Oh, I guess I’m getting old.” They all just sort of – you can just sort of laugh about that. It’s like, “Yup, okay.” Then away we go. As opposed to “Oh, that’s so stupid. I shouldn’t have made that allusion. Look up the dates next time, Pete. Oh! Bad, bad, bad.”

Rob Jolles
You know something, Pete? You hit on something else that I think is actually really important.  When we’re not in front of people, and remember we’re talking about building credibility, believing in yourself, and then taking that to others.

Do you know – and my wife helped me with this one – do you know how innocently that inner voice starts chirping at you of “If you had half a brain, you would have remembered to bring this with you on the road.” “Hey stupid, don’t forget that.” Do you know that that’s a lot more dangerous than we give it credit? It doesn’t have to be in front of anyone. It can just be with ourselves. But you keep beating yourself up like that, you’re going to start believing it.

I really some years ago decided it’s not okay to make fun of me and to start moaning and whining and complaining about certain things. People forget things. I’m two and a half million miles in the air, believe me I’ve forgot things in my bag. But I’ve decided – and it really works and I think it works for others – to be a lot kinder yourself.

Stop chirping and beating yourself up about things. Just like we would talk about in front of an audience, be nice to yourself when there isn’t an audience in front of you too.

Pete Mockaitis
I’d love to hit that point real quick. If you are in that mental habit, how does one kick it?

Rob Jolles
Yeah. Well, the first thing we have to do is we have to go from unconsciously incompetent, which is “Hey, that’s okay,” or “I don’t even notice it,” to really starting to become aware of it. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the four levels of conscious behavior, but we start with unconscious incompetency, which is sometimes we don’t know that we don’t know. That’s a dangerous place to be.

Well, that’s why you and I are having this conversation because now maybe we’ll be on the lookout for it. As a matter of fact, just talking about it, I can assure you, there are many people who are listening right now will go, “I do that, but I don’t mean anything by it.” I’m telling you it’s a cancer. It grows. You don’t realize it. Let’s move you to conscious incompetency, which means I want you to be aware when you do it.

Then let’s move to conscious competency. I want you to be a little robotic and every time it accidently happens, I want you to stop and correct it. I know that’s a little bit stiff and weird. Until we become unconsciously competent, when we do it and we don’t have to think about it anymore. But it’s natural to be on that scale. The first thing is we have to remind ourselves it’s not okay. It is not okay.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. All right. Well, so now-

Rob Jolles
I said it’s not okay. Sorry.

Pete Mockaitis
That is not okay. I am now acknowledging what you said and moving to something new.

Rob Jolles
Okay. I’ve got to climb in through the window there. I was out there yelling at people. Okay, I’m back in. Let’s keep going.

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s talk about that process by which you take yourself back to a place in which you were successful and thusly you method act your way into having a high performance moment. In practice, what are the steps to make that happen?

Rob Jolles
Well, the first thing – I’m going to leave the corporation out. There’s a Fortune 500 company I’ve been working with on this. One of the things we did was, again, think method acting. What we did was we began to on a piece of paper create a character.

One of my favorite actors is Daniel Day-Lewis. I’m not sure he’s ever going to be in another movie again, but when he was – I don’t know if you saw Lincoln, but if you did, it was probably a little slower than you imagined. I knew it was going to be slow because I actually read a bunch of books on Lincoln and Lincoln wasn’t the most exciting person in the world. But on set, you had to call Daniel Day-Lewis either Mr. President or Mr. Lincoln. He doesn’t mess around.

When we’re talking, to answer your question, we’re talking about getting into character, sometimes we have to sit and actually think about that character. I did some acting earlier in my life. I remember the first play I was in I was Bennie Van Buren in Damn Yankees. I was supposed to play a 70-year-old. But I had a great director, who, by the way, I spoke to when I wrote this book and we talked about this.

I remember him saying, “What kind of car does Bennie drive? What kind of cereal does he eat? Tell me about his house. What’s his office look like?” What he was doing – at first I thought he was a lunatic. I don’t know. It’s just a character I’m playing. But he didn’t want me to learn the script. At some point I knew that character so well, I walked around, I was 70 years old in my mind.

What I do sometimes is actually get people on a piece of paper to begin to actually write out their character a little bit, not necessarily what kind of cereal do they eat, but tell me about your character. Perform some tasks in front of me like your character. Forget everything else. We clear the mind. We work on establishing a character.

Actually, for some people it will be three characters. It’s a more dominant character, it’s a more social character, and it’s a more analytical character. If you’re wondering why in the world I do that, it’s because I work with a lot of salespeople. We have to kind of mirror the character we see in front of us.

Maybe I’m very social, what if I’m talking to somebody who’s really dominant? Well, I’ll just play the role of a dominant person. Not so fast. You better understand – before you put that white glove on, you better understand that character, so we actually write it out and think about it. I actually give them simple questions, like a questionnaire. They begin to role play and really get in touch with that character. Then they can tap into it when they need it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, interesting. You’re mapping out upfront. You’re doing some role play there. We also had Todd Herman talk about his book, The Alter-Ego Effect. He recommended sometime putting on a blazer or glasses or something that sort of en-clothed cognition, sort of stepping into that all the more. That’s handy.

Then I’m also wondering is there some visualization or some key memories that you’re bringing up and how do you go about doing that part?

Rob Jolles
Yeah, that’s where we go into that piece about, for me at least, and remember, I frequently work with people who are selling. Look, what I’m trying to have them visualize are moments of dominance, moments of success.

It’s weird. I’m 26 years in business as a professional speaker and yet, just like everyone else, sometimes you’re as good as your last presentation, you’re as good as your last quarter and all of the sudden a speaker’s bureau threw three clients at me. I spoke to them on the phone. None of them wanted to hire me. What do you think I sound like on the fourth call?

What I’m trying to do is get to moments where when we do get three in a row, when we do knock it out of the park and somebody says, “Okay, now I have another client I want you to talk to.” That’s what I mean in terms of that visualization of “Okay, maybe I’m not there right now, but I can think back on when I was. What was I feeling like?” I sort of take myself to that moment.

Pete, it kind of comes back to that percentage play. I’m not guaranteeing you that we’re going to be successful right now, but I guarantee you this, having that mindset and being able to pull that memory down is going to pick up some percentage plays and that’s what I’m looking for. Again, it’s mental, but it’s there.

No one’s had a life of complete loss. It’s everybody. We win some; we lose some. We win some; we lose some. It’s when we lose some, a bunch in a row that all of the sudden the shoulders start to droop and we kind of start picking up the phone going in my mind, “I know this guy isn’t going to buy from me, but here we go.” That’s not going to work for anybody.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Thinking right back to the hot streak, the winning moments. That’s good. That’s good.

Rob Jolles
Well, it’s the winning moments. I keep pushing everything into sales, but in presentations a lot of times, particularly when somebody is new or somebody – I’ll also whisper in their ear, track record because maybe people who are listening right now have got 10 or 20 years under their belt, but maybe this quarter hasn’t been so good. Or maybe they haven’t given a presentation in a while or they’re being put in an awkward position.

What’s your track record like? Most people go, “Usually I’m pretty good at that.” Okay, again I’m looking for a couple percentage moves. To get the experience, how about we focus on what usually happens. Pete, when you have a podcast, what usually happens? When I’m a guest on a podcast, it usually goes real well. Not all the time, but usually goes real well.

I’m better off kind of focusing on my track record. That’s to me another kind of really great visualization. It’s simple and it’s easy.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Thank you. Well, tell me, is there anything that you recommend that we really don’t do? We’ve talked about the negative self-talk, not doing that. We talked about not stepping into who you think that you are supposed to be, but rather just using your own natural authentic voice. Any other top don’ts you want to make sure we highlight?

Rob Jolles
That’s a great question. I’m actually thinking of how I would address that. Yeah, I would say that I think we should stop being so fearful of dysfunction. We brought it up a little bit when maybe things don’t go well in front of an audience, but I think, again, whether it’s while we’re alone or whether we’re in groups, I like to tell people that I’m coaching or working with, let’s embrace that dysfunction a little bit.

Kind of going back to that limp a little bit, let’s remember that there’s only two types of people that don’t walk with a limp, that don’t have some level of dysfunction. They’re either not telling you the truth or they would have no ability to have compassion for another individual. Most of them really aren’t necessarily people I’d want to have as a client. I can tell you that much.

It’s funny, I wrote a piece one time where I said “knowledge is overrated.” Believe me, all the analytical practically followed me to the parking lot going, “Now what did you mean by that?” They were not happy.

I didn’t say it’s not important. I just said it’s overrated meaning as simple as it sounds, but I’m a guy that takes and has people record themselves, if we just work harder at asking questions and listening, if we just go a little easier on ourselves, if we embrace that dysfunction rather than run from it and understand, “That’s okay. That’s my limp. I’m not going to have trouble with it.” All those little pieces get us plays.

Just last real quick point, but I’m in a neighborhood where we’ve got a lot of dog walkers, including our Lilly, who we take for a walk. There’s not one but two dogs that are missing legs, a leg each. I got to tell you, it touches my heart because I look at them and I think I wish we were more like that because I promise, Pete, that dog doesn’t give a hootenanny that he’s missing a leg.

And neither does any other dog that’s walking by it. They’re sniffing. They’re curious where they might have been on that tree over there, but they don’t care. It’s not an issue. I wish we could learn lessons like that and remember that whatever it is and everybody’s got one, if it’s not a worry for you, it’s not a worry for the other dogs in the park. I promise you.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Well, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Rob Jolles
Yeah, I would say as strange as this conversation may have sound because we’re talking about some kind of wacky – once I said role and character, what is all that. I want to remind people they probably do this more often than they think.

An example I’ll give you is if you have children that you parent, don’t tell me that you don’t actually drop into role, meaning particularly for the younger ones, when they brought back a homework assignment that wasn’t quite right or something, we kind of look at our spouse and go, “Okay, I’ll go in there.” We play the role of disappointed. I’m actually not as disappointed. I love you so much. But for tonight Rob Jolles will be playing the role of disappointed.

I think we do that more naturally than we think. Where we explore this finding a character and getting into role, please remember there are times where we all play roles; you’re just not thinking about it as much. I want you to think about it. Then I want you to stop thinking about it again. But that would be the last thought I give you on that one.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Rob Jolles
I gave you one, which is “Worry is the misuse of your imagination.” Okay, now I’ll give you another one “We weren’t put on this earth to make a living. We were put on this earth to make a difference.”

It’s always meant something to me, particularly for a guy who – when I tell you I’ve got two and a half million miles in the air, Pete, part of you should smile and part of you should look concerned, meaning “Well, does this guy have a family? Does this guy have children? Does he get to a birthday party?”

I’m really blessed. I have a wonderful wife, Ronnie, who helped me realize that I was a little out of balance earlier in my career, and I’d never heard of that quote, nor did I take it to heart. But I really believe in balance. I’m no longer a 1K and that’s just fine by me. I think that we focus on that, things will go a lot better for us.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Rob Jolles
I’ll tell you a bit or research or a study. It kind of falls into an author I happen to like. He’s with my publisher, Berrett-Koehler. Name is Noah Blumenthal. But he studied – he wrote a book called Be the Hero, but he studied how easy it is for us to have negative opinions of others, particularly of others that have done us wrong, maybe a previous boss or a neighbor or somebody just that – the person at CVS, I don’t know, where it really rubbed us the wrong way.

He really got me thinking, and it’s really helped, that we really don’t know many of the people that we form opinions about. We really don’t know them that well. We create a scenario that’s usually very negative. Now that scenario might be right, but we actually don’t know whether it’s right or not.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Rob Jolles
I keep a journal. I’ve kept it for 22 years.
But what I found was by methodically being observant, which is a journal will do, because I will only write twice in my journal, on the way out and on the way back of a trip. I am almost OCDish. When we get to 10,000 feet, I’m putting a date and a location on that journal entry.

But it’s a tool that actually, particularly for the way back, that allows me to kind of figure out to stop, pause and in process say, “Okay, what do you think was working there and what do you think wasn’t working there?”

Like I said, I’ve been doing this 31 years, putting a mic around my neck and talking to audiences and yet, I want you to know Pete that I still want to get better and that means I still want to figure out “Okay, what did we do well? What can we improve?”

Very importantly, I always balance that feedback because I’ve said it too many times already, but this isn’t a beat-up session. A lot of times we undervalue taking time to figure out what we’re doing well, so we don’t do it by accident. But that’s been a tool. I probably have well over 3,000 pages of journal entries.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Thank you. Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks and they quote it back to you at times?

Rob Jolles
If you want to get at the most fundamental way to communicate, we have to ask questions and listen. That doesn’t just mean what you and I are doing right now or if we’re going one-on-one with a client or a prospect, even in front of an audience.

If you want to know what the amateurs and even the pros do wrong, if I put down the 20 biggest mistakes they make, 19 of them don’t equal number one, which is too much information and that means constricting the ability for that audience to communicate with you, even if it’s rhetorical questions.

But those little touches, those little “Turn to your left, look at that partner, and say three things here. Try two things there,” that ability to build a conversation as opposed to a lecture are very valuable. I would like to think that I’ve said it enough, that who knows, maybe people would associate that with me. I’d be proud if they did.

Pete Mockaitis
If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Rob Jolles
That’s an easy one. I would just take them to J-O-L-L-E-S.com that’s where you’ll find – I write something called a BLArticle. I am in my tenth year of BLArticles. That’s a blog-article. I just try – and by legal definition it’s 500 to 700 words. I just try and practice what we’re preaching, you and I, which is let’s not over communicate, but let’s provide value and drip out information. But anyway that’s where all sorts of information on me is.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Rob Jolles
Okay. Pete, you’re really coming at me. I like this. My final challenge would be I don’t care who you are, I don’t care what you think is out there holding you back; get out of your own way. Pete, you and I have hit it over and over and over again. Just be kinder to yourself, accept whatever limp you have, and I can assure you, you’ve got one. That’s okay. Don’t let it be a big issue. It won’t be with anybody else.

Go in there, again, the easiest way to find that authentic you is just get up there, wherever it is, tell the truth. If the truth is a struggle right now, double back and figure out – I’ve got to rebrand, I’ve got to do something, but I’ve got to find a way of telling the truth. If you solve that, then you’ve got it made. The rest is easy.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Rob, this has been a blast. Thanks so much for bringing it. I wish you lots of luck with your speaking and all you’re up to.

Rob Jolles
Oh, I appreciate it. Thank you so much. I’ve really enjoyed the conversation.

366: Mastering Conversations through Compassionate Curiosity with Kwame Christian

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Negotiate Anything podcast host Kwame Christian lays out the compassionate curiosity framework and how to apply it to negotiations with others and with yourself for any aspect of your life.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How and why to deal with our “inner toddler” in high-stakes conversations
  2. How being persuadable makes you persuasive
  3. Two key phrases for when you don’t know what to say

About Kwame

Kwame is a corporate attorney with a passion for using negotiation and the psychology of persuasion to help clients get the best deals possible. HisTEDx Talk, Finding Confidence in Conflict, was viewed over 24,000 times in 24 hours and Kwame also hosts the top negotiation podcast in the country, Negotiate Anything. The show has been downloaded over 250,000 times and is a resource for business professionals in over 140 different countries.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Kwame Christian Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Kwame, welcome back to the How to Be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Kwame Christian
Pete, thank you for having me. It’s good to be back.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m thrilled to be talking about your new book, but first I want to get a little bit oriented. You are a master expert at negotiation. I understand many of your lessons have come from negotiating with your three-year-old son. Can you give us a tale behind this?

Kwame Christian
Absolutely. Pete, you will be following in my footsteps shortly because you have a ten-month-old, so I know that you’re taking notes.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly.

Kwame Christian
This question is for you more than the audience. But, yeah, it’s been really fascinating. So, about me, I’m an attorney, but my background is in psych. I always wanted to be a psychologist, clinical psychologist. When we had Kai, my son, he’s three now, for me I was thinking to myself, this is a perfect opportunity to have a human to experiment on, so let’s play.

One of the things that I like about Kai when it comes to conflict management and my hostile negotiations with him every morning trying to get him to school is that, three-year-olds and toddlers, they are essentially unrefined humans. You are speaking to the most primitive parts of the human brain when you’re trying to break through a toddler’s tantrum.

For me as a mediator and an attorney, when I’m negotiating and mediating, I found that a lot of times, I’m dealing with a person’s inner toddler. They dress it up in professional language and professional dress and everything, but when it comes down to it, they’re not making decisions with the most evolved part of their brain. They are still responding with their base human responses that come from the limbic system.

And once I’m able to recognize that in other people, it makes it a lot easier and a lot less frustrating. I take my mornings with Kai as practice sessions. I use techniques with him, try it out with him, then I say, “Well, I wonder if I could do something similar with the people in these difficult conversations in my profession,” and shockingly, it works really effectively.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. So you say limbic system and raw human, so we’re talking just sort of about emotion, impulse, reflex stuff.

Kwame Christian
Exactly, exactly because the thing is when it comes to these difficult conversations, the brain structures I like to focus on are the amygdala, within the limbic system, and the prefrontal cortex within the frontal lobe. The limbic and the amygdala, that houses the base emotional responses, positive and negative emotions, but predominantly negative emotions.

That’s where your fight and flight response is and where the stress response is as well, the thing that leads to the pumping of adrenaline, the elevation of the heart rate, deeper breathing and trembling of the voice, all of that is controlled by the limbic system and the stress response.

Now the interesting thing about the prefrontal cortex, that’s where we have logical reasoning, executive function and those higher level thinking mechanisms in the brain, the interesting thing about that is that, that part of the brain doesn’t fully develop until you’re about 25, early to mid-20s. It develops fully in females faster than in males. I think the difference is 22 to 25.

But it takes a while for that part of the brain to be fully developed, so when you are talking to a toddler, you are dealing with somebody who does not have the cognitive capacity to truly reign in the limbic system, to really think at that higher level consistently because their prefrontal cortex and frontal lobe isn’t fully developed yet.

It’s an interesting cognitive challenge when you look at it that way versus “This is really frustrating. Why won’t this kid stop crying?” but if you think about it and put on a scientist hat and think about it from a psychological perspective, it becomes a fascinating challenge because you recognize which brain structure is active at what time. Then it allows you to walk that baby from irrational to rational.

You’re essentially doing the same thing in your difficult conversations because people respond emotionally and so your goal is to recognize, “Okay, they’re not thinking rationally right now, let me speak to that emotional side and then I’m going to start introducing more higher level arguments and speak to the logical part of their brain once I recognize that they’ve settled down.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, cool. You unpack a number of these things in your book. You’ve been a little bit mysterious with the title, but I understand you’re going to speak it aloud on the show here.

Kwame Christian
Yes, so the title of the book and what’s funny is I think your listeners might find out before my listeners podcast.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s how we roll here. It’s a scoop.

Kwame Christian
That’s right. This is a scoop. This is a big deal, people, big deal. The name of the book is Nobody Will Play With Me: How to Use the Compassionate Curiosity Framework to Find Confidence in Conflict.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, you say “nobody will play with me,” tell us, where does this come from?

Kwame Christian
Yeah, it’s an odd title for a negotiation and conflict management book. But with this book, my goal is to not just inundate you with a laundry list of psychological techniques and persuasive techniques. I think that’s been done and it’s already been done well.

What I’ve recognized through meeting my listeners and doing the TED talk and doing these workshops around the country is that the first barrier that people face is emotional, within themselves. What I recognize is that for years I’ve been giving recipes to people who are afraid to get in the kitchen. They don’t care so much about what to do if they’re too afraid to do it.

I looked back on my life and I recognized the same thing was true for me. I was a people pleaser. I found it very difficult to stand up for myself in difficult conversations. When I went through a bit of an introspective process to figure out where that came from. I recognized that the genesis was an incident on the playground in first grade.

Some background on me. I’m a first-generation Caribbean-American. I grew up in a small rural town in Ohio called Tiffin. Not surprisingly, there was not very much diversity in Tiffin. We looked different and because of our strong accent, we sounded very different. It was hard to fit in.

I remember one day in particular on the playground, it was during recess. I would go to a group of friends and say, “Hey, can I play with you?” and they said no. Then I went to another group of friends, same thing and another group, same thing. Then the recess bell rang and I just burst into tears. I felt so lonely.

I made a vow that day that this would never, ever, ever happen again. People are going to like me. I’m going to have friends. I’m going to be popular. By the end of school I accomplished my goal, I was one of the most popular kids in school, but what I recognized is that oftentimes, our greatest strengths are hiding our greatest weaknesses.

That incident made me a people pleaser. When I was confronted with opportunities to engage in conflict, I would turn away because I said I worked too hard to get all these friends, I’m not going to risk it. I’m not going to jeopardize these relationships.

The book chronicles really how I was able to get over this fear of difficult conversations through the fundamentals of cognitive behavioral therapy that I did on myself. I guess I never made it to be that clinical psychologist that I always wanted to be, but I was my only patient. I was my one and only patient.

I walk the readers through how they can find confidence in conflict even if they are conflict-averse. Then at the end of the book, I share a single powerful technique that you can use in any negotiation from the kitchen table to the boardroom.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, of course, I can’t let that one just go. What is it? What is this powerful technique?

Kwame Christian
Yes. This technique is called compassionate curiosity. It’s a generally applicable approach. Like I said, the reason I wanted to do this is because when you inundate somebody with a bunch of different techniques, it might make sense logically to them, but when they’re in the heat of the moment, they’re not going to go through this laundry list of options to figure out which would be most persuasive in this moment.

I wanted to create something that could be used on the fly no matter what the conversation is, if you’re at work, or you’re having a difficult conversation with your wife, you can use it in that situation. The technique is, first, you acknowledge emotions. Second, you get curious with compassion. Third, you engage in joint problem solving.

What makes this unique is the fact that this same framework can be utilized in the external negotiation that we’re all familiar with, the conflict that’s on the outside with the other person, but also, before you engage in the conflict internally, where you acknowledge your own emotions, where you get curious about what you believe, why you believe it, why you want what you want, and then joint problem solving.

This begs the question, joint problem solving, who are the parties here because I’m in my own head.

Pete Mockaitis
I thought you were talking about marijuana. This begs the question, joint problem solving, like “Where’s he going with this? Where’s he going? Okay.”

Kwame Christian
I’m in Ohio, so that’s not happening here. Maybe in Cali, but not here.

But um, with that third step, internally, what that looks like is you’re negotiating with yourself and you’re bringing your heart and mind together to figure out a solution that works for you. Because a lot of times there might be a solution that makes sense economically, but then you look in the mirror and you hate yourself for making that deal, you don’t feel like you should have conceded.

A good deal will have something that it works for you substantively. It serves your needs, but also it’s something that you can live with emotionally. If you make a deal that makes sense logically, but really breaks you inside, it’s not a good deal. I want people to think through that thoroughly before they engage in the external negotiation.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, cool. Could you give us an example of how that might unfold in practice?

Kwame Christian
Absolutely. And so I think about this as a mediator. I see this all the time. As a mediator, it gives me an opportunity to put myself in the unique position where I’m right in the middle of a conflict. I have a really good idea of what’s going on one side and a really good idea of what’s going on on the other side. They’re honest with me. They tell me what’s going on and what they need.

Sometimes they might get an offer and their attorney might say, “This is a really good deal. Given the likelihood of success in litigation, I think we should accept this offer.” Now, essentially that is the logical part of their brain talking. The attorney in this situation represents the logical part of their brain. He or she is saying this works, financially this works, legally this works.

Speaking as an attorney, attorneys are very risk averse. If there’s a way to get a quick win and avoid a loss, then they’ll do that. Settlement is typically the best option.

But then, if you take a moment and look at the party, you can see that it’s breaking them up inside. It doesn’t work for them. Even though it makes sense and they cognitively, logically understand that this is the best deal, they know that if they go home and they take that deal, one month later, six months later, two months later, they’ll look in the mirror and lose a little bit of respect for themselves because they feel like they capitulated.

And so, that’s a situation where the person should take a step, think about it, and then push a little bit harder because if it’s a situation where it won’t bankrupt you, you’ll survive if you roll that dice and lose in litigation, I think when it comes down to the way you look at yourself and your level of respect, you don’t want to capitulate when it’s a situation where you care about it or it means more to you than just the money and the legal exposure.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. Okay, so then, you’re sort of highlighting the different areas there. The curiosity then is when you’re kind of asking those questions in terms of what’s underneath it, what’s behind it, sort of what’s going on deep down there. So that’s intriguing.

Then I guess if you’re the mediator there, you’re going to need to come about that understanding of where the other person is coming from as well so that you can find a new deal that is workable for everyone.

Kwame Christian
Exactly. Exactly. For me as a mediator, it’s tough to skirt that line. If there’s an attorney representing the party, then I would kind of step back and let those two have the discussion. But oftentimes when the party is unrepresented and they’re trying to handle it themselves, I’d have them think through it, so even if they say yes, I’ll test it.

I say to them, “Okay, now I understand that this is a deal that makes sense for you and you’re thinking about accepting this deal, but let me ask you a question, let me have you think about it from this angle. Now, if you take this home to your spouse and you let your spouse know about the outcome, what would they think about it? How would they feel? Okay. Why would they feel that way?”

Now after you get that reaction from their spouse. Now imagine they say “Oh the spouse would be really upset. They would be frustrated. They’d feel like I gave away the farm.” Then I said, “Okay, after you get that response from your spouse, how would you feel about that deal six months from now? Would you feel good about yourself?” Then they’d say, “No, I wouldn’t feel good about myself at all.”

Then I say, “Well, do you think this is a good deal still?” They would say, “No.” Then I say, “All right, let’s consider your financial situation, what you’re looking for, your interests and the legal exposure we’re dealing with. What is the counter proposal that will work for you?” They’ll come back with something a little bit more aggressive and that jives with what’s happening inside of them.

Because one of the things we need to recognize is that emotions are valid. So we can’t just try to turn ourselves into automatons and just make cold callous calculations. That’s simply not the way we operate. Those emotions are going to be there festering under the surface whether we want them to or not.

I say when it comes to the decision making process before and during the conversation, we need to constantly have that internal negotiation to make sure that the outcomes or the solutions that we consider and propose are really in line with our substantive and emotional interests.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that’s good stuff. So that’s in the lawyer world. Are there other instances in the course of just sort of natural thinking, decision making, sort of life planning and executing where you see some real common mismatches between the logical and the emotional?

Kwame Christian
Absolutely. You see it at home at the time, all the time. It might be a situation where you’re trying to decide where to live. You and your spouse might be deciding where to live. You have an option of living in a densely populated urban area. You’re in Chicago, so let’s say Chicago. Or you could move out to the suburbs and give yourself a little bit more space, reduce stress, reduce workload, etcetera, etcetera.

There are going to be a number of competing interests. If you were somebody who grew up in Chicago and maybe you grew up in a rougher side of Chicago, maybe you say “That upbringing made me tough, made me strong. I learned a lot. I didn’t just have book smarts, but I had street smarts. I would prefer – because of that I want to raise my child in more of a densely populated area.”

And so then, you have to a serious conversation to see within yourself before you have the conversation with your spouse to make the decision and really dig deeply into it because sometimes the emotions are legitimate and they would be long-lasting, but sometimes you recognize within yourself, “Oh, now I see why I feel this way. It’s not legitimate. It’s purely emotional in a way where I’m willing to let it go.”

For instance, I was talking to one of my friends. I did an episode where we had a sparring session, like a mock negotiation. It was me and my guest. I was playing the role of a parent and she was trying to – she was my spouse and she was trying to convince me not to spank the children. I said, “Well, I’m a Caribbean-American. I was spanked and I’m tough. My family was spanked and they did really well, so I want to continue the tradition.”

My friend told me that after he listened to that episode, it hit him that the only reason he wanted to spank his kids was because his family was from Africa and his whole family was spanked growing up. That was just the tradition. But then as an academic, when he looked back and made that determination for himself looking at the literature, he realized it wasn’t something that he wanted to do.

I’m not saying that as an indictment of spanking at all, I’m just saying that as an example of how the introspective process can lead to some unexpected results. Once you recognize the genesis of some of your emotional stances, then it leads you to question it and it could lead to the opposite, you could say, “Oh, this is legitimate. This isn’t going to go away. I need to actually take this into consideration in the decision-making process.”

But what I’m finding, and the reason that I want to include this in the book, is because I found that most people don’t think through things thoroughly before they engage in the difficult conversations. They have this conflict or this negotiation and they are discussing it feverishly when in reality, they don’t have a good understanding of what they really want or why. That leads to really poor outcomes a lot of times in these difficult conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
What I loved about the spanking example is that it really does have some emotion as well as data. I haven’t looked at all the data on spanking in great detail, but I’ve browsed a couple studies.

I would have a hard time I think myself just doing it. If the research showed that spanking was the best means of making your child a success, I’d be like, “Okay, this is kind of hard for me to do, but I guess I’ll suck it up.” I think it packs an emotional charge. We talk about your steps there in terms of you know, one, acknowledging the emotions. I think if you go there then it totally makes sense how that gets you onto sort of a level ground for having the conversation.

Because if someone is thinking, “My family spanked me and they were spanked and we are all great,” and then someone comes hard charging, “Well, take a look at these seven peer-reviewed studies and the outcomes associated with children who are spanked,” it’s just like, “Yeah, well that’s just a bunch of academic mumbo jumbo. How applicable is that to the real world?”

Right, so I think you sort of instantly probably catch some resistance as opposed to when you sort of acknowledge the emotions and have that curiosity associated with where it comes from, then it’s like, “That is kind of interesting. I guess that is where it comes from and how we operate. But a lot of families didn’t do that and they worked out fine, so I guess we’ve got a choice to make here.”

That’s really cool how if you take the time to go there, you’ll save time talking until you’re blue in the face about all your awesome data.

Kwame Christian
Exactly. Here’s the thing too. What studies have found is that people come to decisions, come to conclusions and opinions with their emotions first and then subsequently justify that with logic. It’s a reverse process because typically we think that we are well reasoned people and we come to these conclusions because of our reasoning, but it’s the opposite way.

For example, let’s stick on the spanking example because for me, if I were having that conversation with my wife and I didn’t prepare at all, I’d say, “No, I want to spank.” Then she says, “Here are these peer-reviewed studies,” I would be ill-equipped to have that conversation because I didn’t realize before the conversation that the singular reason why I wanted to spank was because of my upbringing, that’s it.

But the thing is as the conversation went, if I would have not taken the time to confront that beforehand, I would have said, “Well, all of my family is successful.” That’s an excuse really. That’s a rationalization that came after I already came to that conclusion. It makes it better for you to operate in these conversation because one of the keys to being persuasive is being persuadable.

In those conversations if you are willing to come to terms with the fact that, “Oh, I might be wrong and maybe the best thing for me, the other person and the situation as a whole is for me to adjust my position,” then that puts you in a better position to persuade this person in another situation too.

One of the things I mention in the book is I want you to consider this like relationship chess. It’s not just a short-term situation where I’m trying to be persuasive in this particular conversation and get this win. It’s over the lifetime of this relationship, how can I put myself in the best position to be as persuasive as possible and maximize value for me and the other person.

When you think about it that way, it broadens your perspective and you can see how coming to terms before the negotiation that, “Oh, I might actually be wrong,” that’s beneficial in the grand scheme of things.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so much good stuff. Thank you. It resonates. It’s funny, when you talk about the emotion and then the rationalization. It’s interesting over the last few days – this just happened to me, so – I’ve taken a fancy lately to the website WireCutter.com, if you’ve ever been there.

Kwame Christian
Ha, yes.

Pete Mockaitis
But I just love is how – I tend to research products super thoroughly myself on Amazon and then I like it that they do that and then take it all the further in terms of “Well, we got the top ten rated things and we played with them all for hours and hours and here are our conclusions.”

I just sort of bumped into them talking about a multi-bit ratcheting screwdriver. They just sort of sang its praises in such great detail and how it’s vastly superior to all these other multi-bit ratcheting screwdrivers.

Even though I already have a screwdriver set, I just wanted it, partially just because I love excellence and the way they spoke of it was so glowing as it being vastly superior to the others and how ratcheting has its advantages. I spent like three or four days – not all day, but in idle moments – just sort of thinking about under what circumstances would I really need ratcheting in a screwdriver.

Then just today I came to the thought, well, I’ve got these blinds that I’ve been kind of dragging my feet on putting up and part of it’s because it’s unpleasant kind of shove your hand in those weird, awkward corners where there’s furniture and stuff in the way. Then you keep slipping out of it. Then you’ve got to get back into the screw.

Versus if I had a ratcheting capability, then that would make it so much easier and remove my resistance and we could get these things up and it could very well save me time if there’s just one screw that I don’t strip and have to take a trip to the store, that time savings is going to pay for itself.

I just bought it today. I did not need to spend $26 when I have screwdriving capability in my life, but I had a desire and then I found a reason. I don’t regret it, but I do see what’s happened to me here. I can be honest and humble about it.

Kwame Christian
This is brilliant. This is a great example. I like your honesty first of all with how you came to the decision because you admitted it was an emotional decision and then you worked hard to find a way to legitimize that decision. Let’s do a little role play. I’m your wife. Now we’re married. I’m gorgeous.

Pete Mockaitis
You sure are.

Kwame Christian
Pete, congratulations.

Pete Mockaitis
And you want to spank my kids.

Kwame Christian
Let’s say my goal here to stop you from buying this thing. Now, thinking about it on the external side we can see how the compassionate curiosity framework is beneficial because if I, as your wife, just focus on the fact, the truth, the reality, the logical conclusion that we do not need this, she’s speaking to the wrong part of the brain because it’s not the logical part of the brain that made that decision.

That’s why when it comes to sequencing the compassionate curiosity framework, it goes from acknowledge emotions to compassionate curiosity to joint problem solving because we recognize that you need to start with the emotions first.

Once the emotional side is addressed, then we can move to curiosity with regard to the substance of it and digging deeply into your motivations and why really you need it. Then we can work together to come up with a solution.

But we don’t start talking about solutions first because that talks about logic and practicality and things like that. And you’re not ready for that. We need to address that emotion, which in this case is actually positive, that desire.

I’ve seen the trend here because you said you admire excellence. The name of your podcast is How to be Awesome at Your Job. For me, as your wife, I would say, “All right, I understand that you have a need for higher level things and the best things in life.” Maybe what I would try to do is give you that same emotional satisfaction in another way that still protects us from that expense, but still at the same time gives you that validation that you need to find a win-win in that case.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that you’re kind of working with the same emotional pathway, you might kind of work with painting a picture of how there is excellence in using simple tools that you’ve already got and paint a picture of how, play some country music and, take your sweet time using the tools you have and enjoy doing an excellent job with what you’ve got.

That in its own way is a form of excellence with fiscal responsibility and resourcefulness. You’re using what you’ve got because you’re so smart at doing that and being creative. You’re like MacGyver.

I dig that. I think that’s intriguing too if you think about all the little decisions we make all the time with regard to our logic versus our animalistic or limbic desires. I’m thinking about it like, “I want pizza.” It’s like, “I want that delicious pizza,” so you’ve got that desire. But you realize, “Well, that pizza probably has twice as many calories as I really need to be satisfied and nourished and I would like to drop some pounds.”

There you have it. Classic. Logically, eating that pizza does not help me attain my goals, but emotionally I want it. Right then and there it seems like we can apply this framework to sort of talk yourself off the pizza ledge. How would that play out?

Kwame Christian
Exactly. It’s fascinating because you’re spot on. The compassionate curiosity framework, especially internally can be used in every single situation because we’re constantly making decisions. What they found is the vast majority of our decisions happen automatically.

In this situation, you might just find yourself with the pizza and you’re done with the pizza and now you’ve reached a level of sanity that came with your satisfaction. It’s like, “Oh, how did I get this pizza?” Well, you made that decision automatically, emotionally.

Walking you through that framework, what it could be is this. I’ll kind of put myself on the spot too. It might be a Friday night and then I say, “All right, I’m getting pizza.” That’s the conclusion I’ve come up with.

Then I stop and I say, “Okay, step one, acknowledge emotions. What is it?” “Well, I’m happy. I’m with my family. I feel good. That’s what I’m feeling right now. That is my emotion.” “Okay, well, why do you feel that way?” “Well, I remember growing up watching TGIF with my family and it feels so good. That’s why at this moment on Friday evening, I feel that good.”

“Okay, so now where does pizza come in?” “Well, every Friday I remember sitting down and my family would order AJ’s Pizza and we would eat this pizza.” “Okay, so what does your heart really want? Your heart wants connection with your family and to enjoy that warmth and accepting caring feeling that comes with spending time with the family.

But substantively, what does your body need right now because you and your wife set a goal to hit a certain body fat percentage by the end of the month and this is antithetical to those goals, so is there another way we can get that same feeling, that same emotional feeling by doing something else?”

Then you say, “You know what, maybe what we can do together as a family instead of eating pizza is sitting down – is coming up with a recipe and as a family creating a healthy dish and then sharing that together.”

Pete Mockaitis
There we go. Certainly. That’s sort of based on a warm family connection kind of emotional vibe. I’m wondering if the desire is even a little bit more simple. It’s like, because pizza is delicious and it’s greasy and crunchy and chewy and flavorful all at the same time. That is what I long to have at this moment.

Kwame Christian
Yeah, and I think a lot of times when we feel emotions as a Western society, we’ve gotten into that almost societal habit of addressing that emotion with food. If I’m sad, I’m going to eat comfort food. If I’m happy, I’m going to eat comfort food. If I’m bored, I guess I could eat something too.

When it comes to the habit structure when you think about Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, the anatomy of a habit is trigger, behavior and reward. What’s funny is when food especially, there are multiple triggers that could be opposing triggers, happiness and sadness both could lead to pizza in the same way. Like you said, it might not even be something as elevated as oh, warmth and family time. That’s great. It might just be a trigger or a deeply ingrained habit.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, well, fascinating stuff. Well, boy there’s many things I wanted to get into, but we’ve already having so much fun with so much time.

Let’s talk about the fear and confidence dimension associated with going into some conversations with folks. Like you sense that there’s going to be conflict, a difference of opinion on a matter and so you’re feeling fearful. What do you suggest for tapping that fear and boosting the confidence? We got sort of one useful tool to engage in the conversation, but sort of getting your mindset right before you step in. How do you recommend we do that?

Kwame Christian
I’ll answer it two ways. Right before you step in, what I would do is I would focus on your why. What is the purpose of the conversation? When you think about the system of roots beneath a tree, sometimes, depending on the tree, the root system can go down 20 feet into the ground and spread out 40 feet away from the trunk of the tree. That’s why it is so well rooted. It’s not moving.

We have to think about our reasoning, our purpose in the same way. If fear is something that you struggle with, you need to find a reason for the conversation.

An example is I was coaching an executive at a non-profit one time and she was struggling to make the difficult asks when it came to funding for the non-profit. She said “I just don’t feel comfortable in these conversations. I don’t feel like asking. I feel like I’m annoying people.” I said, “All right, can you tell me about why you do this?” She talked about the mission and how important it was to her.

I said, “Can you think of one person, one child that you’ve helped that stands out to you?” She said, “Yeah, I can think of one. His name’s Mark. He had this story,” and she told me the story. I said, “Great. Here’s what I want you to do. Before you make any of these fundraising calls, I want you to take a picture of Mark and I want you to look at it and remember the impact that your mission had on his life, his life and his family’s life. Then I want you to make that call.”

After she did that she was able to push harder without that fear. Let me say it this way, push harder without letting the fear get in her way. The reality is in a lot of these situations, that fear and anxiety, that feeling is still going to be there. But it’s not about, again, muting these emotions and putting them away because that’s often unrealistic.

What it’s really about is finding unique ways to still accomplish what we need to accomplish in spite of those fears. If you have a conversation coming up right now, that’s going to be one of the keys.

Now, going forward what I would suggest doing is finding unique ways to put yourself in positions of difficult conversations because you need to engage in what I call rejection therapy. There was popular TED talk I think by the same title or 100 Days of Rejection was the TED talk.

Essentially it’s exposure therapy, how people get over phobias. You slightly expose yourself to a difficult conversation, like a small one. Then the next day you do another one. You find these opportunities and then as you start to do that, you’re going to find yourself becoming a little bit more comfortable in the difficult conversations.

The last one is reconceptualizing your opinion of the fear that you’re feeling. Essentially this is the cognitive reappraisal thing. What you’re doing is you’re feeling this physical sensation of fear, so maybe for you it’s heart rate and perspiration. That’s what it is for you. That’s how you know you’re afraid. Well, over time what you want to start doing is attaching that physical response to another positive emotion.

For me, even though now with these workshops I travel the country doing the negotiation and conflict management trainings, the reality is I’ve been terrified of public speaking, just absolutely terrified. To this day when I speak in public, I still have that fear response, but through the process of cognitive reappraisal I feel the exact same thing but I label it as excitement. I see this as an opportunity, so now I’m going to move toward it.

Psychologically we’re always thinking about things in terms of approach or avoid. Most likely with the fear and anxiety that people feel with difficult conversations, they are avoiding the difficult conversations. So by figuring out your why in that specific conversation and then recognizing conflict as an opportunity, those two things in conjunction will make it more likely for you to approach the conversation with more confidence.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Thank you. Now I want to get your take on when it comes to the actual word choice that you’re using, do you have any favorite scripts or phrases or things you find yourself saying again and again that are just super handy tools in your back pocket.

Kwame Christian
Absolutely. It’s funny you say that because one of the things that my listeners said was an issue was that sometimes in the conversations they don’t know what to say. “I just don’t know what to say. Can you help me there?”

What I recognized is that a lot of times when you don’t know what to say, it’s a signal that you probably shouldn’t be saying something. You shouldn’t be saying anything. You should be asking a question because you don’t know what to say because you don’t know enough. Your goal at that moment is to learn something. In those moments what I do is I ask questions.

My favorite kinds of questions start with what or how. These are open ended questions that are designed to solicit information and get them talking. I also like to use ‘tell me more about blank’ or ‘help me to understand blank.’ Those two open-ended statements are thing that I go to a lot of times when I just simply don’t know what to say.

They’re really simple and they get the other person talking, which gives you more information and as we know, knowledge is power. It gives you more power and confidence in the negotiation. It also gives you time to regroup because while they’re talking, you’re listening, but you’re also gathering yourself and figuring out what’s next. I would say the two go-to phrases that I use would be ‘tell me more about this, blah, blah, blah,’ or ‘help me to understand this.’

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely, thank you. Tell me Kwame, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Kwame Christian
Absolutely. Well, yes, the book this week is going to be on sale for 99 cents just for this week. If you’re interested in getting the book and figuring out conflict-wise what you can do better and how you can get more confident, this would be the week to do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool. All right. Got it. Now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Kwame Christian
Yes. There’s a difference between what people often think about negotiation and what negotiation really is. My quote is “Negotiation is not the art of deal making. It’s the art of deal discovery.” You’re going together to come and have a conversation to see if a deal exists, not try to force one if it doesn’t.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool, thank you. And how about a favorite study, or experiment or bit of research?

Kwame Christian
Yes, I will go to Stanley Milgram’s experiment on authority. This was a classic psychological experiment, back in the good old day before ethics.

Pete Mockaitis
Ethics. When you could spank your kids and no one would judge you for it.

Kwame Christian
Exactly It was the Wild, Wild West. It was terrible. But we learned a lot from it. We learned a lot from this study. For those of you who don’t know, with the Milgram experiment it was on obedience to authority.

He had somebody come into a laboratory and what the person saw was this contraption that had different levels of voltage assigned to these switches. Then you had a man in a lab coat looking very authoritative and then a person on the other side of a curtain. You were to ask the person questions. If they got it wrong, then you shocked them. The level of shock was just increasing to dangerous levels.

I think it was a full 63% of the people who went through that study took it all the way to the end, where they thought the person was actually dead.

And so this is terrifying. You just come into a lab and some man in a lab coat says, “Shock this person,” and you’re hearing the voice of what you think is a person suffering. It was really a tape recorder. But 63% went all the way and shocked this person to the point where he stopped responding and they kept shocking.

That, no pun intended, is shocking. But it tells you just how powerful deference to authority is when it comes to persuasion. That’s why confidence for me is the thing that I focus on most in this book, how you can get confidence, because the simple act of carrying yourself with confidence is by itself persuasive.

If you can carry yourself in a way that lets people know that you are an authority, somebody to be respected, they are going to respond in kind. Even if you don’t know any substantive negotiation technique, if you were to just increase your ability to demonstrate confidence and be confident in yourself, it’s going to increase your negotiation outcomes.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite book?

Kwame Christian
Shameless plug. I guess it would have to be my book right now, since I’m promoting it. But I think the best negotiation book on the market right now is Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss.

Pete Mockaitis
That keeps coming up. We had him on the show. Voss was awesome. The book was awesome. Why do you love it?

Kwame Christian
I love it because it’s so practical. He took it from the ivory tower and brought it to the real world. I love the fact that when I read books written by folks from the CIA, FBI all, everything is just military grade practicality. If it doesn’t work in the field, then they don’t use it. Everything that we learn from him is readily applicable.

I remember in some of my negotiations with opposing counsel representing my clients, I decided there’s no way. It can’t be that easy. It can’t work. And just being shocked, just being shocked.

I think if I’m going to get really nerdy with the reason why I like it, it would be this. He was able to blend an approach that is assertive. Because when I had him on the show, I said aggressive. He said, “I prefer the term assertive,” so I’ll respect that. Assertive, but friendly.

One of the critiques of the collaborative negotiation model is that it’s a little bit too fluffy. In the real world if you go against a buzz saw, you’ll just get destroyed. With Chris’s approach to negotiation, he could take everything you have and make you like him through the process. It’s brilliant.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. You said you work with clients, you’re like, “It can’t be this simple,” what in particular were you doing that you found to be effective but surprisingly simple?

Kwame Christian
Yeah, so I remember with a lot of these negotiations, the simple response of “How am I supposed to do that?” adjusting your position at all, and so them to negotiate themselves is shockingly powerful.

If you can do it with the proper affect, where you’re friendly and not aggressive and not threatening, it’s powerful because there is an assumption that every time somebody counters your proposal or any time there is resistance, you need to then adjust your position, but what he showed is that no, you don’t. You can keep on implementing the same technique over and over and over again. Then eventually they’ll relent.

You’re really testing their resilience throughout the conversation. What amount of what they’re doing is bluster. Are you just saying you can’t do that or are you hoping that I will just believe that.

Then if you just challenge it and just keep challenging it and challenging it, it’s incredible to see even in these incredibly positional high stakes negotiations, like with me and opposing counsel or me sitting as the mediator, it’s incredible to see how effective that is when it comes to these difficult conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, let’s hear how you’d say “How am I supposed to do that?”

Kwame Christian
So just like that. That’s the crazy part about it, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
I always thought it would be a little bit more warm and fun like “Kwame, how am I supposed to do that?”

Kwame Christian
I would say it like this, if I’m talking to opposing counsel, I would say, “Well, first of all, Pete, I definitely understand where you’re coming from, but I represent a client here, so how am I supposed to do that? His interests are this, that and the other. How am I supposed to accept that?” Then silence. Then they start thinking, “Hm, that’s a good point, how is he supposed to do that?” It’s crazy.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Let me figure that out for you.

Kwame Christian
Right. I’m like, “All right, well you get back to me. I’ll be right here.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right, how about a favorite tool?

Kwame Christian
Tool. When we’re talking about tools, I would say honestly, the compassionate curiosity framework because I spent a lot of time trying to figure out and give voice to the technique that I use naturally. This is what it is. I like the flexibility of it. I like the fact when I am feeling that fight, flight or freeze, I have a go-to that I can utilize if I’m not cognitively at my best because the thing is it happens to everybody.

We all get flustered. We all find ourselves in a difficult conversation and we get heated and we feel our amygdala starting to take over and we feel the rush of adrenaline going through. We say, “Oh no, now I’m triggered. I can’t think straight. What am I supposed to do?” I know I can implement that technique in every single situation I find myself in. I use it as my North Star. I can always use it to gather myself.

Whenever I teach, whether it’s a procurement people or people in a leadership class or other attorneys, the compassionate curiosity framework is the basis. And then upon that base, we put on those other persuasive techniques, but in every situation, that’s going to be my foundation.

Pete Mockaitis
Tell me is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks as you’re teaching this stuff?

Kwame Christian
I think it’s the recognition of the importance of psychology. First of all to understand ourselves and what we’re feeling in order to normalize the situation so we know we’re not weird or broken or damaged. Then also when we extrapolate those psychological principles to the other side, it helps you to recognize, “Wow, this is why I’m having so much trouble in these conversations because I’m speaking to their logical side when it’s really their emotional side engaged.”

I think the point that really resonates with people is I say that it doesn’t matter how good of a point you make if they’re not in a cognitive state where they can accept it, where they can actually understand it. Just slow down and hold those points until they’re ready.

I think the biggest takeaway for people is patience. It’s okay to have these conversations about issues that are emotional in the business world because I think a lot of times people think it’s taboo, so they just go straight to substance, but they’re missing out on a lot of value when it comes to their ability to persuade by overlooking the emotional aspect.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Kwame Christian
Check out the Negotiate Anything podcast. That will be an easy one. I’m assuming your podcast listeners like listening to podcasts so that will be a good start. Then connect with me on LinkedIn as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Kwame Christian
Call to action this week, this time is going to be – it will be two things. First, check out the book on Amazon.

Second, take the opportunity to engage in these difficult conversations because the way I look at it, the best things in our life lie on the other side of a difficult conversation, whether it’s personal or professional, there is going to be a difficult conversation or a difficult person standing in our way.

We need to move toward these conflicts, not move away from them because when you think about it opportunistically, there is a benefit to these conversations, you just need to be creative and find it. Then once you do, utilize the compassionate curiosity framework to get the most out of it.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Kwame, this has been fun. I wish you tons of luck with the book and the podcast and all the stuff you’re doing.

Kwame Christian
Thank you. Likewise. And thanks for having me back on, Pete. I appreciate it.

341: Decoding Body Language with ex-FBI Special Agent Joe Navarro

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Joe Navarro shows how to get to the bottom of body language and why observing it can better your relationships at work and at home.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why it’s so hard to tell if someone’s actually lying
  2. Four key, reliable body language cues
  3. The one good mannered behavior everyone should know and use

 

About Joe

For 25 years, Joe Navarro worked as an FBI special agent in the area of counterintelligence and behavioral assessment. Today he is one of the world’s leading experts on nonverbal communications and lectures and consults with major corporations worldwide. He is an adjunct professor at Saint Leo University and frequently lectures at the Harvard Business School.

 

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Joe Navarro Interview Transcript

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

Joe Navarro
It’s great to be here, Pete. It’s a long time coming.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah. Well, I’m super excited that I’ve been a fan of your work from afar for a good long time, so now here we are. But first I want to hear about how you got a pilot’s license when you were 17. Is that even legal or what’s the backstory here?

Joe Navarro
I don’t know how you dug that up, but not many people know that. That’s true. It was a funny thing. A lot of people make fun of our school systems, public schools in particular, but I was fortunate to go to a public school where the science class that was offered was aeronautics.

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding.

Joe Navarro
No, it was great. It was in Miami, Florida and you could study ground school, basic ground school. I took that when I was 16. Then once I turned 17 then I could begin to take flight lessons and I did, which you say, “Well, what do you do with that?” Well, interestingly enough, when the FBI came looking for me that was one of the things that set me apart.

Pete Mockaitis
Interesting, so during your time in the FBI did you do some piloting?

Joe Navarro
Yeah. In the Bureau, you wear a lot of hats. The first four or five years, it was pretty much about learning the business of being an FBI agent, working counter-intelligence, but along about the fifth or sixth year there was a real shortage of pilots. We used aircraft for surveillance. They knew I had a license, so I did. I got somewhere around 2,000 hours.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh cool.

Joe Navarro
Yeah, it was pretty nice.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is cool. I have very little piloting experience, but I had a buddy who had a little four-seater Cessna in San Francisco. I’ve only piloted for like five minutes, but part of it was over the Golden Gate Bridge. It seems like that would be hard to top. It was just breathtaking.

Joe Navarro
Oh, it’s just a lot of fun. Once you get up to altitude and you can relax, you’re not worried about other aircraft, it really does give you a different perspective on the world. I used to take the airplane over to Miami Beach and fly along the coastline. It was – you’re 17 years old and you say, “This is pretty good. This isn’t bad.” Yeah, it was fun. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. You’ve written 13 books now and were a special agent with the FBI and are quite an authority on body language. I want to get into some particulars of body language signals and how to read it, what to do with it.

But first, I’d love it if you could set the scene for us with some drama. We had Chris Voss on the show. I’m just going to go out on a limb and say FBI agents make great podcast guests. Two for two so far. I asked him if he could give us a dramatic tale to kick us off, so I’ll put you on the same spot.

Can you think of a time where, boy, a body language signal or insight just sort of changed the whole story for an interrogation or an investigation or something you were working with?

Joe Navarro
Yeah. One of the books that I wrote was Three Minutes to Doomsday. In that book, I talk about this individual who was willing to cooperate or seemed to want to cooperate with the FBI, but he was hiding a lot of information. When we asked him to come forward and tell us the truth because he didn’t really have all the access to classified material that we knew had been stolen, he said he wasn’t going to reveal their names.

One of the things that we decided to do since we understood body language was to basically not trick him into revealing it, but getting him to reveal it at a subconscious level. What we did was we wrote the names of everybody that could possibly be involved on a three-by-five card. As we showed him each three-by-five card, we said, “Will you tell us a little bit about what their personality was like?”

What he didn’t realize was that when you see something that can hurt you, your pupils squint. His pupils and his eyes squinted on two names of the 32 that we presented. Then we sent agents out with the army to two military bases, one in Alaska, one in Georgia. On the two names that he squinted, both of them confessed.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh wow. That’s good.

Joe Navarro
What’s interesting, Pete, is he wasn’t lying. He said, “Look, I’m not going to tell you anything.” What he didn’t know was how he was going to react.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Joe Navarro
We know from studies of babies, eight – nine months old, when they see somebody they don’t like or they see something that is not pleasing to them, oftentimes they will squint, turn away, or their pupils will actually constrict.

Pete Mockaitis
I’ve got a little seven-month-old at home. I hope he doesn’t do that to me shortly.

Joe Navarro
No, that will come when they’re 14.

Pete Mockaitis
Daddy, I’m tired of you.

Joe Navarro
Pete, you’ve got 14 years.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh cool. You’re latest here is called The Dictionary of Body Language. How would you frame or position this one in terms of kind of the main idea and how does it kind of fit into your opus and the catalogue of the other books?

Joe Navarro
Well, that’s a great question, Pete. It was one of these things where when I wrote What Everybody is Saying, which became the number one-selling body language book in the world years ago. It’s been at the top for the last eight years. There were only 140 behaviors in there.

Two years ago I was talking to my agent, Steve Ross, at Abrams. He said, “I’m looking at your book.” I said, “Well, I hope you’re learning something.” He said – he kind of said, “Is that all there is?” I said, “No, that’s not all there is.” He says, “Well, how many behaviors do you think are important and we should know about?” I said, “Well, the problem is, is how do we write it? There’s many behaviors.” I said, “Let me look through my notebook.”

I’ve been keeping notebooks on behavior for years and years and years. I went through and I said, “Well, I’ve got about 600 in here.” He said, “Well, let’s talk about it.” We talked about it and then we reduced it down to just over 400 because some of them replicate because they’re similar behaviors.

He said, “Have you ever thought about writing a book, but making it like a field guide, where you can quickly look something up and there’s a paragraph and it says, ‘if you see this, then you can interpret it this way?’” He liked the idea. He took it to Harper Collins and Harper Collins said this would be a great follow-on to go from 140 behaviors to over 400. That was – there is your opus, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. That’s cool. That’s cool. So good. I loved What Everybody is Saying. I’m looking to forward to getting into all the more depths of The Dictionary of Body Language. Thank you for writing it. It’s just fun.

I’ve got a ton of things I’d love to dig into. Maybe I’d like to hear your take on – so when it comes to sort of gauging people’s true intentions, and I know that’s one of the juiciest areas of the body language stuff, it’s like, “How do I know when someone’s lying?” That seems to be popular for your poker books as well as maybe sort of untrusting partners or any number of contexts.

Why don’t we go with that first? How do you get to the bottom of people’s true intentions and whether they’re being honest with you?

Joe Navarro
I knew you were going to hit me with this because you always ask profound questions.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh shucks.

Joe Navarro
Let’s divide it up because when we’re talking about intentions, for instance, you’re talking to somebody and they’re right foot begins to orient towards an exit. Usually we begin to communicate, ‘I have to leave’ with our feet. Before they even look at their watch, before they say anything, we show intentions by foot orientation.

We show intentions such as ‘I really like that cake’ by literally leaning towards it. You see that in courtship behaviors. I’ve certainly sat at enough cafes and bars studying individuals and you can tell when they’re interested in each other.

But the more profound question is, well, what about detecting deception. I have to say both as someone who has been intimately involved in all aspects of forensic interviewing and in doing research for the books and for teaching that as Dr. Mark Frank at University of Chicago says, there is no Pinocchio effect. There is really no single behavior indicative of deception and we need to get away from that because we do a disservice to ourselves and to others.

I think it’s been too easy to say, “Well, I think you’re lying.” “Well, why do you think that?” “Oh, because I asked you a question and you were touching your mouth.”

Well, the fact of the matter is, both the honest and the dishonest do it and we do it because maybe we don’t like the question, we thing the question is too intrusive, maybe we think that you are not entitled to ask that question because of social status or whatever.

There’s – what I found interesting in doing an article for Psychology Today is I looked at the 261 DNA exonerations. As I delved deep and I contacted the people that had done the research, looked at the case work of the police officers, every one of them thought that the suspects were guilty and lying when they said they didn’t do it.

What’s interesting is not one police officer could identify who was telling the truth, but they all thought they could identify somebody that was lying. What does that tell us? What it tells us is that as Paul Ekman found in 1986, humans are terrible at detecting deception. We really shouldn’t be in the business of detecting deception.

Now, so what is it that we’re looking for? What’s interesting is, is that humans are actually very good at detecting when something is wrong, when there’s an issue. The question is we don’t know why.

Babies are born communicating comfort and discomfort. We humans immediately reveal discomfort through our bodies, whether it’s a heightened heart rate, a pulsing vein, pacifying behaviors, but what we don’t know is the why.

If I can tell you an FBI story, I was at – I worked mostly counter-intelligence. We were short of personnel one time and I was asked to do an interview of a white-collar criminal. This woman is called in and usually we spend the first 20 – 30 minutes getting people to calm down because obviously when you get called in by the FBI, it’s pretty nerve racking.

But as I’m talking to this lady, she seems to be demonstrating more and more behaviors of nervousness and tension. She’s biting her lip, she’s grabbing her collar, she’s squeezing her hands together. Finally, I said, “Ma’am,” I’m thinking to myself Joe, you’re the Bureau’s expert on body language, surely you know what’s going on here, so I thought I’d cut to the chase. This is a lesson in humility.

I said, “Ma’am, you look like you need to get something off your chest.” She said, “Oh, thank God Mr. Navarro because when I parked downstairs I only had a quarter in the meter.” Here were all the behaviors of nervousness and tension and anxiety, but what was the cause? The cause was she didn’t want to get a ticket, didn’t want to have to pay a fine.

As it turns out somebody had stolen her identity and filed some bogus claims, insurance claims and that’s why she was being called in. It was a – it really taught me a lesson about humility and saying all we can really say is that I’m seeing behaviors, they’re indicative of psychological discomfort. The question is what’s driving that.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Then what’s interesting is some people can just be anxious in general I imagine. That is sort of who they are all the time and they’re just not that comfortable in their own skin or talking to other people or talking to strangers or talking to official people like judges and FBI agents.

Joe Navarro
Oh sure. Look, and not even nervousness, there’s people who don’t like to make eye contact, that really feel uncomfortable being questioned and so forth.

The investigator has to look at that and say, “All right, who am I dealing with? What are the baseline behaviors?” Then if they do notice behaviors – I mean if you ask somebody “Where were you last night?” and if a question like that causes them to look like they’re doing trigonometry, the question then becomes, why does a simple question cause so much mental turpitude? Why is there so much cognitive loading going on? But then that’s for the investigator to figure it out.

As an agent, I can tell you that no matter what people said, we always had to prove what they said. It was a matter of if I asked a question, how did they react to that question. No matter what their reaction was, I needed to pursue it anyway.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Although, what’s cool though is with those 32 names because you got an indicator you were able to really accelerate that hypothesis, like we have a good reason to suspect these are the two to go after rather than going through all 32.

Joe Navarro
Right, well, it’s because I understood that when an object or a name or something is a threat to you, that you react to it. Now, what was important was not to give any indication of – that anyone of these individuals was any more special than the others. It was just a matter of what can you tell me about their personalities and then watching for their reactions. We lucked out with that.

Now, if the two men hadn’t confessed, certainly we couldn’t go to court and say, “Well, Judge, we think they’re guilty because this guy blinked.” It doesn’t work that way.

In the same way that when a child comes home and – or a spouse comes home and they’re having some sort of difficulty. Maybe it doesn’t help to ask any more questions at that moment. Maybe it helps to delay it to another time so when they’re relaxed you get a better read to find out, “Oh, is somebody bullying you at work or at school or somewhere else?”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Okay, so that being established in terms of it’s hard to know whether someone’s lying or deception, but rather you just kind of get a sense for what’s causing discomfort. I’d love to hear out of the 400-ish behaviors, what are some of those that are kind of like the most reliable, like, “Pete, over 90% of the time when I see this behavior, it tends to mean that thing.”

I remember from What Everybody is Saying, you said some things to say about feet and how it’s absurd that in interrogation rooms there are opaque desks and they need to be transparent so that we can observe their feet.

It was like this is a guy who speaks from experience because I’ve never seen anyone or heard anyone go on a rant quite like that. I dug that. Tell me is it the feet or what are some of the most reliable tell-tale things to look toward?

Joe Navarro
Well, actually one of them you just did. You did what’s called eyelid flutter.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh boy, what’s it mean?

Joe Navarro
Eyelid flutter we do when we are emphasizing something, when we feel negative about something, when we’re flustered by something. You were channeling me there quite accurately.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you.

Joe Navarro
When I wrote about interviewing and how you’re a paid observer and here you’re sitting for an interview and the person’s hiding behind a desk and you cannot even see their feet or their hands or their torso. I was like I cannot believe that you as a professional cannot see the object of the interview and they’re hiding behaviors that are critical.

As you were channeling that, your eye – you did the eyelid flutter. Eyelid flutter is very accurate when we’re struggling with something.

But you mentioned the feet and I think this is one of the things that was astonishing. There’s a really good section in the new book, The Dictionary of Body Language, dealing with the feet because I got so many questions over the years after I wrote that of people saying, “Well, is there anything more about the feet?” I said, “The feet are very accurate because they reveal our emotions and we tend not to hide them.

In the same way that we might do a social smile, the feet, if they don’t like you or if you don’t like someone, your feet will move you away from that person. You will immediately rotate away. If you’re excited and happy to see someone, you can hide a smile, but try to hide the feet of a child.

I was just at the airport the other day and a little kid arrived with a family. They were going to Disney. Every time the mother mentioned Disney World, the child’s feet were jumping up and down. She had happy feet. You can’t hide that.

Even with adults, poker players soon found out that you can see the happy feet of a player that has a monster hand just by the shirt shaking. The feet certainly have a lot of information.

You were talking about what are some of the more accurate significant ones. There’s another one that you do, which is great. It’s the gravity defying behaviors of the eyebrows.

Pete Mockaitis
I just did that before you – the first – we don’t have the video for the listeners. It’s fun that you started with the video. It should have occurred to me, of course he wants the video.

Joe Navarro
Yeah. Well, because it’s very instructive. You can see how excited you are about things because you arch your eyebrows and you go, “Well, what about this and what about that?”

Think about the times when you greet somebody and they arch their – they flash their eyebrows and they go, “Hey, how are you?” and compare that to other times when you greet someone but you don’t have those behaviors and you realize, “Oh, that just doesn’t feel the same. There’s something going on here.”

I often get this with – when – I’ve taught many clinicians over the years. They say, “A lot of times these couples come in and they say, ‘Well, I had no clue that she didn’t love me anymore or he didn’t love me anymore,’” I say stop right there. There were plenty of clues. You just didn’t see them. You just didn’t see them.

You didn’t see the eyes that never flash when they see you.  You never saw that two years ago she was touching you with her fingertips rather than with her full palm hand. You didn’t notice that rather than smiling at you, it was more of a little smirk and the corner of her mouth was pinched, which shows disdain and so forth. I said there’s always behaviors there. The question-

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so sad.

Joe Navarro
Well, it is, but the argument that I never saw it coming.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Joe Navarro
One of the important things I really believe Pete is that if we’re sensitive to other people’s body language, we make better friends and better mates because we early on can begin to sense “Oh, there’s an issue. Something is wrong.” To wait for something six months, two years on, is sometimes too late.

I think if you begin to sense that “Oh, my partner, she’s bored watching TV another night and when I mention going out, her eyes light up.” Well, that’s a clue.

In the same way that as parents we look at the baby for every single little sign of a smile, of any kind of discomfort because we transmit information fairly much in a binary fashion, comfort, discomfort. The same thing applies in real life. That’s part of having that social intelligence, but it’s also about equity, what we bring to the table as a partner and as a parent to ensure that those we love are cared for.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s powerful, yes. It’s funny, I’m thinking about my buddy Muhammed, who’s going to be on the show a little later. It’s exciting. That is one – I always feel very – I don’t know, I guess, welcomed or liked, appreciated when he greets me because his eyebrows really do do that. I guess I have not articulated or thought of that specifically until we really got precise about that fact just now. That’s intriguing.

We’ve got some feet. We’ve got the eyelid flutter. We’ve got the arching and lifting of eyebrows for excitement. What are some other big ones?

Joe Navarro
Let me give you – yeah. Let me give you one that is just a remarkable behavior. It really stands out with women. In part because oftentimes their necks are more exposed than men because we tend to wear shirts that have high collars or we wear a tie and a coat or – and so forth. Women have more of an open neck.

The behavior is covering of the lower neck area. There’s a little dimple there called the suprasternal notch. The suprasternal notch is just above the sternum and that’s why it’s called the suprasternal.

Pete Mockaitis
… Okay, yeah.

Joe Navarro
Invariably when someone is struggling with something, having difficulties, is insecure, there’s a little bit of fear, they will immediately bring their hand up and cover this very sensitive area of the neck. Men, we tend to mask it by grabbing our necks more robustly and grabbing our shirts. Women tend to just put their finger on it.

In fact, just the other day, in fact I think the day we talked or we emailed each other, there was an attack on a speech that was being given in Venezuela, on the President of Venezuela. It was a drone attack of some sort. While all the soldiers stood there at attention, being mindful of their duty, the First Lady, as soon as she sensed that something wrong, her hand immediately went to the suprasternal notch to cover it.

This is a very ancient behavior. This has to have been with us for tens and tens of thousands of years. Maybe even longer because it’s seen in every society. It’s been seen in every culture. Interestingly enough, it’s been seen even with children who are born blind, who have never seen the behavior and yet they perform this behavior when they feel threatened or scared.

I would say it’s one of those behaviors that it’s probably in the 95 to 96 percentile of communicating that something is wrong.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a good one.  That’s a good one. Any other sort of top, top probability items coming to mind?

Joe Navarro
Yeah. One of the ones that I talk about in the new book is – has to do with what is in essence a reserved behavior. Reserved behaviors are those behaviors that we really hold back until something is really stressing us and then they come out. We don’t tend to do them every day, but every once in a while when something is really bad.

One of those reserved behaviors is with the fingers. Now in the previous book I talked about steepling, that’s where you put your fingertips together and you straighten them up and it looks like a church steeple.

Pete Mockaitis
It makes me think of evil genius.

Joe Navarro
Right, like Mr. Burns.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent Joe.

Joe Navarro
But this behavior is very similar, except that the fingers are rigid straight and they interlace and the person sort of rubs them back and forth with very straight fingers. And I started to see this behavior probably in the ‘80s, with people in – who were going to be interviewed, people who were in trouble.

I also verified it by looking at these very old videos. They weren’t even videos; they were 35 millimeter movies from the 1950’s of couples in therapy. One of the things that I found was that when they were about ready to say, “Look, this relationship is over,” they would often do this behavior.

I call it teepee hands because when they interlace and the fingers are straight, if you were to hold it right in front of you, it looks like the top of teepee with the poles sticking out.

I tell parents, “Look if you’re talking to a child and they start to do this behavior, because they do it subconsciously, put your iPhone away and pay attention because something is significant here.” This is a reserve behavior.

We have another reserve behavior, which is kind of interesting. I hadn’t written about it before, but it’s in the new Dictionary of Body Language, and that’s called facial denting.

Facial denting is – you often see this at sporting events where the score is really close and you’ll see people squeeze their cheeks to the point where as you look at them you say, “Surely, that’s got to hurt. They’re going to pop a tooth.” They’re squeezing themselves so tight.

That’s one of those reserve behaviors for when we’re dealing with a lot of stress and we don’t know what the outcome is going to be.

Why we do that it hasn’t really been very well studied. I’m hoping – one of the things that I’m hoping – you were asking me earlier what are some of my hopes for this book. My hope is that researchers will look at it and say, “Okay, so here are things that this FBI guy over 40 years picked up by watching people. Let’s go and test it. Let’s go and verify it. Let’s go validate it.”

I hope they tear into it and they try to demonstrate that it’s universal or not universal, that it’s peculiar to this area of the world or that world or that it’s used when we’re stressed or unstressed or whatever. But I’m hoping that the average person can use it to learn, but I’m also hoping that the researchers will look at things that they’ve never looked at before.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s really cool. Just to note, that if you’re seeing the teepeeing or the facial denting that we’re dealing with something serious here.

Joe Navarro
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s funny. I can think of a buddy who everything was going wrong on his wedding day in terms of things coming together. So and so didn’t pick up his tux and this person’s late and he’s getting all these texts. It was a lot of stuff. He was sure doing some good squeezing there. That all makes sense that it was intensely troublesome for him, but it all worked out. They got married. They’re happy and it’s good.

But that’s cool. Well, I’d love to hear maybe precisely or more specifically when it comes to in the world of professionals in their day-to-day job/career lives, what do you think are some of the most helpful things to be on the lookout for in terms of what you’re observing or what you’re projecting.

I’m thinking about things like maybe someone is bored or thinks that idea is wrong and just a terrible – I think that happens a lot in meetings. Someone says something and someone thinks, “That is a terribly bad idea,” but they don’t say anything because they don’t want to stick their neck out. That’s the big boss. They don’t want to offend or insult. Are there any indicators along those lines or other helpful kind of career scenarios?

Joe Navarro
Well, I’m glad you asked that question because it’s really a good question. I would have to say number one, if you’re taking notes, write this one down. We are always transmitting information.

A lot of people think, “Oh, I’m in the parking lot. Nobody’s going to notice me,” or “I’m in the elevator. Nobody’s going to notice me,” or “I’m sitting outside for an interview. Nobody’s noticing me,” or “I’m at the end of the table. Nobody’s going to notice me.” Stop right there. Welcome back to Planet Earth. The fact of the matter is that you are being observed constantly. People are picking up on everything.

Let’s go through a few of the things that you probably never thought about. Good manners. Manners are non-verbals, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, thank you, sir.

Joe Navarro
If you see a piece of paper on the floor and you pick it up and you put it in the garbage can, that is a behavior. You don’t have to talk to do that one.

How you talk to people, your intonation, how quickly you respond, do you face them or do you roll your eyes before you answer them and so forth. Good manners is a non-verbal.

The fact of the matter is, is that we’re all being scrutinized. People look at us and they notice how well groomed we are. Walk into an office and change your haircut. People will – “You’ve got a different haircut.”

You probably have gone through your life thinking, “Nobody notices me.” No, everybody notices. They notice if you’re wearing glasses. They’re noticing if you wear new glasses, if you change your hairdo, your color, if you’re not well-groomed, if all of the sudden you’ve gone from really nice clothing to really tattered clothing. They notice-

Pete Mockaitis
They’re noticing the wrinkles in my Polo shirts, Joe? Do I have to start ironing these things?

Joe Navarro
Yeah. It makes you think. Shakespeare was right, life is theatre and we’re on stage.

For a lot of jobs, how we look may not matter, but the fact of the matter is that for a lot of jobs it does matter. It matters how we, as clinicians say, how we present. Are we on time? Are we eager? Are we leaning forward? Are we interested?

Something so simple. We were talking earlier about great behaviors. Here’s one behavior that you need to build into your repertoire.

That’s when people are talking to you that you tilt your head slightly because we know that from a very young age babies respond to this and it’s a behavior that says “I’m listening to you. I’m interested. I don’t have an agenda for the moment and I’m actively listening.” It’s a very easy behavior to emulate, especially with children and loved ones.

I live in a community not far from central command where there’s a lot of Navy SEALS. These guys have great bodies. They’re like world-class athletes. But I notice how they talk even to their spouses and they look like drill sergeants. It’s like they can’t stand down.

I think one of the things that enhances communication, especially with loved ones, is if we can stand down and relax and tilt that head and just say, “I’m listening and tell me about your day,” and not look like we’re looking for the next marching orders.

I have to say a lot of executives come home and do the same thing. They have that very stern, I’m in charge sort of look. We know that humans respond to that look of interest and kindness.

Pete Mockaitis
Interest, kindness, kind of letting go and not being in charge, tilting the head. Any other kind of indicators of “I’m listening. I’m interested. I’m not bored. I’m not formulating a response. I’m not getting my argument ready?”

Joe Navarro
Yeah. I’m on the road all the time and I’m giving presentations all over the world. You’re running – one day you’re in Germany, the next day you’re in Romania, then you’re back in Chicago, and then you’re on the West coast and you’re talking to people – and Beijing. You’re talking to people from all over the world. What’s interesting is is what seafarers found 400 – 500 years ago, that affability, having a smile.

One of the things that works really well and I encourage young business people to do this is don’t feel like you have to stand directly in front of another person. That in fact we tend to increase the amount of time we are with others if we will just slightly angle to them so that we’re not directly in front of them. We’re just at a slight angle to them. By angling, we increase what’s called face time. Obviously, for business, this is really critical is increasing face time.

I have found this works in every culture wherever I’ve been. Instead of just standing right in front of them, I – you greet them, you angle to the side and there’s a sense of harmony.

We have to remember that when the conquistadores arrived in the New World they saw the same behaviors here that they had seen in Queen Isabella’s court. The king had better clothing. He sat higher. He had an entourage. He couldn’t be touched, blah, blah, blah. Everything in Queen Isabella’s court.

These are universal things that are endearing, such as giving people the requisite amount of space. In fact, I just wrote an article about that for Psychology Today because I go around asking folks “How far away do you like people to stand near you?” It’s kind of shocking to listen to what they say. It’s always greater than where people are standing next to them.

They say, “You know three to four feet,” and some people want even more. Be sensitive to the spatial needs of other people, that some people just don’t like others to be too close.

Be yourself. Be natural. Not everybody’s going to be an alpha. There will always be omegas. There’s a place for everybody. But also, be mindful that if you have something important that you should be heard.

One of the things I notice a lot with, especially with young women coming into business is that often they sit rather demure at their seat. Then almost the meeting is over and they don’t have an opportunity to talk. Oftentimes, they’re not giving away the cues that say, “I have something important to say.”

Those things are instead of leaning back, leaning forward and in when you have something ready to say, making direct eye contact with the person that is either presently speaking or is the moderator to let them know, “Hey, I have something to say.”

The other one is not steepling. Steepling, and that’s where the fingertips are together, is the really the only universal sign that we have of confidence, that we’re confident about what we’re thinking or about to say. I think-

Pete Mockaitis
So we should not steeple?

Joe Navarro
No, we should when we have something important to say. You don’t want to do it all the time.

What I found in my studies was that oftentimes women will do it low on their lap or not very high. When in fact, they should do it so it’s visible so that it communicates to everybody this is important and I’m very confident at this moment.

Look at Angela Merkel, over in the UK – or in Germany, sorry. She steeples all the time, but then she is a – she has a doctorate in engineering and she is very confident. You see those behaviors. I used to see them also with Margaret Thatcher and others.

It’s a behavior you want to emulate. You want to use it at the right time and the right place, but you also need to communicate “I want to be heard.” Those are some I think good indicators there.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful, thank you. Now tell me, Joe, anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Joe Navarro
I think one of the important things about body language is that I continue to be a student of it. I’d like to one day be able to say yeah, I have the definitive expertise. I’m reluctant to do that because I’m learning things all the time. I’m observing things all the time.

I think it behooves us to learn this language that is so part of us as humans and it’s the primary way that we demonstrate love and empathy. That’s pretty important.

It’s also the way that we sense and detect danger. We’re at an ATM machine. We’re looking over our shoulder. It’s late at night. We’re looking for somebody sneaking up on us.

It’s the number one way that we choose our mates. We don’t ask for a resume. We look at them. We smell them. We touch them. We watch them and we make decisions based on nonverbal.

A lot of people think, “Well, is it really that important?” Well, I can’t think of anything more important than safety, child rearing, and mate selection. That pretty much hits it out of the park.

Pete Mockaitis
Well said. Thank you. Well, now can you share with us a favorite quote, something that you find inspiring?

Joe Navarro
Yeah, I think one of my favorite quotes, and I know a lot of people will hear this who have been to my seminars, it’s – I’m going to paraphrase, but it comes to us from Carl Sagan, Carl Sagan the cosmologist, absolutely brilliant, taken from us at too early of an age. He said, “We’re really not who we think we are. But if you were to ask what are we. We’re the sum total of our influence on others.”

I think it’s very true. You, yourself, with your podcast, sharing knowledge, sharing ideas, that’s influential. I look at the people that have influenced me in life and I think what was it that was great about it? Could they build something? Could they do this? Yeah, we love people that are skilled with a craft, but we’re mostly influenced by those that are influential and they do that by how they live their lives.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Thank you. How about a favorite study or experiment or a bit of research?

Joe Navarro
One of my favorite ones came out a few months ago. It just goes to show how sensitive we humans are to the smallest of little details.

They grabbed somebody and they put a green sweater on him. They said, “Go out and ask for favors.” They did. Then they took the same person and they – on the sweater, they put the logo of a high-end clothing manufacturer. It was only a half-an-inch logo.

They sent him out to go and ask people for favors, like, “Can I use your phone? Can I park here? Can I come inside?” and all this stuff. The times when he wore the logo 52 – 53% of the people agreed to help out. When he didn’t wear the logo, only 13% would help out.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh my gosh. Wow.

Joe Navarro
What does that tell – that tells social scientists – and I’ve done this experiment, interestingly enough, with people just wearing beach shoes, flip flops, ones that cost $1.99 and then ones that were from a famous manufacturer.

Pete Mockaitis
So they’re still flip flops, but just different – yeah.

Joe Navarro
They’re still … but different manufactures. Invariably in my non-scientific study, those that wore the nicer got better treatment.

What does that tell us that anthropologists and biologists would say look, we’re primates. We’re very sensitive to hierarchy and we’ll always be sensitive to hierarchy and the markers of well, who is the alpha, who’s the silverback and who is everybody else. We cannot escape that.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s powerful. Thank you. How about a favorite book?

Joe Navarro
My favorite writer is Steinbeck, so Grapes of Wrath.

But the one book that I return to over and over and over again is the Histories by Herodotus. It’s the only book that I’ve actually read six times. Here’s the father of history writing 2,500 years ago. He’s telling us about the world as it existed then. It’s just exquisite in its breadth.

Pete Mockaitis

How about a favorite habit?

Joe Navarro
Favorite habit, it has to be going out for a walk with my family at night. I love them dearly, my wife, my dog. I enjoy their company.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate? Folks retweet it. They quote it back to you often.

Joe Navarro
Yeah, there’s one in particular. I’m glad you asked that. I put it out there many, many years ago when I first started on Twitter. I didn’t know I would become that significant. It’s – someone told me that it may have been not necessarily borrowed, but it’s a variant of what somebody else had said. It probably is since there’s nothing new under the sun.

But basically what it says is that what we do in private when nobody is watching us is more important than when we’re in public and that when we help those who can do absolutely – can do nothing for us, that is the true measure of our humanity because there is no expectation of any kind of reward. For some reason that seemed to resonate with a lot of people.

Pete Mockaitis
And Joe, if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Joe Navarro
Very easily, my website, JNForensics.com. My books are at all the major retailers. Certainly they’re available on Amazon or they can come to your website.

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hm, sure thing.
Do you have a final challenge or call to action you’d issue to folks who are seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Joe Navarro
I do. Become better observers and you’ll become better humans. You cannot attend to others if you can’t observe them. I think most of us know how to look, but very few of us know how to observe.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Well, Joe, this has been such a treat. Thank you for taking this time and good luck with The Dictionary of Body Language and all that you’re up to here.

Joe Navarro
Well, thank you Pete. It’s a pleasure and an honor to be on your show.

333: Better Negotiation with Greg Williams

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Greg Williams reveals several secrets to negotiating for what you want effectively and respectfully.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Three points to remember when negotiating with bullies
  2. Six common body language cues in American culture
  3. How to get productive outcomes through open communication

About Greg

Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator and Body Language Expert, has studied and practiced negotiation tactics and strategies for more than 30 years. He’s spent over 20 years studying the way body language can affect negotiation outcomes. Greg’s education and experience come from formal negotiation settings, universities, governmental municipalities, seminars, and the school of hard knocks. He’s served on numerous corporate, business, and governmental boards.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Greg Williams Interview Transcript

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

Greg Williams
Hey, you’re more than welcome, Pete, and thank you for the invitation.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you have many credits to your name. It’s like the Master Negotiator and Body Language Expert is right next to it. But even more so, I saw you were honored as the Business Man of the Year by the United States Congress. I didn’t even know Congress issued such honors. What is the story here?

Greg Williams
Actually, that was several years ago. When one does a lot in the community, one gets recognition for what it is that the value add happens to be.

At one particular point in time I had been appointed chairman of the New Jersey Development Authority by then governor Whitman. That authority addressed the needs of small, minority- and women-owned enterprises throughout the state of New Jersey.

That was part of the catalyst, the activities that I engaged in during that time, that actually allowed Congress to bestow such an award upon me of which I was very honored to receive.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s just fun to hear you tell the story. Your voice has some music in it and the word choice is distinctive, so I think it’s going to be a very enjoyable conversation. Congratulations and thank you for your service. That’s really cool.

Greg Williams
Thank you very much also, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, so you’re a negotiation whizz. Can you share with us maybe to kick us off, could you maybe give us a fun story of how a negotiation got transformed or how someone was really worried things were not going to go so well, but then with some pro-tips, things turned out amazingly?

Greg Williams
Well, first of all, one should always understand the mindset that one possesses before entering into any negotiation situation because if you experience a sense of angst, you need to identify why you have such feelings.

Is it because you perceive the other entity as having so many more resources than you do that there’s no way you can actually come out ahead or even even with them? Is it the fact that there is something else that’s causing you to have the feelings that may disallow you from being as vibrant in the negotiation as you otherwise would be?

Once you identify those feelings, deal with them and deal with them to the point that they are reality or just thoughts in your mind. The reason it’s so important to do so is because the feelings you carry into a negotiation will to a great degree determine how you will negotiate in that particular situation.

Let me tell you of a story real fast also, Pete, to actually highlight the point. I recently stayed at one of the five star hotels. I thought, “Hm,” one day they didn’t clean the room. I had called down and I came back to the room at three something in the afternoon. The room had still not been cleaned. I had a black-tie event to attend at night.

I told them, “Please clean the room after six o’clock in the evening.” They said it would be taken care of. Well, I returned something after ten that evening and the room had not been cleaned. You know how people tell you, “Oh, we value you as a customer.” My response to that is “Okay, I’m from Missouri. Show me.” I’m not from Missouri, but that’s the cliché.

First of all, when you’re negotiating you always plan for what might occur and how you might respond. I thought to myself, “Okay, well these guys are saying I’m a valued customer to them. How would I like to position them, first of all, such that they have the opportunity to show me through their actions that I’m a valued customer?”

What that also means is I’d have to come across in my own mindset what it is that I would want from them versus what they might actually offer. I weighed those thoughts.

I called the front desk. I asked to speak with the service – the front desk manager and told him the situation that I had just cited a moment ago. Sure enough, he said, “Well, you’re a valued customer of ours.” I’m thinking to myself, “Are you serious? Okay.” I said, “Well, what does that mean?” He said, “I beg your pardon?”  I said, “What’s your definition of a valued customer?”

Pete Mockaitis
I like that.

Greg Williams
Yes. Here’s the thing, Pete. When you ask such a question, people usually get caught off guard because people usually say, “You’re a valued customer,” and they’ll usually take the floor.

Listen also when people start to talk to you as far as the cadence, the pace in which they speak, because you’ll also be able to glean insight per their nonverbal communications, the pauses, as to what their thought process might be.

Anyway, he said, “Well, that means that we want to make sure that you are satisfied and happy with your stay at our property.” I said, “Very, very good.”

I said, “Well, I’ll tell you what would really make me happy in this situation.” He said, “Well, what would that be, sir?” I said, “If you could just deduct a night’s stay as a result of this mishap because after all, you’d expect something like this,” and I’m not denigrating any hotel chain, but I said, “You would expect something like this or could possibly expect something like this at a Hotel Six, but definitely not at-“ I named the other hotel.

What I did there was positioned in his mind a Hotel Six, and again, not denigrating Hotel Six chain, but in comparison to this particular hotel chain, they were substantially at a higher end as it were.

I heard the pause. He didn’t say anything for a moment and I thought to myself, “Okay, he’s in thought mode.” He said, “Sir, I can definitely do that.” Well, that allowed me to get a few extra hundred dollars that I otherwise would not have had.

Now, that’s one particular way that you can position someone, number one, as far as what you wish them to compare themselves too based on what they’ve already said, thus to get them to show in action what it is that they mean by in this case a valued customer.

But even more so had he said too quickly, “Sir, no problem, we’ll definitely give you that,” and I was someone that wanted to take advantage of the situation, I then could have said, “Oh, and I’ll have a bottle of Dom Perignon also if you don’t mind sending that up to the room.” I state that simply to say, you have to always be aware of how quickly someone responds to a request or a concession that you made.

That’s just a short story just to highlight those points.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Now, in the course of that conversation, when did you explain the problem? They mentioned that you’re a valued customer, was that sort of before or after you kind of laid out the picture?

Greg Williams
I had laid out the picture and then he said, “Well, you’re a valued customer.” You’re right about that because you also have to set the stage as it were for how you would wish the negotiation to progress. By setting the stage, by telling him of the circumstances that had occurred earlier in the day and the evening, I also had positioned him to think, “Oh God, this guy has really gone through a whole lot.”

Mind you, oh boy, again, never try to take advantage of any particular situation in a negotiation because it could always blow up in your face and you can have all kinds of retributions to pay as a result of doing so.

Mind you at check in time, and this particular hotel had one organization that had about two or three thousand folk from a different organization that was already there. I was part of an organization that had another fifteen hundred people or so. Even at the check in I heard the day before it was a 90 – 9 – 0 minute wait just trying to check in.

I had already invoked that when I did check in. Mind you, I was checking in the day after that, but I had already invoked that thought process and got upgraded to the executive suite as a result of doing so. Again, don’t try to take advantage of situations, but when they are there for you to address, if you choose, do so.

Pete Mockaitis
With the room not being clean, so I mean in a way that could be a big deal or not at all a big deal.

Greg Williams
Correct.

Pete Mockaitis
How’d you go about describing that it was substantial?

Greg Williams
Well, all I said to him was – first of all, I talked about the fact that I had arrived earlier or I should say got up earlier in the morning and left around nine o’clock or so and did not come back until something after three in the afternoon. I paused. Then I said, “And the room had not been cleaned at that time, which surprised me.”

Now notice how I said, “which surprised me.” Again, I paused just to let it sink in. Number one, I let it sink in and I also wanted to hear how he might … respond.

He said, “Sir, we can send someone up right away.” I said, “Well, no, I have to get ready for a black tie event a little later on this afternoon and I need to take a quick nap. How about if you get the room cleaned after six PM?” He said, “Okay, well that will be fine also.”

Again, after all of that did not occur and I talked to – then it was the night … was actually on, night desk manager, front desk manager. I told him about the whole scenario of what had occurred and the fact that the room was supposed to have been cleaned after six o’clock between the time that I left after six and returned. It was positioned just right, just right.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s also interesting the comparison to a Motel Six, which I have stayed in once or twice in my day as situations warranted it.

Greg Williams
Me too.

Pete Mockaitis
I think is probably has a strong reaction … “Whoa, no. Never us. Not that.” That’s interesting because it’s not aggressively cruel to say that, but it’s honest. You might expect that from a Motel Six and you wouldn’t expect that here, so you’re just sort of sharing that honestly.

Tell me a little bit about your tone. You sound friendly as we’re speaking. Did you deliver the message in a similar tone there?

Greg Williams
Yes, because I did not want to come across as being overly demanding or be someone that was perceived as a jerk. I basically – I almost used the tone that I’m using right now. Number one, this type of tone will elicit empathy from the right person because had this been –

Had he, as an example, Pete, had he said, “Sir, okay, we’re sorry, the room didn’t get cleaned. I apologize. That’s the most I can do.” I would have adopted a completely different tenor and tone with him.

First of all I would have let a pause hang out there to see what else he would have said, to get him to negotiate against himself. “Well, sir, are you still there?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m here or not. I heard what you said, but even the tone at which you said to me depicted the fact that I guess customer service really doesn’t mean a whole lot at this fine chain that I’ve been very accustomed to having top-notch service at other property. Is it just your property that I’m going to have a challenging situation this time?” It would have been completely different.

With my latest book, Negotiating with a Bully, I talk about just that, using the right tonality in a situation such that you don’t become overly confrontational initially unless you have to be, want to be perceived as such.

You always want to match the tenor of the individual with whom it is that you’re negotiating such that you don’t … push them away or push them too hard or whatever be the case because if you push someone into a corner that’s mild and meek, they may come out of that corner doing unexpected things that you were not/are not prepared to deal with and thus you have to be very mindful of that also.

Pete Mockaitis
So you say matching the tone, that’s your perspective that if they come at you aggressive, that’s appropriate to respond with an aggressive tone?

Greg Williams
Well, it can be. What you need to do first is find out exactly what they plan to do with that tone. Some people may use it just to back you down. “Well, Greg, I tell you, I don’t think there’s anything that we can do.” “Oh, really?” “Yes, there’s nothing that we can do in this case.” “Hm.”

“Well, Greg, are you still there?” “Yes, I am, but I’m trying to decide to whom it is that I should speak since you can’t satisfy this particular situation, that might be able to lend me some form of satisfaction. Can you tell me the general manager of the property or better yet, the regional vice president of the property? I’m sorry, let’s just skip the small steps. I’ll go right to the president of the chain. Can you tell me who that might be because I need to talk with someone that can get this done?”

Now what I have implied with that, like, “Uh oh, maybe this guy’s not going to be the pushover that I thought he may have been and this guy appears to be willing to take this to higher levels that may cause more trouble for me than is warranted because I really do have the ability to go ahead and address the situation.”

I’ll tell you I’ve used the situation in a lot of situations, even with the products that were on sale whereby the sale had ended.

You walk into an environment and you say to a sales clerk, “I’d like to have this item.” “Oh, no problem, sir.” “Oh, no, no, no, I mean for the price that it was advertised.” “Oh, well sir, that sale ended yesterday.” “Oh, well that’s fine. You’re empowered to give me this at the same price, right?” “No, I’m not, sir.” “Oh, so I know that means your manager can give it to me at that price, right?” I shake my head yes as I’m saying right.

The salesperson will usually say, “Well,” if he says yes, okay, he’s backed himself into a corner because – and, again, I never try to get anybody into trouble, but now he’s put his sales manager on the line for being able to deliver this. Again, it goes back to how you wish to position someone such that you let them know you’re going to be somewhat persistent while not being overly bearing ….

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I like that. It reminds me – I was once a consulting with a call center op situation. I remember it was interesting that inside the customer service reps scripts, it was like, “If a customer says any of these magic words, then they will get immediately elevated to someone else to help out.” I think some of the magic words were, ‘lawyer, FCC, FTC, media.’

Sometimes – I’ve done this only a couple of times just like, “Well, if you can’t do anything, who would I have to reach out to to get resolution? Would it be the FTC, the FCC, the lawyer, the media?” and just throw them all into one sentence to see what happens.

Greg Williams
Exactly. You know Pete, to that end you have to be aware to whom you’re making such a statement because if you’re dealing with someone that really either can’t or doesn’t care about what you do, you’re wasting time. … when you’re negotiating, you always need to be negotiating with an entity that can really give you what you need or want or at least provide a stepping stone to the resource that can do something.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Greg, thank you. Well, so your specific book here is called Negotiating With a Bully. I’d like to get your sense first of all, how do you define bully and how do you know if you’re dealing with a bully?

Greg Williams
It goes to how you feel. Each and every individual has to be able to sense to a degree the way he or she feels as though he or she is being bullied because here’s the thing Pete.

You and I may be engaged in a negotiation. I may all of the sudden drop the tone of my voice and because of some trigger that that reacts or I should say that that creates in your thought process, it may remind you of a time when you were in school and someone with a deep voice did such and such to you and thus you may think subliminally, “Uh oh, I’m getting ready to be bullied or something to that nature.”

Meanwhile, someone may drop their tone with me and I may think “Okay, so the guy has a frog in his throat,” or something like that.

I say that to say, when you feel as though you’re being bullied, you can do one of a few things. You can actually say to the other individual, “You know, I feel like something has changed all of the sudden. I sense you’re being more aggressive at this time.”

That person may say, “Oh,” and just I know you can’t see me Pete, but I literally as I did that, I genuinely touched my chest near my heart, which is a sign of sincerity saying, “Oh no, that was not my intent. I apologize.” Even if you noticed the tonality of my voice offered ever so slightly too.

Well, that individual more than likely was not really trying to be – not attempting to be a bully in that particular case. The person may have been passive aggressive at that particular time, but nevertheless, once you told that person what you were sensing, if that person’s intent was not to convey such actions or sentiment, that person will change his or her behavior.

Okay. Let’s take a situation where someone says to you, “Yeah, okay, so what?” Well, that’s – now you know exactly what you’re dealing with.

Pete Mockaitis
“You’re darn right, Greg. If you’re going to come after my company’s reputation, you’re going to have me gunning for you.”

Greg Williams
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Now you have a better idea of exactly what you’re dealing with and the intent of that person.

Another scenario that you could adopt at that particular point and time is – okay, … the exact same … said to me … role play.

Pete Mockaitis
I said, “You’re darn right, Greg. If you come after my company or my reputation, you’re going to get me fighting right back.”

Greg Williams
“Oh, Pete, can you tell me more about what it is that you mean by that, ‘fighting right back’? What does that mean?”

Pete Mockaitis
“I’m going to make your stay as obnoxious as possible.”

Greg Williams
“Oh wow. Well, Pete, I really don’t want you to do that. What might I do to avoid that?”

Pete Mockaitis
“Well, you can conclude this conversation and we’ll go our separate ways.”

Greg Williams
“And that will satisfy you?”

Pete Mockaitis
“Yes.”

Greg Williams
“Okay, well I’ll tell you what, Pete. How about if I tie you down instead and now that I know exactly what you want, I’m going to make you give me everything I want before I let you go. How does that sound to you?”

Now, let’s break out of the role play for a moment. That was a little quick scenario. What I just found out through the words that you made a moment ago was the fact that. You want to exit.

Suppose you were in my environment and I’ve been in environments where some folks have done some real sneaky things to the other negotiator. Turn the heat up when the person was not being agreeable to the negotiator in whose building or environment the negotiation was being held. Turn the air up so it can get cooler, more comfortable when things are going good, etcetera, etcetera.

Literally put time blockages in front of someone. If I know you have a deadline to get a negotiation finished with me because before another session segment … be created with your team members you have to wrap this up and all of the sudden you come at me the wrong way as it were, I will start speaking a little slower, I’ll become a little more ….

I may do the exact same thing if I know you’re one of those individuals that love to talk fast and try to show a lot through movements of your hands and your body language displays that you’re really ‘let’s get it done move, move, move.’ I may intentionally slow you down to irritate the heck out of you.

There are all kinds of mind games that can be played. Some verbally, some non-verbally, but the point is you need to know what that other person’s restrictions are. … he … of the negotiation, the timeframe in which he’s willing to engage you to do so.

Here’s something else also Pete that I’d like all of your listeners to always remember, my tagline is ‘Always be negotiating.’ That means what you do today influences tomorrow’s outcome.

Even if you’re negotiating with a bully to the degree that you let … push you around and you don’t do anything to push back on him, you set yourself up to be pushed around tomorrow, the day after that, … in any environment you’re in with him and thus you have to set the stage properly to deal with people not only for today, because in so doing today, you … tomorrow. That’s point number one.

Point number two, I don’t care who you’re negotiating with … see yourself as being so insufficient, so lacking of resources that you immediately feel as though you have to subjugate yourself in order to get what it is that person is negotiating with you for because if the person is negotiating with you, there’s a purpose that they have in mind.

If you uncover the purpose, if you understand who’s not at the negotiating table that’s motivating that person to enact the actions that that person engages in, you will have a better insight also as to how to manipulate that person. By the way, manipulation is not a bad word, so just keep that thought in mind too.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure, well, can you – let’s hear about that a little bit. Manipulation is not a bad word; how should we think about it?

Greg Williams
Well, we think about it based on what action is performed.

In theory, you’re in New York City. Traffic is whizzing by. You’re looking at your phone and you’re just sending text messages or whatever, not really paying attention. You go to step off the curb right in the flow of traffic and I manipulate your body out of the path of oncoming traffic. Have I done a good thing by possibly saving your life? I think you’d say yes.

The point is the definition that you give to a word or words has specific meaning at the time that the word is being implemented. I use the word manipulation sometimes knowing that some people have a negative connotation of that word and I may say something along the lines of, “Are you trying to manipulate me?” Now did you even notice how my voice went up a little bit?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Greg Williams
Just to explain, when we get a bit excited, our voices will tend to rise. “Are you trying to manipulate me?” Again, you can’t see my body language, but my eyebrows became somewhat furled also.

Again, … I’m focusing on this particular situation, so again, nonverbal cues and body language play an added role to give additional leverage to the words that you use, but by doing that, you give more insight about what it is that you’re thinking of.

If used the word manipulation in that particular situation and that person has a negative connotation associated with that word, that person then knows that, “Wait a minute now, he thinks I’m trying to negatively influence or impact him, his thoughts, his decisions, his actions, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.” That’s one mild way of really pushing someone back away from you.

Again, you need to know what certain words mean to someone. I said a moment ago, my tagline is ‘you’re always negotiating.’ There are times I will be in environments where I will just observe who is sitting with whom, just to observe the relationships that are formed by those individuals knowing later on that I have to engage with either those parties.

If I know that X is associated with Y, I then know that hm, I may be able to get Y, use Y as a leverage to influence X also. I’ll go into an environment sometimes and I’ll just watch how people use their body language.

Pete, I’ve consulted with large corporations I appear to be the person sitting off to the side taking notes, meanwhile what I was really doing was observing the body language of who it was that was supposed to be leading the opposing groups negotiation efforts and what … that person was taking from someone else at the table that was the real source of power for that particular team or that particular side of those that were negotiating.

Again, you can pick up on so many different cues if you but pay attention to what’s going on in you environment. If you’re going to be in a negotiation environment, get there early also, just so you can pick up on some of those cues.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, talk about cues. I also want to get your take on – body language can be a little bit tricky and ambiguous subject, what do you see are some of the most reliable body language signals, like if I see this, it quite probably means that?

Greg Williams
Well, let’s set culture aside for a moment. The reason I want to set culture aside for a moment is because I want to speak generically first.

In let’s say the American society, taller people will usually be perceived as being more influential etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, than people that are not as tall as they are. Attractive people will also be perceived as having this extra oomph as it were than people that are not as attractive.

If you’re negotiating with someone that’s taller than you and you’re literally standing face to face, one of the things that you can do is literally stand closer to them and see what they do with that. Basically what you’re saying with that little, small gesture is “I’m willing to come into your space because I’m not afraid of you.” You … take notice to whether or not they take a step back or something of that nature.

Now, if they take a step back, dependent upon where you are in the negotiation – and that body language, by the way, of taking a step back, literally says, “You’re in my comfort zone. I’m not comfortable with you standing this close as I am and therefore I’m going to put a little bit of distance between the two of us.”

You as the shorter of the two individuals send a signal, as I said a moment ago, of “Hey, I’m not afraid of you. You have more resources than I do, but so what? I will still come into your environment.”

Shaking hands. I don’t want to get into presidential politics, just take note – well, take note, first of all, when you’re shaking hands and if both hands are perpendicular to one another, the two individuals are saying, “Hey, I’m equal to you. You’re equal to me. I recognize that fact in you. You recognize that fact in me.”

If one hand is on the bottom and another hand is on top, literally the hand on top is indicating, “I’m hands above you.” That indicates a power position in that particular situation. Thus, I always take note of when any political leader allows his hand to be on the bottom as opposed to on the top because that also signals – now, it can be a ploy from time to time too.

Again, in positioning you can literally let someone have their hand on top of yours as you’re shaking their hand just to see exactly what they will do after that.

A lot people, especially politicians, know about the … handshakes, the hidden signals in handshakes so forth and so on. That’s one particular body language gesture that you can look at.

The other that you can look at and you see politicians doing this a lot is while they’re shaking hands, they’ll have their other hand on the person’s elbow or something of that nature. Well, that’s a power move that’s even above the fact that somebody has their hand on top of yours. You’re saying to them with that hand on their elbow, “Okay, I’m going to be in control in this particular situation.”

The counter to that is to literally place a hand on the person’s shoulder. There are also these hidden meanings in body language and those were some just with the handshake of itself.

Here’s something else to note via body language, especially when you’re either standing up – well, when you’re standing up, take note of how an individuals feet are placed as far as their relationship to one another.

When feet are aligned, the two individuals are aligned per what they’re discussing, how engaged they are in that particular conversation, etcetera.

When one foot points in one particular direction by one individual, right then, that person has mentally begun to disengage from the conversation and more than likely that person is going to exit the conversation in the direction that foot is pointed, in the direction that that foot is pointed.

Those are some quick clues. Eye contact, eh. Again, it goes back to culture. But just because someone looks away from time to time does not necessarily mean they’re trying to avoid whatever it is they’re discussing, but you do need to note when they look away.

If someone says to you, “I think you’re the best person I’ve ever met in the world. I think you’re really fantastic,” meanwhile, they’re looking off to the side. Well, hey, the sentence may not convey exactly the meaning the body language is sending because they’re not really sending that to you.

Anytime you have doubts about whether or not someone’s words and body language happen to be matched with – or the two are synchronized, always follow the body language. The body attempts never to lie because the body always wants to be in a state of comfort. Telling a lie puts the body in a state of discomfort. The body will try to adjust.

The wringing of the hands sometimes is the fact that somebody is experiencing some form of angst, some form of anxiety and that’s the way the body tries to calm itself. Touching one’s elbow, one’s wrist, one’s hands, one’s nose, ear, again, those are signals that “Well, I’m a little uncomfortable at this particular point in time.”

Here’s something else to take note of. When people are trying to recall things, they will – and some folks say it depends on whether or not they’re right or left handed, but again, you establish the base with how they act with this action that I’m about to describe in a non-threatening situation first and then you’ll know to what degree they’re really speaking truthfully or not.

But people that are trying to recall things will tend to look up and to the left. If someone says to you, “So Pete-“

Pete Mockaitis
Now, their left?

Greg Williams
Yes, their left. I’m sorry.

Pete Mockaitis
Their left, okay.

Greg Williams
Yes, exactly. Thank you. Thank you. Their left.

If someone were to say to you, “So Pete, what did you do last night?” You say – you look to the left and you go, “Well, I went out to dinner with my wife,” and yada, yada, yada. Okay, that’s one thing.

If on the other hand, the same question was posed to you and you looked up and to the right, your right, that’s the direction in which people look towards the future and thus they are in the process of trying to formulate what they think will really happen to a question that you’ve posed that was supposed to have occurred in the past.

If you take note of that, again, as a negotiator, you don’t necessarily have to say anything, but you can take note of the fact that wait a minute, that person looked up to the right. That’s the creation mode in most cases, so why in the heck was he looking up to the right. You can pose a few more questions towards the same type of environment – about the same type of environment I should say, to see exactly what the person does with his or her eyes.

Then, later on in the negotiation, I might come back to you, Pete, and I say something about, “So Pete-“ now this is called an assumptive question what I’m getting ready to project. “So Pete, you said three nights ago you and your wife actually went to a movie. What was the movie you say?” Then watch the person. If the person then looks back up to the right again, oh my gosh, have I ever caught this person in one heck of a whopper.

Again, you don’t have to let the person know at that particular point in time, but you do know that person is definitely not being 100% truthful with you at that particular time.

Those are some body language gestures that you can take note of. In my prior book, Body Language Secrets to Win More Negotiations, I go into a lot more tactics and strategies that one can uncover just by observing body language.

Pete Mockaitis
You used the word definitely there. Is that sort of after you’ve established a baseline associated with their behavior and the other body language signals?

Greg Williams
Yes. That goes back to what I was saying earlier about the fact that I’ll go into an environment and just observe how someone reacts in different situations where those situations are nonthreatening. Again, when you’re using small talk to gain such insights, you might say something about “So where are you from?” Okay, most of us know where we’re from so forth and so on.

They’ll … say something and … ask a question about “How long have you lived there?” They may look up and to the left because what they’re trying to do is “Gosh, how long have I lived there?” They’re going through that thought process as opposed to looking up and to the right.

Now if they look up and to the right and they say, “You know, I think it’s been about 21 years.” Okay, take note of that. Take note that they didn’t look up and to the left, but instead they looked up and to their right to reference something that occurred in the past. Then you pursue it. You may something along the lines of “Did you play baseball at the high school in such and such a place?” Now let’s say he looks up and to the right again.

Now, notice that’s supposed to be the opposite when they’re doing their recall, but if you notice that they keep looking up and to the right for recall and to the left when they’re trying to think of future things that will occur, you then have the baseline for which to then place your emphasis per whether or not they’re being 100% truthful.

But that’s why it’s so important to understand and establish that baseline, which is why I love to just go into environments and just observe how people are using their body such that they’re conveying different sentiments in nonthreatening environments.

Then I have something to compare their actions to when we enter into what they think is the formal negotiation, but in theory, in reality, you’re always negotiating. You’re giving off clues as to how you will react in different situations any time you’re in an environment where people are observing you.

Pete Mockaitis
I want to talk about some of those dominant signals or gestures. I want to get your take on what strategy is optimal because if someone is doing a lot of dominant stuff with me, I just don’t like that. It makes me feel less rapport because like okay, you have to be in charge.

I think that can really be harmful because in terms of establishing liking, rapport, trust, it’s like, I don’t like this person. But I guess there can be other times in which a dominant strategy is helpful. How do you think about that?

Greg Williams
It definitely can be helpful. Again, dependent upon the individual that you’re dealing with. Pete, some people want to be led because they feel more comfortable being led by others such that they don’t have to make decisions.

Other individuals are the type that you just mentioned a moment ago. “My gosh, hey, don’t be putting my hand on the bottom. Don’t be touching my elbow.” If you sense that type of person, again, you need to match the modality of the person that you’re speaking to in order to get them to do what it is that you want per the outcome that you seek.

Thus if you are too overbearing – if I use the tactics that you just mentioned a moment ago, putting your hand on the bottom, touching your elbow, etcetera, etcetera, even putting my hand on our shoulder, I’d be pushing you away with my gestures and running the risk of turning you into someone that might really come back and undermine my efforts later on, which … be very understanding of how someone wants to be treated and how they want you to interact with them.

Everyone wants to be treated with respect. The degree that you do so per how they perceive you doing so is what you have to be very much aware of. If you’re too aggressive, you’ll scare some people away, other people you’ll make come closer to you because truth be known, they get off on that as they say. That’s what they like. But in other cases, you may just repel someone.

Again, you never want to do so to the degree that you push someone into a corner and have them become irrational because then you truly don’t know what it is that they may do, especially when you’re negotiating with them.

You make a person make one concession after another, after another, after another, after another. Next thing you know they say, “Oh the heck with it. You know what? I don’t give a heck about this whole doggone deal. I’m out of here.” You go, “Whoa, what just happened?”

Well, what just happened, the incremental small steps that you pushed that person into to make them all of the sudden say, “You know what?  The heck with this. My self-pride is at stake at this particular point in time and that’s more valuable to me than the outcome of this negotiation. You go negotiate by yourself.”

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. Well, tell me, Greg, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Greg Williams
Well, again, it was my mother many years ago that used to say to me – because I watched her literally, Pete, negotiate for everything. As a little kid I remember one time saying to her, “Mom, that’s embarrassing. You’re always asking people to lower the price, to add a little bit more, my gosh, won’t they think we’re poor?”

She said to me, “What do you care about what other people think of you as long as it is that you’re getting what you want? The more money you save, the more money you’ll have to do with as you choose and please.”

As a kid, seriously, I quickly got over the embarrassment and I learned to ask for whatever it was that I wanted. You have to have a certain thickness of skin not to necessarily allow the thoughts of other people to influence your actions to the degree that they do so and those actions become detrimental to your own well-being.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. I think a large part of it would be a matter of just how important is this sort of long term relationship for you in terms of are you going to see this fancy hotel person. In a way, if he thinks Greg is the most demanding, unreasonable customer I’ve ever encountered based on you wanting a free night for the room not being cleaned and how much is that a downside to you versus your boss or your spouse. It’s a very different game there.

Greg Williams
Pete, you know what? Oh my gosh, you are spot on. Here’s the other potential downside to that.

In that particular situation if I had been so … the individual thought, “Oh my gosh, no problem. Yeah. I’ll give you one night’s remittance. No problem.” Then he puts some remark in my file, in my record that said whatever and then that stayed with me as I went from one particular chain or I should say one particular property in that chain after another.

I go to check in and people are looking at me like I have a third eye in the middle of my forehead. I’m wondering why. I say that to say that’s another reason why you don’t want to be mean or nasty to somebody because you don’t know to what degree they’ll get you back behind your back.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Okay, now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Greg Williams
Oh, Lord knows I already gave it. You’re always negotiating.

Pete Mockaitis
Got it.

Greg Williams
Yeah. The reason that’s so inspiring is because it keeps me grounded. Okay, we all go through days … at times we may have an up day, a down day, but life is truly what you make it. Thus, it’s nothing more than perceptional. If you’re the one making it what it is to you anyway, why not choose to make it the greatest that it can be. You’ll live a lot better by doing so.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite study or experiment or a bit of research?

Greg Williams
There’s all – everything in life revolves around negotiations. If you really wanted to read some additional books on the topic of negotiation, one that I really love is Getting to Yes by William Ury. My gosh, that book is old, old, old, but nevertheless, there’s still some great insights into that.

His more recent book is Getting Past No. A lot of us don’t know what to do when someone says no. Remember no only means no for the moment. Life is ever changing, ever evolving, so be persistent in achieving the goals that you seek to acquire. Don’t let no stop you for the moment.

Another book of mine that I think you may be able to tell that I love negotiations, but Difficult Conversations is another particular book, another old one.

Here’s something, here’s one that I recently started listening to. It’s actually an online course, Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior. Boy, oh boy, you can gain a lot of insight as to why people do what they do based on the emotions that they experience and in the moment and how it is that you can incite certain emotions, certain triggers within someone to get them to either abide by what it is that you’re requesting and/or back off of you if that be your outcome.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit?

Greg Williams
Always negotiate. Don’t be afraid to ask for stuff. I will ask for some of the most mundane things just to see the results from time to time. The reason I do so is because I’m always collecting data. Okay, I did this in this particular situation and it worked.

I’ll pick up pennies off of the ground and there have been times when I’ve asked people, “So, you try to achieve wealth. How many of you in here will pick a penny up if you see it lying on the ground?” People will snicker from time to time.

But the point is, we make progress in small steps. A penny is yet another small step towards an overall wealth outcome if that’s what you’re really receiving. Don’t be too pride – don’t have much pride in order to subjugate yourself to goals that you seek because all you’re really doing is holding yourself back.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate and get quoted back to you?

Greg Williams
Well, I love it when people that I haven’t seen for years will come up to me and say things along the lines of “Oh Mr. Williams,” and when they say Mr. Williams, I always say, “No, no, my father is nowhere around right now, just please call me Greg.” They’ll say, “You have helped me so much by teaching negotiation strategies that I’ve been able to use to get a lot more in life.”

… to other individuals, serve other individuals. I attempt to give back to those, especially younger than myself because I’m at a point in life now where one day they will be the rulers of the world that I will have to live in. I hope by giving them insights, instilling in them the knowledge that they can use in order to not only look out for those that they care about, but for other individuals in the world, that the world will become a better place.

Pete Mockaitis
Greg, if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Greg Williams
Well, they can go to my website, which is www.TheMasterNegotiator.com. They can send me an email to Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.com. They can also reach me via phone at 609-369-2100.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Greg Williams
Yes. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Go out there and negotiate every doggone day because if you want a raise tomorrow, start positioning yourself to get that raise – I’m sorry if you want a raise in six months, next year whatever, start positioning yourself today to do so.

Understand what it would take from your boss such that you become such a valuable resource that he has to give you the raise that you ask for simply because you are that valuable. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. No only means no for the moment. The more persistent you are about achieving a goal, the more goals you will achieve.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Greg, thank you. This has been a lot of fun. I wish you tons of luck in your negotiations and all you’re up to.

Greg Williams
Thank you Pete … and much more success for you in life because it’s waiting for you.

331: Making Things Work through Context Creation and Candid Communication with Josselyne Herman Saccio

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Josselyne Herman Saccio opens up about creating your own context and communicating honestly for a more productive workplace.

You’ll Learn:

  1. What most people get wrong about communication
  2. The danger of scapegoating
  3. How to get productive outcomes out of your team

 

About Josselyne

Josselyne Herman-Saccio is a communication expert with Landmark, a personal and professional growth, training and development company that’s had more than 2.4 million people use its programs to cause breakthroughs in their personal lives as well as in their communities, generating more than 100,000 community projects around the world. In The Landmark Forum, Landmark’s flagship program, people cause breakthroughs in their performance, communication, relationships and overall satisfaction in life.

 

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Josselyne Herman Saccio Interview Transcript

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

Josselyne Herman
You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I think we’ve got a lot of great stuff to dig into, but first and foremost, I need to hear about your experience as a pop star in the ‘90s.

Josselyne Herman
That is like ten lifetimes ago, but it was a dream come true. It really was. I had always wanted to be a singer since I was four, so to be able to accomplish it and travel around the world as a pop star was literally pinch me every day.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s cool. What were you singing? What was the story?

Josselyne Herman
What was I singing?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Josselyne Herman
Yeah, I was in a group called Boy Krazy with a K. We were kind of like the New Kids on The Block, but the female version or a precursor to the Spice Girls. They were modeled after us actually.

Pete Mockaitis

Josselyne Herman
We were singing pure pop. It was definitely bubble-gum pop all the way down, but we had a number one record in 1993 so that was definitely an accomplishment.

Pete Mockaitis
What was the name of the record and the hit track and could you sing maybe one line for us?

Josselyne Herman
Of course. It was called That’s What Love Can Do. As soon as I start singing it people go, “Oh, I know that song.” But it went, “That’s what love can do. I don’t know what to break your heart in two,” like that. It was one of the songs that was the most played song on the radio of 1993.

Pete Mockaitis
Congratulations. Well, that’s what’s so fun among many things about you is that you have a wide array of experiences. Your IMDB profile was illuminating, as a producer, a manager, a casting director, a non-profit founder, wife and mother of three, and some animals in there too. How do you do it all?

Josselyne Herman
Yes. Well, I have it all; I don’t do it all. There is a distinction because if you want to have it all, you’ve got to have a great team of people around you and you’ve got to have people that are willing to support you in having that kind of life and I do, both in my business, my non-profit, my neighborhood endeavors, my family, everybody works as a team and as a community. We get it done as a unit, not as individual ….

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Maybe you can start us off by giving just a little bit of perspective for how have you gone about thinking about who you have chosen to bring into the circle and to partner with?

Josselyne Herman
Well, whoever I end up … work at my company or to work with me in my non-profit, they’re always like-minded people, people who want to make a difference, people who want to fulfill other people’s dreams. It’s pretty easy to have people operating as a team if what you’re up to is big enough. If you’re only up to something at an individual level, you don’t really need a team.

But like right now I’m dealing with something with my family where my mother fell and broke her pelvis and she’s 87. As a family, we’ve gotten together and we’re covering all the different shifts at the rehab and helping my dad, from my 12-year-old son to my 22-year-old daughter and my 16-year-old son and my husband, my sister, and her husband, and her children. We’re all just as a family, taking on whatever needs to get done so there’s never any holes.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. That’s great. Well, you do a lot of work with Landmark, so can you orient those who are unfamiliar with the organization or the Landmark forum in particular? What’s it all about?

Josselyne Herman
Well, Landmark’s like a global organization that really works to support people and empower people and enable people in fulfilling in what matters to them. We’re like a coaching company.

People do our seminars or our programs and we provide high-performance coaching for people who want to have an extraordinary life, not just go through life, but actually accomplish their dreams and make a big difference in whatever area that turns them on and lights them up and inspires them.

Pete Mockaitis
I remember going to the Landmark forum when I was in college. It was pretty cool. It was a powerful experience for me. I appreciate what you do and what you’re up to. I remember the forum leaders were kind of like, “Ahhh,” at the time and here we are just chatting.

Josselyne Herman
That’s right. Just human beings, I know. It seems like, “Oh my God, do they ever go to the bathroom? Do they eat? I don’t know.” But yes we do. We have real lives and we’re real people.

The difference is we’ve spent years mastering those distinctions that you get in the Landmark forum or the rest of the … for living. Those distinctions are designed to produce the kind of human being who can be with anyone at any time under any circumstance and have power, freedom, self-expression, and peace of mind. That’s not too bad.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I remember a couple of them, and then hopefully others have just sort of taken root and even if I can’t consciously summon them. But we did this one exercise – there was some – it was intense. There were – I remember we did this one exercise.

Pete Mockaitis
All we did was we stood very close, maybe like a foot away from another person and just staring at them in the face and looking at their eyes. It was. It was powerful. It’s like there’s nothing to be afraid of or intimidated about. We’re just two human beings in space nearby each other right now. But no one does that, so it was really noteworthy in terms of the effect it had.

Josselyne Herman
Yeah, that’s The Be With exercise.

Josselyne Herman
Yeah, that’s in the advanced course, which is I think one of the most profound opportunities to actually discover what it’s like to just be with people without all the stories or the fear or the … we add to being with people.

It’s really – it’s something that you can practice with all people because we don’t do it as you said. Go home with the person that you live with and just actually just be with them without having to fill the space with talking.

That might not work on the radio or in a podcast, but as you go to actually be with people, it’s quite remarkable because you can see yourself in all people and distance between you and people and all that fear and all that story and all that kind of whatever stops us from being with people fully gets disappeared in that exercise and people get a real experience of being someone beyond their individual thingness.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool. You’ve got a few areas of expertise. I’d like to dig into a few. Can you tell us how can we be superman or superwoman without experiencing a whole lot of stress all the time?

Josselyne Herman
Well, it really is the context … decisive because – I don’t know if you’ve ever heard that term before, but some people have, some people haven’t. But if I hold my finger up and I say, okay, the context is body part. What’s right there is what?

Pete Mockaitis
A finger.

Josselyne Herman
Exactly. If I say now the context is number, what’s right there?

Pete Mockaitis
One.

Josselyne Herman
Is a one. If I say the context is now direction, it might be up. It’s not that the content of your life is giving you stress, it’s the context in which you’re viewing it or holding it or experiencing it.

If the context is “Oh my God, I’m overwhelmed,” then it doesn’t even matter if you only have 5 things to do or 55 things to do, you’re going to experience it inside of that lens. The context is really what … your experience of life. I have a lot of content, but it doesn’t occur for me as stressful because I’m operating inside of the context of having it all.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Interesting, as opposed to “I’ve got to go do this next thing. Ah!”

Josselyne Herman
Yes, exactly. I also deal with everything in my calendar rather than my head which helps because you can’t actually double book yourself in reality. You only do that when you’re using your thoughts as a test for reality.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, okay. I’m with you there. Then how does one go about establishing that context? You just say, “I’m having it all?” Is that all there is to it or what’s done to make that context real and cemented and take root and effect?

Josselyne Herman
Well, one thing is people – the first step that I would recommend people do is get clear about what really matters to you. What is the picture of what you really want? Not necessarily something connected to your past or what’s practical or what’s doable based on your credentials, but what do you want.

If you can create that picture and actually look at what it looks like, you can see what it looks like, then you can begin to design your actions to fulfill on that versus being limited to what you think is doable based on your path.

A lot of it has to do with what’s your vision for your life, for your family, for your company, whatever you’re dealing with. Like for you with what you’re doing with this podcast, what’s your vision for that other than just going through an interview because it’s in your date book? It’s like okay, but what are you really creating with the messages that you’re putting out there in the world for your listeners?

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. It’s easy I find to sort of slip in and out of that a bit in terms of I am transforming the experience of work and unleashing energy and happiness for professionals everywhere versus I’ve got to get this thing out before the publish date.

Josselyne Herman
Yeah, and if you aren’t in the context that you say you’re up to for other people, then it’s inauthentic. If you’re transforming the experience of work and this is your work, that would be kind of like do as I say, not as I do, right?

Keeping that real for yourself – I know in my office, I make sure that the environment is one of team and support and integrity and fun. If it’s not that way in my office, I have everything to say about whether I can bring that to my office. I’m not looking for it from my office; I’m bringing it to my office so that people have that experience when they work with me.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Any other perspectives in terms of keeping that context real? You’re getting clear on what you want. You are sort of returning to that frequently. Anything else?

Josselyne Herman
Yeah, I would definitely keep it written down because the world just kind of happens and your life just kind of happens and you end up, like you said, going in and out of just kind of going through life and living it on the other side of that. It’s easy to fall into that default going through life, getting through this to the next thing, to the next thing.

But the second thing I would recommend is really to brainstorm with other people. Don’t try and do it all in yourself in your head. Your thinking is limited to your own brain. Borrow other people’s brains and really look at what your vision is and how it can be accomplished, not just from what you see in your linear vision, but non-linear about it and actually work with people to get their perspective and ideas for actions that you can take. You don’t know what they might see that you don’t see.

Pete Mockaitis
When we’re borrowing other people’s brains, do you have any best practices associated with leading those people to say yes to the borrowing and some of the best questions to surface the perfect wisdom?

Josselyne Herman
Again, it depends on what you’re dealing with. The context is, again, decisive always. Whatever you’re out to accomplish. First share your vision. If you don’t share your vision, then nobody can contribute to accomplishing it for you.

If you can share it with people and what you see possible if that vision got accomplished, then people can have a space to contribute to you their ideas and their perspectives and what they see. All of the sudden your vision is malleable and it’s not like a thing that you’re going to do. It becomes something that is morphable into something else based on what other people contribute.

Maybe it grows, maybe it shifts and you’re not stuck with something like an agenda. You’re really committed to fulfilling on whatever is possible out of that vision being realized versus the pathway. It’s not like, “Fly this airline, fly this airline.” It’s like, “No, I want to go to France. How am I going to get there?” So what’s your France?

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Maybe just throw an example in here. Let’s just say that someone is looking to get a job they love. They’re currently not so pleased with their current work environment. They’re thinking “What I really want to do is work in a field where I am creative and have an amazing team around me,” and that sort of thing. If they’re going about borrowing people’s brains, what’s that look like and unfold in practice?

Josselyne Herman
I would first start by saying, “Do you know anybody or do you know anybody who knows anybody who’s hiring in a creative field?” Or you could say, “Listen, I don’t really know what kind of field I want to go into, but who do you know that I could talk to to brainstorm on what kind of fields are available?”

You start to do some recon, but inside of – nothing like solid that you’re trying to get – it’s not like, “Oh, let me talk to you right now about getting this job right now.” No, it’s like, “Let’s have a conversation to explore and discover what might be possible in this industry or that industry.”

Then all of the sudden you’re free to really look rather than driven to make something happen. That creates a very different kind of conversation with people because they know when you’re trying to get something from them and you know and everything is constrained in those conversations, so it becomes a much more open space to create something than having to force something.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood, thank you. Well, when you talk about conversations, you’re bringing back all kinds of memories here with Landmark and the conversations that we engaged in. I’d love to just dig into some of your take when it comes to communication skills, powerful conversations. What are most of us humans getting wrong when it comes to doing this in our daily lives?

Josselyne Herman
Well, I think mostly we react to things and then we’re on automatic and we really aren’t creating our responses. We’re reacting either from some imaginary threat or maybe a real threat, but most of the threats are imaginary or we’re trying to prove something, or produce a result and look good.

That gives us a quality of life that is very distinct from the kind of quality of life when you’re actually out here living life and dancing with whatever’s happening and just kind of free to be and free to act on whatever matters to you.

When people get triggered – I’ll just give an example from my actual life, so it’s not conceptual. Recently I noticed that in my office I was not looking forward to going to my office. That’s very odd for me because I love what I do. It was like I realized it was that the person who was working for me wasn’t doing what I expected them to do in the job and I wasn’t pleased with the way it was going.

I was pretending that it was all fine because I didn’t want to have to deal with hiring somebody new and training them. That was the truth of the matter, so I was just kind of functioning as if this was going to work out. But that was really a lie.

I knew it wasn’t working and I was just tolerating a mediocre work environment, which many of us do. We just kind of survive life. We don’t really live it. We survive it. We get through it.

I sat down with her and I said, “Listen, this is – my inauthentic way of being is that I’m pretending that this is working when it’s really not. These things are working, but there’s more things that aren’t working. It doesn’t seem like this is your future, like this is what you want to do because the way you’re being and acting isn’t really working in the job. You’re not doing what I hired you to do.

I have to micromanage you. It’s got to be horrible for you to have me on you like that. It’s not working for me either as your boss.”

I got into a kind of conversation with her and it became clear that she really wasn’t loving what she was doing and she really wanted to do something else. I said, “Great. Well, what do you want to do?” I asked her what she wanted. I really brainstormed with her on how could we set her up so that she could be doing that and I could find a replacement with somebody who actually wanted to do this job.

Within two weeks, I hired somebody else. She trained them and I got her another job. I negotiated her deal.

Pete Mockaitis
There you go.

Josselyne Herman
Yeah, that’s a way you can have win-win scenarios in communication. It doesn’t have to be like you end things on a bad note. You can really stand for people to have the life of their dreams, even if it’s not in your office.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. That’s good. Now that seems so – it seems like, but, of course. That just makes good sense. It’s not working for you. It’s not working for them, so let’s change it up and get it so it does work.

Josselyne Herman
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
But in practice most people don’t quite go there with that level of honesty and candor and I don’t know, vulnerability, all that stuff. What do you think gets in the way there?

Josselyne Herman
I think looking good, like we’re so driven to look good and be the – well, “I’m the boss and you’re the employee. You’re not doing good, so now you’ve got to fix it.” I don’t really look at things that way because I’m more interested in having things work than being right. I think a lot of people are driven by default to be right, make something wrong.

When you can’t make something work as a human being, if you can’t make your relationship work, you’ve got to make your partner wrong to justify why it’s not working. If you can’t make your office work, you’ve got to make your employees wrong or your boss wrong or the job wrong somehow to justify why you’re not really rocking it.

From my perspective that’s one of the biggest things is when people … that they have a loss of power in having things work around them or having things thrive around them, the default is to find a scapegoat of why, a reason why it’s not working. Then you’ve got to be right about that and justified about that.

That’s a killer. Forget about work, just look at – turn on the news. Look at what’s happening. This is our world. This is what it is to be a human being by default.

It really is like a new kind of person to be somebody who goes, “Okay, this isn’t working. Where am I not being straight or lying about something or pretending something?” Being responsible for how things are, not to blame, but you have a say in how it goes.

This isn’t like, “Oh, it’s just this person that’s just untrainable.” No, it’s like this isn’t working. There’s something we’re pretending when it’s not really that way. People do it in personal lives. They do it in business. They do it at the level of society, at the level of organization, at all levels.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really a powerful distinction there associated with being more interested in having things work than being right.

I’d like to dig in a little bit in terms of I guess sometimes when things don’t seem like they’re working it feels like an intractable fundamental thing. Let’s just go somewhere. Right now we’ve got a precious six-month-old baby at home.

Josselyne Herman
Oh lovely. Congratulations.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. He’s a joy and we love him. It’s so swell. But one thing that’s not working is us feeling vitalized, energized amidst the challenges that come when he doesn’t sleep so well. In some ways it’s like, hey, what’s not working is that it’s rare that both of us are rested and in a pleasant mood with each other

Josselyne Herman
Yeah, I get it. I have three kids. I’m right with you. I’ve been there. I’m glad I’m over it.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. We’re kind and respectful and not snippy, but it seems like some of those magic moments are hard to come by when there’s just sleep deprivation.

Now, in some ways it seems like, “Hey, that just kind of goes with the territory with a youngster,” but in another way it seems like it’s not working. I guess not to overly complicate things, but it seems like at times there are tradeoffs or sacrifices or kind of fundamental realities that can result in non-workingness, but I have a feeling you might challenge me here and open up something bigger.

Josselyne Herman
Well, I’m not going to challenge you. I would look at it as supporting you because one fundamental thing that we deal with at Landmark, and this is not just a Landmark thing, this is a life thing, is without integrity, nothing works. It doesn’t matter how great you are, how much you love each other.

Without integrity – and I don’t mean morality, I mean without all the spokes in your wheel – things don’t work. You can’t win the Tour de France if you don’t have the spokes in your wheel. Now if you have the spokes in your wheel, it doesn’t mean you’re going to win the Tour de France, but it’s required to have an environment that allows for workability and high performance.

Sleep is one of those spokes. When you don’t sleep sufficiently, whatever that is for you, everybody has a different number, it does impact your performance in life and your ability to be extraordinary is impacted if you’re not eating or you’re not sleeping or whatever those kind of fundamental spokes in your wheel of wellbeing.

Without integrity, you don’t have workability and high performance is out of sight. You can’t even see it from there.

From the perspective of being a new parent, one of the things you’d have to look at is what does it look like for integrity to be present in your wellbeing. How many hours – for each of you it may be different. You’ve got to discover yourself because there is no recipe, like my husband needs six. I need seven for that to be well. We look at how you do that when you have a young child that is waking up and validly so.

There are a lot of actions you can take to accomplish that. You can swap nights so that one night one person gets less sleep than the other and the other night – so that you always have a rested person.

You could also have – make requests of other people, like, “Will you take the baby for this night grandmother or grandfather?” I don’t know what your situation is or a friend where you leave and that other person comes in. Go swap apartments. Go to that other person’s house while they take care of the baby for that one night because one night a week, you restoring that kind of wellbeing makes a difference for you.

It could be a function of naps. It could be normally you would like to go to sleep at midnight because that’s what you like, but it really doesn’t work. You might have to start going to bed when the baby goes to bed so that you can get those hours in in those two to three hour stints.

Another thing is sleep training, which most people, they have a very specific view on that. But my view changed depending on my child. My last child I was finally like, “Cry your head off. I don’t care,” and he did and he slept great. He would go to sleep at eight; he would wake up at seven. I was like, “Oh my God, I have so much time.”

But that was not like that with my first child. I was up making sure she was breathing with the mirror half the night because your brain goes crazy. You’re like, “Oh my God, she’s crying. She made a noise. Let me go-“

There’s all sorts of actions you can take. But I would look at it from a perspective of integrity. It’s not – then you don’t have to kind of suffer. You can get what’s going to work. It’s not like, “Oh my God, I shouldn’t be upset about this.” No, no, no, you actually need a certain amount of hours, whatever that is. If you don’t get it all at once and you get three at a time, then swap, then you’ve got to do that so that you get whatever that six is.

Pete Mockaitis
So the themes here when you say integrity is just sort of work ability in your definition here, so it’s like we’ve got the stuff in play that just needs to be there in terms of the basic ingredients.

Josselyne Herman
Yeah, the definition from – from our perspective integrity is being whole and complete. This case it has to do with your wellbeing. In a bicycle wheel analogy it’s all the spokes being there. If you’re not eating all day, that’s – your wellbeing is not whole and complete.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, understood. Then in this specific instance, once we got clear on what it takes to be whole and complete, we explored options and some of the breakthrough possibilities are I guess considering new angles that extend beyond maybe constraints we just took for granted.

Josselyne Herman
Yeah. Like I know I can hear everything. I used to be able to sleep through an elephant stampede through my room when I was younger, but when I had kids, all of the sudden I hear them breathing literally from like 100 feet away.

I can hear everything, so I had to use ear plugs on the nights I would be sleeping because I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I heard them. Even though my husband was happy to take the night, I – it wasn’t working, so I had to get the earplugs so that I could actually sleep during the time when I had somebody available for me to sleep.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, well that’s good. Thank you. We went deep on that, much appreciated.

Josselyne Herman
My pleasure. Listen, without sufficient sleep, you can become like a crazy person. I mean like literally it is required for you to have wellbeing. You must get sufficient sleep. If you get less than sufficient sleep for a couple nights in a row, it catches up with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. I feel you there. Shifting a little bit back to the workplace environment. What are your top suggestions for professionals trying to get some of these great positive relationships and productive conversation and outputs flowing from themselves and their colleagues?

Josselyne Herman
Well, I think communication is the biggest key because without being in open communication, it’s very hard to get anything done with a group of people. Through communication, you can work out anything, including moving somebody to another company.

It’s like, if you withhold communication, things get tense. If you don’t say things, things get constrained and pretty soon you’re just not satisfied or fulfilled at work because there’s a lack of flow of communication.

I think that would be the number one thing that I would say people should keep in front of them is “Okay, what do I need to communicate? What do they need to communicate,” and actually be able to listen to employees or your employer or your team about what their vision is and what they need to fulfill and what they see as matters to them because it’s not just like a machine to get your vision completed.

It’s like, “Okay, now is this working for you? What’s missing? What could we elevate? What do we need to put in so that things work better?” I do that weekly with my team.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s excellent. Could you give us another example or a story to make it all come to life in terms of “Hey, before this was going on and then we communicated in this way and then after, here’s what happened?”

Josselyne Herman
Well, I can tell you just what I’m dealing with right now with my mother. My sister lives in a different state, so we don’t see each other that much. We’ve been dealing with this sort of remotely and I’m a little bit closer to it geographically.

When my father would tell me, “Oh, this is what’s happening with her.” I’d be like, “What do you mean?” Then I’d start reacting to what my father’s telling me. Meanwhile, I’m not even talking to my sister. I’m talking to my father about his version of what she’s say – it was all discombobulated.

Then I finally just got on the phone with my sister. I said, “I need to know that we’re on the same page here about what we’re doing with mom because it sounds like you want something else.” She’s like, “What do you mean?” I go, “Well, what do you want? What is it that you want for mom?”

Then she told me and that was completely different from what I was interpreting from what I was hearing her and my father talk about. Then I said, “Okay, well here’s what I want.” Then we said, “Okay, well, let’s look at how we can accomplish this.” It became very, very similar what we wanted but we were in a story that we wanted different things.

She thought I wanted to take her out of this rehab center immediately. I thought she wanted to leave her there for a month. It was like just two ships passing in the night and not even making contact.

As soon as we … communication and made it real in our conversation and found out what was going on for each person, then we could get in collaboration to accomplish what we’re really committed to, which is my mother being well. That’s all we both want.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. So the hang up there is rather than just going there in conversation, “What do you want? What do I want?” is just sort of like assumptions and stories that we’re inventing about other people.

Josselyne Herman
Yeah, and most of our assumptions don’t show up for us as assumptions. They show up for us as the truth. We don’t think we’re assuming because we’re like, “Well this is what they are. This is what they want. This is how they are,” rather than actually getting in communication to discover what somebody wants or who they are and what their dreams are or what their vision is or what their goals are.

We assume, well we know this is what they want. They don’t have to tell us. We know a lot, but knowing doesn’t translate to being. The work of Landmark is all about accessing being.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool, thank you. Well, Josselyne, tell me, anything you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and talk about some of your favorite things?

Josselyne Herman
Make sure you schedule a date night.

Pete Mockaitis
Noted. Thank you.

Josselyne Herman
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, well now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Josselyne Herman
Gandhi, that’s one of my favorite quotes is “Be the change you wish to see.” But Willy Wonka is my other favorite, which is, “We are the dreamer of dreams.” That is one of my favorite quotes. I love that movie.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Josselyne Herman
There’s a book called Black Box Thinking, which is very powerful, which has people look at failures and look at what was missing rather than living in a story that they’re a failure and able to then impact their performance and elevate their performance in that area. I think that’s a very powerful way of looking at life.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit?

Josselyne Herman
Taking a hot shower at the end of the day to complete the day and just kind of shut down.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you mean at the end of the day like right before bed or the end of the workday?

Josselyne Herman
Yeah, right before bed.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you.

Josselyne Herman
It actually, physiologically shuts your body down and has it ready for sleep.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with people and they quote it back to you?

Josselyne Herman
Yes, yeah. Well, being unmessable with is sort of my little phrase that I’ve coined and started a campaign around to try and get that in the dictionary, but that’s – people know me for being unmessable with and being a Barry Manilow fan. I know. I admit it. I’m not ashamed.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got it. Josselyne, if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Josselyne Herman
LandmarkWorldwide.com is the website for Landmark. There’s tons of videos and articles. I’m in many of them or the interview is conducted … them, but all of their forum leaders and really powerful tools for people who are committed to living an extraordinary life.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Josselyne Herman
Well, I would say don’t wait until someday. There’s no such thing. This is it. This is your life. If you’re not fulfilled and satisfied, take on living life now because it’s not going to happen any other time. This is it.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well Josselyne, thanks so much for this. This was a fun little blast in the past for me, remembering some Landmark goodness. I wish you and Landmark all the best in what you’re up to.

Josselyne Herman
Thank you so much Pete and to you too. Again, treasure that family, but make sure you get a date night.

Pete Mockaitis
Got it.

Josselyne Herman
Okay. All right. Thanks so much for the opportunity.