Episode #143: Kwame Christian

Compassionate Curiosity


Kwame Christian

Kwame Christian is the director of the American Negotiation Institute, where he puts on workshops designed to make difficult conversations easier. As an attorney and mediator with a Bachelors of Art in Psychology, a master of public policy and a law degree, Kwame brings a unique multi-disciplinary approach to the topic of conflict management and negotiation. He is the author of the best selling book ‘Nobody Will Play With Me, How To Use Compassionate Curiosity To Find Confidence in Conflict’ and TedEx talk ‘Finding Confidence in Conflict’ which was the most popular TedEx talk on the topic of conflict in 2017. He also hosts the top negotiation podcast in the country ‘Negotiate Anything’. The show has been downloaded over 500,000 times and has listeners in 181 different countries.

[01.29] Kwame defines Negotiation – in the broad context, negotiation is any conversation you have where somebody in the conversation wants something.

[01.44] Kwame explains how negotiation is important for business – with the broad definition you recognise that essentially almost every single human interaction we have is a negotiation of some sort. Negotiation is the most fundamental skill you need to have in the business world.

[02.19] Why don’t some salespeople don’t like to negotiate and what can we do to change this – Kwame feels that the issue is due to commission, if you are able to squeeze a little more value out of a deal, it may have a significant impact on the business bottom line but for the salesperson the commission might now change that much. As salespeople are focused on volume and negotiations take time, the time taken for one deal will steal time away from the next one, so the incentives don’t always align. To help improve the process Kwame talks about being mindful as to how we can make the process more efficient and be mindful of the time as well trying to realign the incentives internally through the organisation to make negotiation more favourable .

[03.50] How do you plan and execute a high stakes negotiation – In his book ‘Nobody Will Play With Me, How To Use Compassionate Curiosity To Find Confidence in Conflict’ Kwame outlines a framework called ‘The Curiosity Framework’, intentionally made simple, it firstly acknowledge and validate emotion, the second step looks at engaging in compassionate curiosity, and the third step looks at joint problem solving. Kwame’s framework is uniquely different than other approaches, it is designed to focus intently on the front end of the emotional and psychological state of the person and the process is informed by the underlying principles of psychology, to ensure they are in the proper mental state for maximum persuasion.

[06.51] What are the attributes of a good sales negotiator – Kwame feels that patience and humility are good attributes for a good sales negotiator. In order to get the information you need you need to have patience because it takes time and you also need intellectual humility, as this will lead to greater levels of curiosity. Rather than focusing on finding facts and truths, which can lead to a rigid , also focus on stories although they can be fiction or non fiction, we accept both as valuable. Even if you don’t agree with the assertions your counterpart makes Kwame suggest that you can still listen, acknowledge and appreciate the story and be able to build upon that in your persuasive endeavour.

[08.05] Kwame shares his top negotiation tools and strategies –Kwame talks about starting off with a good solid framework, so during a difficult conversation when you are stressed out you don’t tend to perform to the best of your ability, and you fall to the level of your weakest framework or strategy. So you need the framework to lift the floor. Kwame also feels and talks about a powerful strategy that you can use in negotiation as well as sales is the principle of anchoring, which means adjusting the reference point for the negotiation. An example being, you will start off with an offer that is as aggressive as you can reasonably justify and to determine whether your anchor is legitimate use the ‘because test’ …I’m asking for this because, and if you can reason and explain why you are asking for this and reason with legitimate and objective criteria, then you’ve anchored appropriately.

[09.31] Kwame shares his top three negotiation Do’s and Don’ts – do be curious, ask questions. Do listen and listen with humility so you can absorb the information you get and do keep your goals in mind, because sometimes we lose sight of our goals and start going down rabbit holes, and the biggest rabbit hole we go down is focusing on who’s right and who’s wrong, when we focus on what is right, it is not always persuasive. Don’t argue, arguing is not persuasive, Kwame then goes on to talk about managing your ego, as you argue about proving that you are right, you want to prove you are right to elevate yourself and at the same time subordinate somebody else, which creates a relationship that is unnecessarily antagonistic. Lastly don’t fail to stay within the story line in the beginning of the negotiation, keep it productive value their time, state why you are here and the reason for the conversation after that use the 70:30 rule, listen 70% of the time and speak 30% of the time.

[13.48] Kwame shares his favourite negotiation story – despite all of Kwame’s occupational experience Kwame shares a story of getting his three year old son ready for daycare in the morning. In this particular story, Kwame’s son asks for numerous family members other than Kwame, and not being able to progress with the task in hand. The following morning Kwame used a technique that focused on acknowledging his son’s emotional need. Since using this technique Kwame’s morning routine runs much more effectively. It’s important to listen to people’s need and to be able to acknowledge an emotional need, once this is acknowledged the conversation or negotiation with your counterpart will go more smoothly.

More About Kwame

What was the last book you read?
– https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/why-you-are-who-you-are-investigations-into-human-personality.html

Who / What inspires you?
The desire to help as many people as possible learn these skills.

What aspect of your own negotiation skills are you most focused on improving at the moment?
Considering the psychology of personality and motivation and tailoring my approach to each person.

Hobbies, Interests?
Chess, tennis, my 3 year old.

How can our listeners contact with you?