Relationship building and the art of negotiation with Kwame Christian

Ep. 55: Relationship Building & The Art of Negotiation with Kwame Christian

In this episode, attorney Kwame Christian shares elements that are important when it comes to negotiation. Of all the elements relationship building: learning and understanding people is the most important to get more of what you want.

Listen to find out more about how relationship building and persuasion can help you successfully negotiate.


Mentioned in this episode:

The Negotiation Prep Guide

Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide

Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation – and Positive Strategies for Change


Connect with Kwame – Website | LinkedIn


Join the convo online using #cofpodcast

Carry On Friends – Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Enjoyed the show? Please remember to leave a rating and review on iTunes



Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Hello everyone. Welcome to episode 55 of theCarry On Friendspodcast. I’m excited that you’re listening. Today’s episode is a fun episode. It’s a little longer than usual and there is a little technical difficulty in between, but Kwame and I had fun. Who is Kwame? Kwame Christian is an attorney and he is a business attorney, but he also specializes in negotiation. This episode is part of our month of relationships and how relationship building is important in the art of negotiation. I’m really excited for you to hear this episode. Please remember to follow the conversation online using the hashtag #COFpodcast. Also follow us on social media; we’re @CarryOnFriends on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. We are looking forward to chatting online and discussing more. Alright so, I won’t keep you waiting any longer. Here is my interview with Kwame.

Kwame, welcome to theCarry On Friendspodcast. Finally you’re on the show. I’m so glad you are here. How are you?

Kwame Christian:Doing well, doing well. Thanks for having me.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Cool. Kwame, let’s tell the community of friends who you are, the island or islands you’re representing, and all that good stuff.

Kwame Christian:Yeah, so I’m a bit of a mix up here. My dad is from Dominica, the nature isle, and my mom is from Guyana.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Boy, I tell you. I think you’re the second person on the show that has some Dominican and some other mix up, and I’m like my God, Caribbean people can travel far though.

Kwame Christian:That’s right. It keeps things interesting.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Yes, yes that’s us. Tell the audience what you do, a little bit more about your background in terms of professional wise. 

Kwame Christian:Yeah, so I’m a business lawyer, so I work with entrepreneurs and start-ups, but I also founded the American Negotiation Institute. And so, that is really my passion project. For now, the law firm pays the bills and I enjoy doing that, but really what I want to get into is building up that consulting firm, the American Negotiation Institute. To market the firm, I started a podcast. It’s calledNegotiation for Entrepreneurs. And so now, after about 10 months or so, we are now the top ranked negotiation podcast on iTunes. That was pretty exciting.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Boop! Boop! Yes!

Kwame Christian:Yeah, big ups!

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Yeah, island people we out here a dweet. I’m very excited, very, very excited for you. Just to let the audience in, we’ve talked a lot – maybe last summer and we knew this episode was coming. It’s really awesome to see that all the work that you’ve put in kind of led to where you are, and that was a goal. I’m so excited because trust me, I’ve talked to Kwame about some negotiation stuff, and when I tell you that he good, him good. Let’s get into it Kwame. Why did you start the Negotiation Institute?

Kwame Christian:I realized growing up in the States – I’m a first generation Caribbean-American. I was growing up in this small town in Tiffin, Ohio – really small town. And so, I was the only person that looked like me, I was the only person who sounded like me – so I was very different. And so, from a young age, I was constantly negotiating friendships, acceptance. When I came to school, I studied psychology because I like learning about the way people think. And then when I got to law school, I was able to blend that background of psychology with my desire to do entrepreneurship, when I found negotiation because negotiation essentially is utilizing psychology and understanding psychology but for a business purpose. And so, that’s where the passion began. I get to use the skills every day as a lawyer negotiating on behalf of my clients, but I really want to make that my exclusive focus with the consulting firm.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Alright. In preparation for this episode, I reached out and I asked a few people what their questions were around negotiation. One thing that kind of stood out because it’s come up so many times – my high school classmate from Jamaica, Stacy G (I’m not going to give out her whole government), but she immediately responded and she wanted to talk about gender and negotiation. Her question is: “There’s been an upswing where that’s concerned. The fact that Sheryl Sandberg wrote a book really means that there is something missing regarding women and our power to negotiate.” She would like you to explain what are your views about why women specifically have a challenge with negotiating, and potentially what the blind spots are and what women can do to really be better negotiators, and if you have any books around that.

Kwame Christian:Yes, so it’s always a bit awkward for me answering this question as a man that’s standing in my male privilege, but I have an academic understanding. The book I will recommend is calledWomen Don’t Ask by Sara Laschever and Linda Babcock, phenomenal book. It not only talks about the reasons behind the issues in negotiation for females, but also things that you can do to improve that gap. And so, it’s a really great book. The timing of this could not have been better because today – this week, I had a negotiation seminar scheduled add to the Women’s Business Center here in Columbus, Ohio. One of the things I do is I put on negotiation seminars around the city, and I’ve had the opportunity to travel. Typically with these local presentations, it’s probably about 30, 20, 40 people that are registered, excited entrepreneurs looking forward to learning more about negotiation. And so, I was super excited especially with reading the book, to present this at the Women’s Business Center. I called the day before and the person who was organizing was really excited about this presentation. She’s been marketing it hard for the last three months. I said, “Hey, so how many reservations do we have? How many RSVPs?” Guess how many we had.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:You had about 100 or so?

Kwame Christian:I had one.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:What?!

Kwame Christian:One. Yes. One. And then think about why. The title of the presentation was “Negotiation: How to Get More for Your Business”. One person registered. And so, thinking about my experience with the podcast, I’m very sensitive to making sure that I have the right racial and gender diversity, but when you look at my podcast, you’ll see it’s mostly men even though I ask the equal amounts of men and women. And so, what we’re seeing here is a mindset issue. There is a mental block when it comes to negotiation. Why is that? Let’s look back to the way that men, or boys and girls are socialized. What kind of games do boys play? Boys play sports, things like that – cops and robbers. There is a clear winner and a clear loser. We are trained to be aggressive and move towards our goals in that way. Women on the other hand, girls when they play, it’s more social games. So we’re talking house, teatime – those types of things. They are discouraged at a young age from stepping up and moving aggressively towards their goals, and then when they do that in classrooms, often times they are labeled as a “know it all” or something like that. And so, constantly you are being pushed down. Then when you matriculate into womanhood, you kind of internalize that and so, you are afraid to ask. Hence, the name of that book, Women Don’t Ask. It’s not a situation where women are poor negotiators. Frankly speaking, considering the majority of studies that have been done, women when they implement these negotiation strategies, they end up being better than men because they actually consider the relationship aspects that exists. It’s not an issue of whether or not they can do it or if they have the skills, it’s a question of whether or not you will do it.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:You know what you’re saying, I read this book years ago, Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman. I think Steve Harvey took a play off that book, but whatever. This woman, she was like one of the major producers at CNN, like way, way back in the early days. She really kind of talked a little bit about what you said, the way we are socialized. For women, it’s culturally, our girls – it’s like we should get along and we should all be in a circle and no one should try to rock the boat a little bit. In a way, she pointed out, and even for myself as a mom, when it comes to our kids and home, we are on that negotiation ball, like we have it, like no I’m not buying these pair of jeans for this. We are able to employ that negotiation skill when it comes to or social setting, like the traditional roles as a mom, as a wife, as opposed to in a business sense. I do see what you’re saying. We have the skill, but we don’t apply it in a business setting. We keep that when it comes to the traditional roles that women tend to have. Even in preparing for the podcast, we talked about women in the market. I gave the story of the lawyer I worked with, and she was like, “Kerry-Ann, is this the best price?” I’m like yes. She turns around and she tells me about her mom and haggling in the market in the Philippines. And so again, but that is more of a traditional role. Men wouldn’t go to the market and haggle, the women do. What can we do then to bring that same mindset from our “traditional roles” that involve the home, into work and business?

Kwame Christian:This is a great question. It reminds me of an example that was given, where kind of going back to the traditional roles that you were talking about, women have been socialized to be the caretakers like you said. If I’m negotiating on behalf of my kids, I’m a lioness. There’s no problem there. What’s interesting too, if you have a female attorney or a female person who is in charge of acquiring contracts for your company, you’re going to act aggressively – let me say assertively towards your goals and you won’t have trouble standing up in that negotiation. Why is that? Because it’s almost like that traditional role; I’m taking care of my company, but when it comes to asserting yourself on behalf of yourself, those same people struggle to do it. An easy mental shift that you can do is act as though you are negotiating on behalf of somebody else. When you kind of remove yourself from it, it’s kind of like a mind trick you play and pretend you’re negotiating on behalf of somebody else, then you would be more likely to act assertively and assert yourself in the negotiation and ask for what you want.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:I like that. I’m going to use that mind trick. You know honestly, I think I’ve come a long way. I didn’t seem so bad when we talked about my little negotiation situation. I mean it took years for me to get to that point. It’s really key that – because we are so socialized, the thing that when we ask for things for ourselves, we feel selfish and selfish is a bad thing. I think that’s part of the other reason why like oh, you know you don’t want to be so aggressive. Like you pointed out, sometimes it’s not just men who might see us this way, other women might see us this way if we begin to assert ourselves a particular way.

Kwame Christian:That’s a really important point too, because for me as an African-American male, I realized that people see me as somebody who is more aggressive no matter what I do. And so, it’s important for me to have a really strong understanding of the biases that are against me. And so, because of that I probably smile more than the average person in business settings, I’m friendlier because I know that I need to assuage your fear and intimidation that you have of me because of the society we live in. Similarly, what we found is that when women negotiate, when they talk more about the relational aspects and say, “Well I appreciate this offer, but I was thinking that an offer like this would be more beneficial to me because I want to make sure that I am adequately motivated to do this job so we can work well as a team. Also, I have things at home that I need to take care of.” And so, we know that the biases against females are you’re supposed to stay in your lane and kind of be more relationship minded. It’s like okay, that’s unfair – it’s an unfair bias, but it exists, so how can we use that against the people that we are negotiating with. The way to do that is to just kind of go into it and say the reason why I’m doing this is because of XYZ relationship. When they’ve compared people who just ask in general and then ask – when compared to other people who ask with that relationship minded focus, with women, it has been accepted – the ask has been more easily accepted by the other person. It’s not taken as negatively, if that makes sense.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Yes, it makes sense. Let’s play an advocate, ‘cause mi nuh devil. In hearing that, I hear the argument. I’m going to come out of my lawyer zone because we live in a legal world. Someone else might say, but why do I have to lead with that even if that doesn’t matter to me? Why do I have to say well I have to take care of my family? Like I want more money because I want more money. How would you respond to someone who was like that’s a level of deception that I’m not willing to agree with?

Kwame Christian:I should have articulated it better by saying I want to take care of my family, but I think a better way to say it is I need to make sure that I put my family in the best position and to put myself in the best position for the team too. Yes, to your point, why should we say that even if we don’t feel it? I think that brings us to the question of whether or not we want to be right or whether or not we want to be effective. When it comes to persuasion, and this is something I say all the time in my podcast, persuasion isn’t difficult because it’s complex, persuasion is difficult because a lot of times it doesn’t feel good. A lot of times we have to do things or say things that it’s like oh my goodness, do I need to swallow my pride here. I want to lay into this person, but I need to hold back. And so for me, a lot of times I don’t feel like softening my tone to make other people feel comfortable, but I know if I want to get what I want, I need to do that. 

Here’s an example. I remember one time I was at a – because I said I’m still a practicing attorney, I brought in some volunteers from the local university to a nursing home because I wanted to establish good relationships there, because I do estate planning as well as business law. And so, I brought in these volunteers and the lady who was in charge of the nursing home for that day, I didn’t know her, but she came in and she thanked the students who were there and everything. She kind of just ignored me like I wasn’t even there. I was like okay, I see what’s happening here. And so, I took the initiative to introduce myself with a big smile to try and lower her defenses. I realized based on the fact that she ignored me from the jump, there is a higher level of intimidation that she has for me. Okay, what do I need to do? I happen to have a super cute baby. I was like oh yeah, I have a baby by the way. I just slid that in there, like oh I’m a bit sleepy, I have a baby. “Oh, you have a baby!” I was like yeah, you want to see a picture? “Oh my goodness!” And so after that, we were best of friends, and then she was talking about how she needs an estate plan and how she wants to call me to talk about that. Would I have been able to do that if I approached it just as a general conversation? Probably not, but I knew based on the biases that I could sense, I needed to add a little bit more in order to make her feel comfortable because people make decisions when they feel comfortable. If there is a little bit of discomfort, people see that as risk, and the gap between coming to a conclusion and creating an agreement is risk, perceived risk. So my goal is to lower that as much as possible.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown: Right. What you’re saying, my goal wasn’t* to kind of make this about woman and negotiation, but I’m also a woman and negotiation and negotiating has now become a huge part of my life. Negotiation doesn’t necessarily mean money. It’s literally negotiating, as you know Kwame, what approach I’m going to take with a particular stakeholder and okay this may not be my first move, but I’m playing a long game. If I have to make this shift against something I don’t want, it’s part of a long-term negotiation process to make some concessions along the way. What you’re saying, is in essence, we aren’t reading people enough to understand where they perceive us coming in. You studied psychology. I am an introvert; I naturally observe people and I freelance as a psychologist sometimes in my head. What can people do, women, men, but what can we do to be more aware of the behaviors of people to know how to disarm them? Because men also do a great job. You spoke about your kids. Some people talk about games. “Who’s a Yankee fan?” I see that all the time. They kick it off with a conversation about their favorite teams or it’s not their favorite team. I’ve observed a conversation where two men were arguing about which tequila is the best tequila, but that was just kind of how they started – because then now they know that they have a very discerning taste about the quality of tequila. Even though they might not have agreed on which brand is the better brand, based on what you’re saying, they also have a connection that we are tequila connoisseurs. They already have that kind of respect. What can women do – the children is I think a natural way, what other way can we bring, you said this kind of coalition or softness us up a little bit when it comes to going or starting the negotiation process?

Kwame Christian:I love this question because one of the things that I love to do – because I’m an introvert too; I listen more than I speak. And so, my goal in my conversations is to have the breakdown of communications about 70/30, where I’m only speaking 30% of the time but I’m listening 70% of the time. Negotiation is an information game. Your goal is to gather as much information as possible, because it’s like the old adage says “knowledge is power”. Before I have a conversation or negotiation with somebody, I’m doing research on them. I put them through what I call the dating test. Do I know enough information about this person that will make me feel comfortable dating them? And so, coming into this conversation, I already have a decent understanding of your interests. I look at people’s LinkedIn. I look at their social media. What do they care about? That gives me an idea of what I should talk about and what I shouldn’t talk about. I can start off the conversation building quick rapport because I’m going to start off by talking about things that I know you’re interested in. I’m going to ask questions to allow you to get deeper into the conversation.

And what happens is, when somebody actually listens to you, you reciprocate by listening in return. Also, it helps to generate trust and deepen the relationship because when it’s all said and done, we give things to people that we like. If we feel like this person is a friend, that will help us to get what we want more readily. It takes time, but listening is going to be key, so not only listening to the words, asking insightful questions and then listen to the words that they say, but also listening to the body language too. From a young age, we have been taught to lie. Whether or not it seems like a malicious lie, we’ve been taught to lie by our parents. For instance, if we are a two-year-old and somebody gives us a present and we don’t like it and we show that we don’t like it, our parents are going to say “Be grateful! Tell them thank you. Fix your face.”

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown: No, it’s going to be like, “Yuh lucky seh smaddy give yuh sumting!”

Kwame Christian:Exactly! When you look at somebody’s face, we’ve been well trained from a young age to conceal things with our face, so you need to look at the entire body language. If somebody is acting like they are engaged with our conversation with their face and then we look down at their feet and their feet are pointing towards the door, we know they have something else to do. We know we don’t have their full attention. Now that we have that intelligence, now we can say, “But I know you’re in a rush, I’ll let you go and then we’ll talk about this later.” It doesn’t make sense to talk to somebody when we know that they are not engaged in the conversation. When I say listening, I don’t just mean listening to the words that are said, but listening to the entire body because there is a lot of information coming our way, but since we’re not good at listening with our ears or our eyes, sometimes we miss it.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown: I like that you said that. A quick recap on that. Men build rapport and women, a natural way to build rapport is with kids, but there are some women that don’t have kids. So in order to really find other ways to build rapport, we have to do the dating game. Ladies, we know how to search out and research when we need to find something, so do your research when it comes to business to find some other way to build rapport if you’re not comfortable with leading with the family route. You just said it, we give things to people we like. If somebody does not like us, they are not going to give us attention. They are going to question everything, cut us off in the middle of the presentation, everything because they don’t like us, they don’t want to pay attention. It’s not a personal thing per se. It just goes back to what you said, trust, they don’t trust us yet.

Kwame Christian:Exactly.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown: Cool. I love this. I’m going to work on my negotiation skills. Yes, I feel very empowered now to really take my negotiation skills to the next level. Let’s talk about some other situations where negotiation is probably a challenge. Salary and work-based type negotiations, because salary isn’t the only thing that we negotiate at work. What are some of the challenges around people in general with negotiating in the workplace regarding salary or any other benefits as it pertains to work? It may not be benefits, maybe you want to negotiate – well it is a benefit, maybe it’s a title change or maybe you want to work remotely or telecommute or whatever it is. What are some of the challenges that people have regarding negotiating in that sense?

Kwame Christian:I’m so excited for this question. This is going to be awesome. The first barrier that people have in negotiating in the workplace and negotiating in general, is that we don’t see it. You can’t utilize these skills if you don’t recognize there is an opportunity to use it. The definition that I use for negotiation is any conversation where you or somebody else wants something. When you think about it, that’s about 90 to 95% of our conversations, so we’re negotiating all the time. It’s kind of like a car. If you drive a car, if you buy a car, you think it’s a super unique car until you buy it and now you’re hyperaware of it. And so, you start seeing it all around town. That’s how it’s going to be now that you know what a negotiation really is. 

The first step is to really have a good understanding of what it is that you want. Is it a title change? Is it more money? Why you want it, because there might be creative ways to get what you want other than the obvious. And so, I don’t think about negotiation as having a set beginning and a set endpoint. It’s like a constant negotiation. I look at it more like a game of chess. When you first started that job, the chess set is open, nothing has happened yet. And then you start to make moves every day and position yourself appropriately to make that big ask when the time is right. And so, when it comes to getting title changes and when it comes to increase in salary, we focus too much on the one conversation where we make the ask, but the whole time we should be positioning ourselves and making incremental moves toward facilitating that conversation. So when you actually have that conversation, that’s just the tip of the iceberg; you’ve been doing work the whole time.

What does this look like? A lot of times you might have an opportunity to take part in a project. Within that project, we can position ourselves for that salary increase. In the beginning, we might be working with our teammates, so we are trying to negotiate whose idea is going to take the lead. If you are able to persuade effectively in that situation, then your idea wins the day. That takes you a step closer to your salary. Those types of things. If you can persuade the people in your team to let you be the leader, again, that takes you closer to that salary increase. You have to really kind of broaden your perspective on what a negotiation is and understand that there are constant opportunities to negotiate. I know that you know this, because we’ve been talking about this for the past few weeks on how you can position yourself too within your organization. There are myriad opportunities to negotiate, but we have to really pay attention to those smaller ones to position ourselves effectively.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown: You know what, Kwame? You already know that I’m taking ridiculous amounts of notes. I have to find another word, but the ah-ha moment you said, is we focus on the one conversation, the ask, but the ask is really the tip of the iceberg. We should have been kind of aligning before that. I never looked at it that way. I’m looking at this from like a Caribbean perspective. Most Caribbean-Americans, they can relate to this. When I was in high school, my cousin, my brother and I, we always wanted to go out to some party, but with a Caribbean parent, what you have to do? You have to ask them like two years in advance to go to this party. You ask two years in advance, but what do you do between now, the time you ask and the time of the party? You make sure the dishes are always washed. They don’t have to tell you what to do, when to do it. You’re on point. And so, negotiation is literally – like when you just said this, it’s everything I did before I asked mommy about this party and everything I did after that, because the negotiation doesn’t stop after I ask and I get her permission. It still continues because she has the power to take it away from me at any time. I was just like man – Caribbean parents are something else. It just kind of clicked when you said that, because I’m like oh my gosh, mommy used to be on that – she enjoyed it because obviously she’s getting not to yell at us, because we’re just going to do it anyway. This was really an ah-ha moment. We focus on the one conversation and not the incremental moves leading up to that one conversation, and the post conversation moves because people are also still wanting to feel comfortable that they made the right decision or they didn’t give away all of their power because that’s always a concern. This just kind of – this is like the big star ah-ha, like this is like the money whatever – the money saying phrase. That is so key.

Let me just jump back a little bit. I just shared the story about my mom and asking and then negotiation. Is there something about the way we were brought up, where our parents weren’t dictators, but they were near dictators – there is no back chat to Caribbean parents. And so, is there a possibility that sometimes our timidness to negotiation had to do with how we were literally raised? Like you don’t back chat, you just did it. There was no room for a dialogue because a dialogue meant disrespect.

Kwame Christian:Oh yeah. It’s so funny. I was busting up when you were talking because I knew exactly where you were going. The thing is, like you said, I know you were being nice, but yeah, they were dictators. There is no negotiation. It’s like, “Well mom, did you consider…?… No, okay, I guess you didn’t consider that.” Yeah, that is something that we need to get over because when we get into the workplace, then who’s the parent in that situation? It’s the boss. And so, the boss says something, we don’t challenge it or we don’t do anything that could be perceived as a challenge. What we need to realize is that it will only be perceived as a challenge if you don’t negotiate well. If the boss has an idea, you could just ask questions. I tell you, the best way to be persuasive – if there is one thing that I want people to understand is that you don’t persuade people by making affirmative statements. You persuade people by asking great open-ended questions that allow them to persuade themselves. Don’t think of it as you are challenging people, think of it more like an information gathering session where you are asking questions, but these questions are set up in a way that allow them to come to your conclusion. I think one of the best ways I’ve heard it described is negotiation is the art of letting them have your way.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown: Yes, oh my goodness! This is so good. The challenge, it’s asking better questions then. What’s a great – you said we need to ask great open-ended questions. What is that? What’s an example of that?

Kwame Christian:You have some experience in the legal community. You know how a cross-examination is, where somebody would say, “You were there that night, right? The blood was on your hands, right?” Those are examples of closed ended questions, where your options are yes or no. When somebody is being asked closed ended questions in that way, they feel controlled, they feel confined, and the person asking the question is really shooting themselves in the foot because they miss out on the opportunity to get more information. You want to ask open-ended questions because it allows people to elaborate, and then that’s how you get close to that breakdown of communication 70/30 like I described earlier. 

And so, the beautiful thing – and this is the beauty of asking questions, is that when you ask questions and you have this breakdown in this way, you are the person in control. You’re like the puppet master. Your hand is on the steering wheel while their foot is on the brake or gas pedal. No matter how fast or how slow you go, we are going where I want to go. That’s the beauty of asking questions. You want to ask open-ended questions, get people to elaborate and then get them deeper. And so, let’s say it’s a situation where you know you are right, just objectively you are right, you can ask questions that focus the person on why they are wrong, so then they come to the conclusion themselves. At the end of the conversation, if we were to have like an ESPN breakdown, “Sir, why did you change your mind on this issue?” And they’ll say, “You know after I thought about it a little bit more, I realized that this was the better way to go.” When in reality, you’re sitting there in the background thinking, “Ha! He things he did it himself.”

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown: Yeah, I know! I know. Real world example. Let me try to give a real-world example from two jobs ago. I would like my administrator to go with a particular vendor for a particular service. They don’t think we need the vendor or the service because they think we can handle it in-house. From a legal perspective, profit centers in-house. You don’t want to outsource everything because then you have to explain to the client why you had to pay this vendor to do something. Let’s just say this is the right way to go because we are not experts at it, so it’s better to get an expert to outsource it. The administrative is like, “No Kerry-Ann. I don’t see why we need to get this vendor to do X.” I know we need to get the vendor to do X. How do I then have this open-ended question to get them to see that we do need this vendor?

Kwame Christian:This is going to be fun. Let’s do some make-believe prep with you beforehand. Why do you know that we need this vendor?

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown: I know because we do not have the expertise or the manpower to do it. Why? There’s only one manpower, moi. I cannot do that job and do the other job that into the attorney’s eyes is the most important job, which is staff paralegals to my cases versus doing the physical database management. I know I can’t do it and we need to outsource the task to do that, and it’s more efficient. It’s not only cost because now you would have to pay me more to do that internally, but you also lose out on efficiency and accuracy because now I’m juggling too many things.

Kwame Christian:Right. Okay perfect. What I would do, is that would go in – and here’s another thing too, Rome wasn’t built in a day. These negotiations don’t need to happen all at once. Again, we need to position ourselves appropriately. What I would do is I would have a quick meeting and talk to the administrator and ask her what are your goals for this project. Get the answer. I know you’re a prolific notetaker, so get the answer, but in her own words. How would you know that this is a success? Get the answer in her own words. What is the budget? What are our constraints? Get the answer in her own words. Okay perfect, thanks boss. I’ll see you later. And so, now you get that information. With that information now, we want to take our reality, our truth and couch it in terms that she is familiar with, using your own words. And so then a subsequent conversation is, “I remember your goal was XYZ, but I’m running into a problem. Can you give me some advice?” “Sure, what is it?” “Well I want to try and accomplish the goal in this way, but I’m running into trouble because this is a problem. What would you do?” And then get them to say okay – try and have them solve the problem. Then you say, “Well, I tried that but it wouldn’t work because XYZ. What else would you do?” And so, again, you see what we’re doing? We’re not only asking open-ended questions, but we are asking them in a way that’s strategically geared towards focusing them on why this won’t work. At the end of the conversation, it goes exactly how you think it’s going to go because you prepared. You’re the boots on the ground, you know what the reality is on the ground, but you, through asking these questions, you are allowing her to educate herself and try to problem solve. You know that there is no solution other than yours. And then, you can come up to her and say, “Hey, I realized after our conversation yesterday, we were running into some problems and I think I have a solution that could solve this problem in a way that adheres to your parameters. Do you have a second to chat?” That’s when you bring it forward. You use the information you got from the first conversation, using her exact same terms, “It would fit into budget because of this. It will have this outcome because of that. Since we don’t have a solution because we came to that conclusion yesterday in this conversation, this would be a great outcome.” And so, that whole time she’s thinking about oh this won’t work, what can we do? Now you come up with a solution.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown: What I’m getting from what you just said is again, it’s never a one time thing. It’s a lead up. It’s a series of steps and it is not outright resistance. It’s this really balance of getting what they want done, trying it and then asking, this is not working, what do you suggest – and just going back to it. I think one of the things we do is – and as Caribbean people, “mi know mi right”, “I tell them to do this”, “this is the only way it fi get done, the only way it must get done”, “if dem nuh waa do it, a fi dem business” because we gave them the best recommended solution, “Dem nuh waa do it, their business. Mi done.” It’s just this cultural thing like this is the answer, I know it’s right. If you don’t want to do it, your problem. Based on what you’re saying and based on my experiences, people aren’t responding to that position right out the gate. It’s almost like you have to soften them to get to that point. And like you said, they might not get to that point even after you’ve demonstrated it takes a series of “oh okay, yeah”. And then sometimes, based on what you say, we have to accept that they’ll come to a realization that we knew was our suggestion, but they’ll say it’s their suggestion. At that point, what I heard – not to get caught up with if you do the ESPN breakdown, not to get caught up whether they’ve had this ah-ha moment or we led them to it, what we should focus on is that it got done, not who got to that realization first.

Kwame Christian:Exactly. That’s the thing too, like I said, sometimes the reason why persuasion is so hard is because it doesn’t always feel good. There’s a difference between being right and being effective. A lot of these conversations, we’re going to have the level of frustration that comes with talking to somebody and saying, “Hey, we can all agree that 1+1 is 2. Right?” And they are like, “No, I’m thinking it’s 3.” You’re like what? You have to realize okay, calm down. They’re going to come to the solution in time, but you need to lead them there. I think one of the most important things we can do is just control their focus. By asking these questions, you can manipulate their focus and focus them on why you are right. Think about it, anytime you’re in a conversation, sometimes we have arguments and we have pride too. Sometimes in the middle of an argument we might realize I’m wrong on this one, I’m wrong here, but I’ve invested too much of myself in this. I will not relent. And so, at the end of these conversations, that’s why when you’re having that ESPN breakdown, you need to let them feel as though they came to it themselves because people are going to be resistant if they feel like they lost an argument. When you couch this in terms of an argument with a zero-sum game where there is a winner and a loser, nobody is going to want to feel like a loser. That’s why you want to frame these conversations not as a negotiation or an argument, but more like joint problem-solving. That’s the way you really start to make moves because people feel safe adjusting their position in those types of situations.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown: Yeah, so you have to give up the need to feel like “yeah man, I’m right” sometimes, because as long as the initiative gets done, that’s the ultimate win because the decision they ultimately made is one that I want them to make. That’s the win I should focus on and not whether they came to it on their own or not.

Kwame Christian:Exactly.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown: Alright, got it. Sometimes I don’t always see it that way, but I’m working on it. This is some really good stuff. This is really, really good. I know there’s always a challenge with people who have like service businesses and at a service business, if you’re not a lawyer, an accountant, where like I need an accountant, I need a lawyer, I need someone who has a certain level of professional skills, it invites more room to bargain on pricing. I think even with lawyers, because I’ve worked in this space for long enough time where clients are always looking to bargain or negotiate unless they are looking down the barrel of some serious, serious litigation. If it’s for like maybe estate planning or something that is not – I don’t want to say mission-critical, but you know what I’m talking about, there seems to be a lot of bargaining/negotiation. What tips do you have to offer for someone who has a service business and they find that they get a lot of – they need to negotiate more when it comes to their fees or the cost of their services? Because there is a saying where it’s like this is your price and if people don’t want to pay it, then they are not the client for you, but I don’t think that’s always right. Just your thoughts and that.

Kwame Christian:Yes, and I have a big smile on my face because again, the timing could not have been better! I was talking to one of my friends and she was starting a coaching business. And so typically, you know people who have a consulting business or coaching businesses, if they want to consult with me, that’s one of the services I do, but she’s been my friend for a while so we were just talking through this. I asked her this question, I said – she wants to be a business coach. I was like has anybody ever said your price was too high? She’s like no. I was like well that’s a problem. That is a problem in and of itself. There is a strong school in negotiation that says if you haven’t gotten to a no, you haven’t pushed hard enough. Once somebody says no, you can always adjust, but if you haven’t gotten there, you haven’t found their limits. 

When you think about value, you have to realize value is whatever people are willing to pay you. It’s like if I’m offering this service and somebody values it at $10 and somebody else values it at $20, and there’s really no objective way for us to measure the value – if you value it at $20 and you’re cool with that, then I’m cool with that too. This is what I suggest for people who are in service businesses. You are in this business to help people, to help them solve their problems. And so, they are coming to you as an expert. You have to recognize first of all that you are the expert in the field, so when it comes to understanding the prices and what it entails, you will always know more than them. And so, coming to that conversation with that level of confidence, that’s the first thing. The second thing is when somebody comes to you, you should brainstorm about what is the most that I can give this person, what would be the platinum package that I could come up with. You throw as much as you can as much service and time as possible into it. That comes up to this number. Now this number is big because you’re giving a lot. And so, you want to price your services at the highest price that you can reasonably justify. You give them everything and then you price it at the highest price you can reasonably justify and say this is what I’m offering you, and then you might get some pushback. “Okay, I can’t afford that.” Alright I’m sorry, I understand. What can you afford?

Now this is where we have to think about negotiations like a dance. You have the offer. You took the first step forward in this dance. Now it’s their turn to take a step. You bring in a counter by saying, “Well what did you have in mind to pay for this?” Let’s say if you price the service at like $3000. “Sorry, I can’t afford 3000.” It’s like okay, but what did you have in mind? And so then you invite that offer and they say, “Well, you know I was thinking more like around 2000.” And so, you say, “Okay, well for 2000, I can give you this package. It would look more like my silver package.” One thing, you never want to trade something for nothing. You don’t just give away. You don’t just discount that gold level service that you were going to give. You say, “Alright because of that, I’m going to need to take off this option, this option and this option.” That’s what $2000 would look like. 

There is something psychologically important that just happened that a lot of people miss. There is a principle called anchoring. And so, let’s say in their mind coming into this conversation, they’re like I’m willing to pay about $1000 for this. You came in and you said 3000. And so, when you ask for that counter, they said, “Well you know, I was hoping to pay maybe around 2000.” They adjusted their thought process based on the high anchor that you created. The thing is, humans, we are very simple creatures. We think we’re smart, we’re really not. With that high anchor, with that $3000 mark that you presented first, it changed the reference point for the conversation. That’s why you want to get the first offer on the table. The rule of thumb is if you have more information, you make the first offer. If people are coming to your business, you are the expert, you make the first offer. Now change that if you’re negotiating salary. They have more information. They make the first offer because an offer is information and from that information, you can counter. I know I gave you a lot there, but you really got me excited.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown: Listen, of everything that – so anchoring, and anchoring matters is whoever has the most information makes the first offer. In a service-based business, if I know the value of my service, I’ll anchor with the price that I know is for my gold package. The other person is going to counter and say well I’m only going to pay X, and then the dance begins from there. Usually the person who doesn’t set the price, is going to adjust a little bit because their price in their head might go up a little bit, but not where you want it to be. That’s fine because then when you come down, you’re not saying okay, I’ll give you the gold package for $2000. You’re going to make adjustments to the package that is closest to the price that they have. Yes, no? Did I…?

Kwame Christian:Exactly. That’s one of the things I work with my clients who are entrepreneurs. It’s coming up with a negotiation strategy, because you want to concede according to plan. None of this should be done on the fly. Like I said, I prep – and that’s one of the gifts, when we get to the point, that’s going to be one of the gifts I give to your audience. It’s going to be a free negotiation preparation guide. Good negotiation doesn’t happen by accident. It’s all planned, all prepared.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown: It’s all in the preparation. As we wrap up, because we are coming up on time, what is the one thing – because we talked about negotiation, persuasion and it’s the art of the dance, the dating, so what’s the one take away that you want people to have when it comes to negotiation?

Kwame Christian:Negotiation is all about relationships. It’s all about people and understanding people. When you go into a negotiation, not with the goal of how can I maximize my earnings or my winnings in this, but how can I get a better understanding of the other person. That’s going to take a lot of pressure off of you when you going to these conversations and it’s going to increase your ability to persuade because people are not going to give you what you want if they don’t even believe that you know what they want. You have to take the time to understand.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown: It’s very interesting based on just what we opened with, how negotiation is either dismissed by some people like I already know how to do that or somewhere dismissed like oh I don’t need to know how to do that. That already we’ve set ourselves up for some level of failure when it comes to situations that require persuasion, building rapport or relationships with people to ultimately get what we want, not necessarily in a selfish way, but in a selfish way is fine too – it’s totally fine. This was really such a great, great information gathering, my ah-ha. I cannot believe it. We must not focus on the one conversation. I really think that if we take this perspective of information gathering, knowing who we are having a conversation with, knowing it’s a series of moves, we can prepare ourselves better. We could start to prepare ourselves better because like you said, Rome isn’t built in one day. I do hope people listening to this episode will get a better understanding of negotiation and to embrace it a little bit more, but I don’t expect everyone to be like top-notch negotiators, but it’s a start and learning to look at it differently. Like girls and math, like I don’t like math – but it’s really reframing what we think it is and isn’t. 

I really, really thank you for the scenarios and answering the questions. I am so, so excited because I feel like I just got some power. People are probably like why is she so excited. Because every day, like you said, it’s a negotiation. Every conversation, every day you go to work, you are negotiating something, not necessarily salary, you have projects, you have initiatives and you have different people. The more information I have, I can do my job better. That’s key. Don’t look at negotiation only as a business, I have a business and I need to get more clients, it’s part of your job in whatever you do. You’re negotiating with co-workers. You’re negotiating in every single move that you make to get certain things done. Thank you for that.

Kwame Christian:My pleasure. This was so much fun. If you ever want me back on and you have more scenarios, I’m down. This was fun for me.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown: I love situation based. I was like what?! Yes, fi sure. The situations are always – what’s the disclaimer they use on TV? Names have been changed and scenarios have been changed. They are important to put it into context because it’s not just theory, you want to see it in action. For sure, I’m expecting. If you have any questions for Kwame or there is a situation that you would like us to talk about with or without a Caribbean background, we’re cool with that because island people, we’re set up differently. Maybe it’s how we go and negotiate with mommy – now that, I want to know how that would work. For sure, definitely email or tweet. It’s hello@carryonfriends and you could tweet. Kwame, I want you to share how the audience can get in touch with you as well.

Kwame Christian:Yeah perfect, and before I jump into contacting me, I want you to have that free gift. If you go to, you can get that free prep guide. Connect with me on LinkedIn. I always have people connecting with me. I have like 30 new contacts waiting for me to go through, but I always want to hear from people who have heard me and if they have questions for me or anything like that. Like you have seen in this episode, I’m a big time nerd when it comes on to this, so I can go off on a whole different level. I want people to contact me and tell me what they here so I can focus my content. Yeah, check out the podcast Negotiation for Entrepreneurs. Reach out to me on LinkedIn and check out the free guide to make sure you could get what you want, because you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you ask for. This will help you.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown: Yes and remember, and the book, women – you don’t ask, we don’t ask, so we got to read this book to figure out why we don’t ask and how asking can change a lot of things. I’ll put all this information in the show notes. It’s also going to be on the recap on the blog. Thank you so much Kwame for this really great episode. As I like to say at the end of the show, walk good.


Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown is Founder & host of Carry On Friends one of the first podcasts dedicated to the Caribbean American Experience. She is leading the way for Caribbean Podcast as the founder of Breadfruit Media, the first Caribbean podcast production company; and founder of the Caribbean Podcast Directory a place to discover podcasts by people of Caribbean Heritage.