Negotiation is a powerful skill — especially in uncertain times. With the pandemic disrupting so many existing business agreements and contracts, renegotiating these arrangements can be the key to salvaging them. But how do you start tough conversations? In this episode of Onward Nation, encore guest, lawyer and expert negotiator Kwame Christian shares key business lessons on negotiation and conflict resolution that can help you survive and even thrive in uncertain times. As the pandemic and the effects of social distancing have made certain obligations difficult or impossible to fill, finding new, mutually beneficial solutions is important.
The secret to great negotiation lies in a few key skills: being proactive, authentic, and empathetic, and being prepared to ask key questions and carefully consider the answers you get. Kwame says that expressing empathy and understanding with your negotiating partners’ position can help you generate goodwill and trust, and it can also help you find new solutions that satisfy all parties involved. By showing that you understand their perspective and recognize their expectations, you can find common ground and shore up your agreements with them. We can’t control the impact that the pandemic and social distancing requirements have on our businesses, but we can often find alternative solutions.
One of Kwame’s most important business lessons in his career is the power of the magical question, “what flexibility do you have?” By asking this question, you are passively assuming that the other party has room to negotiate, priming them to your way of thinking. This question often catches others off guard and encourages them to be more willing to bend. In return, Kwame says it is important to be willing to bend your own expectations and work toward common ground. Almost anything can be negotiated, Kwame says, as long as you’re willing to ask.
Kwame Christian, Esq., M.A. is a business lawyer and 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 bachelor of arts in Psychology, a Master of Public Policy, and a law degree, Kwame brings a unique multidisciplinary approach to the topic of conflict management and negotiation.
His TEDx Talk, Finding Confidence in Conflict, was viewed over 160,000 times and was the most popular TED Talk on the topic of conflict of 2017. He also hosts the top negotiation podcast in the country, Negotiate Anything. The show has been downloaded over 350,000 times, and has listeners in 181 different countries.