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Conflict Resolution in Negotiation with Kwame Christian, Ep #135

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Conflict resolution in negotiation is important for a negotiator to master—or at the very least learn to understand. You must be able to find confidence in the conflict, which is one of the main themes running through Kwame Christian’s new book: Nobody Will Play With Me: How To Use Compassionate Curiosity to Find Confidence in Conflict. Listen to this episode for an inside look at his book. We also cover conflict resolution—both internally and externally—and a psychological aspect of negotiation often overlooked.

Kwame Christian is a Negotiation & Conflict Resolution Training Consultant as well as a business lawyer, mediator, and skilled negotiator. He is the Director and Lead Trainer at the American Negotiation Institute as well as the host of the Negotiate Anything podcast. He is passionate about empowering professionals to find confidence in conflict and navigate difficult conversations like master negotiators. Don’t miss his unique and engaging insight into the world of negotiation.


Outline of This Episode

  • [1:39] Background: Who is Kwame Christian?
  • [3:22] Kwame’s new book: Nobody Will Play With Me
  • [4:44] Overcome your fear to find confidence in conflict
  • [7:42] Strategy and planning yield better results
  • [15:11] Everyone is created equally—but differently
  • [19:43] Allow yourself the license to fail
  • [25:18] The psychological aspect of negotiation
  • [30:58] Preparation is the best way to find success

Find confidence in conflict

Kwame is a lawyer, but he graduated with a degree in Psychology for his undergrad. His book talks about some of the basics of psychology and the concept of how to overcome fear. We all have different fears regarding conflict that we must overcome to excel at our jobs. Kwame points out that “As negotiation experts, we are giving recipes for people afraid to get in the kitchen.” To “get in the kitchen” negotiators must first learn how to overcome emotional fears to build a foundation to make it through difficult conversations. It’s not about techniques, tactics, and skills that you bring to the table—but finding confidence in the conflict.

Conflict resolution in negotiation begins with overcoming fear

Kwame shares that he’s naturally a people-pleaser. His fear has to do with the loss of a relationship if something goes wrong. It stems from his childhood, being the only Caribbean-American in rural Ohio. No one would play with him at recess and he found himself in the nurse’s office in tears—and vowed that would never happen again.

So he set off on a “friendship offensive” (as he calls it) and became really popular and well-liked. He didn’t want to jeopardize the relationships he worked so hard to cultivate, so whenever conflict arose, he backed down. He compromised, gave up, or shied away—even when it was something important to him.

Everyone has to go through an introspective process to overcome their barrier, whatever thing that’s holding them back. We view conflict as a “specter”—something in the shadows that’s scary. Kwame states that we can make something small look really big depending on the angle we view it from. We can’t look at conflict as something to be feared. Instead, we must look at conflict as an opportunity.

Allow yourself the license to fail

Kwame and I have a conversation about a negotiation that didn’t have the desired outcome. The reality is, you can do everything the right way and still not get the desired results. Sometimes there is no deal to be had. You are never guaranteed success. Just like in a game of poker, you won’t always have a winning hand.

Kwame is a huge chess fan and points out that Chess is all about positioning. You can put yourself in the best position for success and advance in the right direction. Every move you make you reassess and then make the next best move. In his words—“We can’t control the outcome of the negotiation. We can control how we perform during the process which will then have an impact on the outcome.”

If you don’t achieve the success that you want, it’s okay. You can’t let fear trick you into making poor decisions.

A simple framework for overcoming emotion in conflict resolution

In Kwame’s book, he shares a simple framework for overcoming the emotions you experience throughout the negotiation process. His “compassionate curiosity framework” looks like this:

  1. Acknowledge and validate your emotions
  2. Get curious with compassion
  3. Engage in joint problem-solving

You can easily use this framework when you see someone who is emotional—whether in a negotiation, at home, or even internally. You acknowledge your counterparty’s emotion: “It seems you’re frustrated right now.” Secondly, be curious and compassionate: “What is causing you to feel this way?” Lastly, use their answers to deescalate the situation and engage in joint problem-solving.

To learn more about the psychological aspect of negotiation, creating your own authentic negotiation style, and the importance of planning in negotiation, listen to the whole episode.

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Kwame Christian

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