How are your communication skills?
Are you able to negotiate conflict with skill?
[Haven’t yet heard the show? Go here to listen to the audio version with Kwame]
I recently sat down to talk with Kwame Christian, he was the perfect person to interview about conflict, negotiation and communication skills.
He’s an attorney, professor, and director of the American negotiation Institute. He also travels around the country conducting negotiation and conflict management workshops.
Does it sound like he’s busy? Hold on there’s more….
He has given a TEDx talk, hosts the podcast Negotiate Anything, and he is the author of a best selling book, No One Will Play with Me: How to Use Compassionate Curiosity to Find Confidence in Conflict, and gave a TEDx talk Finding Confidence in Conflict.
Now, I know what you are wondering. What does negotiation have to do with money or my family?
You negotiate all the time with your money, with your family, and with yourself. There are times when those negotiations lead to conflict (even within yourself).
Let me give a dietary example: You want a piece of cheesecake, but you’ve already had one that day or week.
The vast majority of people don’t like conflict, but it’s a part of our professional and personal lives.
I’m hoping that you’ll read this and take away some tips for making difficult conversations easier by improving your communication skills!
Why is the ability to negotiate so important?
Kwame’s definition of negotiation is any conversation where somebody wants something.
When we use that broad definition we recognize:
- We’re negotiating all the time
- We negotiate the most with the people who are closest to us
Because our conversations are negotiations or strategic opportunities, we can be proactive about accomplishing our goals.
If you don’t you’re just letting life happen to you.
How do you prepare yourself to negotiate with someone?
Better communication skills can improve your outcomes in difficult conversations.
Preparation will help you feel calmer and more in control of your situation.
Here are some tips:
- Prepare (a systematic approach is best)
- Understand what the goal is (yours and theirs)
- The right questions can move the conversation forward
You can find free negotiation guides on a variety of topics at the American Negotiation Institute.
How do You Manage Your Emotions During a Tough Conversation?
So you think you’re prepared for that tough conversation, then something that you didn’t expect hijacks your emotions.
How do you handle that situation?
The majority of people are quick to respond to perceived threats.
Our body’s reaction is to flood with a stress hormone called cortisol.
That can mean we’re not even thinking straight.
This is where being prepared becomes very important. It helps to pre-think the conversation as much as possible, so you already have an idea of how you’ll respond.
The next thing you can do is use Kwame’s Compassionate Curiosity Framework.
Which has three parts:
- Acknowledge and validate emotions
- Engage in compassionate curiosity
- Engage in joint problem-solving
The great thing about the Compassionate Curiosity Framework is that it can be flipped internally.
You can do this before the conversation when you start to feel emotional about it.
What is it that I’m feeling?
Why are you feeling this way? What led you to this situation?
Who else is involved?
Ask yourself the questions compassionately (even when you are answering them for yourself).
We can be our own worst judge, and negative self-talk will only bring us down.
The questions help to get your heart and mind on the same page. They help you decide if it’s an emotional need or want.
We have to decide if the answer will do too much damage to us. You decide what you will or won’t compromise about yourself.
Does it conflict with your values or something you care about?
It’s important to know that before you engage in the conversation, this is the time to set your boundaries.
The process of self-awareness, and acknowledging your own emotions, is critical.
The last part of managing your emotions before (during, or after) a tough conversation is to find a way to calm yourself down.
Kwame suggested meditation, and a physical mindfulness technique called progressive muscle relaxation.
In which muscles do you typically carry your tension?
He told me that when he is getting emotional, for example during a conversation, he’ll intentionally slow down his breathing. He tries to relax the tension in his muscles.
He also stated that you have to figure out what is your grounding mechanism.
What does it take you to get out of your head?
He expanded on the idea, saying once you start focusing on your environment and become more mindful about how you’re feeling it helps to take you out of your head. You’ll then start to feel less emotional.
If you take the time to acknowledge and validate unproductive emotions in someone you are talking with, it allows the conversation to move forward.
Good communication skills involve asking the other person about their feelings. Kwame gave me an example of how you might phrase the inquiry:
It feels like_______.
It sounds like_________.
If I were in your situation, I would feel________.
While the person is in the grip of their unproductive emotions, the conversation will stall. The person you are conversing with won’t receive your message.
However, by asking the other person questions or putting their feelings into words, they will identify their emotions and share them.
In other words, you are both able to process the emotions within the conversation.
Empathy & Validation
Fight, flight or empathy?
Good communication skills include showing someone empathy by taking the time to clarify their feelings. It lets them know you understand.
It can be hard to deal with our own emotions, and even harder to deal with someone else’s feelings.
The act of leaning into the emotion allows the other person (or yourself) to get it out of their
After acknowledging the emotion, you can also validate it.
What is validation?
You’re letting the other person know that their thoughts and feelings make sense.
You are letting them know you understand.
That doesn’t mean you have to agree.
Hey, hey… thanks for checking out the blog and the show with Kwame. By now, I hope you know I’m here to support you on your journey of being on solid financial ground.
If you want or need to reach out to me, please visit:
my firm site at GenNext Wealth