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Episode 151 is live! This week, we talk with Kwame Christian in Columbus, Ohio. Kwame is an attorney who focuses on conflict resolution and contract negotiation. He is also a negotiation consultant, negotiation trainer, and host of the Negotiate Anything podcast.

On today’s episode, Kwame shares:

  • Why salary negotiation is important
  • How to reduce your stress and anxiety while negotiating
  • When the salary negotiation begins
  • How to negotiate up your salary

Listen and learn more! You can play the podcast here, or download it on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

To learn more about Kwame, find him on Twitter and Facebook.

Thanks to everyone for listening! And, thank you to those who sent me questions. You can send your questions to You can also send me questions via Twitter. I’m @CopelandCoach. And, on Facebook, I am Copeland Coaching.

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Copeland Coaching Podcast | Episode 151 | Salary Negotiation – Kwame Christian, American Negotiation Institute

Airdate: November 21, 2017


ANGELA COPELAND: Welcome to the Copeland Coaching podcast. Live on the phone with me today I have Kwame Christian in Columbus, Ohio. Kwame is an attorney who focuses on conflict resolution and contract negotiation. He’s also a negotiation consultant, negotiation trainer, and host of the negotiate anything podcast. Kwame, thank you for joining me today.

KWAME CHRISTIAN: Hey Angela, thanks for having me.

ANGELA COPELAND: Well I am so excited. We met a few months ago at Podcast Movement, and you teach people how to do what I think is the most important part of getting a job, which is salary negotiations. I am so excited.

KWAME CHRISTIAN: Yeah, I’m excited to talk about it. This is going to be a fun one.

ANGELA COPELAND: Well, so the very first, most basic thing is I’m always trying to convince people that salary negotiation is important, that they need to do it. And tell me, why is it important to you? Why should we do it?

KWAME CHRISTIAN: It’s important for a number of ways. I think the obvious one is the money. Studies have shown that if you don’t take the time to negotiate, you could over the course of your lifetime miss out on over $500,000 on the low end, and if you are one of those higher trajectory type of professionals, well over a million easily, when you consider the compound effect of the money that’s lost and the investment opportunities that you’ve missed, the opportunity cost of losing that money. Another missed opportunity that comes when people don’t take the time to negotiate is the opportunity to get respect. I remember hearing the story of somebody who was a consultant, I believe it was at a managing consulting firm. And they lost a lot of respect for the candidate because she didn’t negotiate. They thought potentially if it was a mistake because they were wondering if she would be able to negotiate and advocate on behalf of the company if she wasn’t able to negotiate on behalf of herself. And so when it comes to this, it’s not just the amount of financial value that you can gain from that interaction. It’s also the opportunity to display your negotiation and dispute resolution skills, because as we move forward in this world, those are going to be the types of skills that really set people apart, the ability to connect and persuade.

ANGELA COPELAND: Wow, you put that really well, and I love the fact that you mention the company expected her to negotiate and they lost respect when she didn’t.


ANGELA COPELAND: So for a lot of us, the reason that we’re not negotiating, part of it is that we’ve never done it before, and it makes us uncomfortable, and not only does it make us uncomfortable, it’s stressful, it causes anxiety. It just causes us to feel bad. And I know you’ve got to work with your clients on this. How do you get people to try to reduce the stress and anxiety that it causes when they’re actually having that negotiation?

KWAME CHRISTIAN: Yeah, and this question is really close to my heart, because this is something that I struggled with. I was a kind of guy who was afraid of public speaking. I was afraid of conflict or any kind of difficult conversation. I used to shy away from that. This is very much learned, and so if I can get to where I am doing what I’m doing with this skill, anybody can, really. And one of the best ways to address this type of fear when it comes to the anxiety that you feel with these types of social interactions, and you could actually extrapolate to this similar fears like fear of speaking, is we need to re-conceptualize the way that we think about the physiological experience of anxiety. And so my background is psychology. That was my first academic love. And so when it comes to our appraisal of emotions, it’s really limited. As humans, we only have a small array of feelings that we can feel. So for example, if you go to a movie, and it’s a scary movie, your heart rate will elevate, you might perspire a little bit, and you might experience a shortness of breath. If you have a crush on someone and that dreamy person happens to walk into the room and looks into your eyes and says, “Hey, what’s up” in that really dreamy way, you know, we will experience shortness of breath, a little bit of perspiration, and our heart rate will elevate. Those are the exact same things. The only thing that differs is our appraisal, our interpretation of what we are feeling. And so now when I go into a conflict, if I’m negotiating, or if I’m public speaking, I still have those exact same feelings that I did back when I was afraid. The only thing that’s changed is my appraisal of that feeling. So now when I go into those conversations and I feel that physiological response, I interpret it as excitement. I am excited because this means that I am in a situation where I have an opportunity to move my career forward. This is an opportunity. This is an exciting thing. One of my favorite athletes, Billie Jean King, would say, “Pressure is a privilege, not something to shy away from.” If you are feeling that, that means you are in a position that matters. And so I wouldn’t endorse doing something and saying something to try and reduce that, because studies have shown the intent to try to reduce those feelings often causes the opposite effect, where we get more stressed out by it. Walk right into it, embrace it, and recognize that this pressure is a privilege, and reinterpret it as excitement and enthusiasm instead of fear.

ANGELA COPELAND: Oh, I like that. So it’s interesting that you mention that even you initially even avoided the conflict that came with negotiation. I know for me, I came from a family that told me, do not negotiate, and they were very judgmental about the idea of negotiation, and so my very first job I did not negotiate. Where did your avoiding conflict come from? Was it also, did you have that since you were a kid?

KWAME CHRISTIAN: Yeah, I’m laughing now, because before the conversation Angela and I were talking about my TEDTalk that’s coming up, and this is something that I talk about verbatim in it, because I had to do a lot of introspection to figure out where that fear came from. So I grew up in a really small town. I was in the Midwest. My family is from the Caribbean, so I had a really strong Caribbean accent growing up, and I was one of the few minorities in the town. So I would say that the only black people in the city were me, my mom, my dad, and my brother. And so we looked different, we sounded different, we stood out. And so what I realized is, I became really friendly. I recognized I had to make the first move to make people feel comfortable with my presence, and because of that, I became really hesitant when it came to engaging in any kind of conflict and confrontation. Even if I knew I was in the right, I wouldn’t do that because I didn’t want to jeopardize those relationships that I worked so hard to create. And that type of people-pleasing mentality permeated my mind through college, through law school, until I came to a point where I decided I needed to make a change if I wanted to be the professional I knew I could be. You can’t be a walkover lawyer. That doesn’t make any sense. That’s not very valuable. So using my background in psychology, I recognized that one of the best ways to get over phobias is through something called flooding, and that’s where you hyper-expose yourself to the scary stimulus. And so what I engaged in was what I called rejection therapy, because what I was afraid of was social rejection. So I intentionally created these experiences where I would put myself in a position where it would be likely for me to get rejected. It would be like me going to a coffee shop, and let’s say it was my birthday, and I was mentoring a young college student at the time, and so they said, “Hey, we see it’s your birthday on your card. Happy birthday. Here’s a free pastry.” And I’m like, “Oh, well thank you. Well, my mentee is here. Can he have a free pastry too?” Now we had no right, no right to get a pastry. I am doing this with the hope and expectation of getting rejected. But I got it. I got it. Which is cool. But there a lot of times when I get engaged in this practice, and I still do it, and I get rejected. And there are two benefits. If I get rejected, that shows me hey, you got rejected, you didn’t die, everything’s fine, and so that makes me more likely to stand up for myself and ask for what I want boldly when it matters, because I’m familiar with operating through that fear. And then on the other hand, it works and I get what I want. So it’s a win-win situation. And what’s interesting is as you start to engage in rejection therapy, you want to start to ask yourself, how many of these things have I been needlessly holding back fro myself, simply because I didn’t ask? And that’s one of the most beautiful things about negotiation, because a negotiation is a conversation where somebody in the conversation wants something. And so when you take that really broad definition, you realize that we’re really negotiating all the time. And this increases your negotiation awareness. you realize that we’re negotiating all the time. And now this increases your negotiation awareness. By engaging in rejection therapy, it increases your willingness to act and take action in those situations. So you’re just creating new opportunities to negotiate and get more for yourself in all facets of your life every day, both at home and at work.

ANGELA COPELAND: Oh, I love that, and I can’t wait to watch your TEDTalk about it.

KWAME CHRISTIAN: Yeah, thank you! Thank you, thank you.

ANGELA COPELAND: That is excellent. Well, so, I want to jump back to, stay on the topic for a second of fear. One of the biggest fears that people always express to me is, they are afraid that if they do try to negotiate, if they do try to push through the fear, that the company is going to take away the offer. And I always like to ask people if they’ve ever seen this, because I have never seen this. I have never had this happen to me. I think probably for me, the worst thing I’ve had is maybe the company said, well, we’re offering you the most we can offer, we can’t go any higher. But I’ve never had a company say, “Never mind, we’re taking the offer back.” Have you ever seen that happen?



KWAME CHRISTIAN: Yes, and I’m glad that I have. Here’s why. So as you know, I consult with people who want to get more out of their salaries. That’s one of the things that I offer. And so there was one person I was working with, and she gave a reasonable counter, and the people rescinded the offer. And before she did this, at the time I felt really guilty, because before she did this, I was like, “It is so unlikely. I’ve never seen a rescinded offer.” And then the offer got rescinded. I was like, “Oh, my gosh, I did this to this young woman. What have I done?” But I said this, I said this at the time. That is unreasonable. It is very rare that that happens. The fact that they rescinded the offer is most likely indicative of something you want to avoid in that workplace. And so I met with her for coffee about three months ago. That was about a year after the offer was rescinded. And she said, “Hey, Kwame, so guess what? Since they rescinded my offer, they’ve gone through four directors at that place, and they came back and offered me exactly what I was asking for.” And I said, “No, because there’s clearly something broken in your organization that you’ve gone through four people in less than a year. That’s insane.” And so if you get somebody who rescinds your offer, that is a great thing, because you probably are dodging a bullet, because that is not a good sign when it comes to an organization. If you open dialogue about your compensation and they shut it down immediately, it’s probably indicative a larger issue within that organization.

ANGELA COPELAND: I tend to agree. I’ve always told people I’ve never seen it happen, but if it does, maybe that’s not the right company, because it’s just so unusual, and it’s really unreasonable. I mean, you kind of used that language when you started. She gave a reasonable counter, and then to have this happen, that’s just nuts. Wow.

KWAME CHRISTIAN: It is, and one thing I’ll say, following up on what you said, is sometimes they say, this is the most we could possibly do. That’s good. There’s a strong camp in negotiation theory that says we need to go for no, and actually it’s funny that I say the word camp, because the author of the book is Jim Camp, and the book is called “Go For No.” Because if you don’t catch the boundaries of the deal, then we really don’t know how far we’ve gone, whether or not we’ve been able to maximize value. Think about it more in a philosophical way with regard to your life. If you don’t test the boundaries of your life, you’ll never know how high you can fly because you’ve never tried. And so when it comes to these types of negotiations, don’t be afraid to push until they say no, because then you know you’ve reached your boundaries. And then when it comes to salary negotiations, the big thing that we’re focusing on is the number, the ultimate number for the compensation, but with the negotiation, what you want to do, especially in salary negotiations, is once we feel as though we have maximized the value of compensation with regard to the salary, that’s when we shift the negotiation to non-monetary issues. Because we want to get the most we can with that big number, and now, I’ve accomplished that goal, let me see what I can do with vacations, let me see what I can do with bonuses, sick days, etc.

ANGELA COPELAND: Yeah, I mean, where do you typically start after salary? Do you usually go to vacation?

KWAME CHRISTIAN: Well, it depends on the client. It depends on what their interests are. And that’s why, whenever it comes to negotiation, we need to take the time to prepare, not just with regard to our strategy and tactics, but with an internal audit of what we really want. Like, the podcast episode I’m posting today talks about five sources of wealth, and I’m going to look bad now because I can only remember a few of them, but it’s money, it’s time, it’s relationships, and some other things, but the thing is, if we are somebody who really values relationships, like our relationship with our family, that’s going to be strongly correlated with time, and if we focus so much on maximizing value in the salary to the detriment of our time, we might end up with a net negative on this deal, because we focused so much on what we thought we should, what society says we should focus on, to the detriment of what we really do care about. So there needs to be an internal audit to see what’s important. Most people, next comes vacation or benefits. If it’s somebody with a family, it’s often benefits. But for me, I kind of look at it differently. I would go for vacation time next, or maybe flex time.

ANGELA COPELAND: Yeah, yeah. I think for my last two full-time jobs, I negotiated for four weeks of vacation each time, and when I talk to people about that, they get really surprised, because they say, “Well, I thought the company policy was two weeks.” And it’s like, “Well it is until you ask for more than two weeks.”

KWAME CHRISTIAN: Exactly. Exactly.

ANGELA COPELAND: But we’re talking a lot about sort of what happens at the end of the whole job interview process. In my view, negotiation actually really starts with the very first phone call and the very first conversation, which is often with a human resources person and they call you and they’re pretty chill and they say, like, “Oh, I got your resume, it looks really nice. what does your calendar look like to meet with the hiring manager?” And you’re having a normal conversation, and all of a sudden, they’ll say something like, “Oh by the way, how much do you make?” And that’s to me where it really begins. And I’m curious how do you advise your clients to answer this question how much do you make?

KWAME CHRISTIAN: Right. And before I answer that, I want to address something earlier which was brilliant. The negotiation starts well before the time that we think it does. If there’s one thing I really want everybody to get in addition to enhancing your recognition of opportunities to negotiate, it’s also acknowledging the fact that there is no real beginning and end to a negotiation. There is no proverbial negotiation table that signifies when the negotiation starts and ends. We’re constantly positioning ourselves to be in the best persuasive position as possible, and so this dovetails exactly, like, perfectly into what you were talking about now with regards to addressing our previous salaries. Now best case scenario, they don’t ask that, but hoping that somebody doesn’t ask is not a strategy. So let’s not even talk about that. What we need to do here is, we want to avoid anchoring ourselves downward, and so anchoring is a psychological principle whereby the first number that is discussed is going to have a disproportionate amount of persuasive value with regard to the rest of the conversation. And so when it comes to our previous compensation, let’s say we’re trying to get over that six figure hump, and our previous salary was 80,000, the 80,000 almost becomes a reference point for the remainder of the negotiation. So we don’t want that to be there. So we have two options. Either we make sure that it is not used a reference point, or if it is shared, we obliterate it and make it seem illegitimate. So how do we do that? So if they ask for the salary, what I would say is something to the effect of, let’s say you’re the HR person that I’m talk to you. “Angela, I think I can definitely appreciate why that would be important, but I don’t feel comfortable sharing my salary with you and here’s why. I want to make sure that for this new opportunity that I’m compensated in accordance to the metrics that would make my salary commensurate with the going rate on the market and something that’s commensurate with the amount of experience that I have in the industry. So I want those to be the metrics that we use to determine my future salary.” And just kind of leave it at that. And what I would say is, with regard to these questions that are difficult that we know are coming, we should have our response down, nice and crisp, two to three sentences, and know exactly what we want to say. I’m not somebody who typically advocates for pre-rehearsed lines, like zingers or something like that, but in these difficult situations, where we know there is a potentially serious question coming up that could have a deleterious effect on the rest of the negotiation, we need to be ready for it. And especially in these situations where we’re stressed out, the stress hormone of cortisol is permeating through our veins, which actually inhibits clarity of thought, we can’t just leave that up to chance to freestyle it. Now, oftentimes it is unavoidable, and we don’t want to be weird or rude. We don’t want either of those things to be true for us. So if they push and say, sorry we need to have it down, then go ahead and share it. But if that is brought up later, what I would say is, “Without being disrespectful to my previous employer, I do believe that I was under-compensated for this job because of xyz reason.” And then what I would do is bring in legitimate criteria to justify what you believe you’re worth right now, based on a market analysis and a consideration of what you have brought to the table as far as your experience. Now, in this conversation, we’re kind of coming close to offers, and when it comes to offering, the rule of thumb in negotiation is, whenever you have more information, you make the first offer, and whenever they have the more information, they make the first offer. And so in this situation, they know the market better than you, most likely, but they definitely know their finances better than you do, so you need to sit back, see what their offer is, and then they can counter with what you brought to the table with your objective criteria, your evidence.

ANGELA COPELAND: I think that’s all excellent advice. You know, I think also you kind of mention being ready for their response, so you can be prepared. And I know for me, like, the most extreme example I had, I was interviewing for a job in New York, and the human resources person was very aggressive, very direct, and I was trying various ways to get around giving my number, and she just said, “Angela, if you don’t give me a number right now, we’re going to end this call.” And I just really calmly said, “I totally understand. Thank you for your time. It was great to meet you. I hope you have a great day.” And I think that just really stopped this person in their tracks, because I wasn’t afraid of that, and I knew there was some reason that if I had shared my number, I would have lost out. I was in such a different place financially that I wouldn’t have been considered. And in that case, they happened to make an exception. She called me the next day and said, “We’re going to keep interviewing you.” She clearly had a bit of a grudge about it. But I think you have to be ready, because this is a really uncomfortable situation for both you and for either that either hiring manager or the HR person, and they may not handle it super-smoothly either, and you just have to be ready either to kind of roll with it and think of, how do I want to respond to that other person’s, whatever they say.

KWAME CHRISTIAN: Absolutely, and I think that was a brilliant response, by the way.

ANGELA COPELAND: Well, I mean, if I had needed that job, or I—I really felt like I would have no shot in that situation, so there was a really good reason why I was protecting the number in that moment. So sometimes it does make sense to reveal the number and explain it, but I was not fortunate enough to be in that type of situation at that time. But you just never know what they may say back to you. So anyway, I like the fact also you mentioned sort of who has the most information. So I assume, based on kind of what you said also, is that if we don’t have to bring this up, we should not bring this up, I’m assuming.

KWAME CHRISTIAN: Oh yes, I’m assuming, unless they give you an offer that is less than your previous salary or equal to. Then we can say, well I might as well just stay at that point. That’s when I would bring it up. And in one of my recent negotiations working with an executive who was switching jobs, that’s what happened to him. They were offering less than what he was currently making. And it was tough because he was laid off at the time, and he was trying to get back to the industry, but that served as a strong anchor, because he knew what was he worth in the market. He wasn’t fired for poor behavior. They just had rounds of layoffs, and he happened to be one of the casualties. But it worked. We were able to get his salary up probably $20-30,000 from what they were initially offering, which is substantial. So if it works for you, use it.

ANGELA COPELAND: Well, I think it’s really important to think about that. You said $20 or $30,000. I’ve helped clients to do similar things, and I think it’s a really compelling number, when you think about, you know, I’m avoiding this because it’s really stressful, this negotiation, I’m avoiding it because it causes me anxiety. And I always say, you know, if I told you for a little bit of stress, like, a little bit, you could make $20 or $30,000, would you do it? And the answer is usually yes. And I just think if you can put that into perspective, that little bit of stress or little bit of anxiety is worth it.

KWAME CHRISTIAN: Absolutely, and the thing is, the negotiation provides you with the opportunity to have the highest value conversations that you could possibly have, because when else in your life will you be operating at an hourly rate of tens of thousands of dollars per hour? That’s an unprecedented opportunity, and so thinking about it that way kind of gives you a little bit more of an impetus to have these conversations, because the value is worth it.

ANGELA COPELAND: Yeah, that’s when you’ve got to do it. You can’t go take a job and think you’re going to get your foot in the door and then negotiate in like a year, because that’s not going to happen. It’s now.

KWAME CHRISTIAN: Yeah, because you’re setting a precedent. If you’re setting a precedent of not negotiating, they’re going to be less likely to negotiate with you down the road.

ANGELA COPELAND: And when people want to negotiate more money for the same job, it’s like, well, I already pay you let’s say $80,000 a year to do this job. Why would I now a year later pay you $100,000 a year to do the same job? That’s not the time to ask. You’ve already shown that you’ll take that much. Well, so there’s another thing I wanted to kind of touch on, and you talk about this in your podcast, and I do say with regards to this question, how much do you make, on the good news front, I keep seeing that more states and more cities are outlawing this question, or are outlawing that you ask about salary history. So I would definitely check out what’s the law in your local area, but one of the reasons that they are outlawing is it that they feel that it kind of creates discrimination essentially that’s making it so people who have been paid unfairly in the past will be paid unfairly in the future. And you actually have a podcast episode where you talk about negotiating away the wage gap. You know, what advice do you have for us if we feel like this is happening to us, and how can we essentially negotiate it away?

KWAME CHRISTIAN: Yeah. It is very tough, and this is the thing, and like you were saying, the previous salary question has a disproportionately negative impact on women and minorities, just because of the biases that are in the workplace. So it’s difficult, and especially when it comes to negotiating while a woman, I have not done this, but I have read many an article, and this is one of my passions, to try and share this particular message, because it’s important, one of the most pressing issues in negotiation that we face in our society today, I think. And so when it comes to these types of situations, you need to have a really strong sense of your value. You need to focus on what it is you are worth to the organization and what it is that your level of experience and your personal attributes can bring to the table. And so a lot of times, when it comes to men in negotiations, competence is assumed, leadership ability, that’s assumed, and so it’s not as difficult for us to make that case, whereas when you are a female trying to make those same types of arguments, you’re going to need to be ready to substantiate those types of claims. That’s one thing. Another thing, another issue that women face, or women and minorities, I’ll say it this way, is the various types of stereotypes that you’ll face. Now for the sake of simplicity we’re going to focus on two types of stereotypes here. You have descriptive stereotypes and prescriptive stereotypes. So a descriptive stereotype describes what somebody in your position or in your group should do. It describes what you are like. So for instance, a descriptive stereotype of a black male is somebody who is aggressive and most likely not as educated. So as a result of me knowing what the descriptive stereotype is for me, I always lead with, whenever I’m introducing myself or sending emails or something like that, I’m a stickler when it comes to adding all of the letters that I’ve earned at the end of my name. So it’s always Kwame Christian, ESQ, MA. So it’s like, oh, he’s a lawyer and he has a masters. That’s impressive. So it’s psychologically overcoming that barrier, this guy is intelligent. And the next step is, being that step who is taking the first step to make people feel comfortable. So I’m very friendly, smile a lot, so I’m trying to overcome those almost invisible negotiations before the conversation even starts. Now, for women, it’s a little bit trickier, because women deal with prescriptive stereotypes. So a prescriptive stereotype prescribes how you should act in a given situation, which I think might be more detrimental when it comes to handling yourself in negotiations. So when a male acts in an assertive way, it’s seen as, oh, you are being a leader. That is what you should do as a male. That is impressive and we respect you for that. Whereas if a woman would say or do the exact same thing, it would be taken in a different way, because it goes against the prescriptive stereotype. And so as a result, what the studies have shown, when it comes to negotiating, through bias as a woman, you almost have to lean into the prescriptive stereotype and couch all of your arguments in terms of collaboration. And so when you’re talking about your leadership abilities, a male might be able to get away with saying, “I was able to accomplish this,” blah blah blah blah blah, focusing on me, me, me, me, me, whereas a woman would need to change what she’s saying a little bit to say, “As our team was able to accomplish xyz while I was at the helm.” So it’s a small, little change in semantics that shows a little bit more collaboration. Then when it comes to asking for more on the salary, the change that I would make is, “I want to make sure that I am properly incentivized to work as hard as I can for this team, because I really respect the organization. The people on the team are great, and I want to have the opportunity to work with it.” And so you’re constantly couching what you’re saying in terms of collaboration. Is it fair? No. Is it effective? Yes. And so when it comes to determining the way you want to handle these negotiations, it really has to come down to your personal philosophy. Do you want to lean into the stereotype in order to get more of what you want, or do you want to make a stand and speak the way that you want to speak and use just standard negotiation techniques. And that’s really a personal decision. I can’t say you should do one thing versus the other. But I think it is important to be aware of the different types of stereotypes that affect you in order for you to create an intelligent strategy around it.

ANGELA COPELAND: Absolutely. I mean, I hate that reality, but I think it’s important to be aware of it so you can work with it. Well so, say that we’re ready to actually have that negotiation, and we want to ask for more money. How do you initially begin that conversation?

KWAME CHRISTIAN: In this hypothetical, are we saying that we are currently working in the organization, or we have received an offer for the new organization?

ANGELA COPELAND: New organization. That’s my favorite.

KWAME CHRISTIAN: Gotcha. Okay, cool. So here’s one of my favorite techniques. I use it in almost all of my negotiations. I used it this morning. I’m a mediator, too, so I do some mediation too. And so the question I love to ask is, “What flexibility do you have with this offer?” And the thing that I really appreciate about this question is that it’s open-ended, which is my favorite kind of question, and the difference between open-ended and close-ended is that close-ended can be answered in a monosyllabic response, which doesn’t give you much information, but open-ended questions draw out elaboration where you can get more information, and information is the lifeblood of negotiation. That’s the first thing. The second thing is it assumes flexibility. And so we’re not asking, are you able to change this? Can you give me more? Something like that. We’re assuming that there is flexibility, so we want them to search the archives of their mind to see what type of flexibility they have there. So those are the two most powerful elements of that question. And the next one, strategically, is that it gets them to negotiate against themselves. Because remember, since they have more information, we sat back and waited for them to come up with an offer. They’ve made an offer, and they might say, “Hey, we are giving you $120,000 per year, when can you start?” And you say, “What flexibility do you have?” Now like I said, they are negotiating against themselves, so it gives them an opportunity to make a mistake of doing your job for you. And you want them to do that before you even come up with your own counter. So that is the the benefit of that question. So when it comes to salary negotiation, if you get an offer, I think the best way to open up that conversation is by simply inviting them to negotiate against themselves by answering the question, “What flexibility do you have?”

ANGELA COPELAND: Oh, I love that. And then say we get to the point where we have agreed upon an offer with the company. We’re on the same page. I know that you recommend getting the offer in writing. Can you share with us why it’s so important to get the offer in writing?

KWAME CHRISTIAN: Yeah. As lawyers, we love to create paper trails, especially when they’re positive. So if you get the deal that you want, you want that to be written down as soon as possible for two reasons: deception and forgetfulness. Sometimes if you get a really good deal, they might want to change it by kind of pretending that they’ve made an innocent mistake, and that’s rare. I don’t see that type of malice happening often, but I know it could happen, so you want to make sure that you have it in writing. The next one is forgetfulness. That happens. We’re humans. So we have this conversation, and then a couple of days pass, and they say, “Oh, I forgot to send Angela that email. Let me send her that offer.” And because they were negotiating, the number was different from what they originally had, they might make an honest mistake, and now you have to have another negotiation, or at least a difficult conversation about the number that you already agreed upon. And you have to do more work. And so what I do in these situations, and this is something that you can borrow in any type of situation, in a general business context, I do this with my spouse, via text not via email, but what I do is after I get a deal that I like, like the outlines of a deal that I like, I send the person an email and I say, “Hey, Angela, it was great chatting with you today. I’m really looking forward to working with you at the rest of the team. Just wanted to make sure that we’re on the same page with regards to this agreement. If I got anything wrong, let me know, and we can work that out, but it’s my understand that this salary would be $150,000 a year, four weeks of vacation, and x amount going to my 401k. Is that correct?” So you give them an opportunity to correct you if you’re wrong anywhere. And now, if that same misunderstanding happens down the road, what ends up happening is you can say, “Oh, I’m sorry, based on the email I sent you on October 16, this was my understanding. Is that wrong? Because you didn’t correct me when I sent you that email.” So that’s how you want to at least start to etch that, because they’re always going to be in charge of drafting the contract. That would be really strange if you had your lawyer draft up your own employment contract. That would be weird. But at least you would have the parameters outlined so you lock that in so there wouldn’t be any confusion.

ANGELA COPELAND: That makes total sense. Say that there’s a reason that we want to walk away, and we’ve negotiated what we wanted, and then maybe we got a counteroffer from someone else, like a competitive offer, and we’ve decided, you know what, I want to walk away from this company. How can we turn down the first company without offending them? How can we leave that relationship open?

KWAME CHRISTIAN: So the first thing is I want to try and change people’s mindset with regards to this, because our goal is to not offend them, but we need to control that which we can control, and we can control our behavior and treating people with respect. So with this interaction, our goal is to comport ourselves in the best possible manner. That’s it. That is it. And it’s important, because we cannot take responsibility for the response of others, and if we do that, we’re going to put undue pressure on us, because now we’re trying to control things that we can’t control. So that’s the first thing. So if you handle this perfectly, and they freak out, it’s like, “Whoa, that is your problem. I did my part of the deal.” So I want to introduce the audience to a technique that can be utilized in all situations. And quick pause. This is one of the things I really love about negotiation and conflict resolution, because we can essentially use this salary negotiation as a vignette for the application of general negotiation principles, because every technique that I’ve demonstrated in this call is something that could be used in all sorts of negotiations. So that is why this is so cool. Now back to it, the technique that I’m going to share is called the “no sandwich.” So what we do is we have a no sandwiched between two yes’s. And so what we want to do is we want to find the root of our yes. We can only do one thing well at a time in most cases, and so it’s not that we don’t want to do this, or this thing is bad, in particular this offer, it’s that we found something better. That’s what we’re saying yes to. So the strongest no’s are resting on the foundation of the strongest yes’s. So for instance, you would say, “Angela, I really appreciate the opportunity to interview and your offer. It’s very generous, and at this point in my career, I need to do what is best for me and my family to put my career forward. Considering that I have recently received an offer from an organization that is better suited for my needs at this time, and as a result, unfortunately, I’m going to have to walk away from your offer. However, I still want to have an opportunity to maintain a good, positive, amicable relationship with you, because I would love to have at least the opportunity to continue dialogue with you down the road and maybe we have an opportunity to work together later.” So the first yes is to the new opportunities, the thing that is driving your no. And then the second, the no, is very short and succinct. You want to have an unassailable no. If you make it too long, if you open it up to too many vulnerabilities, and now they try to poke holes through your no. So your no needs to be as short as possible. So as you saw in that example, it was, “And because of that, unfortunately, I have to say no to your offer.” Boom. That’s it. And so then, you follow it up with another yes, which is a yes to the relationship, because you want to make it clear to the other side that you are saying no to their substantive request, not to them as a person. So you’re saying no to the request, but yes to the relationship.

ANGELA COPELAND: I like it. Well Kwame, this has been excellent. If we’re listening today, where can we go to learn more about you and more about your work.

KWAME CHRISTIAN: Yeah, so first thing, I have a freebie for the audience. It is a 19-page negotiation guide that will help you be more confident in your most difficult conversations, and it has a salary negotiation guide that you can use to walk through step-by-step what you need to do to prepare for your next salary negotiation, and it also talks about how you can handle conflicts and prepare for general negotiations and everything. So if you want that, you can go to That’s g-u-i-d-e. And I’ll send you the link so you can put it in the show notes. And the other places is, the podcast is called Negotiate Anything. You can find it on any podcast app you have there. And check out the TEDTalk when it comes out. I’m presenting it on October 20, 2017, so it should be out, well, I don’t want to make any predictions. It will be out at some point in the future.

ANGELA COPELAND: It’ll be out soon! We’re so excited to see it. Well Kwame, thank you for joining me. This has been great.

KWAME CHRISTIAN: Thank you. You know, this was a lot of fun.

ANGELA COPELAND: And thanks everyone for listening. Thanks to those of you who sent me questions. You can send me your questions to You can also send me questions via Twitter. I’m @CopelandCoach, and on Facebook, I’m “Copeland Coaching.” Don’t forget to help me out. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave me a review.

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