Alexandra Carter: Negotiate Anything | E86

#86: Negotiate Anything with Alexandra Carter

Learn how to get what you want!

In today’s episode, I’m chatting with Alexandra Carter, an award-winning negotiation trainer and professor at Columbia Law School. She is also best-selling author of ‘Ask For More.’ She has worked closely with leaders at major organizations like Google, Zynga, the United Nations, and NBCUniversal.

Today, we’ll talk about Alex’s journey to be a world-class academic and negotiation expert she is today as well as the basics you should know before going into a negotiation. We will also dig deeper into how to gather information during a negotiation, common mistakes made in a negotiation, and why you should continue to ask for more, even during a pandemic.

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Check out our website to meet the team, view show notes and transcripts:


02:54 – Alex’s Career Journey

06:24 – Her Most Intense Negotiation Story

08:51 – Definition of Negotiation

10:40 – What are Mirror Questions?

14:55 – What are Window Questions?

18:41 – Information Gathering Techniques

22:28 – How to Begin a Negotiation

30:53 – Sexism vs. Feedback

39:02 – Biggest Pitfalls of Negotiations

41:41 – How to Understand Feelings

48:30 – How to Ask For More in a Pandemic

53:10 – Alex’s Secret to Profiting in Life

Links Mentioned in the Episode:

Alex’s Website:

Alex’s Book, Ask For More

Alex’s Instagram:

Alex’s LinkedIn:

#86: Negotiate Anything with Alexandra Carter

Hala Taha: [00:00:00] Hey, Young and Profiters, Hala here and I've got some exciting news. I'm partnering with Podyssey Podcasts, an online community where you can track, discover and discuss your favorite podcasts. With other podcasts lovers. Podyssey basically is like the good reads for podcasts. And this week I'll be taking over their podcast recommendations, newsletter Podyssey picks .

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While you're at it. You're listening to YAP young and profiting podcast, a place where you can listen, learn, and profit. Welcome to the show. I'm your host Hala Taha and on young and profiting podcast, we investigate a new topic each week and interview some of the brightest minds in the world. My goal is to turn their wisdom into actionable advice.

That you can use in your everyday life, no matter your age, profession, or industry, there's no fluff on this podcast and that's on purpose. I'm here to uncover value from my guests by doing the [00:02:00] proper research and asking the right questions. If you're new to the show, we've chatted with the likes of ex FBI agents, real estate moguls, self-made billionaires CEOs, and best-selling authors.

Our subject matter ranges from enhancing productivity, how to gain, influence the art of entrepreneurship and more, if you're smart and like to continually improve yourself, hit the subscribe button because you'll love it here at young and profiting podcast today on the show I'm chatting with Alexandra Carter.

An award-winning negotiation trainer, Columbia law school, professor and author of the wall street journal bestseller. Ask for more. Alex has advised leaders at major organizations like Google, the United nations and NBC universal tune in to learn what you should ask yourself before going into a negotiation.

Common mistakes made in negotiations and why you should continue to ask for more, even during the pandemic. Hey Alex, welcome to young and profiting [00:03:00] podcast.

Alexandra Carter: Thanks so much for having me. I'm excited to be

Hala Taha: Of course, we're excited to have you, so congratulations on your recent book, your first book asked for more and just to give our listeners some context in terms of, how popular and how impressive this book is.
I'd like to rattle off some accolades. So it was charted on the wall street journals bestsellers list. It made Kindle stores top 15 in the business conflict resolution and mediation genre. And it's on Amazon's top 20 for business negotiation. So that's amazing. Congratulations. How does it feel to have your first book

be such a hit?

Alexandra Carter: Oh my gosh. It's interesting. I think like many people, I had a different vision for what this year and what the book promotion process was gonna look like. I imagined myself slight and I had engagements booked all over the us and all over the world. And so it's really been interesting because I'll be [00:04:00] honest, in mid-March when everything blew up and I thought, oh my goodness, I'm gonna be doing this tour from my home.

I had a few moments where I thought this is really not what I wanted. This feels like a loss, but I have to tell you that what's been great is not only has the book done really well. But I feel like it came out at a time while it wasn't the most comfortable for me. It was when the book could do the most good for people, because it's never been more important to negotiate than right now.

And the skills can be an absolute difference maker for people. So in that respect, it's been great to reach a lot of folks. And I get emails from people every day saying you helped me get 30,000 more on a job offer. Or I just raised my prices 53% or. I just got my spouse to take off their shoes when they come in the house and all of those are great wins and I'm thrilled to be part of it.
Hala Taha: That's [00:05:00] amazing. Congratulations. Again, you must be like so proud of yourself and I know that was like on your bucket list to have a, a book. So that's amazing. So you're not just a best-selling author. You're also professor at Columbia.

Alexandra Carter: Yes, I am. In fact, I'm a full-time professor, unlike most people in my space, I am full-time teaching.
And in fact, because of that, we're recording on a Friday afternoon, which is not your usual spot, right?

Hala Taha: Yeah.

Alexandra Carter: Yeah.

Hala Taha: And you're also a UN negotiation trainer, which is amazing. So not only are you an academic, you also have, in-field experience. So very cool. I'd love for my audience to understand how you got into this field a little bit about your career journey and how you ended up, becoming.

One of the best selling authors in the negotiation genre


Alexandra Carter: Oh, thank you. It's interesting because a lot of people look at my resume now and they think that I've planned the whole thing out that every step along the way was preordained. And I knew exactly where I [00:06:00] was going next. The truth is that I never knew where I was going next.

What I tried to do at every stage was. I made the best relationships I could. And I knew that one day, one of those relationships was going to open up the next door. It actually wasn't until I was in law school. Some number of years ago, I won't tell you how many that I discovered, what I was meant to do with my life.

I enrolled in the class that I now teach the mediation clinic. And I went down to the courthouse in downtown Manhattan and sat in this dingy, dirty jury room and helped a couple of people resolve their dispute. And it was at that moment, it was like, I felt Morgan Freeman's voice coming down from above saying, this is it Alex.

You found what you should be doing for the rest of your life. And so from there, I worked at Goldman Sachs. I worked at a very large law firm, but I always knew that I wanted to come back to teaching and training in the negotiation space. And so I've now been [00:07:00] at Columbia law school for more than 12 years.

And the reason I wrote the book is this. I wrote it for two reasons. One is by the time I see people I'm a mediator and that means that people come to me when they're in court. So already right their business partnerships are far gone. Their deals are gone. The relationships may be gone. We're just trying to pick up the pieces.

And I thought. I know now the key to really great negotiation and I'd like to get it to people before they end up in court with broken deals and broken relationships. But the second was that for a while, growing up as a young professional, I was much better at negotiating for other people than I was for myself.

And that's because some of the literature out there made me feel like I had to be the biggest, most aggressive person in the room in order to be a terrific negotiator. And when I found a different style and a technique that worked really [00:08:00] well, I knew I had to share that with people.

Hala Taha: Yeah, that's so interesting.

And I can totally relate. I work at Disney streaming and I negotiate contracts for a lot of our software platforms. And it's so easy to negotiate when you're doing it on behalf of a company. And you've got this big brand behind you, but when you're negotiating for yourself, like you feel shy. Like you feel like you don't deserve it.

You have guilt. Like all these things come into play.

Alexandra Carter: It sure does. I heard it described this way when you negotiate. In your job it's as though you have the weight of the company behind you, as you just said, when you're negotiating for yourself, it can feel as though you have the weight of the company in front of you.

And sometimes that feels intimidating for people. And so my mission is to help you harness what makes you great for other folks and help you turn that on.

Hala Taha: Very interesting. So before we get into the nitty-gritty of the book and some of your tactics and strategies, I didn't hear you talk about this in other podcasts, but I wanted to [00:09:00] know what was your most intense negotiation situation that you've ever been in?

Alexandra Carter: Oh, my gosh, my most intense negotiation situation I've ever been in. I can't talk about the context specifically. So some aspects of this need to be confidential, but I will say that I was in the room. With a number of ambassadors from different countries. And there was a major dispute on the table and there were people who were ready to walk out.
And you could see that it was all sorts of like cultural factors and style factors and exhaustion coming into play. And working with people one by one to try to keep that group in the room and keep them focused on the goal was one of the most intense experiences of my entire life. And when we finally got there, it was like the biggest rush of joy followed [00:10:00] by.

I must immediately have a meal and go to sleep because I had been up for many hours.

Hala Taha: Yeah. So I wanted you to share that because I want people to understand you're not just an academic, like you've done this in real life, high stakes situations, things like that.

Alexandra Carter: Yeah, could I say a word about that?

Because I do a lot of work at the UN and I do a lot of work at fortune 100 companies. And I have now for many years, but I also want people to know that every week during a normal semester, I go into small claims court in Harlem and I am also helping people work out small business disputes and family disputes and things involving their housing and their relationships.

And so high stakes is a relative thing, which is somebody on this planet, a $200 dispute is a really big deal. And so my mission is. No matter what you're facing out there, whether it's like a giant bet, the company litigation, or whether you are trying to get your spouse to take off their shoes. When they come in the house, [00:11:00] I want to be your partner in helping you achieve that.

It's really the everyday wins for me. That mean the most.

Hala Taha: That makes sense. So it doesn't have to be high stakes negotiation for it to be a negotiation everyday situations or negotiations. It's so true. Let's start off with, some material from your book. So one of the things that you start off your book saying is that you've got a unique, new definition of negotiation and you use the metaphor of a kayak.

To give that definition. So would you share that with us?

Alexandra Carter: Sure. So let's go back in time to 2006 when I was on my honeymoon in Hawaii. So I get in a kayak with my husband on the Wailua river. And up ahead, our guide turns back to us and says, please negotiate your kayaks to the left because we want to end up on that beach up there.

And that was the moment, that something clicked in my brain and I thought. That's it, there's more than one way to think about [00:12:00] negotiation. If I'm negotiating my kayak toward that beach, what am I doing? I'm steering. And I realized then that when we think about negotiation as just a back and forth over money, we're missing so much, negotiation is really

any conversation in which you are steering a relationship. And so I don't want people to wait until the once a year conversation with their boss to say, Hey, keep me in mind when you make those salary decisions. I don't want people to wait until they're haggling over deal terms with their client

to be teaching that person how to value them. You can and should be getting value out of every conversation you have. And when you steer those effectively, then the money conversations are gonna go a whole lot better and really result in your favor.

Hala Taha: I think that totally makes sense. And I think that's a great metaphor to help us like further understand that.

So in your book, you have 10 questions that you lay out for [00:13:00] people to ask for more. You split them up in mirror and window questions. So what's the difference between a window question and a mirror question, and maybe you can give us some examples of each

Alexandra Carter: Sure. So the mirror section is the first section in the book.

And it's there for a reason. Having now coached so many diplomats executives, judges, HR professionals. I found that the number one mistake that people need was they thought the negotiation started the moment they sat down with somebody else. And at that point you have missed at least half of what makes it work, what they missed

was they didn't negotiate the relationship with themselves first. And so before you sit down, you have to take a look in the mirror to really prepare yourself and to know what you're doing when you get to the table. And the best way to do that is to ask questions. So let me give you two questions that are critical for people, especially right now, at this [00:14:00] time as they're negotiating.

And I'll tell a story. For each one. So the first is a company that came to me and they said, Alex, this is back in may. We just lost an entire segment of our business and we're gonna be short on revenue for June. And so we need your help because we're gonna blast our whole Rolodex to try to get some new clients in the door.

And I stopped them. And I asked them the first question and asked for more, which is, what's the problem you're trying to solve. Because, especially in a crisis, I think people start spinning and they immediately wanna throw everything against the wall to see what's gonna stick. But what I asked this client was what's the problem you wanna solve here? Are just trying to bring revenue in the door for June at any cost.

Or are you trying to figure out how to pivot your business? Are you trying to figure out your best yeses for here and beyond in which case we're not blasting 2000 people we're sending targeted pitches to five or 10 defining the [00:15:00] right problem. The second scenario is a very senior person at an organization who told me that she was really great at negotiating for other people, but really struggled to do it for herself.

And so I told her to ask the question from chapter four of ask for more which is how have I handled this successfully in the past? Do you know that if you go into a negotiation having just thought about a prior success, you're likely to perform better. And so often we're going in doing exactly the opposite, right?

We're going in thinking, oh God, last time this didn't go well. Or I messed this up. No. Think about a prior success. And. Write down in detail, how you achieved it, because here's the thing. If you are great for the company, right? I want you to write down how you are great. What makes you great. And then you can take those strategies and use them on you.

Hala Taha: I think that's excellent advice. And I love that. Your advice there about [00:16:00] writing down, past negotiations that you won and what you did and what you felt. And it relates to a concept that I talked about recently on my show called a confidence journal where when you do something well, like you performed well, whatever it was, you'd write down those memories and then.

You can basically re-trigger yourself in situations where you might not even be, thinking about it more naturally, you'll be more confident or better at negotiation. In this

Alexandra Carter: 100%. I love that. I've been keeping a version of that, but now I'm gonna call it a confidence journal. Thank you.

Hala Taha: Of course.

Cool. So mirroring, just like to recap for everyone, Mirroring is really. Holding up the mirror to yourself and asking internal questions to better understand what the problem actually is and what you're trying
to solve.

Alexandra Carter: Yes, that's exactly right. And it doesn't have to take a long time. I promise these days I do the mirror questions.
Like almost every day. I can get through them in 15 minutes. And in 15 minutes I have a plan of action and I'm clear on what I need to [00:17:00] do.

Hala Taha: Yeah. So the negotiation doesn't actually start when the negotiation happens, when you're in front of the other person, it happens by yourself first. So what about window questions?

What are those


Alexandra Carter: Sure. So let me give you two questions that I think are really killer from the window section. And this is when you're sitting down with somebody else. Okay. So you've looked in the mirror. You've done that. You're ready. Okay. First. Remember the company that was suffering during Corona virus.

So they called me and they said, all right, we've got a huge meeting coming up and we've met with this. This is a product, a supplier, and they're meeting with the distributor. So they said, we've met with this distributor twice before we showed our gorgeous pitch deck. We thought we had the deal, we didn't get the deal.

So I said, okay, we're gonna try something different this time. They didn't show the deal. They went in, sat down and they asked the first question in the window section, which I'm gonna tell you, it's a trick because it's not a question at all. They said, [00:18:00] tell us how you're seeing the sector and where our product fits in.

Tell me or tell us are the two magic words that you should use to start every negotiation, whether you are negotiating with somebody in the home, over the home office, or whether you're trying to land a six figure deal during Corona virus. When they did that, the distributor sat back in stunned, silence for a couple of seconds and then said, okay, you wanna know why you didn't get the deal?

Here's why you didn't get the deal. And she gave them the keys to the kingdom. They didn't need to show the pitch deck. They asked one question and then they were silent and they landed the six-figure deal. So tell me, start it with every occasion. And watch you will get the most information and you will generate the most trust from the other side.
Two key things that you need for your deal. Second question is, I wonder how many of your listeners, or maybe even you has ever hesitated to [00:19:00] negotiate because you're afraid you're gonna get a no sound like anyone, right?

Hala Taha: Yeah, ofcourse.

Alexandra Carter: So here's the thing you don't need to fear the NO ever again, because you simply ask this question.

What are your concerns? Do you know that after, around March 9th, when every single aspect of my book tour blew up? So I had a bunch of book sales that were tied to in-person events and people canceled those events, and everybody said, no, we're not gonna do a digital event. So I called up and I would say one by one.

What are your concerns? The first person said we've never done this before, and we're not sure how to run it on our platform. And I said, would it help if my folks did it? Yeah, that'd be great. Okay, great. Let's do the event. Next person we're not sure if our employees would want it a digital event.

How might you find that out? I guess we could survey them. Sounds great. They all want the event. So one by one, I saw

[00:20:00] how I didn't have to fear the NO and I didn't have to argue, I could simply ask a question and then the other person would diagnose the problem for me. And over, I saw how once I knew what the problem was.
I could solve it for that person in a way that also solved it for me.

Hala Taha: That's

so interesting. That's such a great gem for everybody out there listening. So you can turn a no into a yes, by asking for their concerns and then figuring out what the solution of that concern is. I think that's brilliant. I'm definitely gonna use that soon.
You were just telling us about a technique to get more information and in a negotiation, getting more information out of, the other party is key. So other than saying, tell me more or tell me, is there any other techniques in terms of information gathering that you can recommend?

Alexandra Carter: Yes, absolutely. It's three words that I would love people to memorize. And those three words are land the plane. What this means is when [00:21:00] you ask a question or when you make a proposal, Do not keep talking, do not keep your plane in the air. I want you to bring that plane in for a landing and allow the silence, so often we're so scared of silence that we end up bidding against ourselves.

For example, we'll ask, what do you need to get this done here today? We're $10,000 do it. No, it could have been 5,000 and you overpaid, or if this is a job candidate, it could have been mentoring. It could have been vacation. You don't know. So ask the question or make your point and then sit back and close your mouth.

The more comfortable you are with silence. The more, you'll encourage the other person to talk and possibly even to accept your proposal, silence is like going to the gym. You have to work out and work up a tolerance for it. And the more you do it, it is incredible. How much more money you will make? How many [00:22:00] deals you were closed, or honestly, How much closer you'll get to people.

I lost my voice for one week and at the end of the week, I felt closer to my daughter, my husband and my colleagues than I did before.

Hala Taha: That's so funny. I think that's great advice as you don't really think about that. Being silent as being a negotiation tool some other negotiation experts, they talk about mirroring and the sense of repeating the person's last three words.
What do you think about that strategy?

Alexandra Carter: Yeah. So I have heard that and, here's what I would say when I'm repeating. I do believe in repeating back what somebody has says, but I wouldn't limit myself to the last few words because my objective is not just to show them that I'm with them. My objective is really to understand what they've said.

And to reframe the entire thing in a way that is advantageous to me. So I might, if somebody tells me a bunch of concerns, [00:23:00] I'm not gonna repeat the last three words. I'm gonna say. So here's what I've understood. You have a concern about this, and you're worried about this, but you're really looking forward to this.

How did I do I want them to feel fully heard on every aspect of what they said, because when people feel heard. It is magic. They just start melting. They feel acknowledged. And in return, what happens is their brain opens up to what you have to say. So I would say I focus on mirroring much more for body language or tone.

I teach in a lot of different places around the world. And so one of the things that will happen is. If I'm in a particular place or a culture where people speak more slowly or they bring their volume down when they speak, I will naturally mirror that because I wanna speak to them in a way that they're gonna be able to hear.

But I don't use the last three words as a tactic. I would rather fully [00:24:00] summarize for them and make them feel great before I make my proposal.

Hala Taha: Yeah,

that actually seems like a way stronger way to go about it. It makes it rather than just playing dumb, you actually tell them I've heard you, here's the summary, like how did I do?

And then it allows them to even go further in what they were saying and dig deeper. So I love that. So let's talk about the beginning of a negotiation, right? You walk into a room, your counterpart is there, what do you suggest that we do in terms of the first words that we say, or the body language that we should carry?

What's your advice in terms of those first few moments, because first impressions are everything.

Alexandra Carter: Yes. So first impressions are everything. So I'm gonna harp on this. So the negotiation, remember it started before, because here's the thing. Before they're looking at you, you have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and know that you are worth what you're about to ask for.

Otherwise, when you get in the room, you will not [00:25:00] project the same calm, the same confidence, the same clarity that you do when you have spent that little bit of time in the mirror. So my number one piece of advice is get to know yourself. Really well, get comfortable and get clear. Okay. So then you arrive in, this is, I don't actually believe there's one formula for every person, but I will say this.

I personally, don't get right to talking about the deal. Then I really like to build relationships with people first. So my hope is in fact that long before we have sat at the table, even if I haven't seen that person before, I've taken a bit of time over email to get to know them right. To ask them what they've been doing outside of work and build a bit of rapport because relationships create the deal.

As, not the other way around, I wanna be focusing [00:26:00] on building that relationship. So it might be small talk. I like to observe, so I'm looking at you and I can't, you've kept your background very neutral, right? So I just see a wall behind you, but sometimes you'd be surprised, people will have things in back of them that tell you something about who they are, or I might ask you.

Tell me where you're calling in from. And then I might try to build a connection with you based on your geography or what you tell me. So I never shortcut on the connection, even if the person is the gatekeeper. Okay. Sometimes people make that mistake where they treat the intermediary person like an intermediary.

I never do that. Even if that person is just passing on information to the higher ups. I asked them, what are your goals of the company? How's it been going since you've been there? Tell me where you would like to go, because you know what, sometimes I can help those folks. And when I help them, they go and I've recruited them to my [00:27:00] side and they will go and help me with the eventual decision makers.

So I'm building rapport first. Then I like to state clearly my intention for the meeting. So my understanding is that we're meeting here today to do X and then I hit them with the, tell me, right? Tell me right. Your perspective on blank, and get them to open up first if I can, because in this way, I'm gonna be able then to respond in a fuller manner.

And I'm gonna be able to steer that kayak in the direction that I'm looking to go.

Hala Taha: Yeah,

I really love the advice in terms of building the relationship and that the relationship happens. The deal happens because of the relationship and not the other way around. I think that's really powerful. And also the fact that you said, you wanna make sure that you actually make friends with the gatekeeper.

The secretary when somebody I forgot what, who told me this, I've interviewed so many different people, but I [00:28:00] know for a fact that it's actually really impactful when you hear from a third party that somebody else is good or something positive about somebody else. And you consider that information because it didn't actually come from your own
experiences or directly from that person, you actually consider that more importantly in terms of how you view that person. And so if you have a neighbor and you say John's if you go to somebody and you're like my neighbor, John, he's amazing. He's super smart. He's really nice. He's very well kept.

And then you go meet John. And he doesn't look well kept. He doesn't seem very smart. You just think, oh, you had a bad day. Cause Hala told me that he's really smart. And and so you get the benefit of the doubt and that's why being nice to everyone and making a good impression on everyone is very important.

Alexandra Carter: It sure is. My approach to negotiation is this, I never request. I recruit, I don't ever ask anybody to pay $27 for my book. I [00:29:00] never ask people to pay money, to hire me as a speaker. I tell them what I stand for and what my mission is. And I try to bring them around to my side of the table. I try to put them on my team.

And so every time I talk to anybody, if it's the secretary, if it's the person getting the lunch, if it's the person who is, booking travel, I treat that person like they are a decision maker and maybe that there's somebody I can help too. It's not just about being a good human being, although that's certainly part of it.

I believe that good human beings get further in life. But it truly is. And I think that thing about when people hear positive feedback, it means a lot and it increases your persuasiveness as well. They wanna then hear what you have to say.

Hala Taha: Exactly. I totally agree. So I'm gonna switch gears here a little bit.

I did find out from my teams, excellent research that you are the executive director of a nonprofit organization. It's called stand up girls and you work to [00:30:00] educate girls from underserved communities with communication skills necer to succeed in a male dominated workplace. And so I'm about to ask you a very personal question about myself.

I'm a female who works in the corporate world and obviously have experienced in terms of giving, females guidance. And I think there's probably other women who are facing some of the things that I'm facing right now. And so I'm just gonna no one has ever heard this. I'm just going to lay it all out.

So I just had my 360 feedback at Disney and prior to Disney, just so everybody has context. I worked at HP. I, was promoted five times. I was a leader. I really was respected and at Disney everything's great. I'm still respected, but suddenly in my 360 review, I got the feedback that I'm abrasive.

Okay. And I've never heard this feedback before I worked at HP for five years. Never heard that feedback one time I have Company right now, young and profiting media. I've had volunteers work for me for two years who are just getting paid now you don't work for free for someone if they're, not [00:31:00] nice.

Also led organizations of volunteers had a website. Previously was president of many organizations, always very, well-respected always told that I was friendly. Nice, fair. And then all of a sudden. There a Senior executive, who is saying that I'm abrasive and I've heard this a few times and now it's in my 360 feedback review.

And my direct manager actually took it off and said, that's not correct. I'm with you on many calls, many meetings. And you're actually not abrasive. I don't know where this is coming from. And I've heard this a few times from other people that this person is saying that I'm abrasive when really I'm just the leader and I'm not afraid to stand my ground and I've led huge projects and held people accountable and, My job, and I've saved thousands and thousands of dollars for Disney being a good negotiator and getting projects shipped on time. So it's weird that all of a sudden I'm being called abrasive eight years down into my career out of nowhere. And I don't think people's personalities change that quick. So I'm, self aware enough where I heard that feedback and laughed.

And like, yeah . Okay. I'm racist. [00:32:00] Tell that to the 20 people that work for me and the hundreds of people I've met in my life, they'll tell you otherwise. And so I put that in the back of my head. And my manager was like, we're taking this off. This is not even true.

And, but for other women out there, how can we tell when something is sexism? Or when something is feedback, because to me, this felt like sexism.

Alexandra Carter: Yeah. I'm so glad you raised this. I really am. And I just, if I could get personal here with you for a second Hala, like I simultaneously heard you saying, I know this is ridiculous and yet.

You told me about all of the people in your life who think this is not true. It was almost as though you were looking to convince me and to convince yourself. So the difficulty with this feedback is right. That anytime we hear that word, there are a few of those words, that women get right. And some of them, we probably can't say on this podcast, but.
But abrasive is one of those. It feels like a coded word. And what's so hard [00:33:00] about it is that there can be 98% of you that thinks this is absolutely not true, but there's 2% of you that it gets in your head and makes you wonder. And makes you doubt yourself just that little bit. So I, first of all, wanna say, I'm so glad that it seems as though you have triumphed over this and you have a mountain of evidence.

So here's the thing. Part of what I want people to know is women in negotiation walk a tight rope. This has been demonstrated by research where on the one side Hala, we are too nice. We're worker bees and we don't have leadership potential. And on the other side, we are considered aggressive or abrasive or the B word.

So that's what people get called. Okay. And I want to give you a spot of encouragement because do you know, in fact that the late great justice Ginsburg. So she went to Columbia law school where I graduated from, she graduated number one in the class and her nickname. Was the B [00:34:00] word. And when somebody told her, this is your nickname, she said, can I say this by the way?

Yeah. She said better bitch than mouse. That was her response. Okay. So that's the first thing I'm, I'm gonna tell you. I too had this version of this feedback. When I was in law school, competing in a prestigious competition, I was told that I was too aggressive that I had cut my male colleagues off when I was keeping track.

And they had cut me more off than I had cut them. And the last piece of feedback I got was charming. It was that my voice didn't match my body type because I have a big loud commanding voice. And I'm a small person. And I remember thinking, wow, You thought that in your brain and then you said it out loud.

So here's what I wanna say. Oftentimes, these coded words that people use in the workplace against women are just that they are code right. For please stay in the box that I would like you to be in. So I think [00:35:00] it's really important. Number one, For women to have what I call a board of directors around them that they trust.

In other words, Hala, you have a few women around you that you can go to for a gut check. You can go to for a gut check on this. You can go to for a gut check am I describing myself well enough for my self evaluation? Another thing that women can sometimes struggle with. So you have people around you who can truly speak truth into your life.

And so you can help decide. What is feedback and what is BS? Okay. So that's the first thing to do. The second thing I like to do in this kind of scenario is to decide how important this person is to my career. Okay. If the person who is using those words is not critical to my career, then I might just draw boundaries, and avoid to the extent possible and go on my way. I'm slaying my job every day. If that person is critical to my job and I need to [00:36:00] get that person on my side, then what I employ is a strategy that I call acknowledgement or stroking. What that means is oftentimes people who are difficult and who cut other people down are most in need of encouragement.

And I try to find something truthful that I can acknowledge that person before. I'm not gonna say, for example, Bob, you've always been a champion of gender equity in the office, if that's not true, but I might say something like Bob, your opinion carries great weight around here. And when you speak positively of someone.

People really give that meaning. And so I'm here today because your, good opinion means a lot to me personally and professionally. And so I wanna raise this difficult subject with you to see how we might get to a place of understanding so that I can help you better. And I can help the company by getting to the place I wanna be right.

So [00:37:00] a little bit of acknowledgement up top. It's like sugar that you use to deliver the medicine. So sometimes that can work where somebody is difficult and you really need them to be on your side, recruit them.

Hala Taha: Yeah, I think that's great advice. It's like addressing the situation, making them feel heard, and then trying to I guess
flip the story a little bit towards your own direction, because it's really sucks for women to be that we can like just be leaders and we've gotta just play this act and be so nice when, why can't we just be regular in business? Like everyone else? I just don't understand.

Alexandra Carter: Absolutely. It is. It's so frustrating.

And I will say you're far from alone. If I could give one more strategy. I do think that in the moment, if you get something offensive like this, okay. Like I knew. A woman very high up at a company, a diversity and inclusion specialist, and very senior. She asked for more money and she was told [00:38:00] don't be silly.

Your husband makes more than enough. She was frozen into silence. She had no idea what to say. And we talked about it afterward. And what I would advise for her is the same thing I would advise for you. Let's say in the moment you're told by this person you're abrasive. I summarize. And then I say, tell me more.

So I would advise her to say, okay, so let me just recap. So we're here today to talk about my compensation for the job that I'm doing here at this company. And you've told me that don't be silly because my husband makes more than enough. Did I get that right? Okay. Let them sometimes by then they have enough self-awareness to say, oh God, that was bad.

And then if they don't, I would say, could you tell me more about that? And then I would sit in silence. And hear if somebody is calling you abrasive, I would say abrasive. Okay. Interesting. Can you talk to me more about that? Or can you tell me more about what abrasive means? Because it forces the person to get really [00:39:00] concrete.

And if they don't have a reason, if it's just that they don't like that, you're a leader, it's gonna force them to see that.

Hala Taha: Yeah,

I totally agree. And I was talking to some of the managers that were on the call for the 360 feedback and I stood up for myself. I said, next time he says that, can you ask him for examples?

Could you guys talk to the other partners that I've worked with and I can give you screenshots of all the positive feedback. I've gotten from my colleagues and from our partners across the business unit. And so I'd love to hear like his examples of me being abrasive.

Alexandra Carter: Yeah. I, it sounds like you handled this in a really assertive and tactful way.
And so I think that's a great blueprint, what you've done, in the absence of being able to talk to him, you have recruited a lot of allies and it seems as though you have strong support. And getting allies I think is so key to when you're facing this type of situation.

Hala Taha: Yeah, totally. So let's talk about more negotiation tactics.

Can you tell us some pitfalls that [00:40:00] people come into when negotiating and maybe how we can avoid some of these common pitfalls?

Alexandra Carter: Sure. Absolutely. So I would say the first thing people do, that's a pitfall is they jump right to solutions, right? They don't take the time to figure out what the problem is that they are trying to solve.

And right now, during Corona virus, it's really important because. Companies, this is a make or break time. If you are out there solving the right problems and you take that time to figure out where is the market going? Where am I going in my career? What problems can I solve? You're gonna come out, really successfully.

I think folks who rushed through and are just trying to toss out solutions are gonna struggle a bit more in this market. Another pitfall that people make that we haven't yet talked about is they ignore the importance of feelings. In my book, I call feelings the F word, because it's something that folks often don't wanna talk about.

We think that feelings [00:41:00] get in the way of our deals. When actually feelings are how we make decisions. Do you know there's neuroscience research to show that people, so there's one neuroscientist studied people whose brains were totally intact except for the one part that processed feelings. And do you know what happened?

Those folks could talk about a decision all day long. But they couldn't make the decision. So here's what I want people to know. Use your feelings to your advantage. Before you go into any negotiation, I want you to write down what do I feel? And then write it all down. The good, the bad, the ugly, the stuff that you like to feel and the stuff that you wish you didn't feel.
The reason is that when you write those down in advance, you're gonna feel calmer and more controlled. Once you get to the table. But also, Hala, there's magic in feelings. Sometimes I'll ask people, okay, what do you need out of this deal? And they'll say to me like, God, I don't [00:42:00] know. I'm just not sure what I really need to achieve.

So then I ask them, I want you to write down all your feelings and then every single one of the negative ones. Okay. So let's say somebody tells me I feel disrespected, or I feel unacknowledged flip those around, and that's what you need. You need respect, you need acknowledgement. So take your top few negative feelings, flip them around, and now, you know what your priorities are when you go and sit at the table.

Hala Taha: And how can we like do that covertly? Like how can we get insight into someone's feelings without directly asking them? Or do you suggest that we just directly ask

Alexandra Carter: Okay, good question. So the first step is to be talking about your own feelings, right? And that's the mirror part of this that I just talked about writing down your own feelings.

So Hala let's imagine you were going into talk with that gentleman, right? You would be writing down everything that you're feeling in advance, and that would really, help you when you went [00:43:00] into the room. Okay. Once you're there, you know people often. Express feelings without ever using the F word.

Okay. So oftentimes what will happen is I'll see it on their face. So the benefit of looking in the mirror before you sit down with somebody is that your mind is more clear. So what that means Hala is I'm looking at you and no pressure, but right. I'm looking at you. I'm looking at everything you have in the background.

I'm looking at your facial expression. I'm looking at whether you furrow your brow, I'm looking at which direction your eyes are going in. Sometimes if you're really looking and listening, To everything like listening to the face and the body, as well as the words you're gonna pick up on messages that people are sending, you might hear their voice trembling.

You might see, for example, that every time they're uncomfortable, that they look a certain direction. So over time, you're gonna [00:44:00] figure out what they're feeling and you don't always have to call it out. But I will say that sometimes I'm negotiating with people and they'll say, yeah, I think that's gonna work.

And while they're doing that, they're shaking their heads. No, the number of times people say yes, while doing this shaking, their heads no is crazy. And so here's what I say to them. I say, Hala. So I got to tell you, your words are telling me yes but your face is telling me no. And then I asked them my the no Buster.

I asked them, what are your concerns? Here's the thing, Hala, because a lot of times people will have concerns. Even if you're fabulous, your product is fabulous or service is fabulous. They will have concerns or feelings about it. But they're not gonna express them unless they're invited, but I don't wanna ask somebody in a work situation.

How do you feel about this? They're not on my couch. So instead I asked them, what are your concerns? And then it invites them to be [00:45:00] open with me. And when I solve the concerns and the feelings I'm then able to land the deal, there was one time I was negotiating with a company. They were bringing me in to speak.

And they mentioned during the course of a very pleasant conversation that they had never brought anybody in before. From the outside, they had an in-house training team and Hala, as we were talking, I could see them looking down at their paper in a way that read to me. I think I wanna do this, but there's something holding me back.

And so at the end of this very pleasant meeting, I decided to go for it. I looked at them and I said, I wanna say, I feel like this has been really great, but I feel like you might have a concern that we haven't addressed yet. Talk to me. And they said we're so glad you asked, we're concerned about the message we're gonna send to our in-house team.

If we bring you in from the outside, does that mean there's something really wrong or they're not good. Do you know? Once I had that, I was able to say, oh, okay. Would it [00:46:00] be helpful if I listed all the companies I've worked for where I was the first outside speaker and that the reason they brought me in from the outside is because even the training team deserves to have tools that will help them advance in their careers.

And what if I could even bring them in for part of the day so that we were celebrating the expertise in the room that. Is what landed me the deal. It was seeing the things that they didn't say that ended up being the key to really reaching something that was gonna work.

Hala Taha: Yeah. I think that's like unbelievable advice and so practical, like anybody can do this and asking people for their concerns is so easy and so easy to remember.

So I think, great practical advice. Just one more question on feelings, and then we'll start to wrap this up. So you had mentioned, finding out what their feelings are and then trying to flip it on its head and figure out what they want based on those feelings. So what are some common feelings that you will encounter in a negotiation?

And then how do you soothe those feelings? [00:47:00]

Alexandra Carter: Yeah.

So there are actually two feelings that I call the big two because they blow up negotiations more than any other. And Hala, anytime you're in a negotiation and you're getting a lot of heat from the other side, a lot of anger, a lot of defensiveness irritation, chances are people are feeling these feelings.

They are fear and guilt. So let's imagine for example, that you're talking to your colleague about this comment and he's getting super defensive chances, are he is feeling a little bit of fear. What does this say about me? Is this gonna boomerang back on me? What are we, they're gonna be the ramifications of this?

He's also feeling a bit of guilt. Was this just, did I say something that was not appropriate? Maybe I'm not living up to my values. A lot of times anger is really covering those up. So let's say [00:48:00] you're in a difficult situation and you're getting heat from the other side. And you think it's fear and guilt.

I like to try a bit of reassurance, if I'm giving somebody feedback and they're getting superheated, I might say. I just wanna let you know that this is a, how do we diagnose what happened on this one project conversation, not a, you are in trouble at the company conversation. Okay. So this is a problem solving conversation.

The second thing you can do right is then to, give people options and say, How would you like to approach this, right? Or what are your thoughts on how we could solve this issue between us? So a bit of reassurance focusing on the problem to solve and giving people options. When people get heated, it's often because they feel backed into a corner.

If you give them a bit of agency, all of a sudden they will relax, and they'll be able to lean in a bit more and hear what you have to say.

Hala Taha: That's

amazing. So everybody, Alex obviously has amazing [00:49:00] negotiation tactics, so you can get her book it's called ask for more. My last question or one of my last questions to you is how can we actually ask for more in a pandemic.
Like this, a lot of my listeners are younger. They're just starting out in their careers or they're looking to get a new job. How can they justify to ask for more in a situation like this?

Alexandra Carter: Absolutely. Okay. So I think it's a myth that nobody can ask for more during a pandemic. I think you need to, be careful in your wording and also really think about your messaging around that.

So let's say for example, you've got somebody who's recently entered the workforce. A lot of times, people like that will tell me I can't ask for more because I don't have experience. I wanna flip that around and reframe for you. What do you have that other people don't okay.

You're younger. You're more recently in the workforce. Maybe you have technology [00:50:00] skills that other people don't maybe because your education is more recent on other topics. You're gonna be able to update the company. Maybe you have fresh eyes on a problem. You have energy, you have vision. Think about what you do have to offer.

Rather than what you don't. The second thing I want you to do is think about whether you're in a type of category where you really should be asking for more. So let's say for example, Hala, that you've been you're at a company there have been layoffs and you've been asked to take on more job responsibilities.

That right. Is a great time to also think about an increase in salary. Yes dollars are precious right now, but shouldn't every dollar of the company's money be spent on a proven performer like you. Okay. So that could be a circumstance. Another could be that you've just outperformed your benchmarks.

I spoke to a woman, younger woman, she's a head of business development at a smaller company. She killed her sales [00:51:00] benchmarks, even during COVID. So we strategized and she went in together to her boss and said, during the pandemic, I love working here. Here is everything that I have done this year. This is what I should be making.

And once I am paid appropriately, I want you to know I'm gonna go out and I'm gonna continue to sell. Like you've never seen she got the raise, right? So if you're outperforming, if you're taking on more responsibilities, if you have specialized jobs skills that are important right now, All of those can mean that you can ask for more.

And if I could just give a bit of like inspiration to people on this topic. I want you to know two things. One, when you negotiate on behalf of yourself, you are teaching the company, what kind of a negotiator you will be for them. So I believe it's usually in your interest to tactfully. Collaboratively assertively negotiate for yourself.

It shows leadership [00:52:00] skills. And the second is especially for the women out there or anybody who comes from a traditionally underrepresented background. I wanna tell you what somebody told me the first time I negotiated my salary and this was the birth of my book. So I went in with my power suit, super nervous.

And the offer came in slightly above what I thought. So I called a senior woman in my field and I said, I'm not sure what I should do. Should I just take it? And she said, I'm gonna tell you what to do, Alex. You're gonna go in and you're gonna ask for more because when you teach someone how to value you, you teach him how to value all of us.

So if you're not gonna go in there and do it for yourself, I want you to do it for the woman coming after you do it for the sisterhood. And so that was the moment I realized that asking for more could actually be a service to the people coming after me. So before you [00:53:00] hesitate, I want you to think who's looking to me for inspiration.

Who might I through my negotiation, make a seat at the table for coming down the line. And with that, have courage, know that asking for more can be an act of service and go out and do it for the sisterhood.

Hala Taha: I think that's incredible advice. And I totally agree. Especially, paying, it's almost like paying it forward, like for the next person who comes behind you so that they're, appreciated and valued and their salary might start up a little higher because your salary was higher.

So I think that's a great perspective. So the last question I ask all my guests is what is your secret to profiting?

Alexandra Carter: Oh my gosh. My secret to profiting in life is I live by my personal motto. This is a motto that I learned from one of my students who came to me from India in the middle of his career.

And he told me only do what only you [00:54:00] can do. And so how I profit in life is I have really leaned into my calling. My calling is service. It is equity and empowerment through negotiation. I partner with people and organizations that use negotiation as a tool to help each person on this earth reach their highest and best.

And so leaning into that, knowing what only I was meant to do, means that I'm never showing up as a carbon copy of somebody else. I am showing up as a hundred percent myself in every area of my life. And that is my seat of power. That's what drives me forward. And I believe it's been the determinant of all of my success.

Hala Taha: What

a great way to end the show so inspiring. And where can our listeners go to find more about you and what you

Alexandra Carter: Sure. So I'd love for people to connect with me on my website, which is Alex Carter asks [00:55:00] ASKS.COM. I'm going to be releasing a ton of courses on negotiation that people can do five minutes a day in their homes, starting in January.

Come find me also on Instagram, Alexandra B. Carter. And on LinkedIn, I'm on Twitter. Very reluctant me. So you can find me there, but I try to stay off Twitter for my mental sanity.

Hala Taha: Awesome! Alex, this is such a great conversation. You're such an inspiring woman. Thank you so much for your time.

Alexandra Carter: Thanks. It's been amazing and stay in touch.

Keep me posted.

Hala Taha: I will. Thank you. Thanks for listening to young and profiting podcast. If you enjoyed the show, please write us a review or comment on your favorite platform. Nothing makes us happier than reading your reviews. We'd love to hear what you think about the show. And don't forget to share this podcast with your friends, family, and on social media.
I always repost, reshare and support those who support us. You can find me on Instagram @yapwithhala or LinkedIn, just search for my name. It's [00:56:00] Hala Taha. Big thanks to the YAP team as always. This is Hala signing off.

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