S4E9. How to be Persuasive, Not Abrasive with Russ Riddle

Do you cringe when you hear the word ‘negotiation?’

Russ Riddle is known as the Anomaly at Law because he’s down to earth, clearly communicates, and lavishes others with levity. He has practiced marriage for 37 years, law for 29, fatherhood for 28, and braved adventures as a juvenile probation officer and professional speaker. His love of levity stems in part from an intellectual property law practice that has served such clients as Barney, Bob the Builder, Thomas the Tank Engine, and the voices of Jimmy Neutron and Larry the Cucumber.

As a lawyer Russ is no stranger to negotiation. Early in his career there came a time where he was set to negotiate with an attorney from San Francisco. His expectation was that some high brow attorney was going to assume he had a horse hitched outside and treat him condescendingly, but it didn’t turn out that way at all. He was all smiles, and that’s how Russ decided to respond: with a smile of his own. Negotiations are all about give and take, but by the end of it, Russ had negotiated most of what he wanted and the other man was still happy about it.

Negotiation used to be treated as a win-win endeavor. Somewhere along the way, the mindset around it changed — people now want to “win” a negotiation. But a successful negotiation develops the best outcome possible for both parties. A negotiation also involves two people, so if you enter a negotiation and the other party starts taking personal shots at you because they have a “win-lose” personality, the first thing you need to do is avoid reacting. Try talking them down, but if they keep escalating, especially if it gets overly personal, it is perfectly acceptable to dismiss the negotiation at that time. It’s important that — even though you’re being disrespected — you still do this with respect to them.

To become a better negotiator, you have to always continue learning. Learn everything you can about the difference between persuasion and manipulation, and how to avoid coming across as abrasive. Most of all, remember that negotiation is not personal. Negotiation is not about attacking you as a person, it’s about both people trying to get a result.

If Russ could sum up his negotiation advice in one sentence, it would be: “Respond, don’t react.” Keep calm. Treat the other person as human. Wear a smile. You won’t always get everything you want, that’s true, but negotiating doesn’t have to be painful when you’re both trying to make each other happy.

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