EP 74: Where Fearless Negotiation Starts, with Mori Taheripour

Jun 24, 2020

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EP 74: Where Fearless Negotiation Starts, with Mori Taheripour

On this episode of THRIVE—now sponsored by Workamajig—Kelly and Mori Taheripour, author of Bring Yourself, talk about what it really means to negotiate fearlessly. They discuss how mindful listening, curiosity, honoring one’s self, and the reciprocity of respect for one another’s value all play into the most successful negotiations.

Her new book, Bring Yourself: How to Harness the Power of Connection to Negotiate Fearlessly, is available on Amazon.

Episode 74 Links

Mori Taheripour:
Book: Bring Yourself: How to Harness the Power of Connection to Negotiate Fearlessly
iTunes / Apple Podcasts:
YouTube Channel:
Vimeo Channel:


 EP 74: Where Fearless Negotiation Starts

Duration: 20:84


Kelly: So welcome to this week’s episode of Thrive. I’m super excited for today’s show because I’m actually joined by Mori Taheripour, author of Bring YourselfHow to Harness the Power of Connection to Negotiate Fearlessly. She’s also an award-winning executive and educator and this is the book. Very excited. Just came out in March. Mori and I actually met because she was the negotiations instructor for my cohort when I was in the Golden Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program in 2016. And she’s literally been like in my ear through a renegotiation since then. So Mori, thank you so much for coming on the show. It’s great to see you again.

Mori: I am so excited to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

Kelly: So first, congratulations on publishing Bring YourselfHow to Harness the Power of Connection to Negotiate Fearlessly. I actually digested it over the last week and actually sent a copy to one of my clients who thanked me a million times over. It was sort of for me like a deep refresher. Your course, obviously it went much more in depth in the amount of time that we were able to spend together with Goldman Sachs. But it was a deep refresher. And it also aligned with so much of what I’ve come to know and believe right now. So did you finally just kind of like surrender to the call to write this or how did it come about?

Mori: So it’s really interesting because I feel like this chapter of my life that I’ve been into teaching. Now, the book, not only had been planned, I mean, it’s sort of I stumbled across the teaching opportunity. Actually, I was sort of talked into that because I thought at the beginning, I was like, there’s no way I am an introvert, like I’ll melt in front of a classroom. And as they say, some people see something in you that you don’t see in yourself. And so, I’m thrilled that I actually took that leap. And at some point, I started getting especially actually out of the Goldman Sachs program. They told me like something really special is happening in the classroom. And even though I felt it at Wharton, it became really sort of this dominating thought in my mind every time I left the classroom.

And I think it’s because I’ve been an entrepreneur for such a long time that there was something like coming home in every classroom, almost like wanting to take care of people not to, as mothers often do with their kids. I want to make sure they don’t make the same mistakes I made. It was some of that. But it’s just something transformative happened and with like the magic of every classroom, with the feeding of my soul, if you will, every time I sort of stepped into the room, I also became really aware of the fact that my students and this happens important too, but really, my students in the classroom see more of me than anybody else does.

I have more of myself and allow myself to be real, authentic and open and vulnerable in a classroom, which most people never see outside the classroom. So people who know me professionally, they don’t see that side of me. So it makes you start thinking, what is it and how can I capture this? And John Rogers from Goldman Sachs, program, chairman of the foundation, said, “Why don’t you go ahead and write a book.” And that’s literally the beginning of this conversation. I was like, a book. That’s why I was pre-med in college because I took exams. I didn’t write. But it was that little push that made me start thinking about it. It’s been a long haul. It’s been a long process, but it really started with what was happening in the classroom and thinking, I need to capture this. And then the book became an obvious choice for it.

Kelly: Right. And I think, most people would agree that you talked a little bit in the book about active listening versus mindful listening. It sounds like maybe in some ways, there was like mindful listening that was happening when you were hearing these things from other people, right? But just to talk about those foundational aspects in terms of negotiation for a minute, what is the difference between those two? And why do we need both of them?

Mori: So I think that active listening is always good, because it not only works for you, right? You’re hearing more, you’re sensing more. You’re remembering more. I mean, absolutely. Especially when you do things like repeat what somebody just said, you’re completely present. You’re hearing everything they’re saying, but you’re also I feel like it’s settling it, like this is something you’re not going to forget because you’re doing whatever strategies people do to sort of actively engage in this conversation. I think mindful listening is something to that higher level, if you will, I mean, just the whole notion of mindfulness and stillness, if you will. You could be actively listening but still somewhere in the back of your mind.

That could be something that is sort of driving the conversation, driving your intention behind the conversation. Whereas I feel like mindful listening is really the quieting of all that in some ways. And the whole presence of your persona, I guess. You’re there sort of fully emotionally. You’re sensing things. The whole emotional connection, emotional intelligence piece sort of comes in. And I don’t even know once you practice it enough, I don’t even know if it’s something you have to be intentional about, because I think it sort of clicks into that when this becomes a big part of how you engage with people.

Kelly: Right, it becomes natural.

Mori: Right, but I think it’s the connection of the two. One is much more active obviously. And the other one is really, I want to say it’s complete. It’s like every part of your sensory sort of jump in and take over and I think if you can do both, then it’s great. Sometimes you can get really caught up in something and you’re there mindfully. But, two days later, you’re like, God, I wish I remembered that sentence that she said, which is like, the active listening part. But the two together are hugely important, I think.

Kelly: Yeah. And you talk a lot about, which I think is kind of a bit of an extension, like curiosity and presence and the combination of those two things, which a lot of people wouldn’t typically associate with negotiation. But why is that combination so critical? I mean, obviously, the way that you’re talking about this is there are so many layers and different aspects that over time become more natural as you develop your negotiation skills, but why curiosity and why presence?

Mori: Oh presence, that part is just easier based on what I just talked about in terms of the listening. To shut off distractions. I know you remember the no electronics rules in my classroom.

Kelly: I remember it very well.

Mori: And here we are, everything’s electronic now, but it was so important to me to have people understand in my classroom that these distractions that we have around us, whether it’s your phone, your watch, your iPad, your computer, TV, that now there’s so many things that hold our attention, that we’ve become really good at getting a lot of information. But there’s no depth to the information, right? So when you can practice, again, mindfulness being fully present. So the power of noticing everything around you, that I think is incredibly strategic in negotiations, obviously.

But it’s also the thing that lets people know that you’re seeing them and you’re hearing them and you’re messaging, everything your messaging says, this is a really important conversation fully present with you here. Nothing’s more important. So that sort of goes to the curiosity piece. Because I think there’s nothing more dangerous than to come into negotiations and think I’m so prepared, that there’s really nothing else I need to learn, right? Like, I know exactly what I want. I know everything that I need to get to this deal. And so, you lead with that. Because, I was talking about compensation. I reserve the right to be smarter by the time we’re done talking. So, I could have been wrong. I could have not seen something. I could have had biases that unintentionally, even in this conversation that that precluded me from seeing a better deal, a bigger deal, a better relationship. So I think the notion of curiosity says open your heart, open your mind. We don’t know everything. And the more you go in, authentically curious, the more you can actually benefit from it. Very strategic.

Kelly: Right. And it’s almost like, if you go in, like you said before, if you go in with this mindset of like I know exactly, I know all of the information, and I know exactly what the outcome is going to be or what I am hoping that my outcome is going to be, it doesn’t leave any room for all of these other more creative solutions that the two of you can come together during that information exchange.

Mori: Right. And everybody has so much to offer us. I mean, we all have so many different experiences that I think curiosity level, to be honest with you, I think people has to be, what do you think is the number one characteristic of a great negotiator? I think I always lead into curiosity, because I think it has so much sort of involved in it like true curiosity means empathy. Curiosity means respect. Curiosity means openness to learning and understanding. And it’s powerful. It really is.

Kelly: Yes. And there’s also a place of self-reflection in that too. Taking that sort of curiosity-driven approach to understanding others, and then kind of turning that inward. It sounds like your contention is that it’s actually important for the management of emotions, which actually makes for better negotiators. Right?

Mori: Yeah, but not void of emotion. For so long, we’ve been told there’s no place for emotions in negotiations, right? It’s not personal. You can bring that with you into the conversation. But the truth is that we are not robots, right? And if you don’t make room to at least recognize your emotions, then most people, especially if emotions get heightened, you get angry, you are joyful, whatever it is, they start kind of taking over without you even really noticing it. And you said it perfectly.

You have to turn that curiosity onto yourself and say, what is it that I’m feeling, what’s important to me in this conversation. And, obviously there are emotions that are attached to that, and be prepared for them. So when you’re walking into the conversation, you’ve already had that level of preparation where maybe you’re even expecting it, maybe it’s somebody that, there are those people that trigger us. And they always have. So, there’s no reason to believe that this conversation is also gonna trigger you. So since you know that, be prepared for it, know how you’re going to sort of take it in and how you’re going to react to it. And again, it comes from turning that curiosity on yourself when you’re preparing and saying, I can work with this. It’s not gonna surprise me, but there’s room for it, because I’m human.

Kelly: Right. I would love to spend some time on talking about sort of the end result of negotiation because I think there’s a lot of misconception. I certainly was guilty of this before I took your class, like understanding what successful negotiation means. Sometimes, I think people come to the table thinking that in a successful negotiation, it means that I’m the one who’s going to like, beat the other person in this game that we’re going to play. Right? I think other people can see that there’s a win-win scenario. But the caveat is actually that the best negotiations are the ones that could be defined as the most successful are when neither party is actually 100% happy. Right? So talk a little bit about that.

Mori: I think there’s a bigger conversation that sort of has to happen in our society about what winning really means. The word tends to really move towards more masculine characteristics. And so the aggressiveness, being goal focused.

Kelly: Dominance.

Mori: Anything else, the dominance, right? So I think it’s time for that because I also think that that’s really what leads people into this this misperception about what does winning really mean? Because if that’s winning, it’s limited, right? Nobody really enjoys negotiating with a very aggressive sort of bully, like a person who has no room for you. Like it’s all about that, right? That’s not fun. So what that does is it limits the potential for long term opportunity, right? We want to do business with people we like I always say, right? And so is it winning then when two people can come to a conversation and so enjoy the experience? Not yet even the result, but the experience of the conversation, getting to know somebody by connecting; that let’s say a deal is not possible, right? Because somebody may not have the resources.

Maybe it’s not the right time. But when you walk away you think, okay, not this time. Like I want to go back to that person when I have a bigger budget. Or maybe they move and go to another company where they do have a bigger budget. And so you’re the first person they’re going to call when the opportunity arises. To me, that’s really winning, because in perpetuity, you’ve established a relationship of sorts, a trust, somebody that you want to go back to. And I think that that comes from a whole different set of characteristics; that comes back to the curiosity and the empathy and the connection and the value being put on the relationship as opposed to the outcome.

Kelly: Right.

Mori: There has to be room for both people.

Kelly: Right. Absolutely. And it’s almost like what you’re also saying is like thinking about it in the terms of sales and marketing and things along those lines. It’s like, really looking at what the definition of the lifetime value of a customer is or a client. Yeah, it’s really, really interesting when you start to contextualize it that way. It’s so much more about the long term, the long game, that relationship that’s really rooted in authenticity. For sure.

Mori: Well, yeah. As you said, this whole notion of win-win is that it can’t possibly at all times be that both of you come in and you get 100% of what you want it, right? It’s not possible. But when you actually, I’ll use this word because like, you have to sort of enjoy experiences, like they have to satisfy you in some form. But when you enjoy that experience, then you approach it in a way that becomes more about problem solving and making this work, as opposed to I can’t wait to walk away and get everything and then comes in compromise, and then comes in conversation. So that’s how you get to that true win-win.

Kelly: Right. Just out of curiosity, have you ever read The Infinite Game? Simon Sinek.

Mori: I hope so, yes.

Kelly: You did read it? Yeah. I feel like the way that he talks about the fact that there are so many games, that there is no such thing as winning, it just struck me when you said that. You’re like, I hate that word.

Mori: Right. Because it’s so complex. People are complex, right? There’s so many layers to that onion, that even think about yourself different points of your life. What made you happy five years ago, would it necessarily make you happy today?

Kelly: Not even a little bit.

Mori: Right. So if you leave enough room to be able to go back and say, that works for me, then can we reevaluate this deal? That wouldn’t be possible if the person’s like, I don’t ever want to see you again.

Kelly: Right.

Mori: But if now there’s some foundation there, then sure. Yeah, let’s look at this again. Maybe it is time for us to reevaluate. And that comes with that first sort of experience with someone.

Kelly: Yeah. There’s actually a line that you wrote sort of early in the book, maybe in the first 20 pages that just struck me so much, and it kind of stayed with me throughout the book and the way that I read is I kind of underline different things. And I just want to read this because I think this is kind of an interesting way to sort of wrap up a little bit. You say, “It’s not opportunistic so much as it’s strategic. It’s also about honoring yourself and the value you’re expending. A transaction is never just about a financial gain, but rather about the reciprocity of respect for one another’s value.” That line to me was almost like the encapsulation of the entire book. Right? Because it’s not about that. It’s so much more about like you’re saying. It’s about the joy and the experience. I mean, there are going to be negotiations that are difficult, but we can find moments of connection and moments of at least coming away from these discussions, even the hardest conversations with like being seen, heard, understood, being valued by the person sitting across from us, or the person on the other end of the phone. At the end of the day, isn’t that what negotiation really is? And it doesn’t have to be just from a business standpoint. I mean, we’re talking about negotiation with our partners, with our kids in all aspects of our lives. Isn’t that really what it’s all about?

Mori: I think so. In that particular excerpt, I think what I was also trying to say is that, and as you turn it back on yourself, and give yourself permission to take care of yourself, because that has to be a part of this equation. And that’s why I said it’s not opportunistic on either side. It is strategic, but in a way that sort of dictates again, benevolence and kindness and respect and leaves room for the future. This was all about why do we limit these opportunities to just one conversation, when there’s so much more to gain from these connections and these conversations, that negotiation has to become something that makes you whole, I think. And people sometimes think it’s very Pollyannaish to me, but I think we can dictate how we want these conversations to go. I think we can dictate how we want our role to be if not us, then who? And I think that we need it. I think there’s room for it. And I think we’re better for it. And I think we see that today more than ever.

Kelly: Yeah, absolutely. Well said, well, Mori, thank you so much for having this discussion with me. I wish you all the continued success on your first book and I say first because I do think that there maybe more coming.

Mori: I don’t know. It’s like it’s giving birth to a very large baby but I love the experience and thank you so much. I can’t tell you how happy I was that you like the book and enough to even give it to a client. So I’m grateful for that. It was great seeing you again.

Kelly: I mean, I didn’t like the book. I loved the book. And yeah, and for everyone, I will post the information in the show notes. It’s obviously on Amazon, but I’ll post the link so that you can get your own copy as well and I highly recommend it. Thanks Mori.

Mori: Thank you so much. Thanks Kelly. Take care of yourself.

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