Alex Carter – Negotiation Expert and Author of Ask For More

Episode 266

Today, Alex Carter, Negotiation Expert and Author of Ask For More shares what it takes to get you what YOU want in a negotiation. In business and in life. Thrilled for you to hear her incredible thoughts and advice. Learn from this incredible expert just what it takes to get what you want in any negotiation. This show is beyond terrific! On this episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow.

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be, you just want to make sure you will get knocked down. But just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone. It’s Kara Goldin from the Kara Goldin show. And I am thrilled to have my next guest. Here we have Alexandra Carter, who is a negotiation expert, and author of ask for more I have the book right here is so good. I am just thrilled to have her here. She actually goes by Alex. She’s a friend of mine, too. So I’m naturally going to be calling her Alex along the way. But she’s an award winning negotiation expert. She is actually a professor of negotiation at Columbia Law School. And more than anything, she’s the go to negotiation trainer for so many incredible things, including the United Nations, as well as many Fortune 500 companies to in 2020, she published the book that I just held up it was her first book, asked for more 10 questions to negotiate anything. Everyone needs to read this book, it became a Wall Street Journal, best seller. And it’s really the first negotiation book solo authored by a woman to make the list, which is just so so incredible. I can’t wait to discuss more about the book and also just about her journey overall. So welcome. So excited. You’re here, Alex. Kara, it’s

Alex Carter 2:07
been months in the making. I’m thrilled to be here with you today.

Kara Goldin 2:11
Let’s talk a little bit about your beginnings. So where did little Alex start her life? And and Did you always know that you were going to be the go to negotiation expert,

Alex Carter 2:24
you know, Kara? Not at all. So I grew up. I was born in Brooklyn, which, you know, if you hear me speak, you can probably tell I’ve had to work overtime to slow it down, Kara, because you know, coming from New York, you’re naturally super fast. So grew up in the suburb. And I will tell you, the kid, I actually was a little bit more shy than you might imagine. I was really into my schoolwork and into books. And but I often found that with other people, you know, I tended to be a little bit more reserved, and sometimes I would hesitate to speak up. And then a couple of things happened that really boosted my confidence. The first was in high school that I decided to challenge myself and come out of my shell a bit by joining our public speaking team. And I found that when I did that, when I had something to say a message to deliver, I wasn’t shy at all. And in fact, if I knew that that message could help other people or that I might be inspiring or equipping people, that all of a sudden my courage was there. And so I think that’s been the theme, Kara, you know, so I grew up, I pursued my education. And somewhere along the way, I discovered that I really have a commitment to helping other folks and coaching and encouraging them to be their best. And so that was really where I got my start.

Kara Goldin 4:00
That’s amazing. So you are teaching at the Columbia Law School and negotiation. So how did you get there? What was kind of your first role out of out of college?

Alex Carter 4:13
Okay, you’re gonna love this. So out of college, I did a few things I initially did. I study Chinese in college, I love language. And so I first went abroad to Taiwan on a bright fellowship. So I was there I was studying, I was doing some seeking work and teaching there as well. And then once I went to law school, you know, I during law school, Kara, I had this moment, it’s so interesting how we end up almost randomly in the career that was we were destined for, I knew you had those moments. And this moment was it for me, a friend of mine said, you know, Alex, I’ve just took this class. It’s in the negotiation field, and I feel like you’d be really good at it. And so jumped on that friend’s recommendation, I took the class. And I discovered that helping other people negotiate the class was called mediation, which is basically the art of helping other people negotiate their issues, and come to an agreement. And I discovered that that love that I had for coaching and equipping people was fully in play when I was mediating. And so I thought to myself, I have to get back to this, but I’m not sure how. So I went straight from Columbia Law School to a really large law firm, where I knew I would get good training. And over the course of those years, I started to do more mediation work. And one day, my professor from Columbia called me powerful woman. And she said, Alex, I’m retiring, I want you to think about applying for my job. And Kara, I mean, how can you imagine I, I am dying to hear about this for you. But I’m willing to bet that there were women along the way for you who opened that door and said, I see something in you. And that was that moment for me. So here it comes, Kara. Okay, the job listing comes out. And do you know, I almost didn’t apply for a job that I now hold? And why did I almost not apply? Because I didn’t think I met the criteria fully. And we see this Kara over and over again. Now. So many studies showing that women in particular, if we don’t think we meet 100% of that job description, we don’t apply. And I’ll tell you, I kid came down until the day before. And my husband sat me down at the kitchen table. And he said, Alex, you are applying for this job. Let’s do it. And I got the courage, I threw my hat in the ring. And here I am, Kara. 15 years later, oh, my God, one of the happiest professional people you would meet in the job that I didn’t think I was qualified

Kara Goldin 7:03
for. That is just wild. And so wow, that is that is such a crazy story. But it’s so true. I mean, they’ve, you know, talked about that over and over again, how women, you know, maybe they see, oh, it says that I need to have, you know, Master’s in Business and maybe have a master’s in in, you know, law, right. I mean, you don’t have exactly the same thing that they’re talking about. But but it’s amazing how we cancel ourselves from even being a possibility, just based on our own kind of insecurities, yet. I think people don’t even think of it as an insecurity. They just say, Well, I don’t fit the criteria. So, so, so interesting. So you join in, in this role, and I think this parlays pretty well into our book, too. But like, what is the hardest thing that you think people realize when they’re about to get into a negotiation?

Alex Carter 8:06
Gosh, okay. So the hardest thing, and you alluded to this earlier, is we don’t know where negotiation starts. A lot of us think that a negotiation starts, for example, the moment you and I sit down together, and we’re saying, okay, maybe we’re going to do some business together, Let’s hammer out some terms. That is not where negotiation start. It starts well before that, when you are at home, looking in the mirror, before you sit down to have that conversation. And so many people haven’t mastered what I call the inside game of negotiation. In other words, how is it that you can be your own ultimate self advocate? How are you getting ready for that negotiation? How are you negotiating with yourself? And think back to the job description for Columbia Law School comes out. And Alex, at that time, said to herself, you know, I just don’t think I’m qualified that Kara is the first negotiation you got. And so here’s what I got. Right? And and you’ve seen that I’m sure in women you’ve mentored maybe even yourself early on in your career. And so the first thing I want people to know to know is that negotiation is just a conversation where you are steering a relationship. It’s not just about money. It’s about those every day relationship conversation, where I’m saying, here’s what I need. And you’re saying, here’s what I need, and we figure out how can we work it out. But the thing is, the first relationship we have to steer is the one with ourselves. And if we know that, then we’re going to be so much more powerful, authentic and effective. When we do sit down with somebody else.

Kara Goldin 10:00
Absolutely. Well, the title of your book is asked for more. So why is this part of negotiation? Why wouldn’t people just ask for more? I mean, why is that a, and you talk about this a bit in the book as well. But I’m so curious to hear your perspective

Alex Carter 10:19
lives. So interesting, Karen, you know, the title of the book actually comes from a story in my own personal journey. So I want to take you back to the moment that I am first negotiating my own salary. And early on in my career, Kara, I had these jobs where everything was lockstep. And so everybody got the same amount, you’re probably familiar consulting, banking law. But then all of a sudden, I was in a situation where I needed to negotiate. And I get the first offer. And it’s good. It’s pretty good. In fact, it’s a little bit above what I was expecting. And so I had this moment, Kara, even though I was trained in negotiation, I had this moment where I thought to myself, Well, Alex, maybe you should just take it, right? Because you don’t want to look, confrontational. You don’t want to send the wrong message. You don’t want them to not like you, right? All of this messaging that was in my head. But Kara, I had just enough sense to say thank you, I’m gonna run my numbers, I’ll get back to you. And I made a decision that changed my life. Once again, I called a senior woman in my field. And I said, Can I ask you for advice? I just got this offer, what should I do? And she said, I’m going to tell you what to do. Alex, you are going to get back in there. And you are going to ask for more. And here’s why. Alex, I can see that you are somebody who cares deeply about other people and other women. And here’s what I want you to know. When you teach someone how to value you, you are teaching him how to value all women. And so if you’re not going to go in and do it for yourself, I want you to do it for the woman coming after you do it for the sisterhood. And that was the moment Kara that I realized, so many of these reasons, we don’t ask for more. We think, Ah, I can’t do it and be collaborative. Wrong. I can’t do it, because it’ll be selfish, wrong. The truth is that when you stand in your power, and you ask for your full worth, that benefits other people, it benefits the people coming after you. But guess what? It benefits your company also? Because what happen if you undersell yourself, and then you show up to a job? How do you feel? resentful, right? Unhappy, bitter, when you by contract, show up to a job and you’ve asked for what you needed and received it. You show up as the fullest, most effective version of yourself. And you deserve that. And guess what? Your company deserves that also?

Kara Goldin 13:14
Yeah, I totally agree. So do you feel like while we’re on the topic of gender, do you feel like males and females negotiate differently?

Alex Carter 13:25
I’m gonna say this, first of all, men and women are received differently when they negotiate the same way. I’m sure Kara, as a woman in business, you have experienced this right? But over and over again, we see from research that when a woman stands up and says, I’m not valued appropriately, here’s what the compensation should be. That sometimes she can get more pushback than a man asking exactly the same way for exactly the same amount. But here’s the good news. There are studies showing that women are less likely to ask for more money when they first get a job, they’re less likely to ask for more significantly when they get promoted. But when companies create a culture of transparency, when companies say for example, in a job listing, you know, this amount is negotiable. When companies say we fully value women at this company, and we want to attract, retain and promote women at the same level as men, when women have that encouragement, we negotiate at least as well as the men do. It’s actually not at all an inherent deficit in women. In other words, if you’re a woman in business and you’re listening to this podcast, it’s not you. It’s the environment. And this is why Kara, I am so committed to getting out through wonderful shows like this To let people know that with you’re in a position of power at your company, you have the power to change so many women’s lives, by the way, you receive that negotiation. And Kara, if I could give one tip to women who are negotiating in environments where they’re, they’re worried they’re going to get some blowback, right? There is a particular formula that you can use. And it’s called the I, we, here’s what it looks like, Cara, it basically is, Kara, here’s what I’m asking for i. And here’s how we are all going to benefit. In other words, in an environment where sexism is still a thing. If women go in and ask for something, and they tie it to something that the company needs, they are much less likely to get pushback, and much more likely for their request to be accepted. And I’ll give you one example of how that could work. You know, I’m here to ask for a promotion. And I know that when I’m in this position, here’s how the entire team is going to be able to benefit from everything that I’ll be able to bring, right? I’m asking for the promotion, here’s how you win, also,

Kara Goldin 16:14
that I love that. So you bring the Wii in so that it’s not just about you, right? Hey, Kara, here, we are thrilled you’re listening with us. And I hope you’re enjoying this episode. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing so many amazing guests over the past few years, and there are so many more to come. I cannot wait. And my focus is on entrepreneurs and CEOs, real innovators and leaders who are making a difference. That’s what I’m looking forward to bringing you. One of the reasons I enjoy interviewing many of my guests is that I get to learn. We all need to hear stories that teach us to be better inspire us and help us get through those challenging moments. I can’t remember the last time I had to guess that didn’t leave me feeling like a major hurdle had been overcome. We just don’t hear the stories enough. And when we do, we learn to be smarter and stronger. Don’t you agree? Episodes are concise, but packed with amazing info that you will surely be inspired by, do me a favor and send me a DM and tell me what you think about each interview that you get a chance to be inspired by. And if you are so inclined, please leave one of those five star reviews for the Kara Goldin show on one of your favorite podcast platforms as well. Reviews really, really help. Now let’s get back to this episode. So in chapter three, you dive deeper into feelings and the effect they have on our reality as an individual. Essentially, if we focus on the negative, it’s hard to also acknowledge the positive, I think you discuss that. But can you talk to me a little bit more about that whole concept of feelings? Yeah.

Alex Carter 18:06
So feelings Kara are what I call the F word in negotiation. Because nobody wants to think about it, you know, especially as a woman, but I would say for anybody, we’ve often been taught that feelings are the enemy in negotiation that if you have feeling, you should try to talk them down, or it’s going to hurt you when you negotiate. And actually, it’s the opposite feeling, or how we make decisions. Just talk to any CEO, any person who’s in charge of advertising, right for a product or a service. When you appeal to people’s emotion, their emotions dictate where they spend their time and their money. And so there’s tremendous power in before you go into negotiate with somebody else, writing down, what am I feeling here? What feelings is this negotiation bringing up for me, because in the context of using your feelings, acknowledging them and harnessing them, two things happen. Number one, when you write your feelings down, they lose some of their power over you. And so if you acknowledge you know, I’m feeling a bit anxious, I’m feeling a little nervous about this, I’m, I’m frustrated about the situation, and you write that down before you go in some of those feelings. Just go away. So true. The other thing they do is, if you write down your feelings, you know, those often can be your priorities. I was helping one woman who was going into a head of sales role at a company and we looked at her feelings about the negotiation, and her feelings gave her a clue as to where she needed to be. This woman was at a company you’re gonna resonate with this Kara, that was selling a product that in terms of the health benefits she didn’t allow hang with. And when she was thinking about where she wanted to be, and where she was going to end up negotiating, writing down her feelings allowed her to realize I need to be at a company that promotes products that I want to feed myself and my children. And that feeling that commitment to that lead her in the direction that jump started her career. So use your feelings, they can be really, really helpful to you.

Kara Goldin 20:30
So what if you are in a situation where somebody doesn’t want to negotiate with you? And they’re stonewalling

Alex Carter 20:37
you. Okay. I love this. So if somebody is stonewalling you, I’m going to take a lesson, Kara, that I teach about often at the UN. Okay? And when we’re looking at two countries coming together, and are they going to negotiate or not, there’s a theory that says, People won’t negotiate until they feel some pain, until the thought of staying where they are, is more painful than making a change. They may not sit down at the table. And so what you need to do if somebody is in that state where they say, No, Kara, I’m good, I don’t need to negotiate with you is you need to show them how they are losing by staying exactly where they are. This concept is called loss aversion. As human beings we losing. So let me give you a couple of examples. I’ve been talking to companies where, you know, let’s say for example, they have a pain point. But they don’t feel it yet. They don’t have very many women, for example, in senior leadership ranks, sure, okay, there is a way that you could try to convince them to make a change, you could say, look at everything you’re going to gain, you know, companies who have more women in senior rank or more profitable, they’re still not interested, then you have to switch to the law frame. And instead of saying, here’s what you’re gonna gain, you look at them and say, Do you realize that our competitors are all moving in this direction? And if we don’t, we will lose considerable market share, that Kara, showing people how they will lose is often what motivates people to get out of their seat and say, I didn’t realize it, but I’m hurting, it’s time to negotiate.

Kara Goldin 22:34
Interesting. And so do you think when they’re in a situation where you talked about AI versus wheat, do you think that you have to make it more about them? Because obviously, you’ve got, I mean, I guess if there is a situation where there’s a country, and but it still is about an individual that is making the decisions, right, and and figuring out who that person is? And what is their purpose, right? What’s their motivation to do something or not do something? I mean, how do you get? How do you change the dynamic?

Alex Carter 23:09
So good. And carrot, here’s where all of our listeners if they didn’t know already can tell that you have negotiated many deals. I’ve run into all of them you’ve run into? Isn’t that the great thing about dealing with so many difficult negotiations? Carolyn, the endless content for your podcast? Yeah, exactly, exactly. You put your finger on something, which is that when somebody is negotiating on behalf of an entity, whether that’s a country or a company or a department, you’re right, that they’re there on behalf of that department, but they’re also there on behalf of themselves. They are still the person going into that negotiation, even as they represent a company. And so I want to give you a line that I learned Kara, you know, a number of years ago, I traveled to the Middle East with a delegation of professors. And we were studying the conflict, right and all sides of the conflict and speaking to negotiators on both sides. And an Israeli negotiator said something to me that I will never forget. He said, We’re never going to solve the conflict until we figure out how to write the other person’s victory speech. And that is the key to negotiation. It’s thinking about if I’m negotiating with CEOs, and he represents a whole company, I have to figure out not just what constitutes a win for that company. But what does Cox meet? What motivates him so true? And when you can figure out and unlock that, that’s when you’re going to be successful. So just one tip on that Cara? Part of the reason I stress that people should do a lot of preparation You know, working with themselves before they get in the room, is because when you do that, you have the ability to then quiet the mind. You know what your priorities are already, you come in the room, and you can listen to every word that comes out of that CEOs mouth. And so what I’m doing as I’m listening for the words that tell me, what did this person value, what are the things that he holds dear? And how can I remember some of those words and use them so that we are speaking the same language, and I’m helping him write his victory speech? You know, the last thing I’ll say, carrot is, sometimes when you get a No, it’s not the end. I like if somebody tells me No, I love that I cracked my knuckles. And I’m like, All right, I get ready to ask them a question. And I simply ask them, What are your concerns? No, Alex, we can’t do the deal at that level. What are your concerns? We can’t bring your product to market on the shelf? What are your concerns? We can’t promote you. Okay, what are your concerns? That is a great example of why I wrote ask for more. Because a question, one single question can help you uncover the barriers to a deal in a way that can help you collaboratively open that up to figure out the way through to a year?

Kara Goldin 26:26
All right, no, I absolutely love that. That is so great. So whether you’re you obviously teach in the law school, our lawyers in general, good negotiators,

Alex Carter 26:35
more and more elite law school, have a standard negotiation course, that much, if not all of their class takes. In fact, just recently, I was privileged to go to Yale, and teach their first ever negotiation course at Yale Law School, I love it. And what I have found is that lawyers have all the raw material to be great negotiators. They’re excellent communicators, they’re really good with words. They have lots of research, right, and arguments to backup, what they’re saying. They just often haven’t been taught how to put that all together, and to be kind of entrepreneurial carrot, right, you know, to think about not just you know, what all the numbers say? And the research says, But how can I creatively get into the heart and mind of that other person to bring us together in this way. And so I hope to be part of a generational transformation, where more and more of our young lawyer are coming out of law school as leader, yet, they might go to a law firm, but they might also found a company or be a sports agent, or be out negotiating every day. And I think every day we’re getting closer to that.

Kara Goldin 27:50
Yeah, I mean, definitely speaking from somebody who’s dealt with lawyers, I mean, you’re, you’re, as a client, you’re banking on the fact literally, that they are a great negotiator. And so I think that the more they can kind of understand how everything you talk about the negotiation really has aspects that you can, you can control, as long as you pay much closer attention to sort of what’s going on and what, how you speak about it. So I think that that is such great advice. So Alex, thank you so much for talking to me about this. This book is not just for lawyers, I am not a lawyer, a business person. I could imagine college students also trying to negotiate with professors maybe along with the late papers or something like that, you know, you just fill in the blanks, and it’s kind of fun to be able to do that. But seriously, all, you know, too great. For any level of of business, because we’re all every day is a negotiation. Right? I mean, and I think that that’s really, really important. So I got a lot out of this book, just thinking about, you know, who else besides obviously, besides the lawyers that you’re teaching would really benefit from this. So where do people catch up with more? What Alex talks about, and and I know you have an amazing social feed, but where else can people find out more about what what you’re all about?

Alex Carter 29:22
Absolutely. So in addition to all the usual platforms, you can find me on my website, which is Alex Carter asks a es que And, you know, I look forward to being your partner out there, whoever you are listening, your partner in your long term success, whoever you are, whatever your background, your schooling, the field that you’re in. You too, truly can be a great negotiator. And I’d love to help you get there.

Kara Goldin 29:53
I love it. Well, thank you again, and thanks, everybody for listening. We are here every Monday, Wednesday. And soon we are adding Friday as well, to the mix with amazing, amazing guests like Alex who share lots of stories and tactics and challenges along the way and their journey and more than anything. I love the stories that we get out of so many people because I feel like through stories, we’re able to really understand how we can do incredible things including negotiation. So don’t forget to pick up a copy of ask for more 10 questions to negotiate anything. And also pick up a copy of my book undaunted, overcoming doubts and doubters. And definitely as I said, subscribe. Listen all of those things to the Kara Goldin show. Stay hydrated with hint as well. And thanks, everyone for listening. Have a great rest of the week. Before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. Successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight send me a tweet at Kara Goldin and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara Goldin. Thanks for listening