How To Win at Negotiating With the Most Powerful Stakeholders?

with 🎙️ Ben Kimura Gross, CEO of Systemics Academy, Negotiation Trainer, and Mentor.     

💧 At Negotiation with Goliath, Ben trains sustainability professionals and entrepreneurs to get decision-makers on their side and make your goals their goals.

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What we covered:

🌱 How Sustainability professionals are pushing for change and how the greatest hurdles standing in the way of that change are overwhelmingly powerful individuals and organizations that are change resistant

😈 How defining people as “evil” is a major mistake that hinders your chances to convince them, why, and what to do instead

1️⃣ The one feature that drives human survival more powerfully than any other one and how you can leverage it for the better

🏗️ How reality is a construct and not an absolute and objective thing and how you need to understand that to succeed in negotiating

🎯 How being goal driven instead of objective is sadly a much more powerful survival feature and how you need to know that to drive sustainability forward

🥇 How the best way to kill a negotiation is to enter with a sense of moral superiority, why and what to do instead

👀 How you need to be driven to a clear and well defined strategic goal to succeed in negotiation and how you shall never lose sight of your strategy

💪 Teaching negotiation, realizing being on the wrong side, having an impact, human psychology, human evolution… and much more!

🔥 … and of course, we concluded with the 𝙧𝙖𝙥𝙞𝙙 𝙛𝙞𝙧𝙚 𝙦𝙪𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨 🔥 


🔗 Send your warmest regards to Ben on LinkedIn 

🔗 Check out Negotiating with Goliath’s Website 

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Full Transcript:

These are computer-generated, so expect some typos 🙂

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Antoine Walter: Hi Ben. Welcome to the show.

Ben Kimura Gross: Hi, an thank you for having me.

Antoine Walter: I’m really excited to have that conversation with you because you are touching on the topic, which we have never discussed on that microphone. I was really impressed by your writing skills. So now I’m looking forward to discover your talking skills . thank you and we’ll dig into that in just a minute. But all that starts with a good tradition I have on that microphone, which is to ask you to send me a postcard.

And actually your postcard today comes from Tokyo. So what can you tell me about Tokyo, which I would ignore by.

Ben Kimura Gross: Well, as you probably know, Tokyo is a, has a greater metropolitan area of like 36 million people. So it’s huge. and then you have to imagine all of these 36 million people are wearing masks all the time, everywhere they go.

Now, that’s something that surprised me, cuz in Berlin people are like, eh, whatever, you know. But I’ve seen people walking down the streets at night wearing masks where there’s like 10 meters around them. Nobody. I’ve seen a guy sitting in a car on his own, all alone wearing a mask. Like it’s a total grace, I think, by now.

Antoine Walter: you mentioned Berlin and Tokyo, and if I’m right you’re traveling a bit between those two cities. So where you feel at home? Is it in both cities?

Ben Kimura Gross: I would have to say both. . Yeah, I grew up in Berlin’s, my hometown, kind of.

But I spent a very significant and important part of my life in Tokyo. and I now have family in Tokyo, so that’s also home . you know, I feel so guilty every time I fly. It’s horrible , and I try to do less of it. That’s why it makes sense for me to, be spending like, this time we’re in Tokyo for two.

Antoine Walter: you are somehow going into the topic in the sense that you have a strong involvement with Greentech and sustainability, but with very different angle compared to whatever we’ve been discussing so far on that microphone maybe to start with, I’d like to understand from you what is the of

Ben Kimura Gross: conversations. Okay, so first of all, one of the basic tenets of Aikido is to never meet aggression with aggression, Your counterpart might be more powerful than you are, and I think that’s the case in lots of, you know, let’s say you’re a green tech startup and you’re talking to somebody in the power production industry or something like that.

So, , you are facing stronger counterparts. And how do you meet that overwhelming physical power How do you meet that calmly with smarts and superior techniques? That’s aikido. In conversations, it means compassion. It means knowing exactly how to ask questions that steer people’s thinking in the direction you want them to go, and it means being absolutely clear on your strategic goals.

Unwaveringly Clear.

Antoine Walter: a good summary. , I’m wondering how you came up. The concept in the sense, you mentioned Greentech, you mentioned negotiation. I think those will be key words for our conversation today. And I’m wondering what made you think first you need to do something in that sphere and second, that is really one of the skill which Greentech entrepreneurs shall redevelop.

Ben Kimura Gross: I’ll start with the first part, right? How did I even get into this sphere, right? Which is I’ve been training, you know, as a communications trainer. I’ve been working for over 10 years. Working a lot for I’d say pharma, it some news media, corporations in the government. And the reason I switched away from those clients is because I had the bullet pulled from my eyes, you know, I always thought I was doing my bit in sustainability.

Not only you’re driving a car not using plastic bags. All those little things that people think are quite important and they’re, they are important, And I thought that was enough. But the moment I started looking into what my friends were doing , my friends in Green Tech who I’ve been talking to more and more over, let’s say the last 18 months.

And the more I started looking into COP 26 reporting and then the I PCC reports coming out around that time I was just like, know, this is overwhelming. I gotta do more. Those little things that we all do, it’s not enough. know, if we all wanna make it through this, we all have to do more about how and that’s really what got me into the whole sustainability field is people in green tech making me aware that I need to take a more active part and really saying, I don’t wanna say pointing a gun at my chest, but that’s what we’re saying in German , you know? But asking very direct questions like, you know, do you really want to work for a news media organization that publicly aggressing against Greater Thunberg? Or do you want to work for people pushing for change that’s gonna.

ensure the continued wellbeing of human societies. What’s it gonna be, And that pushed a button and that kind of got me to realize I can’t just keep going the way I’m going. I need to refocus.

Antoine Walter: you felt that need to refocus.

Yeah. So that explains the switch to the green tech side of things. Mm-hmm. . . But what I’d like to understand is what made you think that what they were missing the most and where you could help the better was with this perion and negotiation skills?

Ben Kimura Gross: people in sustainability are pushing for change, right? . And one of the greatest hurdles standing in the way of change is overwhelmingly powerful individuals and organizations that are change resistant. Let’s just call ’em that. I sometimes I like to call ’em Goliath, right?

And that’s why I call my whole thing negotiating with Goliath. And when I got more involved in, you know, trying to understand what people in sustainability and green tech were doing I was really shocked when I understood that this balance of negotiating power between the sustainability sector on the one side and the Goliaths on the other, Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazingly capable negotiators in green tech and sustainability, and I know some of them, and I totally respect them. But what you have to understand is that the negotiating power of the Goliath has decades of experience, hundreds of millions of dollars of investment built into it.

So on average, your typical green tech startup is not on equal footing with that. looking at this power disbalance, that’s where the iqo moves come in.

Antoine Walter: Actually, the reason why I was really excited to have the discussion with you and the reason why that topic matters a lot, I think, is that from the 130 guests I had so far on that microphone, I would say , 75% of them mention how we are living in a conservative industry. We don’t evolve as fast as the world is evolving and we always have. A hard time to put a finger on why change is so slow. Mm-hmm. . And I . thought that’s, you are bringing here a new angle, which is maybe , we’re not convincing enough and maybe we don’t use the right skillsets to be convincing enough. So what I’d like to, to get from you is to get some start of directions as to how to.

Better at negotiating, at persuading or interlocutors to do the right move and to probably find win-wins on the way. Mm-hmm. , not , that you can do a masterclass in such a short time, but maybe To start a fire. You, it’s a bit of lightning at the beginning to to start to realize.

you mentioned how you’ve seen. Good negotiators in that scene of Greentech. And I was wondering to be very blunt, if you have seen also very terrible and very bad negotiators.

Ben Kimura Gross: not just in Greentech, I mean, in every kind of field and even in extremely successful companies right?

Or other kinds of organizations there are always amazingly good negotiators and there’s horrible negoti. There are negotiators who achieve great results because of the power of the company behind them, even though they themselves aren’t really good negotiators.

Antoine Walter: and how is that different from sales skills?

Ben Kimura Gross: in sales you’re trying to convince somebody to buy something, and then also often you’re dealing with bargaining, right? And these are two very small components of negotiating skills. . that’s like a sub skill.

Antoine Walter: what more do you have in negotiations?

Ben Kimura Gross: It’s such a broad field, you know? But I’ll just give you a few one type of skill that I’d say is also closely linked to. Conflict resolution is to overcome the hurdles that you face as you’re trying to cooperate.

these may be just because you see the world in different ways or you have different sets of interests that you need to somehow align. overcoming hurdles to cooperation is a huge part of negotiation, I think. Then building coalitions, Stakeholder management.

getting people to even understand the nature of a problem, which has been a real biggie in climate change issues, right? Because scientists think that they can help people and even the powerful people running huge organizations or large corporations scientists have been thinking that they can get people to see this problem.

By talking about facts and figures, and of course they can’t, it’s not the way it works.

Antoine Walter: And is there a, a difference between negotiation and manipulation?

Ben Kimura Gross: Absolutely. Absolutely. First I think we should take apart this word manipulation, right? Because it gets a bad rap, even though, we’re all trying to achieve goals.

We’re all trying to convince people to do the things that we think are important and stuff like that. And most human beings go through their day manipulating, not negatively, not evenly or something like that. But that’s just part of who we are. We influence each other. This’s part of how human societies work, And so, Is there a difference between negotiating and manipulating? I’d say that the core of negotiating is that you’ve got two people who’ve got a common goal, and sometimes yes, there’s more parties involved, right? There’s multi-party negotiations, but let’s just focus on two people. You’ve got two people who’ve got a shared goal that they want to achieve, and in order to achieve it, they need to cooperate.

And they’re trying to define how they’re going to cooperate to achieve that common shared goal. If you don’t have a shared goal, you don’t need to negotiate.

Antoine Walter: how do you figure out if you have a shared goal?

Ben Kimura Gross: shared goals come through desires. for example having a wonderful relationship with my wife, And building that wonderful relationship. That’s a shared goal, based on a desire to just live a good life, But shared goals can also come through external forces. obviously at COP 27, There are shared goals there. for example, let’s just take my home country, Germany, Not because Germany says, oh, you know what? We’ve been blowing so much carbon into the air way more than Fiji, and we should support Fiji in facing the increased amounts of climate disasters that they’re facing right now because the carbon that we’ve been blowing into the.

I don’t think that any nation wants to hand out money, but There’s an international pressure building and there’s even societal pressure building from within Germany amongst the people who are aware of the problems that Germany’s actions and the CO2 that is blown into the air are causing.

Sometimes common goals come about because we have to go somewhere so you have to be able to deal

Antoine Walter: with that. So is it safe to assume that if you are in Greentech and sustainability, there will always be a shared goal unless you’re really negotiating with the devil or someone who wants to destroy the planet on purpose.

Ben Kimura Gross: Can I just pick up on this, you know, devil or wants to destroy the planet on purpose? Sure. Because I think that’s such a big topic, that some counterparts are really tough and you would think that maybe they’re bent on destruction. They don’t.

And then you ask yourself, well, but wait, why are they so self-destructive? Because they must see that they are also destroying their own life habitats alongside with the habitat for millions and, billions of people as well as the animals, plants, all life on earth, et cetera, right?

Can’t they see how extremely destructive that is? Can’t they see what they’re doing? And are they like evil? and, I’m not into the good and evil thing, Because it doesn’t help us. Because if you start defining people as evil, then you’ve now taken away any opportunity you had of changing them. You have to Engage with them forcefully once you define people as being evil, you have to destroy them.

So if you turn that around, if you want to negotiate with somebody and you want to, for example, believe that you can change their mind, then you can’t go around defining them as evil. You can’t do that. But what do you do right? . And this is where I find the topic, and I know this is, very scientific and some people, you know, they’re like, ah, don’t get into that deep science stuff.

You know, I have to be careful, right? But where I find the topic of behavioral physiology really important. the things that we can say about the nature of how our bodies and brains and nervous systems and our perceptive apparatuses, like sight and hearing, et cetera. How all that is built and what that does to influence our behavior, how we see the world, how we make important decisions, et cetera.

And of course how it influences the behavior of the people in the oil and gas. For example, Who you might think, oh my God, they’re just hellbent on destruction. But I would argue they’re not. And to understand why they actually see the world in a way that they presume is constructive and helpful and you’re finding it really difficult to negotiate or to actually get them to see your reality as a sustainability.

why that’s happening, if you wanna understand that. I don’t know how much time we got, this might be a little bit of a detour, but to understand that you have to get into the topic of extinction, I’m not talking about the doomist kind of, we’re all gonna die extinction, I’m talking extinction as a natural process.

As a natural process, Extinction is basically about the power of one species or maybe even a subgroup of species to survive. And by surviving and by getting very good at surviving, they drive other groups into extinction. . And so that’s just a natural process. It happens all the time. It’s happening right now.

And as humans, we’re also part of the animal kingdom. So, we’re part of this competition for survival. And lots of people, when I start talking about this, they said, yeah, okay, Darwin I know about this survival of the fittest, right? What’s new? And what’s new is that there’s thousands different kinds of fitness features, which most of them, most people don’t know.

And there’s one fitness feature that drives human behavior that’s only recently really come to light. And it’s crazy because this could be the one feature that drives survival more powerfully than any other fitness feature. And. It’s certainly the fitness feature that’s driving the behavior of, that oil and gas ceo, right?

Let’s imagine some person who’s behaving completely irrationally and you’re thinking, oh my God, this guy’s hellbent on destruction. to understand this fitness feature that drives this guy’s behavior. Makes every discussion and every negotiation, every attempt you have make at, persuading this oil and gas ceo.

It makes every attempt at persuading him to come on board like smacking your face against a brick.

what’s the feature? Running at a brick wall. Full speed. Unprotected. Trying to break it down with the tip of your nose. And so, exactly right. Now you’re going, okay what’s this feature? Right? Alright. Have you ever heard of the Australian Jewel Beetle? No. . Okay. Sorry, but you know, to understand the feature, you need to understand this weird thing that the Australian Jewel Beetle does.

Okay. Which it’s in the Outback, right? And it finds itself a beer bottle and it starts humping it as if it was gonna make some babies. Now, why would the Australian jewel beetle hump a beer bottle? So weird, right? And the truth is that there’s a certain kind of beer bottle that has like a pattern and in the right kinda light with the right kind of reflection, it looks like the rump of a female Australian jewel wheel.

And so the male Australian jewel wheel can’t tell the difference. And now you think, oh, that’s stupid. I mean, they look nothing alike. But the truth is, the Australian jewel beetle doesn’t see reality as it is. It sees reality through the lens of looking for certain kinds of patterns. So just looking for certain kinds of patterns of light.

Patterns of color. That’s all it knows. So it’s reality perception is really limited. And Donald Huffman a really amazing researcher explained in his TED Talk, I think it’s about five years. About the nature that we as humans perceive reality. In fact, all organisms perceive reality we all perceive reality through the lens of certain kinds of patterns that we understand to either help us or hinder us in achieving our goals.

So reality, perception and our whole construct in our brains of how the world works and all that kind of stuff is goal. I understand that this gets a bit abstract, right? But what does this lead to? in everybody’s mind. Reality is a construct. It’s not a reflection of the way things are.

It’s a construct. And the other sad thing about it is, That we, we just have to deal with, right? And that scientists who are trying to convince, for example, people in the oil and gas industry like Peter and other, you know, amazing people who are pushing for this change. That’s really necessary.

We have to understand the behavioral realities of what’s going on there, which is,

organisms that are goal driven, In their behavior and their perception in every single experiment that’s ever been done drive to extinction the organisms that see reality as it’s because reality is too complex.

So, this explains why CEOs who don’t see reality as it is in all its complexity, but who look like they’re wearing shutters, they’re very success. Because they’re at the top of the fitness game. And I think we have to accept this. We have to accept this because this is a reality of human perception.

I don’t want to accept it. Right. It’s not fun to say like, oh my God, so many people don’t see the world the way it is, and they’re powerful and and they’re maybe diluted and they’re definitely wearing shutters, But we have to accept. if we wanna move forward,

Antoine Walter: that’s a bit the root of the psychological bias. If we were to be free of psychological bias, we would have a hard time to process all that amount of information out there. And so the psychological bias is a way our brain have put together to help us mm-hmm. ,, mitigate and navigate a word which is very complex.

So this reality which you define as being too complex to be understood.

Ben Kimura Gross: And the sad thing, and I think this is real point, is that who wins,

right? so how do you deal with that? How do you deal with this huge disadvantage that we’ve got? that’s biased against the scientist, really. I think the only way to deal with that is to say, okay, let’s accept the way that human perception works. Let’s accept that evolution is a powerful thing.

It’s been created in this way, you know, for millions or maybe even billions of years. Let’s accept that cognition is goal driven and not reality driven. the very way that people perceive reality is

limited in its ability to see reality. for what it is, and it’s ultimately super strong goal driven. If you accept that, then you start handling negotiations in a different way. You start handling that seeming evil destructive person in a completely different way because now you’re not looking at a moral wrong, you’re looking at a natural phenomenon of evolution.

Antoine Walter: All you say makes a ton of sense. I’m wondering where to start with that because , you’ve explained how. You cannot win the argument with facts and figures, which makes sense if you’re now appealing to emotions and patterns and bias. And you’ve mentioned how this moral high grounds doesn’t help either, because then you’re not looking at your counterpart as someone, which you have to understand and to accept his reality and to try to then find a common ground with its within that reality, or to open him , to a new reality.

But , if now I’m one of these. Green tech, sustainable entrepreneurs. And I’d like to change the word for good. What is the very first step I have to undergo? Where would you advise to start compassion?

Ben Kimura Gross: Yeah. Because that’s the antidote to write your anger. It’s the antidote to try to take the moral high ground and about the moral high ground issue.

You actually read my ebook, right? Yes. So do you remember that story about the moral high ground? what is the thing that moral high ground does to your face when you take the moral high ground?

Antoine Walter: You look with disdain. Yeah.

Ben Kimura Gross: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So, actually the facial express.

That people who see others as morally corrupt, the facial expression that appears on their face is the same facial expression as with physical disgust. This has to do with how our brains are wired and how moral disgusted and physical disgust are closely linked. so you know that feeling when you, walked around in the garden when you were a kid with your barefoot and right, and you step on something weird like maybe a slug.

That feeling. when you experience moral disgust towards the person you’re talking to, what’s showing on your face is that same kind of expression as if you stepped on this slug, And now imagine somebody looking at you like that.

How does that make you.

Antoine Walter: Obviously bad .

Ben Kimura Gross: Horrible. In fact, it’s so horrible that people who look at each other, right, who have in a conversation a certain percentage of these kinds of facial expressions that show disgusted 95% of the time, that leads to irreparable damage to the relationship, meaning they don’t want to have anything to do.

if you wanna kill a negotiation, walk in with a sense of moral superiority, do that, and you’ll kill the negotiation because human beings do not function on that purely logical level. We just don’t, the emotional triggers created by, Showing that disgust on your face are just so strong.

Antoine Walter: mentioned it a killer, and in your ebook you have seven of those stories. And mm-hmm. , if I remember right, in the one you’re mentioning, the solution is that the person. It doesn’t correct what she was doing. She just gets a chance to have a new start in a different place, and she does it all better the second time, but mm-hmm. would that mean that really it’s a killer if you enter and you once have this superiority on your face, then it’s done. If you don’t get a chance to restart new somewhere else, then that battle is lost forever.

Ben Kimura Gross: It’s really difficult to fix that one once. Gone down that route, it’s really difficult to fix and sometimes in some situations there are external factors which push you, that you have to deal with that person and then you can try to fix your relationship.

But again, you have to realize at that point you’re not even talking about trying to have a good negotiation. You have to go back to fixing the relationship. and people underestimate how much it is a killer.

Antoine Walter: You mentioned compassion to be the place to start with, which resonates with personally the story are preferred among your seven stories, which I could rely the most on, which is explaining how listening is the first and best skill. Best is now my personal interpretation, but to me that starts with listening because that’s the way you understand someone. So that would be, , my favorite one among the seven. I was wondering if you have favorite one as well, or one which you would deem to be more efficient

Ben Kimura Gross: is actually my favorite two.

Listening is, I’d say the number one skill that is underestimated. And at which people don’t perform very well, especially in negotiations where you go in with a certain set of attitudes, certain set of goals, et cetera, et cetera. You wanna push your points, and if that’s your attitude, then you’re not gonna get the best out of the

Antoine Walter: negotiation.

It’s a tough one though, because I remember discussing that with Lea Im Obersteg on that microphone and she demonstrated how listening can be tough in the sense that if you finish your sentence and straight after your sentence, I already have a question that means I have not listened and processed to the end of what you were saying.

And so she demonstrated that by saying, if I really want to process what you’re saying, I need to stop and wait for at least two seconds and then come back with the next thing. But we as Zoomin have really hard time with these two seconds of silence, where in fact mm-hmm. it is listening, but it is also.

very uncomfortable. I could see that as a hard to apply tool. , if you want to put it in practice. .

Ben Kimura Gross: Yeah. I think also the same goes in negotiations, right? I think in negotiations there’s times when you have to have fast pacing and there’s times where silence can actually help you slow down the pace.

And I’d say that, if your counterpart kind of depends on working with you on some level, silence can be totally fine.

I mean, you can even use silence to great effect in situations where you ask a critical question and then you just shut up and you wait for them to answer it.

Antoine Walter: That’s your fair story. How to reverse the pressure. By just mirror something you interlocutory is saying, and then just stop talking. Yeah. And wait for him to come back. .

Ben Kimura Gross: Yeah. Yeah. The one where somebody’s offered a very unfair deal, but the person who’s offering the deal is saying I’m just trying to be fair here.

Right. And then what do you say? Well, the best thing you can say is, hang, hang there. Yeah. Just let it hang there. You know, if they resist and they just leave the silence hanging there and you know, they kind of out silence you then you can still always take one further step and say, Got the feeling you were really convinced that this is a really fair deal.

So I’m sure you got the facts and figures to back it up, or I’m sure you can explain that to me how it’s fair, and again, it’s so important to not ask that in a kind of aggressive way.

Antoine Walter: you mentioned at the very beginning of that conversation how all of that. Sounds like Aikido is something which I never practiced. Aikido. I had one of my music teacher who was a Nike instructors. That’s what I know about Aikido. . So I’m gonna say things which are more stupid than me, so, please don’t be offended, but I would see that as something you have to practice and repeat repeats.

 Until you create the patterns we were discussing before. When I read your ebook and when I see your full argumentation. Every time at the end of the story, I was like, oh yes, that makes a lot of sense, and that sounds like really the sensitive way to do it. But then if I’m honest and I’m putting myself in the shoes of the person at the beginning of the story, I would never behave that way because it wouldn’t cross my mind or I wouldn’t.

Elaborate enough or be clever enough in the instant to come up with the right tactics. how much do you have to train and practice so that you always come back with, if not the best, at least a good line?

Ben Kimura Gross: first of all, I’d say that the thing that people need to train most is not actually coming back with good lines. , that’s kind of the last bit, I think the thing that people need to train most is, first of all, the listening skills. Another really important thing that people have to train as compassion,

not to be triggered into saying things that go against their own strategy, because a good negotiator will. Manipulate you into behaviors that actually

generate good results for them, but results that aren’t beneficial to you. some of the most important reflexes you have to learn to control is the reflexes that are already built in. And then with regard to being able to come. with a good line or something. I always say the best lines are probably not lines, they’re questions.

It’s good to have the patience to, endure the silence. And even if it means, like, for example, you’re thinking on what to say next, to create those pauses that allow you to figure out what to say. That’s also a little trick. I have one negotiated friend who, everybody was like, like this guy must have like a really small bladder, What’s wrong with him? He’s always going to the toilet. He’s going to the toilet for a very simple reason because he’s like, oh my God, what do I say next? , you should take a break. I mean, you can’t do that all the time, right? But if you get into really difficult situation, also just to have that natural reflex say like, okay, wait.

I need a strategic moment here and people do that. People whatever they pretend to take some kind of important business call that just cannot be avoided. Or other things like that.

Antoine Walter: But that means you have to be kind of coldblooded. reading an analytic position and to try to overcome your own emotions.

If I now put myself in the shoes of a green tech entrepreneur or a sustainability activist, and I want my interlocutor to change something, to change a behavior. to do what I would estimate to be the right thing. , then that is part of my identity, that is part of what I’m fighting every day about, so.

, I could imagine it’s being hard to really go down to my analytic brain and to think, let’s try to understand that other person to have compassion. I hear what you explain makes a lot of sense. . . Yeah. But it’s hard to commence to my emotions.

Ben Kimura Gross: , so this is also another really interesting point.

Okay. Because, sorry. But we are going back to the behavioral physiology stuff. , there’s a huge misunderstanding about what emotions are. First of. . Most people have this dichotomy in their head, right? They say, okay, there’s logical on the one side, and then there’s emotions on the other side You know, like you said, analytic brain and the emotional brain. And these two are

Antoine Walter: opponents, right brain, left brain. If I want to trigger everybody by saying something stupid I can say that .

Ben Kimura Gross: And honestly, it’s just not true. There’s no logical thinking that’s independent of emotion. Even logical thinking is driven by emotion.

emotions are like the high speed decision makers that help us figure out where to go, what to move towards, who to interact with, what to avoid, all that kind of stuff. So emotions are really smart and emotions are not the antagonist. Emotions aren’t like the bad component of your behavior in a negoti.

They can be really helpful. So the question isn’t overcoming your emotions. The question is

how to replace negative and angry or fearful emotions with positive ones. And that’s also something you can train. There’s things like compassion training or there’s things like rebalancing, Actually, the rebalancing takes me to another part of a misunderstanding about emotions that we have.

let’s say, I call you a complete whatever, right? Something really horrible, and you go, ah, and you experience an emotion, What’s that emotion? Anger. Okay, so let’s say you experience anger and then when you experience anger, maybe something happens physically too, right?

Antoine Walter: I guess I’m frowning. I’m getting red.

Ben Kimura Gross: And anything else in your posture maybe or,

Antoine Walter: I’m getting more aggressive probably.

Ben Kimura Gross: Something in your posture, right? Changes. The thing is, it’s different for everybody, right? Some people, their head moves forward, or some people scrunch their shoulders, some people puff out their chest.

Whatever it is, is a physical change. And now we think, because maybe that’s the way we were raised, or something like that. That first we experience the emotion of anger and then something changes in our physiology in our body. But actually it’s the other way around. and it happens so fast that you can’t really tell which way around it is.

But if you ask brain researchers, it’s the other way around. The first thing that’s happening is that your shoulders or your, something around the back of your neck tightens up and you frown and. Your heartbeat might increase, Your pulse rate. And then there’s this part of your brain called the anterior insular cortex, which is looking at all that information of what’s happening inside your body, muscle tension, blood pressure, et cetera, and it’s taking that information and it’s sending it to another part of the brain that says, aha, these changes in posture, blood pressure, et cetera, equal anger.

I’m gonna tell this person to now consciously experience anger. So the physical change comes first and then the emotion. That’s the reality. Which brings us to the point of you’re in a negotiation, right? And somebody says something that really gets your goat. Like whatever climate change is, a hoax or something like that.

What’s the first thing you should. try to control your anger or try to kind of rationalize away your anger or try to tell him about this. There was a school of thought for a long time that says, you know, you’ve really upset me because blah, blah, and I’m so angry. No, you need a really quick solution.

You need a solution that will fix the problem in half a second. You know what that solution. Is rebalancing your body because let’s say anger makes your neck go forward. the muscles around your shoulders tighten up. And let’s say your pulse rate go up. Now, you can’t do that much about your pulse rate, maybe through some breathing techniques you can work on that, but you can definitely control the tension in your big skeletal muscles.

You can also control your posture. Now the magical thing is, and it’s so easy, it’s almost stupid, The magical thing is that the moment you reset your posture and you relax your big skeletal muscles, which got tense, and you slow down your breathing, that moment, the anterior insular cortex, which is looking at all that information, is looking at your physical, being and saying what happened?

Wait, I have to tell this guy, he’s not angry anymore. , this is the simplification, right? you have to train it. There’s a lot of impulses going this way and that way there’s continuous amounts of triggers happening from your counterpart so it’s a simplification.

I admit that. But in this simplified way of looking at it, if you can rebalance. Your physical state, your posture, your muscular tension, your breathing, you can change your attitude towards your counterpart and you can overcome the sense of aggression that you might have, or even the sense of disgust you might have, which will kill your negotiation.

to me, that’s magical. that’s part of what I call compassionate conflict, training. That’s really my way of thinking about how to resolve conflict and also how to deal with difficult negotiation counterparts.

Antoine Walter: So now we have two ways to start, or two first steps, which are you just. Put in our list roadmap towards getting a better negotiator, which is this compassion training and this rebalancing of the body. You know, everything in life goes better with three. So would you have a third one?

Ben Kimura Gross: Yeah. And this is more on the cognitive level.

I think you need to be really clear on your final strategic goals, and you need to have a well laid out. That you keep refocusing during the good negotiation, always with, questioning techniques and other cognitive techniques. Keep refocusing on your strategy. Never lose sight of your strategy.

there’s that difference between tactic and strategy, be tactically flexible and strategic, unwavering.

Antoine Walter: in your ebook I picked up this 15 minutes a day. Is it like the benchmark of how much you should invest in training those strategies, not tactics, or is it more or less would be a good benchmark?

Ben Kimura Gross: It really depends on what skills you already have, For example, some people have , all the skills in terms of strategy, all the cognitive stuff and then they don’t need to train that, And it depends on what kinds of hurdles or problems you’re. Well, what you’re good at and what you’re not good at.

So it’s very individual. But I would say that within a timeframe of about six weeks, even if you’ve got no experience at all in negotiating you. You need a mixture, right? You need some on block learning, which is about theory and some role playing and training, but you also need those little nudges every day, But you don’t need two hours every day, So I’d say ideally, if you’ve got two hours, twice a week plus Five minutes every morning, you can make major changes in six weeks.

Antoine Walter: And how do you support those people their road to getting better negotiator? Is it through coaching? Is it through training, form, oral form, face-to-face, online? What’s your approach?

Ben Kimura Gross: before Corona I used to work mainly with small groups of people in a room, Not online or anything like that. And Corona came along and it kind of naturally switched to online. which you can have group sessions with up to 25 people online. I wouldn’t suggest that because negotiating is so personal that you’re probably better off with a group of less than 10 people if it’s online.

It’s gotta be interactive. You can’t learn negotiating from a book and you can’t learn it from reading a whole bunch of PDFs and stuff like that. It’s gotta be interactive. You also have to be put into those situations where you can sense the. I think that’s a large component. I also developed a format which I call embed, which is to give you those small nudges on a daily basis.

That’s a really important component of how I train. And so basically when people join my course they get a daily three minute audio. Some of them are only two minutes, roughly three minutes maybe. And they get that daily audio file, which is just, you know, some stories, some insights and a nudge to do one tiny little thing differently that day.

And if you’ve got that going on every day for six weeks, you know, that’s like major change in reflexes, habits, et cetera.

Antoine Walter: If at that depth of the conversation we’re having today , we have decision makers in the water industry, which are listening to that. Would you advise them to reach out to you or to go into that field on an individual basis? Or is it the kind of stuff which companies.

Should enlist their people on too, because that’s part of the soft skills which will be needed in this climate change adaptation phase. We are facing right now.

Ben Kimura Gross: This is one of the questions that I’m asking myself too, right? Is how do I increase the impact of what I’m doing? And there are a lot of people who are doing similar things to what I do, it’s not really directly about negotiating, but it’s also about making change happen. So there’s a whole bunch of good change facilitators, I’d say, And.

I think depending on the size of the corporation, And if a large corporation says we want to send 200 people to some training then they probably need to find somebody who’s got a little bit more capacity than I have . Or they can start with an automated course that people can take.

That’s an option too. I like having mixed groups of people like somebody who’s, let’s say a policy officer at the EU level plus somebody who’s infrastructure for electric vehicles. maybe even an activist right? Thrown into the mix. , And I’ve trained all these kinds of people and what I see as interesting is when you put them together they create very fascinating roleplaying scenarios and there’s a lot of opening of minds going on.

Antoine Walter: Well, I think that makes for a good summary . For this deep dive , I’ve mentioned your ebook a couple times in our discussion. Of course the links are in the description, so I enjoyed reading it. I guess, that would be the case for anyone downloading that so, just my very humble personal feedback.

I, I liked it. So I guess I would recommend anyone to, to have a read and reading something is never a commitment to too much more than reading it. So it’s already pretty interesting in itself. But if that’s right with you, I’m always running out those conversations with a list of rapid, fair questions and propose you to switch to that last

Ben Kimura Gross: section.

Absolutely. Yeah.

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Rapid fire questions:

Antoine Walter: So here the rule is pretty simple. I try to keep the question short, and you have to try to keep the answers short. I’m never cutting the microphone and usually I’m the one side tracking, so, don’t worry. , my first question is, what is the most exciting project you’ve been working on and why?

Ben Kimura Gross: Oh my God. Okay. This is a rapid fire question. Yes. I have to say an international collaboration to retrain farmers in Columbia. And what many people don’t know, the good news about Columbia is that they just ended a 15 year civil war and they could become one of the bread baskets of the world. . So you know, whether do they need to make this happen?

Well, they gotta retrain 5.5 million farmers who used to grow coca, right, for making cocaine and who now need to be retrained to grow the veggies, fruits, all that kind of stuff. Hope that was short enough.

Antoine Walter: The temptation to go on sidetrack here is very strong, but I have to resist. So, . Okay. Can you name one thing that you’ve learned the hard way?

Negoti. Oh, here, I need to know more. How did you learn the hard way ?

Ben Kimura Gross: I don’t have a natural talent for it at all. I came with all the bad reflexes and I had to train all of them outta myself,

Antoine Walter: which usually makes for good teachers. If I go back to my engineering times engineering school times, usually the ones which were very good at maths were terrible teachers just because to them it was too easy and the one which had struggled with the maths themselves ended up being very much better teachers.

So my 2 cents ,

Ben Kimura Gross: thanks.

Antoine Walter: Is there something you’re doing today in your job that you will not be doing in 10?

Ben Kimura Gross: Online marketing . Oh my God, it’s not my thing. .

Antoine Walter: And still you’re a brilliant copywriter, Interesting. .

Ben Kimura Gross: I mean that’s content creation for me. You know, that’s may, maybe it’s part of online marketing, but Yeah, I’ll be glad when I’ve, you know, kind of resettled into this new sector, right?

Because as you know, I started off in a completely different sector and I come to just switch a year ago. So I’m all new to this, and I have to kind of still create a presence.

Antoine Walter: We have this big un water conference coming up in 2023 and we struggl. As an industry, probably. Because of lack of negotiation skills to put a lot of topics on the agenda. But still, if you had the chance to put one topic on that UN water conference agenda, which is the first in 50 year, what would it be?


Ben Kimura Gross: Could I ask you what you would put on, because like I said, I’m not a water person. Right. But I’d be fascinated to hear what you would put on if it was up to you. ,

Antoine Walter: Clara, come back. . I would’ve a hard time putting just one. When you’re involved with it, when you have to overcome your emotions, and I’m not overcoming , I’m trying to relax my body and to be

Ben Kimura Gross: I’m gonna have to pay attention to that whole topic more cuz I think it’s a really tough one and a fascinating one.

Antoine Walter: , it’s a matter of patterns. We have one pattern in our modern word, which is to open the tap and have water and to flush the toilet and see what it disappear.

And so we don’t look beyond those patterns and still there’s a fascinating reality beyond those patterns. But, , I have to fight my tendencies to sidetrack and let me bring you back with My last question, which is, would you have someone to recommend me? That should definitely invite as soon as possible on that microphone.

Ben Kimura Gross: ?

Yes, absolutely. I’m training or coaching a startup, which is revolutionizing water filtration. , and they’re called Aveor. And the two founders, Ian and Arian, they’re amazing guys. I’m not the expert to say this, right, but from what I understand, from what people around them are saying, they have breakthrough technology on the cusp of, mainstream media implementation.

So I think they would be really amazing to talk.

Antoine Walter: Well, thanks a lot for the recommendation and , I can confirm Bern that I had a really good time over the tower with you, and I think we learned some very interesting insights into an overlooked part of the interaction we have with stakeholders fight is probably not the right word, but in this adaptation we have to, the new challenges our word is facing.

So, so thanks a lot. , I mentioned how the link to your ebook is already in the show notes. If people want to follow up with you and to contact you directly, what’s the best way to speak with you?

Ben Kimura Gross: Just write me an email at ben negotiating hyphen with hyphen,

Antoine Walter: and that one is as well now in the show notes.

Well, Ben, it’s been a pleasure. Thanks a lot and talk to you.

Ben Kimura Gross: Thank you too.

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