Creatives are Good Negotiators! with Mori Taheripour

| 24-min read

It might surprise you to learn that creative professionals have the potential to be excellent negotiators.

How could that be, since so many are introverts?

According to Mori Taheripour, the author of Bring Yourself: How to harness the power of connection to negotiate fearlessly, my guest on Episode #460 of the Marketing Mentor Podcast, creatives (and she considers herself one of us) are naturally sensitive, good listeners and attuned to our collaborators.

Bring Yourself by Mori Taheripour

In my very rich conversation with Mori, who teaches negotiation at The Wharton School, she elaborates on how to harness those talents and shares a few ideas about how to value ourselves so we can advocate for ourselves and ultimately get what we deserve.

For her baby steps, we have a two-fer: Mori suggested:

  1. Prepare by spending time with yourself and reflecting on your values, on what’s most important to you, so you know in any negotiation, what you’re not willing to compromise.
  2. Make a daily practice of writing down tangible things you’ve accomplished that speak to your strengths and are part of your story.

So listen here or below, sign up for her email newsletter here, and find the transcript below.

 

If you like what you hear, we’d love it if you write a review, subscribe here and sign up for Quick Tips from Marketing Mentor.

 

Transcript of Episode #460 with Mori Taheripour

ilise benun

Hi there. This is ilise benun, your Marketing Mentor, and this is the podcast for you if, and only if, you are ready to leave the feast or famine syndrome behind, and I mean for good.

It might surprise you to learn that creative professionals have the potential to be excellent negotiators. How could that be, since so many are introverts? Well, according to Mori Taheripour—she's the author of Bring Yourself: How to Harness the Power of Connection to Negotiate Fearlessly, and she's my guest on the podcast today—she says that creatives, and she considers herself one of us, are naturally sensitive, good listeners and attuned to our collaborators. In my very rich conversation with Mori, who teaches negotiation at the Wharton School, she elaborates on how to harness those talents and shares a few ideas about how to value ourselves so we can advocate for ourselves and ultimately get what we deserve. So, listen and learn.

Hello Mori, welcome to the podcast.

Mori Taheripour

Hi, good morning. Thank you for having me.

ilise benun

Of course. Please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your book.

Mori Taheripour

Mori Taheripour. I am a faculty member in the Legal Studies and Business Ethics department at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where I've been teaching negotiations for nearly 18 years. And I'm part-time faculty there. So, I do a lot of my teaching-training outside of the Wharton School with sort of private clients, a lot of speaking engagements, and a variety of different industries between sports and Fortune 100 companies and other universities and foundations and what have you. So really, sort of a diverse client base. 

I also do, or have done, a lot of work in sports, but not necessarily on the negotiation side, though I have done trainings for agents and athletes alike. I do a lot of diversity-, equity-, inclusion-work in sports, as well as player-engagement or player-development work—which is really preparing athletes for their life after sports.

My book: So, my first book, it's a negotiations book. It's called Bring Yourself: How to Harness the Power of Connection to Negotiate Fearlessly. But it's not your typical negotiations book; it's not read as a textbook. It's really almost like an autobiography. 

It's my story, and the story of many, many of my students who range across the board, like I said. But I work with a lot of entrepreneurs specifically and small business owners through the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program. So I have the great privilege of sharing a lot of their stories in the book as well. Sort of my style, my approach, is really teaching through storytelling because I think it makes both the experience much more accessible but also the teaching much more practical. 

The book is structured as such and it came out at a really terrible time, March of 2020, when we had just gotten a lockdown.

I've been an entrepreneur for most of my career and we entrepreneurs know how to pivot when we have to. And so, it took a whole bunch of pivoting from, you know, you go from planned, live events to the virtual world of events—which became podcasts and virtual classes and what have you. 

And it's been a really amazing journey because, while … I can't wait … my paperback is being launched on November 15th, and probably for at least a year after that I'm going to schedule and plan in-person events, which I'm so excited about.

The virtual world, in and of itself, of has its benefits and one of them is that it extends your audience out into places that you really never expected to go or would've taken a lot of effort to go. And so, it's had its upside, and certainly I think I've been able to touch and reach a lot of other people that I never even expected to be able to do so. And so it's been quite the few years.

ilise benun

Beautiful. And I love your book and that's why I wanted to have you on the podcast. And I found you through the American Express podcast that you did, and I just loved all the things you were saying, and I've been recommending the book to all of my clients and the people in my community. 

And the reason I love it is all the things you said: the storytelling definitely makes it accessible. But I also think it's very rare to find a negotiation book that talks about self-employed people and how they can negotiate, especially creative professionals. And I was just thrilled with some of the examples that you used of designers and other people that are ... I don't know … my people can just really relate to that, right?

Mori Taheripour

And entrepreneurs, in general, but I think in a lot of ways, creatives … the thing that we're not very good at is self-advocacy. I think a lot of that comes from putting ourselves on the back burner. And I always tell my students, my entrepreneurs, small business owners, I say, "You know, you're the only group of people that I teach that forget to pay themselves."

That's sort of the ultimate symbol of how we value ourselves, right? And the always sort of cutting corners, and having to give certain things up, and just not balancing your needs and your wants and your desires with that of either your clients or your business or your family that may not understand why you've gone the route that you've gone because it's so different and to a lot of people it appears very risky—but we're sort of fueled by that. But at the same time, we have to balance that sort of passion and drive and vision with self-advocacy and self-care and self-love.

I think that that's really important and why I wanted this book to capture those voices because the world may value us, but we don't always value ourselves.

ilise benun

It's a big topic and there's a part of me that wants to say, "Why? Why is that?" And I know you're not a psychologist, but I am curious if you have a sense about why that is, and is it both men and women that you see this happening with?

Mori Taheripour

Yeah, I actually think that this sort of goes back to what we know to be ‘imposter syndrome,’ which affects men and women almost equally, it’s just that men don't necessarily talk about it as much, but something like 75% of people are actually affected by imposter syndrome. And it's a really big number. But where it comes from, I think, is our lived experiences, and it's different for everybody. 

Some of it may be childhood trauma. Some of it may be the culture in which you've been raised. Some of it may be just even within your home: your parents, your siblings, that experience. And so our life is made of these stories; made of these experiences. And the way that we—especially those of us who struggle with this—I think a lot of it is really cognitive. Right? The way we've taken those experiences in and then how we've allowed it to affect us.

I think that until we can actually address those things, really at their root even, it's very hard to be able to tell your story in a positive way, to understand your worth, to be able to speak your worth, to be able to negotiate for your value. And so, I think those things are so interconnected that I think my philosophy around negotiations is really centered on that and may be different from most, because I believe that just teaching people how to prepare or teaching people how to learn about different negotiation strategies or tactics is not necessarily the way to go—because even if you learn those things, they're a bit superficial if, at your core, you still can't believe your own values. I think this is deeper and it takes actually much more work than just simply learning strategy.

ilise benun

Yeah, that's another thing I love about the book and the way you approach it, is it does approach it from this deeper kind of psychological element. And I do see that getting in people's way a lot.

The place I want to focus our conversation, because I have so many questions about all different things, but I do want to focus it on chapter two, which is about people pleasing. And I think it was in the Amex interview where you said you were really struck and surprised that that's what everybody focused on when they talked to you about the book; that that chapter in particular really struck a chord.

Mori Taheripour

Yeah, it's really interesting. And as I said in that interview, you just never know what part of your book is going to have the greatest affinity with people. And that was definitely it. And it was man, woman, old, young, it didn't matter. It was across the board. And everybody sort of saw themselves in that chapter. 

And I think it's really interesting, because I throw myself in that category as well, but there's different reasons why people are people pleasers. And the sort of commonality is that we value relationships. We value this notion of making people feel good about being with us, or feel whole, or that we sort of have this sort of service mindset, if you will. 

In a lot of ways, there's great characteristics of people pleasers that really would set you up to be a fantastic negotiator, by all measures. We're emotionally intelligent. We are sort of deeply in tune with the person with whom we're negotiating. We're present in that way. We're oftentimes really good listeners because we're trying to pick up those cues as to what's important to people.

But the thing that stands in our way is this notion of—and a lot of people think this about negotiations— which is this myth of, if you serviced yourself, if you again self-advocated, or if you were speaking to the things that were important to you, then that would necessarily mean that you're not able to do that for your counterpart. So it's almost this notion of either them or me, him or me, she or I, that kind of thing.

And that's just not true. I mean, the whole notion of, I know everybody sort of speaks this but, ‘win-win negotiations’ isn't that both parties get everything that they want, nor does it mean that only one person gets everything that they want. This sort of beautiful dance of negotiations is this notion of compromise, and finding this room where you can get the things that are most important to you, and they can maybe get the things that are most important to them, and you found sort of concessions in that space.

And so for people pleasers, we don't really quite internalize that. We think, "Well, let me prioritize that other person." That is at our detriment. And the compassion, I always say, that we exercise on other people, we don't exercise on ourselves. 

And at the end of the day, if we're not whole, if we're not happy, if we're not fulfilled, then the truth is that there's far less of ourselves that we can give to the world.

And so the very reason, the whole notion of taking care of others—let's say you're a parent or are leading an organization—if you work yourself to the ground, and you don't set boundaries for yourself, and you don't self-advocate, or you're not concerned about your own needs, then there's less of you available to actually be there to lead, take care of and support others. 

And I think that that just allowing ourselves to do those things for ourselves, not because it's a selfish thing, but because in some ways it's like the air we breathe—it's so necessary, that it's really just ... it's having the courage to do that, but also giving yourself the permission to do it. And we're better for it if we do.

So again, people pleasers have great qualities, but if they just exercise it on themselves, it would be really great.

ilise benun

Yeah, I like to say, “If you take care of your business, your business will literally take care of you.”

Mori Taheripour

Exactly.

ilise benun

“And vice versa.”

Mori Taheripour

Right, exactly.

ilise benun

And I think another element that you've touched on in the book, when it comes to people pleasers, is this avoidance of conflict or confrontation. And people see negotiation as necessarily confrontational, which I like to say, “It's just a conversation.” But they're trying to avoid the conversation. Talk a little bit about that, if you would.

Mori Taheripour

Yeah, I mean, again, going back to people pleasers, that's one of the reasons why they struggle a bit with this, because they think that if they set their own boundaries, or if they sort of, again, self-advocate, then that means that there's going to be conflict. And to be honest with you, what really sets up conflict is if, time and time again, you're actually sacrificing yourself and your own needs. Because over time that creates ... You become disillusioned with the relationship. And there's regret and remorse and all of those things. And those are not healthy emotions in a relationship. Not with yourself and definitely not with others.

So to your point, when people think about negotiations, what they oftentimes attribute to this notion of "What is a negotiation?", is they think about the negative experiences that they've had. The conflict, the headbutting, the confrontation.

And in the world of negotiations, that's such a small slither of what negotiations really is. If you think about the fact that it's something that we do all day, every day, from the moment we open our eyes in the morning, because it is just a conversation. It's decision making. It's pros and cons lists, I say. Or it's negotiating with your kids or negotiating with a client or negotiating at home with your parents, like whatever. 

There's so many of these conversations that we have throughout the day. Even when we're doing our own decision making, we're negotiating with ourselves. That, if you think about it that way, then conflict is such a small part of that bigger pie, that in a lot of ways … It really only takes me sort explaining that to people that a couple things happen. 

One, people become immediately more confident in their skills because they realize that, "Wait. Maybe I haven't done so well in certain instances”—whether it was a divorce, whether whatever bad negotiations that they had been sort of scarred by—"but, I do it constantly and so I'm actually really good with negotiating with my employees." 

Or you start thinking about the instances where you have success and they far outweigh those negative memories or the negative correlation that you have to negotiations. And so that's a really powerful thing.

And the other piece of this is that it becomes something that people aren't so afraid of because it becomes a necessity. It becomes something that you do all the time, but you have to learn to be at your best when you do this. And whether that means you show up a certain way for people, you show up certain way for yourself. So learning to do it, it's not that you're learning to do it because you're horrible at. It's learning to do something better, because you already have the skill set by which to negotiate.

ilise benun

And the point you're making, which I just want to underscore, is it starts with the awareness that you're constantly doing it.

Mori Taheripour

Absolutely.

ilise benun

And that connects, in my mind, to something else you say in that chapter about the tendency to please is almost reflexive. And so there also, we have to have awareness to know, "Oh, I'm about to do the people-pleasing thing. What else can I do instead?"

Mori Taheripour

Right. Or, "What can I do in addition to?" And that addition to is, again, have I addressed my own needs? Am I taking care of myself? Am I setting the right boundaries? Again, it's not the ‘either-or.’ It really is a strong ‘and.’

But creating, again, your own boundaries around this is really important. I think that that's actually one of the things that creatives especially struggle with. And in a lot of ways, just society as a whole, when you talk about boundaries, people think it means conflict, right? Like you are speaking about, "Let me close this out so that you clearly know what I'm unwilling to do." But whereas really in a lot of ways boundaries are an act of compassion. It's sort of compassion towards yourself because, again, there's only so much you can do, right?

There's only certain things that you can deliver to a client without charging them, that at some point you're like, "Okay, enough." But you didn't put that into the contract and they wanted to change something 50 times and you didn't make room for that. And so they want to come back to you and keep telling you, "Well, I don't like the color. Oh, can you redesign this part?" And what they don't realize is how heavy of a lift that is for you, because you haven't spoken it. You haven't explained to them. You haven't educated them.

And so this notion of being able to clearly address those things ahead of time, and clearly indicate what you can and cannot do, is again this sort of obviously an act of compassion for yourself because you're not running yourself into the ground, but also compassion towards your counterpart because you are, as you said earlier, you are better because you have created those boundaries. You can better deliver. You are not as tired. You're not burnt out. You are whole. 

And I think that's really important to know, because when you create these boundaries, when you set your ... that break-even point, if you will, then people are actually better when they're better educated. People are better. Your clients are better when they're informed. And it creates less conflict in the aftermath or less resentment in the aftermath.

So just really important … I just wish people weren't so afraid or put off or have so much anxiety around it, because a lot of that comes just from societal examples of what we have about negotiations. But the truth is that it's so very necessary, and the minute that you take the anxiety away and you replace it with storytelling and human connections and ability to better understand yourself and doing this sort of deep reflection and then communicating that to people, negotiations quickly become an act of creating connections and bonds and reaffirming relationships and developing new ones. And I think that's really important. I wish more people would see it that way.

ilise benun

I totally agree. And I also like to say and advise people to lean into the friction, not run away from it, because it really does strengthen the relationship if you can get to the other side of it.

Mori Taheripour

It does, it does. And sometimes that conversation just needs to start. And once you do that, and if you can lean into things like better listening and being more present, then maybe the friction was even made up in your mind. You just avoided something because in your head, our fears are so much bigger than reality is, right? And sometimes when you actually start the conversation and you show up respectfully and you want to hear people and you want to connect with them, all of a sudden you're like, "That wasn't so bad. And yet I spent all that time worrying about how this was going to go." And the act of just caring enough to begin that conversation dissipated and really sort took away any kind of potential conflict. People just want to be seen and heard, sometimes.

ilise benun

You know, I usually ask the last question as: “What is a baby step that someone could take in the direction of what we're talking about?” But I feel like you just gave it, right? So I mean, I'll ask you again, but if you want to say the same thing, it bears repeating.

Mori Taheripour

Yeah, I'll add actually something that's actually, it feels like a baby step, but it's actually a really big step, is that a lot of people when they're preparing for negotiations or they're taught to prepare for negotiations, all they worry about are things like, "What is that person going to want?" Or, "What are the outcomes I expect, my goals?" And those things are absolutely a big part of planning, right? In preparation, you have to be ready for the conversation. You have to visualize certain scenarios and how they're going to play out. And you got to be really educated about who your counterpart is and have all that background so that there's no surprises when you go into the conversation.

But the one thing that few people do, and it really should be at the outset of your sort of preparation and planning, is spending, in a very mindful and intentional way where we sort of quieted down all our distractions, but spending some time with yourself and really, really hammering in on a couple things.

One, being your values, the things that are most important to you, which are oftentimes not tangible things, but there are things like relationships and ethics and how you want to be perceived. And those things that are so much a part of your core, that if those things were compromised in the course of a conversation or negotiations, then no matter what the outcome, you wouldn't feel good about it.

And the other thing is, especially if you struggle with this notion of knowing your worth and knowing your value, then this is sort of a regular practice where I would say, sit down and write down a few things that you've accomplished, very tangible things that you can be really proud of that are part of your story. And the more you do that, one, it becomes a really easy thing to start visualizing your worth and your value because you're attributing it to so many of these accomplishments and things that you've done. And maybe it's just having made it through the pandemic and you're still standing. Things that speak to your strength and your resilience and your being. And if you can make that sort of a daily practice, particularly, again, if this is a challenge to you, then it's going to go a long way to help you actually understand your own worth and your own value. And this notion of why you must speak to it when you enter these negotiations and why that's, again, not selfish, but absolutely necessary.

So that time alone, that time where you give yourself that energy and that moment to really look within and stop thinking about the external factors as much, then I think that's really, it feels small, but it's such a huge thing because I think it changes the way we see ourselves. And for many of us it's a struggle and it's very necessary.

ilise benun

Well, Mori, this has been such a rich conversation. I so appreciate your time and your thinking. And please tell the people where they can find you online.

Mori Taheripour

So, my website, moritaheripour.com, that when you go actually to my website, you can sign up for my newsletter, which I'm quite proud of actually. People really enjoy it because, again, it's a lot of this practical advice and really good content.

And I'm also on LinkedIn and Instagram. My handle is ataheripour on Instagram, but I'm basically all over at social media, but those are probably the best places to get ahold of me.

ilise benun

Awesome. And my listeners know that I'm a huge fan also of email newsletters, so definitely want them to sign up for that.

Mori Taheripour

That would be fantastic. And again, the paperback release is on November 15th, so just in time for the holidays.

ilise benun

Perfect. Well thank you so much, Mori.

Mori Taheripour

Thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed it.

ilise benun

Wasn't that awesome? I just love Mori's approach and her book, Bring Yourself, and I know you will, too.

For her baby steps, we have a twofer. She suggested, first, to prepare for a negotiation by spending time with yourself and reflecting on your values—on what's most important to you—so that you know in any negotiation or money conversation what you're not willing to compromise.

And two, to make a daily practice of writing down tangible things you've accomplished that speak to your strengths and are part of your story.

So did you learn a little something? I hope so, because that's how this works. One baby step at a time. Before you know it, you'll have better clients with bigger budgets. Speaking of better clients, they're probably not going to fall in your lap. That's why I keep hawking my Simplest Marketing Plan. If you want to build a thriving business on your own terms, we are just releasing the brand new version for 2023. It is simpler than ever. So get on the list to hear about it by signing up for my Quick Tips From Marketing Mentor at marketing-mentortips.com, that's marketing-mentortips.com.

I'll be back soon with more conversations with creative professionals who are doing what it takes to ditch the feast or famine syndrome. Until next time.

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