The Art and Heart of Negotiation: Resolving Conflict and Building Agreement Part II with Jason Gore
Money, Mission and Meaning
Mark Michael Lewis

Episode 8 - The Art and Heart of Negotiation: Resolving Conflict and Building Agreement Part II with Jason Gore

In this episode Mark Michael Lewis, CEO of, continues his interview with Jason Gore of about his work helping both small businesses and Fortune 100 companies businesses improve collaboration, communication and negotiation skills. Learn 3 key skills of top-level negotiators and how Jason has used them to create powerful change in organizations. AND, hear about Jason’s harrowing confrontation with death during a rafting trip, and how it changed the way he lives his life. You won’t want to miss this one.



The Art and Heart of Negotiation: Resolving Conflict and Building Agreement Part 2
with Jason Gore

Announcer:  This program is brought to you by

This is part 2 of a two-part podcast. If you'd like part one, you'll find it at

Mark Lewis: Welcome to Money, Mission, and Meaning: Passion at Work, Purpose at Play. We explore how we can integrate our personal values and professional skills to create pleasure and profit in the business of life. I'm your host, Mark Michael Lewis, CEO of Smart Energy Enterprises Inc. SEE Inc., a Beautiful Future.

Now, today's show continues our interview with Jason Scott Gore, negotiating trainer and facilitator, as we share the power and purpose of negotiation. Jason's a corporate consultant and trainer who has worked with major corporations such as the Gap and many others, to help build leaders and collaborative cultures in which each person's genius is cultivated.

In the last episode, we talked about the major attitudes of negotiation. Without further ado, let's continue the conversation in this episode with the top three skills of a great negotiator as well as insight into the life-changing experiences that have made him who he is today.

Jason Gore: Most people are so excited to get out of the negotiation... They just want to take the first solution and say, “Yes, that was a great negotiation, we're done here.”

There's gotta be a better way to negotiate and manage conflict than killing everybody that disagrees with us, and that's where the book Getting To Yes came from. Except through by force, and that doesn't really resolve our problems, it just ends the problem. Ends the side that's disagreeing with us.

...all day long. We went over this about 15-foot waterfall and dropped to the bottom and actually survived the bottom of the waterfall. But on the way back up, on the wave backside, we didn't make it over. And the boat and was pummeling me, pummeling me against rocks. And after a while I was being ragdolled, black white black white... I couldn't even tell which way was up. It was just complete chaos. And after a couple minutes of this I just couldn't hold my breath anymore.


Mark: And we're back with Money, Mission and Meaning. I'm your host, Mark Michael Lewis. I'm speaking with corporate trainer and facilitator Jason Gore about the importance of negotiation in our business and private lives. So Jason, obviously you spend days training this negotiation skill set to executives, but could you offer a couple more skills or attitudes that our listeners could start using right away to get an idea of what is the big picture of negotiation, how are negotiation different from a normal conversation or argument where you don't take into account the other person, you don't take into account relationship, you forget your own values.

Jason: Of course we only have a few minutes, so I can just touch on some of the key points. I think the biggest thing is just having the right mind set. Going in and trying to create a collaborative negotiation, and to know that if the other person doesn't want to play that game, that's okay, too. Then you just keep your cards a little closer to your chest. You don't want to keep giving and giving and giving if the person is not also playing a collaborative game.

But for the most part, because 85% of people do have a wait-and-see attitude about how they're going to be inside of a negotiation, if you play an opening card that says, “Hey, let's work together and set up a process for how the negotiation is going to go,” then people will tend to follow along in those footsteps and they create a collaborative partnership and negotiation with you.

So I think the the first thing to remember is that when you go into a negotiation, don't penciled version and then go back and check with somebody else who has the authority. How long is this going to take? Is this very important that this has to happen quickly or do we have a couple weeks to have this negotiation? Especially with the larger negotiation where you do it on behalf of a corporation or there's a lot of money involved, you really want to take time to set up that process rather than just jumping into the contents. And also always remember that you can renegotiate that process if things aren't going well.

Mark: So the first thing is to keep your outcomes in mind. What is it that you want to accomplish? What's the time frame? And keep the realities of the situation... If you have power in the negotiation, remain conscious of that. And if you don't have power to actually do coercion or say, “This is how it's going to be,” keep that in mind so that you can treat the negotiation with the reality that it is.

Jason: I have a different reference to the concepts of power than you just talked about, because in my mind, any time you actually use coercion to get a decision made, you're going to have a lot less follow-up than if you engage someone in finding out what they care about and working with that to come to alignment.

It takes a little bit more time inside the negotiation process, but that time is really well spent, because you will save a lot of time down the road when you actually do get the follow-through and you actually get what you want and what you expected, as compared to not getting what you want because they didn't really buy into the negotiation. They might have said yes, but their real answer was no.

Mark: So part of negotiation mindset is going in looking for a solution that everyone's going to be happy with.

Jason: Right.

Mark: As best is possible.

Jason: And you're going to be very happy with.

Mark: [laughs] Exactly. Thank you.

Jason: And a big part of that is knowing going in, and doing a little preparation work, to know what are your alternatives. If you can't come to agreement with this person, what are you going to do without this person's involvement at all? What are the choices you have? And the stronger you know your alternatives and actually have to find what is the one thing that you're going to go do if this meeting doesn't work out, the more, as you said, power you have. Because that way you're not going to come to a negotiation or negotiated a agreement that's worse than your alternative and so you go in with a lot of leverage.

Mark: Where you're not like caught up, “Oh no, I need to do this, I need to do this,” and so you give away your chips when you don't need to. Or you end up fighting because you just get frustrated because you get scared.

Jason: Well, it's amazing to me, Mark, that so many people will actually agree to deals that are not in their best interests, and in fact, they've agreed to something that's worse than their alternative. And it's because they want to be nice, they don't want to make anybody upset, or they don't want to lay their cards on the table, as you said. You shouldn't agree to anything, you shouldn't negotiate a deal and sign on the dotted line if it's actually not good for you.

That's something you can bring to the table without power or without manipulation, and say, “Hey, this is going to be my choice if we don't come to a negotiated agreement.” And of course, the better your choice, the more you want to reveal it. And if you have a really, really bad alternative, you don't want to tell the person on the other side of the table that, “I'm completely screwed and I'm going to be homeless for the next year if we don't come to a deal.” But that's rarely the case, we almost always have alternatives.

Mark: So it sounds like there are two different kinds of power we've talked about. One is the situational power where I have authority, and I can if I want to use my authority and force you to do something against your will. If I do that, people are going to be less likely to follow through, there's going to be friction, it's going to hurt the relationship. And there's another kind of power, which is kind of the attitude and knowledge that I come into a negotiation with. So the better prepared I am in terms of what it is that I have to offer and what my worst case alternative is, the more I can come in really focused on creating a deal that works for me and works for the other person rather than getting caught up in my fears or trying to be polite or doing something where I actually end up with a deal that doesn't work for me.

Jason: Power means so many different things to so many different people. It's a word that is quite loaded in a lot of people's minds. Let me respond to the content and kind of put that word aside.

Mark: Cool.

Jason: In terms of when you have positional authority over someone and you could tell them what to do... The problem with that is, if you just tell them what to do, they might not do it how you like it. They might not be motivated too well, they may not follow through, they may be late. There's a lot of issues with just telling someone what to do without actually having a conversation with them to effectively produce a partnership so they can go do it well in your interests.  And that is one type of negotiation.

Most people have more trouble with the negotiation when they're trying to get someone to do something that they don't have positional authority over. When they're working with another VP who has a whole host of their problems on their plate, and why are they going to spend any resources or time working with you on yours. And the goal there is to find what are your common interests, where are the common points of connection, so that you can build something together.

Mark: Great. So outside of that mindset, what are some other skills people can use in order to avoid the common challenges they face in negotiation?

Jason: Well, if I were  to try to develop a map just in these few minutes of an effective negotiation, after you've done the preparation and you know your alternative and you've gone in and you've talked about the process, about how you're going to negotiate, and what the negotiation looks like, a great place to start is interests, finding out what the other person cares about. And as we talked about earlier, it's bringing a balance of advocacy and inquiry, making sure that you understand what the other person cares about and they understand what you care about.

After that, the next thing is really to create a space to brainstorm together. So what are all the things that we can do together to produce value, that's going to be valuable for both of us? You often see negotiations, pretty much 100% of the time, when you're dealing with untrained negotiators, they come up with one solution that is going to satisfy both people. And they leave feeling like this is a great solution and they're both happy. They sign on the dotted line. It seems like a very, very successful negotiation.

And most people that are good negotiators, that's typically how they approach it. The best negotiators, though, they actually create a structure where we're not going to just look at one option. Let's actually brainstorm and come up with a whole bunch of different options that we could do together and then we work together to pick the best one of those.

Mark: Or some combination that gives us more of what we want. This is the expanding prime which we were talking about.

Jason: Exactly. Because even if the first idea does work, is some value being left on the table. Most people are so excited to get out of the negotiation successful, they just want to take the first solution and say, “Yes, that was a great negotiation. We're done here.” So in my mind, the good negotiation is one where the best of many options was considered and chosen.

And that really brings us to the last piece of a map for negotiation, which is then once all the options have been laid out, try to work together to choose the option that people are going to be most happy with. This is the part of the equation where you have to divide the pie. At some point, if I'm buying a car, we have to decide on a price. And every dollar I spend is one dollar less out of my pocket and one dollar more in your pocket. There's no dividing there. You can't take a penny and cut it in half. You can, but ultimately there's a point in time where it's about dividing the pie. The best way to think about dividing the pie is to try to take pressure off of the relationship by looking for external, third-party, objective criteria that you could use to bring into the conversation.

So all my friends call me up and say, “Okay, I'm going into this salary negotiation, what do I do?” My two pieces of advice, or three, are: go find out what are your alternative. If you don't come up with a deal, what are you going to go do, really? Second of all is really create a partnership with the person that you're negotiating with. I mean you don't want to negotiate a great deal for yourself and destroy the partnership.

And the third thing is to use those external benchmarks. What is your worth on the marketplace? What are the other jobs out there paying? What is someone with your competency level actually worth in the market? And the more you can bring specific numbers and say, “Hey, John, I've been working here for two years, I'm getting $40,000 a year, and the marketplace is really different now. And if you look at the marketplace, people with my skill set are actually getting paid 60 to 65 thousand a year. I think that we both have an interest in my continued work here, and I think that we both have developed a great relationship and want me to get a fair salary. So can you talk with me about how we might talk about this and set up a process we could get my salary up to the standards of the industry, standards of the marketplace?”

Mark: And when you bring in the objective, third-party criteria, it's no longer about, “This is what I want but you don't want it,” and so it ends up being an argument between, “No, you just don't care about me.” “No, it's not about us, particularly, it's about this world.  This company should be paying this, and here's this way of taking the pressure off of our relationship.”

Jason: Exactly. By using those objective third-party criteria, you do exactly that. You take the pressure off of the relationship and create a position where you're solving a problem together. It's both of our problems that my salary is way below marketplace. Because neither of us want that.

Mark: Right, and if I'm not happy, then that's not going to be good for the company either. And we both don't want me going someplace else to work.

Jason: [laughs]

Mark: Right? Because that would be a pain for you, because I'd have to change my desk.

Jason: The difference between that and a threat is very subtle. If it's done with the wrong tone of voice or in the wrong mood, it's going to show up as a threat. And that's the last thing you want to do to start a negotiation, “If I don't get 60, I'm going to leave.” That's the wrong thing, because you might end up getting 60, but what's your relationship with your boss at that point?

Mark: The first thing you do is cut off the legs of the relationship and then start the negotiation. [laughs]

Jason: Not the best place to start the negotiation.

Mark: Okay, great, well thanks for those practical skills. I want to take a little shift in the conversation now, and shift from what it is you actually teach to why you do it. I know a bit about you, you could do a lot of things. Not only in terms of career, but you could go into human development or psychology. I know that you're into the outdoors. You've got a whole bunch of different interests, a lot of skills. What was it that had you choose this kind of corporate trainer, corporate facilitator. You're working for the man. You're out there in business.

What led you to choose that particular career? What's the purpose that inspired you to do that?

Jason: Let me answer that in two parts, Mark. First, why I chose to work inside the corporate arena, and second of all why I chose negotiations as a subject matter to become an expert in.

Mark: Fantastic.

Jason: On the corporate side, I recently heard a quote that really resonated with me. It said that you can always judge who is leading the culture, who is influencing the culture most, meeting place, then it became the church, and then it became government institutions. But now it's quite apparent that it's corporations that are really leading our culture. We're not longer leading it. The people are no longer leading it. It's the corporations who are really setting the stage for what our corporate culture, what our culture is in the nation.

And when I heard that quote, I thought, yeah, that really explains why I chose to enter into corporations to create change. Because I really do believe that they – they, I'm speaking as if they're personalities – as institutions, and if we can, if I can influence a few executives and a few managers, then the leverage that that one person can have as a teacher is extremely significant.

Mark: Right. So one reason you work with corporations, that you go out and do this kind of line of work, this career, is so that you can have an impact on the culture by having an impact on the people who are influencing the culture.

Jason: Exactly.

Mark: We're going to take a break. When we come back, I want to talk to you about the second reason, the reason you go into negotiation as a particular way of working with these companies. So this is Mark Michael Lewis. It's Money, Mission, and Meaning, and we're talking with Jason Gore, facilitator, corporate trainer. We'll be right back.


Mark: And we're back with organizational consultant Jason Gore. The name of the show is Money, Mission, and Meaning: Passion at Work, Purpose at Play. And the reason I called it that, the design of the show is really to talk about the issue you just brought up, which is that a lot of times people will say that there's money on the one hand and then there's meaning on the other. You can either make money or you can make beauty. There's kind of what I call beautiful profit, or you can make money as you're making meaning.

And one of the reasons I wanted you on the show is because I know that that's something that impacts you, that drives you, that infuses what you're up to.

Now, I'm curious. As you go out and work with corporations, as you work with these executives to make a difference, why is it that you choice negotiation and collaboration as the place that you decided to focus your attention and focus your skills?

Jason: Great question, Mark. Let me share first of all about why Roger Fisher wrote the book Getting To Yes. He was in World War II, and he was on the ground and saw most of his friends killed in battle. And when he came back from the war, he asked himself, “Isn't there a better way to solve our problems? There's got to be a better way to negotiate and manage conflict than killing everybody that disagrees with us.” And that's where the book Getting to Yes came from. by force, and that really doesn't resolve our problems, it just ends the problem by ending whatever side that's disagreeing with us. If we're going to coexist in any sort of peaceful environment, we have to learn how to resolve our conflict.

In my view, conflict is actually good. If we didn't have conflict, we wouldn't be human, we wouldn't be unique. It is the uniqueness of being human that creates conflict, because we have different interests and we have different needs and different wants. We just have to learn how to work with those differences and negotiate conflict in a way that's going to produce results, that we're all moving forward into the future together.

Mark: Yeah, it's-- I wrote a book called Relation Dancing. One of the key ideas in that book is what I call “problems are a solution.” By that, what I mean is, through conflict that we realize what it is that we value, oftentimes. Someone says, “Where are my boundaries?”

Someone says, “Where are your boundaries around this? What works for you, what doesn't?” “Oh, I don't know. I'm not quite sure. It's kind of like this, it's kind of like that.”

But when somebody crosses your boundaries, I know exactly where they are. “You just crossed-- that was wrong!”

Conflict gives us an opportunity to actually communicate those values and create a kind of partnership or win-win solution around it. So what I hear you saying is around negotiation, is you come to a negotiation table when the conflict becomes obvious, right? So I want to buy a car, you want to buy a car. I want to buy it for a thousand dollars or ten thousand dollars, and you want to sell it for $15,000. There's a difference in our values. So now we have the opportunity to negotiate. And wherever we have these conflicts, we have the opportunity to negotiate or we have the opportunity to fight and kill each other and create the vendettas, the Hatfield and McCoy where, “You hurt me, now I'm going to you.” Well then you're right[?] and forget where it comes from. So we're looking for a way of doing that.

How does that work in business? I can understand that kind of on a governmental scale... How do you find that useful in terms of business and what it is you do?

Jason: Back in '96 I was at a major telecom company. And the company with their free flow of products that can now happen, a new part of the marketplace. Just to give you a size comparison, the market that they were in was huge, and the market that was open to them was twice the size of their revenues. So it was a huge opportunity.

But they had never been in this marketplace, and it required them to completely shift how they were thinking. So traditionally their salesmen were all paid in one way because they were only dealing with one product. But as you were creating this new product, the old way of paying the salesmen no longer applied. It just didn't work the same way.

Mark: Right.

Jason: Right. And the revenues and the costs were just so different that you just can't pay your salesmen the same way. And so here's this new product group that wants to get up on line and are educating the sales VP about what's needed. And the sales VP is not having it, just is not interested in changing how he's paying something like 7,000 people. Because all of his best performers are used to a certain style and you're dealing with a major change. He says, “I'm going to lose my great people. How they're going to react, if this thing goes south then I don't have a sales force left that's going to be where it's at now.” And these two folks started to yell, these people are of each other.

Mark: [laughs]

Jason: They worked here for about twenty years, and I watched them essentially destroying the relationship over this one negotiation.  And it was, I could only stand for two or three minutes until literally I had to stand on top of a table, it got so heated. So literally, they were ignoring me, I stood on top of a table and stood between them until they actually calmed down, because what I was doing was so unique. You don't stand on tables.

Mark: Right. You broke their pattern, so to speak.

Jason: Otherwise, if I didn't do that, I was just going to yell with them, asking them to be quiet. And I was asking them, is this worth it, this conflict?

Mark: After twenty years.

Jason: They basically found their center, they rebalanced themselves. And they said, “No, do you have a better way?” And I said, “Well, let's think of what we want to create together.” And we were able to separate the people from the problem that we were trying to address and look at the problem together as a group, “Okay, here's the opportunity, what can we do together?”

And it turned out that he ended up having to renegotiate the salaries and the compensation structures, but it was done without a hitch. It was done with everybody being on board. And understanding why were were doing what we were doing.

Mark: As you're saying this, I'm really clear. I've been in a position where my boss has been in a fight with someone else in the organization, and watching that trickle down to me, to the people I'm interacting with, because as a sales person, I've had my compensation structure change. How I work with my clients, how I work with my other salespeople, our partnerships change. All of that shifts because my boss was upset and they actually ended up putting him out and bringing somebody else in who actually went through, “Okay, how are we going to make this work?”

Similar but instead of a negotiation, I had a change in personnel. And it changed everything, not only for me but for all the people on our team and all the people that we were interacting with. So I'm just imagining 7,000 sales people actually going through a major change with new opportunity – sounds like a great opportunity for the company, it's going to bring in more revenue, it's going to create more jobs, it's going to provide more income for the salespeople who are doing it because they can do it in a way that actually worked where it wasn't conflict-ridden. It made a huge difference for everyone that they touched.

Jason: Just to be clear, Mark, I want to let the audience know that I'm not out there teaching people, “Be nice!” I'm actually teaching them to get what they want and teaching them a skill to be able to get what they want in a more consistent way and do that in a way that actually preserves the relationship.

Mark: Right, and what I'm hearing is not only preserving the relationship within the company but preserving the relationship for the people who are affected by that. So it sends out waves that make the world a better place rather than making the world a more toxic, emotionally hostile place.

Jason: That's my personal belief, for sure.

Mark: Working with these executives, you're doing trainings. You'd like to get into more of the collaboration skill as you move past negotiation. The question becomes, what does it mean for you? You were in that situation where you jumped up on a table, you took a risk, because it teaches us don't do that, right? You took a risk, and because of that risk, you led to a positive impact on all of those people.

What does that mean to you personally? How has that affected you to have made that choice in your life, where you've chosen a path where you actually get to do something that you care about, something that makes a difference? What has that done for you personally in terms of how you approach your life, how effective you are, the kinds of risks you take, and the kinds of opportunities you've gotten from that?

Jason: I don't think the choice was always conscious. In fact, what happened six weeks prior to that story I just told you about the telecom incident where I really jumped onto a table, it was a changing point in my life. So it might some sense to share that.

Mark: Oh, please do.

Jason: At that point in time, I was a consultant. I was flying around basically helping restructure large corporations, and it was fun because I got to create alignment, I got to be this corporate dude. I was a few years out of college, yet I was operating at the executive level negotiating deals for these large companies. Part of the reason why I chose business initially is because I love making mistakes. And business is one of the few places that when you make a mistake at one company, you take that learning and it's worth a lot to someone else. Because they don't want to make the same mistake. So the more mistakes you have in your history, the more things you know how to avoid.

Mark: [laughs] That's great.

Jason: In medicine, you don't have that luxury. In law, you don't have that luxury. So I chose business for that reason because I love to innovate, I love to be on the leading edge, often the bleeding edge of things. And having the ability to make mistakes and innovate and be stepping into the unknown was just exciting to me.

But in 1995, I was on a rafting trip down in Costa Rica. It was a pretty advance river. It was my first river trip, class 5 water. I don't need to get into the whole--

Mark: Class five is the toughest... There's five classes right?

Jason: Some people say there's class 6, but essentially class 5 is the toughest that you'd want to run. It's really the toughest that any inexperienced person would run. Class six is basically saying, “I'm preparing to die here.”

Mark: [laughs] Extreme, extreme sports.

Jason: But yeah, a class five is the top.

Mark: Great. 

Jason: This was just one class five rapid in a class four river more or less. It was definitely the biggest rapid of the day. As we went in, and we were all nervous about this rapid all day long, we went over this fifteen foot waterfall and dropped to the bottom and actually survived the bottom of the waterfall. But on the way back up on the wave on the backside we didn't make it over, and the boat flipped and was pummeling me, pummeling me against rocks. After a while I was being ragdolled, black white black white... I couldn't even tell which way was up. It was just complete chaos.


And after a couple minutes of this I just couldn't hold my breath anymore. And the experience was it felt like someone was blow up a balloon inside of me, and the pressure was coming up from the inside, until at some point my body even thought my mind didn't want it, was going to breath. I could see this coming. At some point, literally my mouth just opened, my body gasped, and I took in water.

In that moment, things changed for me. What what was chaos, what was crazy, what was happening so fast – black white black white black white – everything slowed down and somehow I kind of relaxed into the experience. “Wow, I'm going to drown. Isn't it ironic, I'm going to drown on the bottom of a river 3000 miles away from home?” Actually the last thought was, “How is my dad going to find out?”

And I lost consciousness. But I remember looking up at the top of the river, just before losing consciousness and thinking how beautiful it was up there. It wasn't a place to get to anymore, it was just a place to appreciate. And I wasn't trying to survive anymore, all of the sudden I could appreciate everything about the river. I woke up on my own about four miles down stream I later found out and was ultimately rescued. How I survived, no one really knows. Certainly my life jacket saved my life. But it doesn't make much sense.

Well, that was a weekend trip. Monday I go back to work, with the level of concern and the level of fighting that was happening there.

Mark: And probably over things that in this new perspective seemed somewhat trivial and somewhat petty.

Jason: Right. At that particular meeting when things started to get so heated that they were [xx] and really just destroying the relationship, I just had enough. I was fed up from this new perspective. And literally stood up on top of the table and told them to shut up. That it wasn't, how they were conducting this negotiation wasn't producing the effect that they wanted.

Mark: [laughs]

Jason: I also knew in that moment that I probably wouldn't want to be with that client much longer and that I really had to figure out what it is that I wanted to be doing. And so I soon went to business school. Soon after that, a couple years later went to business school and coming out of business school I said, “I just need to go teach this work.”

Because in all my experience up to that as a consultant I would go and handle the negotiations for people and my clients would always call me back. I would always be going back to the same clients, handling new negotiations for them and cleaning up messes after they created them. And I got to really wondering, one, why – it's great business, that I keep on going back -- but why are they needs to me? I showed them how to do this? I showed them how to--

Mark: You demonstrated.

Jason: As you said it's not rocket science, it's common sense. But it's just not all that common.

Coming out of grad school, I said, “You know, I think I just need to go teach this.” And so for the last six years now, I've just been out teaching collaboration, teaching innovation, conflict resolution, and negotiation.

Mark: That's a great story, thanks for sharing it.

For more information on Jason Scott Gore and how you might use his Collaborative Way training and facilitation in your own organization or just benefit from the newsletter, go to, that's

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