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Hold up your end of the deal now...please?

Hi guys,

Experimenting with negotiating toward more collaborative frames can be tricky for me because there are a lot of ways to do it since there are a lot of negotiation strategies and techniques out there.

In this situation, I switched things up a bit. Here's the context:

I am launching a book this year. The launch date was set for September 27, but we could only make that date work if we managed to get 10 reviews on the book before today, September 24.

To make this happen, I set up a launch team of well over 30 people. I sent the first email on September 18, which contained their free PDF review copy of the book. I figured this would be a nice incentive for those who joined as it enabled me to follow the law of social exchange appropriately.

As soon as everyone got their free copy of the book, things shifted. It was almost as if they felt there was no longer any incentive to support the launch because they had already got what they came for. One even unsubscribed right after receiving their free copy and refused to respond to my follow up email asking if it was a mistake.

Between September 18 and September 23, I sent five mass emails to all launch team members giving them the exact expectations and steps for the launch. I also followed up with all launch team members individually to check how the review was coming.

Fast forward to today, our deadline, and in a launch team of over 30+ individuals, we only have four out of the ten reviews we need...two of which were left by people who aren't even apart of our launch team. Needless to say, I was upset.

I saw this coming a few days earlier and started preparing for the worst by reaching out to some personal connections of mine that I had built up before COVID struck. One of these connections is a producer who knows me as an actor and had no idea I wrote a book:

It didn't seem to be phrased as a covert power move (i.e. "How can I help you?") and this seemed like a good opportunity for us to collaborate on the launch, so I let him know how he could help.

I (maybe not so subtly) hinted that there would be some areas where he would be giving value if he was open to joining the launch team. This is why I also included where I would be giving value (the free copy) to signal that this would still be a fair exchange (hence, collaboration).

He agreed:

Note: He gives an order, "Add me to the list," which means if I do, I'm following his lead. However, I won here because I got what I wanted, so it seems I'm already one up. Doing my best to learn from Lucio's suggestions on what feels like a similar situation, I decided not to play a power move back in this case.

Great! So, I add him to the list and respond with a "welcome to the launch team" message, only going so far as to congratulate him on his good choice (instead of only saying "thank you") to further underline that he would be gaining from this exchange as well.

The welcome message contains its own separate "thank you" to further balance things out since I felt it was needed to show more appreciation for the deal because this project means so much to me. Each launch team member only has the responsibility of leaving a review, which seems a simple task, but in the grand scheme of things launching a book is still no small feat. So, I felt a "thank you" in the welcome message was appropriate :).

In the following days, I would send two to three emails instructing the entire team to leave their review. Noticing that we were a day away from the deadline with only four reviews, I began my one to one reach outs.

I was upset because something told me we wouldn't be able to achieve six more reviews overnight and our numbers showed that if we launched without those reviews, the launch would fail. I was upset because there were a select couple people who let me know they were having trouble leaving a review, which made me feel good that there were two that cared enough to make the effort. But, it made the vast majority seem less honest (and more like takers) for opening all of the emails but taking no action, even if only to let me know they could no longer leave a review.

Still, I remembered Chris Voss saying "Everything in life is a negotiation." So, I got control of myself knowing I couldn't demand they uphold their end of our deal and adopted the "Relentlessly Pleasant" style of negotiation to begin.

The exclamation and smiley face were meant to convey warmth to balance out the directness of my question. Since we were now very hard pressed for time, I wanted a straight "yes" or "no" answer so we could quickly shift straight into strategizing ideas. Ideas on how we can still make this deal work for both of us in a way that will get the review done on time.

When I looked at our long list of launch team members and saw such a low amount of reviews, half of which didn't even come from the launch team, I felt a sense of frustration and looked at that list of names as if everyone had taken advantage of me.

Yet, for some reason, when doing my one on one reach outs, I felt empathy.

I knew people have their own lives that I'm not apart of and so they could be taking care of anything ranging in terms of priority. I also felt like while they only had one job to do, it's because they only had one job to do that I should give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, on average, an Amazon review takes five minutes to submit. So, as I found myself in a one on one email with a launch team member, I had to wonder, who's to say they intentionally decided to grab the freebie and run? Who's to say me and my misssion are so important that I'm above showing understanding, showing empathy?

It only takes five minutes to leave a review, so if something got in the way to where they didn't have even five minutes, that "something" must have been pretty serious. I should seek to understand what's going on first.

This was my connection's response:

A perfect opportunity to show more empathy.

Voss would have told me to mirror him with an inquisitive, "...don't leave reviews?"

Lucio might have told me to ask a question to clarify his frame. Perhaps, "What causes you not to leave reviews?" Similar to when he uses the question, "Why are you asking me that?"

But, I let the significant lack of time left stir my impatience. I decided I could use this as an opportunity to invite him into a cooperative frame instead of propsing a collaborative frame like I typically would. Here's what I mean:

Ideally, it feels like I should have switched from the competitive frame of "me trying to get a review out of you" to a collaborative frame of "us working together to get this review done on time". A good way to do that would have been to emphasize the importance of this review and end with something like, "So, what can we do to make this work?"

Instead, I took the uncooperative frame of "you refusing to leave a review" and invited him into the cooperative frame you see above which involves him leaving a review.

Why take this route?

I remembered this line from this thread:

You: Hi, my name is Ali, I'm an actor, and I believe in win-win relationships.

I figured I could use a similar structure in this email to better encourage the cooperative frame.

I also knew that since time was running out, this approach would be faster than shifting to a collaborative frame. (Albeit, as you'll soon find out, faster doesn't always mean better or more effective.) A collaborative frame would have most likely entailed more emails back and forth to find a way that works for everyone whereas here, we get what we want if he agrees to my frame in this one email. Then, we could move on to the other 30+ people who hadn't left their review. So, from a productivity perspective, this seemed like the smart choice.

Here's the final reason. I had an entitlement mindset. I felt like he knew going in that he would be supporting the launch since he offered to help in the first place. I also sent multiple emails letting him know the exact expecations so there would be no confusion as to how he would be providing that support. All of these emails which he opened. However, now, at the last minute, he's refusing to play fair. Now, at the last minute, he's saying:

N: "I don't leave reviews online. But I'm enjoying the read."

Which, in my head, translated to:

N: "Oh, I'm not actually here to support your launch because I don't leave reviews online. But, thanks for the free shit."

So, I leverage the law of social exchange to articulate my point with what sounded like a good principled argument to make.

The end result...

He opened that email twice. Then, unsubscribed from the launch team while holding onto the free copy of my book. He never responded or sent an email back.

Now, in all honesty, I don't like bringng stories like this one into the forum because we're in a community of driven individuals who seem to have a good understanding of power and social dynamics. The idea that where I can't see what I did wrong a fellow student of Power University could point out my mistakes gets to me a bit.

It lowers my self-esteem some because I'm still working on switching from this extreme locus of control mindset where I believe "everything is my fault so I can change everything that happens" to a healthier "I always do my best and I want to know how I can make my best better" mindset. Therefore, whenever I share a story like this one, I feel vulnerable.

Despite all of that, we're all here to grow and I need to make my best better so that when I'm faced with another situation like this I can recognize it and smile, handling it better than I did before...all thanks to this incredible community of people like you.

So, if you have any thoughts or suggestions on this, please feel free to share them. I'm curious to hear your feedback.

Lucio Buffalmano, Musicforthejuan and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoMusicforthejuanMaxim LevinskySerena Irina


Great thread, great case study and, most of all... Great courageous vulnerability from your side.
I applaud that.

I personally also think it's a good idea to switch from "everything is my fault" to "doing my best, and trying to make that best better" (albeit John and some others prefer the "everything's my fault" approach, there was an interesting thread on this).

On a personal level, I also don't feel too jolly, since I was one of the guys who didn't manage to leave a review because of the new Amazon's requirements.

On the positive side, I think there are big chances that one day you'll look back on this and think of as your first launching step into a long and successful life, and turn into a cool story you'll be able to share again and again.

Now, on those lessons learned, a few ideas from my side:

  • Simplify the request: "your review would be so helpful"

If what you need the most is a review, mention it directly.

I might have said to your producer connection something like "thank you so much, if you got the time to quickly go through it you can leave a review if you liked it, and that will be a great help. Lunch next time we meet would be on me, of course :)".

And cut almost all the other words from the email.
Many people who have opened the launch team emails probably just scanned through them, and weren't sure what they were supposed to do. If the email just said "here's the book, here's a link to leave a review", more people would have likely followed through.

  • Make the request sound simple: "you only need to leave a review (takes 5 minutes)"

Telling people you will "add them to your launch team" can feel like a big deal to some.

That's why N probably said "I'll try to do it".
He was already setting expectations and finding for a way out.
That's probably because he wasn't sure what "being on the launch team" meant. He might have feared it was a big deal and lots of effort, when it actually wasn't (OK, later we found out it was for him since he doesn't leave reviews, but if we had found out that earlier, you could have thanked him anyway, moved on, added that "you're happy to sync again in the future and lunch is still on you", and preserved a good connection).

  • Make your value-giving offer more real: "lunch is on me"

Also, consider that a lunch can feel more "real" to many people than a PDF.

Consider information asymmetry: the book means a lot to you because you worked hard on it. You know there are a lot of great tips and advice, and that it's a great book.
But many of those receiving the PDF don't know that.

These days everyone got a free PDF of something they wanna send you, people are overwhelmed by those. So consider that what you thought was a big give, could have been just a marketing ploy for some.

  • Turn "have you left a review yet" into "have you had the chance of leaving a review? that would be SO helpful. Lunch on me still holds :)"

The first one can feel like you're calling them out and pressuring them into it.

It can work sometimes, but on the downside it can make you come across as more petulant, nad more like a taker. Some people will feel bad about it, and reject you by telling themselves that "you're pushing them too much".

It's a mental trick to protect their ego. Instead of telling themselves that they are being bad for not doing what was promised, they instead turn you into the bad guy.

Makes sense?

  • The N connection: he felt like he was being chased & cornered

The guy was initially super friendly and supportive.

Unluckily, you were in a position of needing a favor right away, and that made you push harder for it. And when you push harder, you also risk of pushing people away.

That's what might have happened there:

  1. He felt like you popped in out of the blue when you needed something
  2. He was kind to offer support
  3. He received this complex -he thought it was- request of joining a mysterious launch team
  4. You thought you were giving him lots of value -but he wasn't yet sure about the value-
  5. He receives a few emails which you thought were simple, but he felt were long and took a lot of his time
  6. You thought it was fair for him to leave a review, but he felt like he was being pressured into it (especially in his case if it's true he doesn't leave reviews, which it might even be)

You can still turn it around.
I would send a gift to where he works/lives, explain what happened, and simply say "sorry".

Say something like "I was under pressure to reach a minimum amount of reviews and, in all frankness, I was getting desperate -first time I launch a book, you know :)- Most of all though, I realize how you must felt being on the receiving end, and I feel like a dick for that. You were so kind and supportive, and with my desperation, I pushed into exasperation. I learned my lesson from it. Please accept my apologies and this small token as my apology. And if we ever meet again, lunch and wine are on me :)-.




Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thank you, Lucio!

In response to your post:

  • Simplify the request: "your review would be so helpful"

I couldn't agree more on this point.

However, as part of the book deal, I'm provided with email templates (which are rather long) that I'm instructed to use for what they call "launch team messaging/communication".

However, those email templates can no longer be used since we missed our initial deadline, so from here on out, I can implement your advice.

  • Make the request sound simple: "you only need to leave a review (takes 5 minutes)"

Lucio: "Telling people you will 'add them to your launch team' can feel like a big deal to some."

I agree, and that's part of why I did it.

This being my first time launching a book, I figured phrasing the request that way would only be fair so as to make the other side aware that while this is a small request, it's still a big deal. This way, there wouldn't be much surprise when the email came that it's time to give value (a review) as a part of being a valued launch team member.

However, I suppose this is less about "fairness" and more about following the law of social exchange. A part of that law is making it as easy as possible for the other side to say "yes". It seems you're saying I missed that opportunity to follow the fundamentals. Noted :).

  • Make your value-giving offer more real: "lunch is on me"

Yes, I thought about giving more value than only a PDF. What I did NOT consider was that I see more value in a PDF copy of the book than others do.

I put my heart and soul into this book along with reliable research, real-world tested strategies, and to top it all off, an extensive list of quality sources and citations. Making this book has taken me close to half a year. Therefore, the idea that the receiver may not see as much value in this book as I do never even crossed my mind.

Your note here definitely blew my mind. I'm no doubt going to have to pay closer attention to things like this in the future!

  • Turn "have you left a review yet" into "have you had the chance of leaving a review? that would be SO helpful. Lunch on me still holds :)"

I considered saying, "Have you gotten the chance to leave a review?"

But, after a discussion with my book mentor—who is a multi-bestselling author herself—I was under the impression that the best course of action would be to phrase the question in a way that applies a bit more pressure.

This was more or less what she said during our call:

L: "Yea, that happens. Sometimes you have to annoy them a bit to get them...well, not annoy. You don't want to do that. But, you can't control people. So you have to kind of give them a little nudge..."

In all honesty, I was already pretty upset about the situation by the time we had gotten the chance to meet about it, so I took the "annoy" part as a sign I should still crack down a bit.

I also, with all due respect, didn't trust everything she was saying.

She claimed you can't control people, but we know from Power University's lesson on Resource Control that people can be controlled through financial, emotional, or social means. So, I knew that what she was telling me as far as what I should do wasn't entirely accurate.

To make up for that lack of accuracy, I decided to mix my own knowledge with the part of her response that I felt like listening to (due to my frustration at the time). I walked away from that call deciding to base my approach to the situation on a mix of two things. One being my knowledge about negotiation from studying. The other being a good amount of added pressure from her quickly mentioning having to "annoy" people.

I also didn't think to add the latter part about it being SO helpful because this didn't feel like a favor, it felt like a win-win situation created out of my giving them a free copy of my book. However, with your above note on me overestimating the value people see in my book at first glance, your advice here is 100% solid. Thanks again for the wake-up call :).

BTW, I learned a bit about that mental trick of "turning others into the bad guy to protect your ego" from Dr. Aaron Hass in his book Doing The Right Thing. It's a great book that talks psychology as well as sociology but I have a newfound appreciation for it due to its notes on empathy as I work my way through Chris Voss's negotiation course.

  • The N connection: he felt like he was being chased & cornered

Yes, chances are that's exactly what happened.

Not sure if I want to rebuild this connection yet. I'm still thinking it over as it feels like he could have at least responded to the email, even if to only say he was no longer interested. Still, allies empower and enemies disempower, so apologizing does seem like the right and smart thing to do here.

I'm going to review your advice to make sure I internalize it, Lucio. There's too much good stuff here to gloss over just to get past this particular situation. I can see how your post is applicable to other situations as well.

Lucio Buffalmano, Musicforthejuan and Maxim Levinsky have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoMusicforthejuanMaxim Levinsky

Hi Ali,

Glad it was helpful.

And yes, I understand some of the constraints you had.
If the launch team email templates were already set, then it was likely the best idea to go with their format (hopefully they tested them already and knew it was effective).


Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Implemented some of your advice today, Lucio.

I checked in on someone outside of the launch team who promised a review. She said:

G: "Hey there! I have to apologize. I have not had a chance to open it yet. Deadlines for a production are looming. Hope all is well your way!"

Here was my response:

Note: "OK my dear." Babying power move?

This time, I used the principle of social proof.

"We're only two reviews away from our goal!" (= many other people are leaving their reviews and have left some already!)

The rest of her response:

Gotta love The Power Moves 😀

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Rock on Ali! 🙂


Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Hello Ali,

congrats on your progress, here is my feed-back.

I think the concept of value is key in your example. What someone values is not forcibly what somebody else values. This is where it might not feel a fair exchange for you or the other party. In this case, you value your book a lot, which is fair. However, others might not. This does not make them bad or ungrateful. Just like you might not care about the history of accounting in Bengladesh. If somebody is offering you a book about this topic you might not be as excited as another topic you're passionate about. Even if the person spent 2 years writing the book. And if you're very busy, that's even a different scenario. I think that is what you failed to realize in this case: that these people had more to offer you that you had to offer them, in this example. You needed their help more than they needed your book. And it's ok. You don't have to beat yourself up over that. Different strokes for different folks. You had a goal and you needed their help, fair enough.

Regarding the concept of "everything is my fault", as I said previously I think there is a huge misunderstanding of this concept. It's not antagonistic of "doing your best". I do my best AND everything is my fault. "Everything is my fault" means "I choose to take responsibility of everything that happens to me". This means that you're recognizing that in everything that happens to you, you're playing a part. For instance, just because you made choices that brought you there. It has NOTHING to do with guilt or self-esteem. It also does not make you a god that can change everything or control other people just because you're taking responsibility for your actions. They have their responsibility, you have yours. However, this concept means that you take responsibility on your end. Therefore, you can improve. It's one of the tenants of the learner mindset. Basically this concept means: "I can change my outcomes by recognizing that I took actions that led to unwanted outcomes and choose other behaviors in the future."

All in all, I think you did perfect and by perfect I mean: you took action, you reflected on your outcome and welcomed feed-back. You learned. That's the best you can do at any point in time. So congrats!

A mindset for you: "Life is nothing but practice" (there is no performance), this also was practice for you.

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