Category Archives: Wellness

Decode Self Marketing Like a Hostage Negotiator

This blog on negotiation was just published on the Boulder Startup Week site.   Enjoy!

On March 28th, I attended a SheSaysBoulder event, Dr. Evil’s Guide to Marketing and Selling with Sonia Simone. In job searching, marketing myself well has become an important task. Simone had several key points to make about selling better and not giving up your values to do it. Her sixth point was of particular interest: “harnessing the terrifying power of numbers – specificity is convincing”.

I immediately thought about a book I read called Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. In his book, Chris, a former lead FBI international hostage negotiator, applies his experience from hostage negotiation to business and life. He talks about the power of using specific numbers in negotiation and uses fundraising and salary negotiation examples.

As I am currently job searching, I have tried this tactic when asked what my salary expectations are. It’s interesting to see how differently people respond when I use a rounded number full of zeros versus a number that seems very unique to the situation. People usually say, “Oh, you’ve really thought about that,” or “You really know what you need,” or “It sounds like you’ve done a detailed calculation.” It’s different. It’s attention-calling. When a person uses this tactic, they stand out from the crowd and become more memorable. I want them to remember me. This tactic is only one of many that Chris gleans from his experience.


I also recently used another tactic Chris calls “labeling”. Labeling simply means trying to understand and state the emotions or actions of the other person in the negotiation. Using statements that start with “it sounds like” or “it seems like” allows the other person to correct the assumption if it is untrue but also gives a sense of connection and listening. In fact, purposefully mislabeling can be a powerful tool.

I tried it several weeks ago after being connected through a friend to someone who said they would make introductions for me at a company where he had worked. Weeks went by. I tried emailing to set up time for coffee, a beer, or just a phone call. Nothing was working. Finally, I sent an email with only this line, “It seems like you are unwilling to make the connections we talked about.” I received a response via email that evening. Powerful.

Chris’s company, The Black Swan Group, also writes a blog full of helpful negotiation tactics. I read The #1 Negotiation Strategy for Everyone (Backed by Science) about using an Accusation Audit to increase your negotiation success. Similar to labeling, an accusation audit requires one side to see from the perspective of the other side. And from that perspective, they make a list of all the negative accusations the other side might possibly make or feel about the negotiation. Then, they actually voice that entire list of negative accusations to the other side before ever getting to the good stuff. Chris says, “This is easier and faster than pitching value.” It seems crazy to list the negatives before pitching the positives, but Chris explains how listing the negatives first actually helps diminish them. If the negatives go ignored or unstated, they start to grow.

The human brain does scary things with bottled-up negativity. Once the negatives have been stated and reduced, then the positives, the pitch, will be stronger. When positives are stated, the opposite happens. They become stronger and grow but only after the negatives have been diminished.

I’m very excited to try the Accusation Audit and to learn more negotiation tactics. Whether marketing for myself or my company, negotiation plays a key role. Luckily, Brandon Voss, the Director of Training and Operations for the Black Swan Group, will be speaking in a webinar event, Negotiate like Your Success Depends on It, for Boulder Startup Week on Tuesday morning at Galvanize. Join us to learn how to apply hostage negotiation tactics to your business and your life.


On Friday morning, I got out of bed thinking of a nice warm, sliced, toasted bagel with almond milk cream cheese.  So, I went to the kitchen and washed the blue filet knife that I always use to cut bagels and began preparing my breakfast.  Except this time when I cut the bagel in half, I was half asleep, and the knife went through the bagel and into my left palm.  Filet knife in the palm.  Not good.

I looked down and saw more than just my skin cut.  I saw fatty tissue and other things that I knew I shouldn’t be seeing.  So, I grabbed a paper towel, pressed it into my palm with pressure, made a fist, and held it above my head.  Then, I couldn’t decided  what to do.  I kept taking peeks at the wound, asking myself if I needed stitches, and telling myself to breathe.  I walked upstairs to my room, back down to the kitchen, and then back up to the bathroom where my roommate was getting ready for work.  “Kelly, do you think I need stitches?”  Her reply?  “Yes, yes yes!”

So, we got in her car and started driving to the only urgent care clinic that appeared in my Golden, CO, Google search. They didn’t open until 1PM.  It was eight in the morning.  Next option?  The Lakewood Hospital Emergency Room fifteen minutes away.  I ate half of the untoasted, naked bagel I had just cut on the way to the ER.  What could I do? I was hungry, and it was still a good, clean bagel.

Everything went pretty quickly.  The pain of the injections to numb the wound was incredibly intense, but started subsiding three shots later.  I could not watch the shots, but I watched everything else, including the stitches – two of which I felt every poke and pull.

I’m typing this with only my right hand because typing with my left hand pulls too much on the six stitches holding my inch-and-a-half cut together.   I know it will heal, but this is yet another practice in patience for me.  At least I’m not alone.  About 2000 people a year end up in the ER after BRI’s (Bagel-related Injuries), the Wall Street Journal had an article on it (click here to read).  Be warned: bagels are dangerous, heartless breakfast beasts.  You may be the one armed, but they are dangerous.

(Thanks to my roommate, Kelly, for taking me to the ER and for taking pictures!)

UPDATE: Pictures of healing…it took a month, but I’m finally getting back to normal!  God made some amazing healing bodies.   Here are pictures of the process.

Bionic Eyes

In December, right before Christmas and the genesis of my travel adventures, I threw away my contacts forever.  You may be thinking, oh, she got LASIK, but I did not.  I mean, I tried to get LASIK.  My friend Travis, who is an eye doctor for Icon LASIK put me through the whole exam to see if I would be a good candidate or not.  Turns out, I was the “or not”.  You see, I’m extremely near-sighted, and though I know I’m not the worst out there, if you’re not near-sighted or only near-sighted a little, it’s difficult to understand what seeing without lenses is like.  For me, it was difficult even to read.  Clear for me was about three inches from my face – a distance so close that I could only read with one eye at a time because the focal point for both of my eyes to focus was further out.

So, the more near-sighted you are, the more of your cornea that must be removed to correctly shape the eye to focus correctly at distance.  Travis told me that I could get LASIK, but if anything ever changed, I would not have enough cornea left to make corrections.  And, because one of the side effects of LASIK is dry eye, I most likely would not be able to wear contacts.  I was already struggling with my contacts after my move to the Denver area.  So, I would most likely be forced into glasses if anything changed, a place I didn’t want to be.

Instead, Travis recommended I get Implantable Contact Lenses (ICL).  The surgery is a lot like the surgery for cataracts where the doctor makes a slit in the side of your eye, removes the natural lens, and implants a new lens.  However, for this surgery I kept my natural lens.  In ICL surgery, the new lens fits between the iris and the natural lens, which can cause some pressure issues in the eye.  So, the other main difference ICL and cataract surgery is that I have tiny holes in my eyes that allow pressure to be released so my eyes don’t explode…or loose sight.

The left eye was first and I experienced no pain, only pressure.  I felt a little pain during surgery on my right eye.  When the doctor placed the lens in my eye the pressure built up and everything went black with multicolored stars – like when you’re a kid and you close your eyes and push hard on them revealing red, green, and blue stars – or at least we did that as kids.  It was a little scary during surgery because I could feel the pain in my forehead from the pressure.  They fixed it quickly, and the pain dissipated immediately.  The surgery was finished in about 30 minutes, and my friend Anita, took me to the hotel.  Things were fuzzy, but I could see.  That night and for the next week, I slept with plastic eye covers taped to my face.  Little by little, my vision got better.

Click here to see a video of someone else’s surgery.  (You may have to disable safety mode in YouTube (scroll to the bottom of the page) because this is a close-up of the surgery – just to warn you.)


I’m now about five months out.  I have 20/20 vision.  It’s not perfect.  I still have a lot of glare related to the lenses in my eyes.  Driving at night is sometimes difficult, but for the most part, it’s awesome.  I never mess with contacts.  I don’t have to take them out, or clean them.  I don’t have glasses to take back-up glasses.  It’s nice.  And when I raft for two weeks on the Zambezi River in Africa, I will be even more thankful that I have no contacts to donate to the hippos.

100 Years and 23 Days

My grandmother passed away today – only 23 days after her 100th birthday.  It’s difficult for me to imagine all the changes she saw and experienced in her 100 years while what I experienced with her was so different.  When her life started in 1914, WWI began, Babe Ruth signed his first minor league contract, and Tarzan of the Apes was published.  She saw the Nazi party form, women win the right to vote, and Al Capone move to Chicago when she was a kid.  As a teen, she learned how to cope with The Great Depression while playing steel guitar with her sister.  She married my grandpa in 1938, and in 1942 when WWII started for the United States, she waited to receive post cards from her new husband while he served in the army.  A year after Germany surrendered and the war ended, my mom was born and they lived on the family farm where my grandparents raised crops and a few farm animals.  Five years later, my grandma had my aunt, completing their little family of four, all while Grandma performed different jobs driving a school bus, cleaning the local elementary, and running K’s Cafe.  She saw Model T’s transform into Teslas; stamps soar from two cents to forty-two; and crank phones morph into smart phones.  She and my grandpa celebrated 51 years of marriage while he was in the hospital dying from emphysema in 1990 because earlier in their lifetime smoking was healthy.  I didn’t realize when she told me about the “blue moon” shining outside, she had watched the first man land on the moon.  She lived through the space war, the Cold War, The Korean War, the Gulf War, 9/11, and the War on Terrorism, and still had time to teach me how to embroider french knots and make sweet potatoes with marshmallows.   She was an amazing cook, patient listener, and incredible grandma, and I celebrate the life she had as she now dances in the glory of her Savior.  I asked her on her 100th birthday how she lived a life that long, and she said, “I just roll with whatever comes my way.”  May I learn from her example of life and love.