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Alumnus authors book to help others find confidence in conflict

February 20, 2019 | Alumni

When Kwame Christian 13’ walked through the doors of Drinko Hall last year to co-teach the college’s Negotiation and Mediation Advocacy course, he became flushed with emotion. Christian realized that very moment marked a full-circle journey, one that began eight years prior. The student was now the teacher. With his new best-selling book, Nobody Will Play With Me: How To Use Compassionate Curiosity to Find Confidence in Conflict, Christian is using his own experiences as a tool to educate others on conflict management and negotiation. Christian said, “The best things in life often lie on the other side of difficult conversations. I wrote this book because I overcame my fear of having difficult conversations, and I want to share what I’ve learned with the hope that it will help others.”

Christian believes that our barrier to engaging in difficult conversation often stems from an incident or a pattern of behavior that happened at some point in our lives. A first-generation Caribbean American, Christian grew up in Tiffin, Ohio and quickly realized he was different from his peers. He had an accent and was the only Black kid in his class. An unfortunate experience on the playground became the inspiration for the title of his book.

“One day I spent the entire recess trying to find a group of kids to play with but nobody would play with me,” he said.  When recess was over,  he began to cry and made a vow.  “I was devastated that day, and I remember telling myself that I will make friends, people will like me, and I will be the most popular kid in that school—it became my mission,” Christian said. He achieved his goal by the end of the year, but it came at a heavy cost. “Whenever conflict arose, I would avoid it because I worked so hard to make friends,” he said. “I didn’t want to lose them, so instead of engaging in conflict, I would just let it go.”

A decade after the playground incident, Christian was pursuing a BA in psychology at Ohio State and was able to use his coursework to tackle his fear of difficult conversations. “Through learning the fundamental tenets of cognitive behavioral therapy, I was able to understand my fears and anxieties and how to overcome them so I could have the conversations that I needed to have,” Christian said.

When Christian was a 2L, he found his professional passion after taking a negotiations course during the autumn break. “At that time, I was thinking about using my law degree and master’s in public policy towards a career in politics,” he said. “But after that class, I knew my legal calling was going to be in the field of negotiations and conflict management because it was the thing that inspired me the most from my curriculum and made me want to learn more.”

Throughout the remainder of his law school career at Moritz, Christian successfully competed in national competitions. He won the Lawrence Negotiation Competition, the American Bar Association Regional Negotiation Competition in Ottawa, Ontario, and made it to the semifinals of the American Bar Association National Competition in New Orleans, Louisiana.

“I was driven to find a way to make my love for mediation into a career, and I’m thankful for the faculty who provided me with the encouragement, education, and expertise that I needed to begin my career,” he said.

In late 2017, Christian presented Finding Confidence in Conflict at TEDxDayton, which has since been viewed more than 50,000 times. Today, he is a lawyer and director of the American Negotiation Institute, where he organizes workshops designed to make difficult conversations easier.  He also hosts the top-ranked negotiation podcast in the world, Negotiate Anything, with over 600,000 downloads and listeners in 181 countries. Through the American Negotiation Institute, Christian works with State Bar Associations around the country to provide CLE courses. He regularly teaches business professionals and managers on how to get more out of their deals and manage conflict more effectively.

“I’m grateful to my friends, mentors, and professors at Moritz who encouraged me to pursue my dreams and equipped me with the requisite skills to do so. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them and I try to follow in their footsteps by giving back to the Moritz community.”