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Filling In the Inclusivity Gaps Found In Negotiation Advice with Damali Peterman, Esq.

Filling In the Inclusivity Gaps Found In Negotiation Advice with Damali Peterman, Esq.
Filling In the Inclusivity Gaps Found In Negotiation Advice with Damali Peterman, Esq.

In a world where personal branding and negotiation are essential skills, Damali Peterman stands out as a trailblazer. With her diverse background as a lawyer, mediator, and CEO of Breakthrough ADR, Damali brings a unique perspective to the table. 

Her new book, Negotiating While Black: Be Who You Are to Get What You Want, delves into the intricacies of negotiating with authenticity and confidence, especially within the Black community. In it, she has taken her experience and years of study and research in conflict resolution and mediation to address the unique challenges and experiences of each person, including people who are not Black (title notwithstanding).

In this episode of the Branding Room Only podcast, you’ll learn about some aspects of her toolkit you can use for personalized, inclusive negotiation. She’ll also reveal why her book is for everyone and how authentic thoughtfulness and good listenership impact her brand and can impact yours.

1:16 – Damali defines personal brand in three ways and herself in three words, shares a relevant Bob Marley quote, and reveals her hype song and love of music

11:55 – How growing up in Washington D.C. shaped her worldview and desire to make a difference in her communities

14:26 – Damali’s journey from college to entrepreneurship and why she felt compelled to start her own business

21:10 – The inspiration behind Damali’s book and the importance of representation and inclusivity in negotiation books

25:14 – Why the book is titled Negotiating While Black and why, despite the title, it isn’t just a book for Black people

32:31 – How Damali has built her personal brand and how it shapes her work

37:00 – Examples of the effects of stereotype threat and collective trauma and using cognitive reappraisal to reframe situations

45:59 – Things that make Damali’s heart joyful and how being thoughtfully authentic and a good listener helps with your brand

Connect With Damali Peterman

Damali Peterman, Esq. is the CEO and founder of the prominent global conflict resolution firm, Breakthrough ADR LLC. Breakthrough specializes in innovative and engaging ways to help individuals and organizations prevent, manage, and resolve conflict in the workplace and beyond.  Damali also serves as a mediator, arbitrator, and ombudsman for JAMS, Inc.

Her forthcoming book, Negotiating While Black: Be Who You Are to Get What You Want, was purchased at auction for U.S. rights by Penguin Random House’s Putnam imprint. The book aims to be the definitive, inclusive resource on negotiations and implicit bias.  The book is available for pre-order now and will be released on June 4, 2024.  Her book was also acquired for distribution in over 60 international countries by Bonnier’s Heligo Books imprint.

Damali is also an adjunct professor at Howard University School of Law, judge for international mediation competitions, and a trainer for a court-annexed mediation program in Nairobi, Kenya.  She has also worked as a trainer in mediation and conflict de-escalation for the New York City Police Department.

Prior to Breakthrough ADR, Damali founded Damali Law LLC, which focused on corporate transactions. Previously, she was an assistant general counsel at Deloitte LLP and a private equity and M&A senior associate at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.

Damali is a graduate of Spelman College (BA), Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MA), and Howard University School of Law (JD).

Damali also completed the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program and is a Tory Burch Foundation Fellow. She has received several awards including the Social Change Agent of the Year Award from NIMBLE, Women in Business Award from Hudson Valley Magazine, and Women Legal Entrepreneur of the Year from Women-Owned Law.

Damali is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated, and The Links, Incorporated.

Mentioned In Filling In the Inclusivity Gaps Found In Negotiation Advice with Damali Peterman, Esq.

Damali Peterman | Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn

Breakthrough ADR

Negotiating While Black: Be Who You Are to Get What You Want by Damali Peterman

Sponsor for this episode

This episode is brought to you by PGE Consulting Group LLC.

PGE Consulting Group LLC is dedicated to providing a practical hybrid of professional development training and diversity solutions. From speaking to consulting to programming and more, all services and resources are carefully tailored for each partner. Paula Edgar’s distinct expertise helps engage attendees and create lasting change for her clients.

To learn more about Paula and her services, go to or contact her at [email protected], and follow Paula Edgar and the PGE Consulting Group LLC on LinkedIn.

Paula Edgar: Welcome to The Branding Room Only Podcast where we share career stories, strategies, and lessons learned on how industry leaders and influencers have built their personal brands. Now, let’s get started with the show.

Hi everyone, it’s Paula Edgar, your host of Branding Room Only, where I’m so excited to talk to today’s guest. She is Damali Peterman, Esq., the CEO and founder of Breakthrough ADR.

She’s also the author of Negotiating While Black: Be Who You Are to Get What You. I can’t wait to hear all about that. A little bit about Damali. She’s a professional, lawyer, mediator, negotiator, and author.

Personally, she’s the oldest of seven, a wife, and a mom of two boys and a dog. For fun, she’s a drummer. She writes greeting cards and she loves Pilates. We’re going to hear more about all of that. Damali, welcome to The Branding Room.

Damali Peterman: It is so wonderful to be here, Paula.

Paula Edgar: I’m so excited. For those of you who are not watching us, I was saying to myself, “My cheeks are going to be hurting,” because I keep smiling this whole time. But I’m just so happy. We just saw each other recently and I’m so happy to be reconnected and talk all about all the things.

We’re going to start off with what I ask everybody, what does a personal brand mean to you? How do you define it?

Damali Peterman: I love this question. I think as the name implies, a personal brand is something that’s personal to each person, so clearly the answer is subjective. To me, the way that I see a personal brand and my personal brand is, “What message am I sending out to the world?”

That’s something that’s current, presently like what am I projecting to the world? Two, how am I evolving my brand? Things change, people change, the world changes and so how am I evolving my brand and myself?

Then three, I see the brand as being tied to legacy, what legacy do I want to leave in this world? How do I want people to remember me when I’m no longer here? Remember my family, remember my children, remember my words, my books, my cards. How do I want to be remembered?

Paula Edgar: Legacy is a big word for me. So that resonated. Describe yourself in three words or short phrases.

Damali Peterman: The first word that I have is “caring”. I think it’s hard for me not to be caring. I’m the oldest of seven kids, you mentioned that in my bio. I think that says so much about me. Anything you can think of. I can do work when there’s a lot of noise and make food for 10 people or one person, there’s no in-between.

I’m always thinking about other people. Being the oldest of seven kids, that’s just how I’ve been programmed. I would say “caring” is number one. Number two, I think I’m funny. I was thinking about this like, “What way do I want to answer these questions? I could stick with the professional part of it.”

But I try to make things interesting and fun. I’ve taken improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade. I really love it because it helps you to think on your feet. There’s so much drama, chaos, and conflict, a lot of which I work in on a regular basis, that I’m always looking for something humorous.

I’m always trying to find something fun to kind of bring the tensions down around me and also to do something fun, which I think is important just for balance and mental health.

Then the last word that I’ll say to add to caring and fun is “curious.” I’m very curious. I consider myself to be a lifelong learner. I’m not afraid to ask questions. If I don’t know something, I want to know what it means. I want to understand.

Today I learned a term from a social worker. We were talking and she was telling me about a conference she went to and she said that the focus of the conference was social isolation. I thought that was very interesting. I wanted to understand more about what that meant. So I just think I’m a very very curious person. Caring, funny, and curious.

Paula Edgar: Oh, well, I love that. I love the lifelong learning because it is key to iterating and evolving your brand, which brings the two things that you said in full circle and connecting. Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that you use to navigate your life?

Damali Peterman: It changes. I do. There’s so many that I like. I recently saw One Love, the movie about Bob Marley’s music and life. There are many things that stuck with me. I mean, his music, which is over 50 years old, is still relevant and pertinent today, which says a lot about society in general.

There are a few quotes that came to mind from his music. I think something that sticks in my mind right now is a particular lyric, and it’s probably going to sound a bit revolutionary, but it’s just been replaying in my mind for the last three days.

In his song War, he says, “Until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes,” there’s going to be war. Wow because it seems like if you think about it, we’re talking about body parts, we’re talking about something that’s innocuous that everybody has, but he made that simple line and phrase, it’s just powerful because it’s still relevant today.

We’re still talking about race. We’re still talking about race relations, diversity, equity, and inclusion. We’re still talking about war. There are wars going on right now as we record this episode.

I wouldn’t say that’s my favorite quote, I probably have many quotes, but that just keeps taking up space in my mind because that’s as simple as it could be said and sung, and it’s still a very powerful message and still relevant today.

Paula Edgar: Well, first of all, as a half-Jamaican and someone who also just saw the movie—I love it—Bob Marley’s movie, his music has been the soundtrack literally of my life. My father played Bob Marley’s music over and over again.

Since seeing the movie and the soundtrack coming out again, I’ve been playing it again. It really truly, truly resonates for me, what you said and particularly the work that we both do in thinking about navigating difference a lot that there’s this underlying thing that when we are navigating bias and all the anthems, that there is going to always be conflict, which speaks to a lot of what you do and help people go through.

I love that you picked that as a quote, while not your favorite, definitely relevant, and resonates for me. I have been playing Redemption Song over and over again. It just sits differently than it did when I was growing up so I appreciate you going up. Now I guess a good transition, what’s your hype song?

Damali Peterman: This is my hype song [humming] [singing Eve – Who’s That Girl?] Let me tell you, for every law school exam, I’m a creature of habit, so I always do the same thing. Don’t judge me. For every hour of an exam, I would have one of those Starlight Mints the ones our grandmothers had in the purse, that make up the sound when you’re in church and you’re trying not to get in trouble, but it’s like, “Shh.”

I would have a mint for each hour, and then I would have a banana. I would have a can of sugar-free Red Bull or Red Bull. Then in my headphones before every exam, I would play Eve’s Who’s That Girl. That song just gets me hyped. I’m like, “I’m about to crush this test.” Think about like some of Issa Rae’s skits, where she’s like talking to herself in the mirror, and this is like pre-me knowing about Issa Rae, but I would just do that.

By the way, I think it’s hilarious that I actually like to get the sound effects. I could have said it’s Eve’s Who’s That Girl, but I went all in for you. I’ve been asked that question before, and I never went all in for people, but I just went all in for you.

Paula Edgar: We need the authentic Damali experience. And the best part is, as I heard the first part, I was like, “I know what this is.”

Damali Peterman: You were getting into it. Well, what’s interesting is I think people think I’m so serious, which is funny, because I have a serious job. I work in conflict like you. I work with people and issues that people have, interpersonal, all these types of things.

So it requires a certain level of seriousness. And I like to have fun and have a good time. I mean, don’t get me wrong, like you, my parents played Bob Marley on record when I was a child. I’m a drummer, I’ve been a percussionist my whole life.

But during COVID, I learned how to play a lot. I was learning how to play the guitar. One of the songs that I was like, “Can you teach me how to play Redemption Song?” I got the few first chords of it which is very exciting.

Then I like a lot of music. I love music. Especially music that has a good beat. You’ll hear me listening, I like Fela Kuti, like those 16-minute songs. I might wake up and say, “I need to hear Zombie,” and then it’ll play for five minutes before he first says anything on the track. But this gets me hyped because I know what’s coming and the trumpet starts playing.

For me, it’s really about the music and the beat. But for Eve’s song, that song makes you feel like I can crush any test or any challenge that comes my way. I love that song.

Paula Edgar: Well, I asked this question because I find that my perception, whether I know the person or not, because of bias and all the ways that we learn, etc., we make assumptions about people.

I love that for like 90% of the time, I can’t guess what the song is. It helps me to have a different flavor of the person, and that’s really why I love to ask that question. Music is so important to me. I got a jam for everything, every moment, every area of my life, I have a song for it so I love that. I also love that you were taking the guitar. Fun fact, I’ve always wanted to be a drummer.

Damali Peterman: No way.

Paula Edgar: My dad was a drummer in high school, and we had a drum set in my basement when we grew up in Brooklyn. I was like, “Go in the basement and try to drum,” and I know what I was doing. Then I was like, “I want to drum.” I was like, “Well, I’m not going to be great at this.” I don’t know why I thought that, but I was like, “This was like Sheila E and then it was me,” I was like, “I’m in between that and it’s not going to be as good as that.”

But then I was like, “It’s going to be too loud.” I’ve always wanted to do it but they’re going to be loud. My friend was like, “You know you can do it on the headphones.” I was like, “Wait, I never thought about that.” I was always like, “My neighbors are going to try to kill me if I try to play the drums.”

Anywho, anybody who cares, the one instrument that I played was the Casio keyboard. I don’t know how to play LL Cool J’s I Need Love, the first three ding. That’s all, that’s it. Other than the recorder, I know how to play nothing else.

Damali Peterman: I see a band in our future.

Paula Edgar: Absolutely.

Damali Peterman: You on keys, me on drums. I see a band in our future.

Paula Edgar: I’m just going to do spoken word. Tell me this. We’ve already started talking about it a little bit, but tell me, where did you grow up and how did that shape you?

Damali Peterman: I am a very proud native of Washington, DC. I grew up in DC, Northwest DC, all the way through high school. That definitely shaped my worldview, living in the nation’s capital, and being in the epicenter of politics, and government.

I was there for both of Marion Barry’s mayoral mayorships or whatever the term is for mayor. A big fan of people, not just Marion Barry, but we also had a lot of people, Sharon Pratt Kelly, Adrian Fenty, and others.

Really always seeing people who look like me in positions of power. I think that was very helpful to see that you can rise to like DC, everyone knows DC is a district, not a state.

Our license plates say “taxation without representation.” There was always this interest, this curiosity I had, trying to understand like, “What are we talking about?” We had Eleanor Holmes Norton as our representative in the House for most of my life.

Again, just seeing all these powerful people in DC who look like me, made me want to want more and do more for the communities that I lived in and the communities that I wanted to serve. Growing up in DC was great. I go home as much as I can. I live in New York now, but I’m always, “You could take the girl out of DC, but you can’t take DC out of the girl.”

Nothing will make a DC person more annoyed than someone being like, “I’m from DC too,” and you’re like, “Really where are you from?” They’re like Bethesda and you’re like, “You have a state and a governor and you have all these things that we don’t have.” Or from Arlington, “You also have a state with a governor and things that we don’t have.” I’m partially joking, I’m partially serious.

Paula Edgar: DC people are very serious about it. Yes, and I’m sure my DMV people are going to be like, “First of all,” or exactly that.

Damali Peterman: That’s why I’m like, “I’m from Northwest.” If you’re from DC, you’re from Northwest, Northeast, Southeast, and Southwest.”

Paula Edgar: That’s it. Okay, well, tell me about your career journey. How did you get to right now? What was your career journey?

Damali Peterman: So what’s interesting about me, I think for most people who are in dispute resolution, a lot of them either started from the bench, so they were the judiciary as a judge, or they were in law.

At least most people that I’ve met are usually litigators, not transactional attorneys, and then they grow weary of the adversarial process, and they want to do more, and collaborative problem-solving, so they go into mediation.

After I finished at Spellman, when I graduated from there—yeah, shout out to Spellman—I went to pursue my master’s degree in international policy studies in Middlebury out in Monterey and I focused on conflict resolution.

I then studied in The Hague, Netherlands. I actually was a mediator before I went to law school, which is rare. I mean, you are an attorney as well, Paula. How many mediators do you know who are mediators before they start to practice?

Paula Edgar: There are many.

Damali Peterman: Yeah, so I went into the profession being very keen on problem-solving dispute resolution, and conflict de-escalation, having studied different types of disputes globally, including territorial disputes like what we’re seeing play out now, including reconciliation, tribunals, things of that nature, which we’re seeing play out now.

I’ve always had this desire to help people resolve conflict more on a policy level, which I think is often overlooked because a lot of these movements—which are great, I’m a fan of and I think they’re definitely a way to draw attention to, you name it, atrocities, terrorism, et cetera—change often comes that’s lasting, or at least the more durable processes when policies change. That’s why I focused on policy studies.

Then I went to law school at Howard University School of Law back in DC, I went back home. From there, I entered the legal field, first as a private equity mergers and acquisitions attorney, then in-house as focusing on contracts and engagement. What are the terms of our engagement?

I will say when I started as a private equity M&A lawyer at a big law firm, I started in a down market. I started at the firm I worked for, filed the Lehman bankruptcy and several subsequent reorgs and restructurings for various global companies.

When you start in a down market, similar to things we’ve seen post-pandemic, then you have to learn a lot of things. You learn what provisions are important to have so that if things go awry, what’s being triggered?

I learned about force majeure and how to navigate what people most often think of as a “boilerplate” at the beginning of my career. When the market was great again and I was able to work on interesting things, leverage buyouts, public and private mergers, et cetera, then I felt like I’d had a whole history or even a masterclass, if you will, and life cycles of companies.

When I decided I wanted to start my own company, I felt like I knew what to do. I knew how to build it in a way that would hopefully, for many years in now, but built it in a way where it would be resilient, and it would also help me to help people.

I love working at the firm. I love working in-house, but I felt like—and tell me if you ever felt this way, Paula—I felt like I was always being given things to do. Essentially, whoever could afford the services for the companies I worked for were able to get someone like me, whereas there were a lot of people who were sophisticated and the best at what they did, who needed big law firm experience at boutique law firm prices.

The first company I launched was a law firm, Damali Law. I opened the doors with clients. It was fantastic because it was what I thought the market was looking for people who could do what I did at the right price point.

Then one of the programs under Damali Law was Breakthrough. Essentially the idea for Breakthrough ADR, which focuses on teaching people how to listen, negotiate, and resolve conflict in the workplace and beyond.

That was my journey from college all the way through starting two companies. Then, of course, I mentioned I’m a mediator. I was able to tap back into my love for dispute resolution and mediation at one of the most prestigious dispute resolution companies in the world. Now I’m a mediator, or the term that we use in our industry is called “neutral” as well.

Paula Edgar: I never know where all of the symmetry is going to happen, but just in the short amount of time we’ve been talking, I took mediation—I was in the mediation clinic when I was in law school—I remember thinking—because I went to a public interest law school—I was like, “What is going to be the most transferable skill that I’ll be able to use?” I was like, “Well, it’s not going to be criminal law.” Although now it might have been.

But doing mediation really, really helped me to understand that the baseline getting to yes, understanding that folks come in with very strong sides, but understanding people’s perspective. That helps me in the work that I do, definitely diversity and inclusion.

But also in leadership development and also in thinking about people navigating their brand, all of that is really a negotiation of what you know for sure and then where you’re willing to go in order to move forward, which is, I think, powerful.

As we—at the time of this taping—we are going to approach election season, that need for having those skills will be so strong because folks don’t necessarily know how to agree to disagree, but also agree that folks’ opinions and folks’ perspectives can be “yes, and” as opposed to only one or the other.

That is a very powerful thing that I learned, and I was grateful for it for doing that when I was in law school. Speaking of which, because I am Black, you are Black, we both went to law school, I want to know why you’re talking about negotiating while Black in your new book.

Tell me about what negotiation looks like generally, and then what are the nuances of negotiating while Black being who you are to get what you want, which I love the tagline so much. Give me a little bit about what this authorship journey is meant for you and why you wrote this book.

Damali Peterman: I’m so happy you asked that question. I had this idea in my heart and in my brain for a while. As I mentioned, my educational, and professional journey, there were so many times when I had read all the books, I had taken courses at all the top universities, and I still fail to see some, to me, pretty basic things reflected in the books.

Every time I taught a negotiation course or a mediation course, I found myself supplementing the resources with my own stories, my own mantras, acronyms, my own vocabulary, because the way that I believe that negotiation books have been written primarily and historically over the years, is a copy-me method, meaning, “I was successful doing this. If you do what I did, you too, Paula, will be successful.”

How does that work if I am a white male? Most of the books in negotiation space have been penned by—that’s just the statistic that says the truth—primarily written by white cisgender men.

What message am I supposed to take from that if the way I show up in the world doesn’t check those boxes and that I know that implicit and explicit bias exists, I’ve seen it, I’ve felt it. So how does one use a toolkit that doesn’t fully prepare you to navigate those types of experiences if you show up any other way in the world? Which the majority of us show up in a different way.

Again, I saw myself filling in the gaps that I’ve expelled from my own lived experience, from being a cross-border negotiator on transactions globally on a variety of different issues touching different industries because as you know, Paula, we as lawyers do a lot of work behind the scenes.

But the work we do affects the clothes people wear, the vehicles you drive, the food and beverages that you consume, the beauty products that you put on. I was negotiating all of those types of transactions, all of those deals across a variety of industries, and there were things that I found missing.

So I started to teach them, I started to write them down. Then I saw some other books come into the space that still didn’t really lean into the fact that the way you negotiate, you, Paula, me, Damali, and anyone listening is going to be unique to you.

How can I help you fill your toolkit with tools? How can I pull out from you your superpowers to bring them to the forefront? Because the only constant in any negotiation that you’re going to be in is you. So how can we make this transition from a copy-me approach, to a “This is a negotiation in real life toolkit, I’m going to fill it with you. I’m going to share my experiences,” because Negotiating While Black, what’s interesting about my title is it does a few different things.

By the way, I was adamant that that was going to be the title. You may know that most people have ideas for their book titles and if they have the privilege of having their book purchased, which my book went to auction in the US and the UK, what that means is 10 bidders came to the table, and they said, “We think this is a great idea. We want to buy the book.”

As a first-time author on this scale, that was like a big deal, just like, “Well, you all believe I have a good idea that you want to bid on it.” That told me that whatever I had to say and whatever I was thinking was something that wasn’t only relevant to me. We want to tell more Black stories. We want to share more Black experiences. Also, we want to tell more stories that are relatable to many people in a multicultural world.

So Negotiating While Black to me was a situation where I wanted a provocative title, I wanted the title to reflect my stories as a person who wakes up Black every day, proudly Black every day, and I also wanted people to see themselves in it. Negotiating While [whatever box you check], I wanted you to see yourself in it.

All the stories aren’t Black stories. You’ll see that there are stories of other people from another [choose whatever box can think of], I try to cover it. That’s why the subtitle was important: Be Who You Are to Get What You Want.

One of the questions I have gotten a lot recently from people who aren’t Black is, “Can I read your book? Is that book for me?” I love this question so much, Paula, I love it. My book, yes, is for Black readership. And my book is also for non-Black readership.

That’s a paradox. Because people are like, “How can those two things both be true?” Well, I know people can hold paradoxes. I see this in my job every day. People often say, “They both can’t be true,” well, actually, yes. Two things can be true at the same time.

The reason why it’s true is because one, and all the negotiating books that I read to date, most of them I didn’t feel seen. I felt that I wasn’t represented in the text. I wanted people to feel seen, heard, and validated in my book.

I also wanted to share some of the stories that I’ve experienced, learned, or worked on with others because these stories will relate and connect to you if you are a woman, if you are a male, if you are a mother, if you are a student.

There’s something for everyone because, at the end of the day, these are negotiation skills that you can utilize in your personal, professional, and private life. There’s something for everyone, but I really, really, wanted to make sure that I was telling my story, and my story is how I appear in the world.

Paula Edgar: I love that. I just got a flashback because I was thinking to myself, yes, I do think that whenever you sort of narrow a title or content in any way, folks will think, “Okay, then that’s not for me.”

But I also always think, well, no one is standing in the books being like, “Ah, ah, ah. Don’t you buy that.” There’s a power in being able to see and understand some perspectives if you want to be more inclusive as well.

But if you want to understand how, because immediately I thought, Negotiating While Black, I as a Black person, I’m like, “Okay, there is going to be navigate bias, is to think about the fact that people are going to make perceptions about you.

But then you have to think about the magic of Black people and how we show up in these spaces. There’s an authenticity oftenness there. It’s “yes, and” to what we were saying before.

So my recommendation is always, “Put that in your toolkit.” The little bit more that you know even if you’re not occupying that space. I often will read a cross-genre because I want to learn, being a lifelong learner is a big deal for me and it makes you have a broader perspective. Everybody needs that, especially now.

Damali Peterman: Well, when you also agree with this, especially because you occupy the space as you do so many wonderful things in diversity, equity, inclusion and leadership, et cetera, step one in allyship is understanding what’s happening with the person sitting next to you.

What blows my mind, I was an English major in college, I love reading to this day, and it never would have occurred to me that I couldn’t read Little Women because it had four or five young white girls on the cover.

It would have never occurred to me that I couldn’t read Huckleberry Finn. It’s just mind-boggling to me that because the word Black is written in a book, it could give someone the impression that they can’t read the book.

I think there is a space where people might want to make sure that they’re not doing something they’re not supposed to do. If they’re not the intended audience, I understand that question. I also think that if a book has women in the title, men should read it too, because they should want to understand.

If the book has Black in the title, people who aren’t Black should read it too. If the book has fill-in-the-blanks, isn’t that the whole point of inclusion, belonging, and mattering, just to understand someone else’s perspective and lived experience, and to not only be in a homogeneous society where everyone thinks, believes, and consumes the exact same thing?

To me, part of it is like your perception, but also part of it is like, “What is your brand?” getting back to, “What is your brand?” I’ve been very happy to know that a lot of people, not just Black people, white, Latina, male, and everyone who pre-ordered my book, they’re excited to read it, and there is something for everyone.

In the same way, I read all these books before and I continue to read because I want to grow, learn, and understand. You can oftentimes learn something from one genre or one industry that you can imagine for something else if you think about the way that things work in general.

You’ll see people using psychotherapy in negotiation or psychology in mediation. There are a lot of ways that information can be utilized. I love that you said that because it’s true.

Paula Edgar: It’s so true. It speaks to the point of being who you are to get what you want. Who you are is not one thing. Our intersections are important spaces that we occupy that make us special and lead to what our brand is.

What are some of the ways that you have built your personal brand? Tell me what you have done to become the caring, funny person that you are, and having done all the things that you’ve done. How do you think your brand has shaped the work that you’ve done?

Damali Peterman: That’s a great question. What I like to do is try to be consistent in thinking about what is the message I’m trying to put out there into the world. I try to think about how I’m trying to leave the place better than it was when I got here.

My approach is oftentimes a giving approach because I’m so grateful. So many wonderful things have happened in my life. People have been very generous with their time, their energies, and their resources.

I often feel that I want to contribute and be a contributor. People who write books don’t just write books to see their name in print. There’s something that they want to share with society.

To me, that’s like this calling where people do it in different ways. People use social media to share information and resources. People use more traditional routes to share information and resources. There are educators. I love educators because they’re every day making the world a better place by providing information and resources.

For me, what’s been very important is just thinking about what messages I’m putting out into the world. Am I contributing to thought leadership? Am I learning from people around me?

I always want to be in conversations where I’m growing and learning. I also want to think about the future. I’m thinking about our children, our children, and what they’re being exposed to, how they’re navigating this new world in a different way than even we did. Not too long ago, we’re not that.

For me, how am I helping the communities in the spaces that I occupy? How am I advancing women? How am I advancing Black women? How am I advancing [fill in the blank]? That’s how I continue to grow and to continue to challenge myself. That’s also another part of it is the challenge. It’s easy to say, “Okay, I’ve gotten to this point. That’s great. I’d be happy that. It’s just in here.” “No, well, now I wanted to give back, I want to teach law students.” “Okay, now I’m teaching law students. That’s great.”

Now, I keep telling people these different things that are working in negotiations, negotiating across a variety of industries in everyday situations, because you said this earlier, everything is a negotiation, everything is negotiable.

Of course, I know that some things aren’t negotiable, but what I mean by that is no isn’t always an, if you’re negotiating a first salary term, for example, and the first answer is no, figure out why they’re telling you no. Is it that it’s not in the budget for this year, but it’s open to next year? Is it that there are different ways for you to get to what you want and need? How do you navigate that if you just listen to the no and shut down?

All of these things are important to me because I’ve been to 49 states, I’ve been to over 50 countries, and I’ve interacted with so many people to see that we have a lot more in common than the things that make us different.

So when you ask a question about branding and branding yourself and the message, I try to keep it within that parameter of like, “How am I showing up? How am I giving back?”

Then also remembering that we evolve. I’m a different person now as a mom than I was before I was a mom. I’m in my mid-40s. I’m different now than I was in my mid-20s.

Paula Edgar: So much better now.

Damali Peterman: Right. So continuing to sort of evolve and maintaining whatever makes you authentically you throughout that evolution. That’s always in my head as I’m thinking about branding.

Paula Edgar: Are there some things that come to mind that are specific to the Black toolkit when it comes to negotiating? Are there some things that are like, “Here are some benefits, and here are some challenges that come to mind,” like two or three to wet the whistle of the folks who are going to buy the book?

Damali Peterman: That’s a great question. Interestingly, when you say a Black tool kit, something that I think comes up quite a bit is stereotype threat. Stereotype threat is when there’s a negative stereotype—usually stereotypes are negative, but they’re not always negative. Some can be positive—Let’s say a negative stereotype and you don’t want to make that ring true, so you’re threatened by this negative stereotype so you try to avoid it.

The way that I’ve seen that manifest in different spaces is, a good example, the angry Black women and ot wanting to come across that way or be perceived as that so you don’t speak up. You don’t negotiate. You don’t share what you’re thinking because you’re running up against that stereotype and there’s a stereotype threat there so you may find yourself not advocating for yourself.

One of the tools that I try to highlight is—one, if you don’t feel like you can do it for yourself, or if you are a good negotiator, which I hear a lot from a lot of people across every race, ethnicity, gender, age—is, okay, who do you feel comfortable advocating for?

It might be your younger sibling, it might be your parents that you are providing care for. It might be your fur baby. Maybe you are like an advocate for whomever. Maybe culturally or based on whatever societal norms in the space you occupy, it may not be appropriate to be this person.

That’s why this toolkit is giving a variety of different tools for different situations for individuals. So I think part of it is understanding stereotype threats. I think part of it might be understanding trauma, collective trauma, and societal trauma.

When, for example, you see certain things on the news and we as Black might be having a different reaction than everybody else, a situation, for example, with Ralph Yarl when he went to go pick up his brother and he was shot through the door, I remember reading about it, hearing about it, and then having an experience that I didn’t even know what’s going to happen until I was in it where I was trying to drop my son off to a party. I was unfamiliar with the neighborhood and I found myself in a space where I wasn’t sure which house it was, but I didn’t walk to the door and it’s raining.

I’m standing with my youngest son. Rain’s coming down. He’s like, “Mom, I think it’s that one.” I’m like, “Well, I’m not sure. Let me just see if I can figure it out. Let me text the mom.” And he’s like, “Mom, why are we standing here?” It was at that moment that I realized that I was worried about this situation that happened to this young man and not wanting that to happen to my son and me.

Someone might think, “Well, that doesn’t make any sense.” But it does because there’s this collective trauma that I think we have when we see atrocities play out on the news, when we hear these stories, when we know someone that it’s happened to, and how that informs something that might seem like a basic situation, just going up to someone’s house and knocking on the door, how you may have internalized that and not been aware of it.

Another thing that I’ll add to the toolkit that I think I talk about in my book, that is sort of how to process these experiences that are happening and protecting your piece, how to take the time that you need to decide what path you want to take, meaning how you want to respond. Because we also don’t all have the same responses.

Let me be very clear. I say this in the first part of my book, probably in the first two or three pages. I know that Black is not like a monolith. I know that. I know that you heard me say I’m from Washington, DC. I went to Spellman. I went to Howard University. I love my HBCUs, of course, I know that. I know that my experience may be different than yours, Paula.

We may have many things in common. You mentioned you’re half Jamaican. You have the Caribbean aspect too. I have friends from all over the world and we may show up and sit at the table at dinner all looking the same to everyone looking at us at the table, but we may have all had completely different upbringings and experiences and I get that.

That’s why part of it is this is a toolkit for everyone, and if you see yourself in this experience, these are some tools that you can utilize. The last thing I’ll say is cognitive reappraisal. I love cognitive reappraisal as another tool for us because it’s reframing how you see something.

In my book, I talk about a situation where someone was always being asked to get coffee—and it’s a longer story than this. It’s a good story—when they were in a work meeting. It impacted her so much that it was impacting the way she would interact with this other person because they were working together over a long period of time.

She had to reframe how she saw it because she was negotiating and she wasn’t getting some of the terms that she needed because she was so impacted from feeling like she was being asked to do something because she was a Black woman, for example.

It ended up being, “You always take such good care of us. Every time we come here, we know that you think about all the things, the big things, the little things, and that’s why we love coming to your office because we go to other places.”

Their take on it was different. Anyway, cognitive reappraisal, just looking at the situation and reappraising it, reframing it to see it from a different perspective may impact the way you negotiate, the way you communicate, and the way that you navigate that situation, which can be utilized with your loved ones, with anyone.

That’s another tool that I really think is excellent to help not just us, but to help everyone who has been in that situation. The other part of my book on the cover is for anyone who’s been underestimated or misunderstood, negotiation.

Raise your hands if you’ve been misunderstood in a conversation or communication. Raise your hands if you’ve been underestimated. It’s very hard to have a book that sits in business and in personal improvement.

That’s what I wrote, a book that sits in two categories, giving business advice but also what used to be called self-help, personal growth and personal improvement.

Paula Edgar: I love all of that. I think those are such tangible things, that last part in particular cognitive, say it again, cognitive…

Damali Peterman: Reappraisal, there’s cognitive appraisal and cognitive reappraisal. I’m dropping some jewels in this book. I mean, three years, a lot of research, a lot of throwing darts to kind of see what’s hitting the target and not. It was a labor of love.

Paula Edgar: I can’t wait to read it and I can’t wait for everybody else to read it, because I do think that having an understanding of how you navigate into space and having people understand the absolute benefits of being able to know it, like that self-awareness before you go into something.

You said trauma and immediately I was like, “Yes, we’re all in trauma because we’re all are navigating still a pandemic.” That was a traumatic experience that everybody shared, some lesser than others. But we still shared it.

I often lead with trying to have that empathy space because you never know where their space is just because we’ve all been through that but everything else in addition to that is a lot. So I’m glad for that reminder that you gave to all of us.

I want to jump to the fun stuff. You’ve mentioned drumming, you mentioned improv. What is some other or more about the fun stuff that you do when you’re not navigating heavy negotiating cross-border stuff? What are the things that make your heart joyful?

Damali Peterman: That’s a great question. These days, what makes my heart joyful is traveling. I love traveling. I love learning new things about people and about the environment. Going to see the Great Barrier Reef soon. Very excited about that. Also, because we don’t know how much longer it’s going to be there, so I think it’s important to check it out. So travelling.

I love spending time with my boys, my kids. They are so fun and so funny and kids really do say the darndest things. You just never know what they’re going to say and I have to appreciate the fact that I’m raising two negotiators.

When they have good negotiation moves, I’m like, “Ooh, touché. That was good.” You guess, you can have more Fortnite time like that. That was actually pretty good.

Paula Edgar: That is hilarious. I would say I don’t negotiate with children. I’ll make sure he doesn’t get to listen to this podcast. Like, “There’s no negotiation.” I love that.

I ask the same two questions to everybody who comes on my podcast. Part one is this: What is the authentic aspect of your personal, professional brand that you’ll never compromise on? I call it your stand-by your-brand moment.

Damali Peterman: What’s interesting about that question is I feel like the word authentic and authenticity is often used when people say things like, “I’m just telling the truth.” I don’t think that authenticity and telling the truth should negate tact and should negate thoughtfulness because there are many ways to tell someone the truth.

When I was first dating my husband, I made a vegetable lasagna for the first time ever. I had never made a regular meat lasagna. I don’t know what made me think I could make a vegetable lasagna, but you’re young, you’re in love, and you’re trying to impress. I asked him if he liked it.

Now, I didn’t know that eggplant was all watery. I didn’t know all these things. It was all like soupy, it was not a good look. I asked him if he liked it. His answer was, “Well, it’s not my favorite of the things that you’ve made.” “Wow, what a thoughtful way to say this was so bad. I wonder if the carryout—in DC, we say carryout—is still open so that we could go order something or pick something up.” But it was thoughtful and I married him.

You can be authentic and thoughtful in what you say because once you say it, it’s out there. what I stand by in my brand is I really try to be thoughtful and I really want people to be thoughtful even in your authenticity, even if you are speaking your truth, just be thoughtful about it because one, we all evolve.

And what I find so funny is when the internet is like, “Oh, remember the one time you said this or did that? You see all the stars, this happens?” Like this person doesn’t have the space or ability to grow or to evolve. Aren’t we all doing that? Standing by my brand means being thoughtfully authentic.

Paula Edgar: I think that and shout out to everybody who’s ever been on my podcast because I love you, but that’s probably the best answer to this question that I have received thus far because it’s so aligned with what I feel so deeply because I’m authentic at all times.

But I always say there’s a scale of authenticity and you have to understand the context in which you’re trying to be, there’s so much that goes into it. I love that answer.

I remember our general counsel said, “Authenticity is not keeping it real.” I wrote it down, and I was like, “Authenticity is not keeping it real.” It is the how. So I love that answer.

Next question is this: Branding Room Only is a play on standing room only, what is that special skill experience about you, that folks would be in a room with only standing room only to experience about you and how you show up?

Damali Peterman: I am a good listener, Paula. I try to—not when I’m on a podcast because I’m a podcast talking—but I try to listen more than I talk. I have always been a person who prefers to listen more than I talk because when you listen, you learn things. You can hear things that aren’t being said, and you can really take in what’s happening in the environment around you.

Standing room only, I’m going to be there, I’m going to give you all the body language, I’m going to face you, I’m going to focus on you, I’m going to have my phone away, and I’m going to treat the person who’s talking to me like they’re the only person in the room, and they have my undivided attention.

To me, being a good listener and asking thoughtful questions is how lasting relationships are built, on the foundation of trust. People tend to trust you more when they know that they can be themselves, they can speak uninterrupted, and be heard and feel heard by someone else.

Standing room only, I’m going to be there. I’m going to listen. Because I wear many hats, as you said, lawyer, mediator, author, educator, I never know what people, when they’re telling me something, what hat they want me to wear.

I don’t always assume that it’s whatever hat I think I want to wear that day. So listening can help everyone because maybe at that point in time, your significant other just wants to vent. They don’t want you to tell them how to fix it. They want to just vent.

Or maybe someone just wants to get it off their chest, not in a venting way, but they want to get it all out. Then they want you to ask your clarifying questions. If I can give everyone an assignment who’s listening to your amazing podcast—which I’m a big fan of, Paula, and I’ve been a big fan of yours for a long time—is try an exercise where you listen to someone for, pick a period of time, four minutes, one minute, three minutes, and listen, and don’t interrupt them, just listen.

Do it with someone who knows you well and do it with someone who doesn’t know you well. You will know if you’re a good listener because the person who knows you well might be like, “Are you there? You haven’t said anything.” You’ll know if you usually interrupt them. Or you might deal with someone who you don’t know well and they might be like, “Oh, you’re a really good listener.”

They might give you that feedback that validates that you’re doing a good job at listening. I can’t stress enough how important listening is. It’s very important.

Paula Edgar: Listening is key to building your brand because you hear what people are saying about you and to you in a very different way. So I think that’s a perfect way to end the podcast. How can people find you if they want to stay in touch, and learn more about you? Of course, we’re going to tell them how to buy your book.

Damali Peterman: I appreciate that. My website where everything is funneled through is I think all of my social media handles are at @damalipeterman.

Paula Edgar: Fantastic. Thank you for joining me in The Branding Room. Everybody, run and tell your friend who doesn’t listen to this podcast because you know they need to hear it. I’m going to talk to you all soon, bye.