I’m sure by now many of you have read the open letter to Apple Taylor Swift posted on tumblr this past weekend. If you haven’t read it, basically she confronted Apple on their decision to provide their new music streaming service for free to customers for the first three months—without compensating the artists.
I have to admit: I’m a huge fan of Taylor. And seeing this post only grew my affection for her. Not only do I think it’s a worthy cause, the way she went about it was just plain classy and effective.
In fact, it was so effective, Apple officially announced their plan to change their policy.
Her blog post got her exactly what she wanted.
Which got me thinking.
There have been many times in life when I’ve wanted something, or been frustrated with the way someone was doing something, and confronting them on it has gotten me exactly the opposite of what I wanted.
Instead of changing their mind, my attempts made them angry or caused them to dig their heels in.
And yet everyone I know who read Taylor’s blog post (including Apple, it seems) stopped. They listened. And ultimately, we all responded with a big fat round of applause.
Well… putting her huge platform and the worthy cause aside, I would argue there were three main reasons.
Here is what I think we can learn from Taylor Swift.
She focused on the problem at hand, not Apple’s identity.
So often when we confront someone about something they’ve done to upset us, we say things like, “I can’t believe you would do something like that” or “What kind of person…?”
I’ve been guilty of this. But Taylor takes a different approach.
She actually affirms Apple’s identity, saying, “Apple has been and will continue to be one of my best partners in selling music…” She calls them a “progressive and generous company”.
She then goes on to share her concerns. She presents her case rationally and simply. “Three months is a long time to go unpaid and it is unfair to ask anyone to work for free.”
She avoids the temptation we all have when we’re upset to exaggerate facts or lash out in anger. She simply states what is happening and shares why it’s upsetting to her.
This is brilliant in my opinion. And classy.
Not to mention, it’s a great way to get to the end result you’re looking for—much more than my usual tendency to overflow with accusations and exaggerated claims in my frustration or anger.
We can take a note from Taylor here and the next time we’re upset about something, separate the person (or the company) from the problem at hand. “You’re such a generous person… but this decision you made doesn’t feel generous to me…” We’re much more likely to get what we want this way.
She shared her thoughts and feelings but didn’t make it about her.
Taylor came right out and said, “This is not about me. Thankfully I am on my fifth album and I can support myself, my band, my crew and entire management team by playing live shows. This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success…”
Not only does this answer a potential objection some people will have to someone with Taylor’s privilege complaining about royalties, it is also a brilliant move to elevate the outcome over her own feelings.
So often, when we enter into a conflict, we let our feelings get in the way of the outcome. So much so that we forget what we even want the outcome to be. Think about the last time you had an argument with a friend or with your spouse.
Isn’t it easy to put winning above what you really want?
In fact, it works best when we elevate others above us, and when we use whatever “privilege” we’ve been blessed with to honor the whole.
She acknowledges their desired outcome and offers a new suggestion.
This is a negotiation tactic I learned in a book called Getting to Yes—but honestly, I’m still not that good at it. Taylor rocks it here. Rather than setting herself against Apple, Taylor acknowledges the positive goal of the company as a whole. She says, “I realize that Apple is working towards a goal of paid streaming. I think that is beautiful progress.”
Then she offers an alternate solution in which everyone gets what they want.
Apple wants to offer a platform for paid streaming. Artists want to be paid for their work.
Taylor says, “It’s not too late to change your mind…” She makes a big ask, suggesting they go ahead and offer their streaming service for free for the first few months, but still pay the artists for their work.
The most amazing part of all of this is, Apple says yes. It’s a huge ask. But Apple does it—in large part, I believe because of the way Taylor asks.
Yes, she has a huge platform, millions of followers around the world who love her and listen to what she says. Yes, a huge part of Apple’s revenue will come from her music on their streaming service. So yes, she has power. I applaud her for using the power she has for good.
Let’s take a lesson from Taylor Swift.