Dale Carnegie wrote a great book – well, at least I think it’s a great book; I’ve read the first half of the book four times, but have yet to finish it. How to Win Friends and Influence People has stood the test of time. Recently I have wanted to give this book to a few people after observing their methods of getting what they want.
People don’t care what you want, they care about what they want, whether it’s your team, a customer service representative on the phone, or your neighbor. If we are not selfish people, we actually do care what other people want to a degree. However, when looking from a 50,000 foot perspective over time, we move through life with significant focus on ourselves. Some are better at moving the focus off themselves onto others, but that is not the focus of this post. For a moment, assume that to some degree, people do engage in self-focus.
Knowing this, it’s important to change the way you approach people when you are trying to elicit action from them. These tips can help you better frame your requests.
Understand people want to know what’s in it for them. People have many demands on their time. High-performing people often feel like everyone wants a piece of them. Your need or want is just one more request on the endless pile of requests. To grab their attention, frame your request showing how this could help them too. Sometimes this is not something tangible: it may be goodwill, it may be your indebtedness, etc. However, you can frequently tie it to something tangible. My husband was having an issue with an order manager following protocol, which resulted in the order manager relying on false information. Rather than saying, “You know the rules, follow them,” he explained how the information the order manager uses is generated, and by following the process, the order manager would have better information to take back to their customer, therefore reducing any chance of over-promising and under-delivering. Ultimately, if the order manager followed the rules, it would make them look good.
Find common ground in order to connect with them. People want to know you don’t view them as an order-taker, especially those in the customer service industry. When you find a way to connect with them, it makes them feel more valued and willing to work with you. Recently I had to push back on a company, and when I called, I tried to be empathetic with the sales representative. I told him I understood that he didn’t create the issue and that it must be tough to get people like me calling every day. I told him I appreciated him listening to my situation. After this we were soon laughing together. If you can laugh together, then you really start knocking down the barriers. Find ways to show the person you are in this together.
Remember to always chose honey over vinegar. I worked in the customer service industry and have probably heard it all. I noticed the customers who were nice to the employees often got a more favorable outcome than the ones who yelled and were nasty. The nice ones weren’t necessarily pushovers, but they focused on working towards an outcome that everyone could agree on. The employees tended to hold their ground more with the nasty customers. When you are trying to negotiate or work towards an outcome, illustrate to the person you are focused on how to arrive at the end result in a positive manner.
Emotional pleas don’t work in the long run. Stick to the facts. Emotional pleas may work from time to time, but over time it’s viewed as drama. Lay out the facts and present the case. Inevitably your request will be heard with more consideration.
Avoid threats. Threatening people engages the fight-or-flight responses and releases chemicals in their brain that literally makes the finer mental processing harder. This is why when we are embarrassed, we turn red and sometimes are at a loss for words. The chemicals are flooding our brains, telling us to get out of the situation (or to fight back). When you threaten someone, it only escalates the situation. There is a time and place for laying out consequences, but it shouldn’t be done in a threatening way. For instance, a friend was once charged a cancellation fee for a service. They had a four-day window that allowed cancellation without being charged a fee. She cancelled within the window and was shocked when she got a bill. After calling, they wanted to see proof of her cancellation. She didn’t have any. It was a web form sent via their site. She exchanged a few calls with them, trying to work it out, but they still insisted she owed them $100. Finally, she called them and re-explained the situation. She told them she felt they were at an impasse and that she truly believed she didn’t owe them the money. She then asked if they could direct her to the name of who would be handling the small claims case so she could work out the particulars with them. The fee was waived. I’m not suggesting here that you threaten lawsuits to get your way; however, she honestly didn’t feel she owed them anything, and their next step would be to send to collections. She wanted to get in front of the situation before it escalated. When she made her request, she didn’t use any threats. She stated what her next step would be and asked to talk to the appropriate person. If she had been passed on to an attorney, she could have used the first suggestion and showed how they would both be better off and save the costs of collections and potentially court cases if they would waive the fee. If she had threatened the customer service representative, they would have most likely become an artificial barrier to her desired outcome.
Express your gratitude. Always say, “Thank you,” and let the person know you appreciate the support and help. People like to know they made a difference, and the best way to illustrate that is to say it!
Make their life easier. Is there a way to make their piece of the effort as easy as possible? For instance, in my world the functional manager is responsible for assigning resource allocations to my project. And while I can’t do this for them, I do take their estimates, input them into the project schedule, and send the managers an excel spreadsheet with my desired allocations. This saves them the time from having to determine what levels the allocations should be each month for each resource. Patty Azzarello had a great webinar on gaining buy-in from teams using this method.
Using these techniques can help you achieve more effective results. For those you have authority over, you will gain buy-in from the team because you aren’t decreeing tasks to them. For those who you are influencing, you will have better odds of gaining their support because they feel they are getting something out of it as well. While we may have the right to say whatever is on our mind and allow our emotional state to influence our communication, I would say that you will have much better results if you think about others and the impact you have on them while you are working towards your goals.
Jana Axline is president and leadership coach at Axline Solutions. Through her leadership musings she hopes to inspire audiences to grow as leaders and ultimately achieve who they were created to be. For more information visit Axline Solutions.