Prior to any contentious conversation your counterparts may prepare to debate or challenge you in an effort to create a perception of leverage. This preparation is typically centered on one or two ideas, comments or issues. Often their entire strategy for the conversation is predicated on their ability to execute these challenges. When you accurately anticipate these challenges, and address them first, you render your counterpart rudderless.
What they think can hurt you may just be what can help you the most. After all a great offense can serve as a great defense. Acknowledging your vulnerabilities at the first possible opportunity shows your counterparts that you are prepared, confident and unfazed by your real, or perceived, weaknesses. It also allows you to seize the strategic advantage by framing these issues ways that benefit you. Furthermore, it demonstrates your authenticity and helps build rapport.
We like to call this approach “Taking bullets out of guns.” You can take away ammunition that you believe may hurt you when you use it first. This approach may seem counter intuitive as many people prefer to steer the dialogue away from their vulnerabilities. Avoiding your vulnerabilities can increase your apprehension, create the perception you were trying to conceal them and allow your counterpart time and frame them in a manner that takes away any strategic advantages.
As an example, start up companies often run into counterparts who will challenge their lack of history. Traditionally a negotiator representing the start up company may work very hard to stress the company’s innovative approach, sterling customer service or unique expertise in an effort to avoid answering concerns about any potential challenges related to the tenure of his company’s existence. Negotiators can change leverage this concern by emphasizing it:
“I’ve previously heard concerns such as ‘How can a company as young as yours compete with established organizations?’ and ‘We’ve never heard of you before?’ Our recent arrival provides us with the freedom to avoid the trappings of precedent while creating innovative solutions for our clients. As an example…”
Don’t hide from your perceived disadvantages. Turn them to your advantage. Prepare for any sales meeting, negotiation, interview or coaching session by taking an honest look at your self, ask “How could my counterpart attack my ideas?” Build your strategy from your answer and take the bullets right out of their guns.
Michael Reddington, CFI is an executive resource, the president of InQuasive, Inc. and the creator of the Disciplined Listening Method. He teaches leaders from all industries and specialties how to apply strategic, ethical persuasion techniques in all of their conversations. To learn more contact Michael directly at +1 (704) 256-7116 or firstname.lastname@example.org.