How to eliminate pushback in conversations

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Why do people push back in some conversations?

Could it be because:

  1. They’re trying to protect themselves (and protect what they currently believe)?
  2. You gave them something to push back on?

If so, how could you eliminate pushback when talking to others?

This works…

What if you tried doing the following in your own words and in your own style?

1.After introducing yourself like a pro, reassure them that they are in charge – that ultimately the decision and how they make it lies with them (they like hearing and knowing that).

2.Clarify that your intent is to understand them and then help them think things through and make the right decision.

3.Eliminate saying anything that they can push back on. Just ask intelligent and relevant questions that get them to do the talking such as:

  • what’s happened?
  • where are they at?
  • what do they want?
  • why?
  • what would it mean to them to achieve that (and what they’d avoid)?
  • what’s stopping them?
  • what’s most important about this, and what else?
  • what are their current options?
  • what’s good and not so good about their options?
  • what’s the impact of their alternative options on their resources?
  • who else gets impacted? How? What do they want?
  • how do they think things should progress from here?

…and occasionally repeat back to them in their words some of the key things they say. How could they push back on the things they just said?

4.Listen intently, seek to understand and keep drawing more out of them until they feel ‘empty’ on the relevant issues (or ‘empty enough’ given the context and time constraints). Listen for words, meaning, feelings and ‘hot buttons’. And listen extra hard at the things you can sense but can’t hear.

5.Continue to give them absolutely nothing to push back on by summarising or paraphrasing their key (especially emotional) points. If you get this right (because you listened, because you cared about getting it right) then, once again, how can they push back?

6.By this point, they’re probably finding you and your approach quite unique and appealing. They probably wouldn’t even want to push back on you now, since they feel no resistance and you’re one of the rare people who understand them and their feelings. Maybe you’re worth listening to? Maybe you can add some value?

So you could help them consider some of your suggestions now, either via more questions that shift their perspective or frame of reference (“have you thought about it from this angle?” “have you looked at the impact of this yet on xyz?), or by now you can ask for their permission to share some direct thoughts with them.

If you have their permission, how can they push back when you say to them, “given where you’re at, you could approach it the way you’ve said, but in my experience, there’s a more effective way that people in your position have had great success with. Would you like to learn more about that?” How do you think they would respond to an option like that?

7.As you steer towards a decision, ask them to consider their options and which makes the most sense to them. Ask them how they’d like to move things forwards (since as you said at the start, they are in charge).

That’s pretty much it. On paper.

What do you think they could push back on using this approach?

Use it anywhere

This works making deals with external customers in business, it works when negotiating or collaborating with internal colleagues, and it works like a charm when trying to get your kids to calm down and move forwards when their patience has momentarily gone. (It works for when grown-ups ‘throw their toys out the pram’ too).

Let them do the work. Let them talk and think. All you have to do is draw their thoughts and feelings out of them. And then once they feel a bit better after off-loading, help them rearrange their thoughts more constructively to move forwards.

They talk. They think. Then they listen, they decide and they choose how to move forwards.

What if your team talked to your customers and colleagues like this?

I’ve written it out as a conversational process. That’s because a written process or framework is easier for you to learn. But don’t forget that in reality it’s a mindset, a skill and a habit to practice, refine and enjoy.

Anyone can learn it, but it won’t happen overnight. If you want support for you or your team to embed such conversational skills so that you can enjoy the rewarding outcomes they lead to, give me a shout here.

If you’re serious about building such capabilities, I can either coach or train you up (or rather help you to learn and acquire these rewarding habits) or provide ways for you to train yourselves ‘out the box’. Contact me here.

Please share if you think others will find it useful.

And if you want me to cover tips on any particular topic or question, let me know here. I’m not a static page! I’m a person who wants to help you to make a difference.

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