We’ve all known at least one great diplomat in our lives — you know, the person who can tell you to “go to hell” in such a way you look forward to the trip. It’s an amazing skill and one not easily acquired. But it’s worth pursing, particularly in sales. Why? Because you’re going to meet hundreds of people who are right, even though they’re wrong. You’re going to meet people with chips on their shoulders, anger issues, control issues, and all kinds of personality issues that are going to make it impossible for you to simply tell them the truth and keep their goodwill. For most of us, the art of telling someone they’re wrong, or off base, or even clueless takes a lifetime to acquire. To get started though, start practicing these four things:
- Never take anything personally, even if the person makes it personal. People act on their belief systems just as you act on yours. Set your system aside and try to understand theirs and speak their language where possible.
- Disengage emotionally when you feel yourself needing to defend something, argue or prove you’re right.
- Don’t make assumptions. Clarify why a person said or did what they said or did. Their reasons or rationales will make sense only when they explain them. Most people are doing the best they can with what they know, and who they are, and that includes you.
- Right or wrong, always give people an out, a way to save face and to salvage their pride, dignity and power. Never back anyone into a corner just because you can, or because you think they deserve it. Be the bigger person. Compassion and mercy are never misplaced or misspent.
“If you want to please people who are mistaken, you can’t simply tell the truth. You’re always going to have to add some sort of padding to protect their misconceptions from bumping against reality.” ~Paul Graham