Monday, June 28, 2010

Avoid Conflict with Conversational Judo

The Japanese say: "Once you lose your temper, you've invariably lost [the conflict]."

Recall a lousy customer service experience.  You felt disrespected and powerless.  Maybe you responded by walking away in disgust or slamming down the phone vowing never to buy from that merchant again. But you lost your cool without resolving the matter and that still nags at you.   Plus you still feel aggrieved.  You could exact revenge - maybe by warning others of your experience - but retribution is cold comfort indeed.  Instead, why not keep your cool and get what you want?

The next time you're confronted with an inflexible person, don't get angry and make a rash decision.  Use conversational judo to reframe the conflict.  Invite them to solve their own problem.

As in the last post, asking "Is there anything I can do or say..." invites your opponent to sit on the same side of the table.  For instance, let's consider a clerk who is being inflexible about store policy and you're at your wits' end about to walk out.  What would happen if you ask "Before I leave, is there anything I can do or say... to get you to help me?"   By doing this, you put the burden back on him to resolve the problem by reminding him it's his job to render assistance.  You do this avoiding confrontation which allows you both to keep calm.

The more closely the other party identifies with the premise of your request, the more effectively this technique will accomplish your goal. If it resonates with them (in this example, if they sincerely believe their job is to help customers) they'll be inclined toward resolution. 
By reframing the disagreement, you put them in the position of either granting your request or acting contrary to their self-image.  Most people will maintain their self-image in lieu of their need to win.  And because you check your ego and ask for help instead of demand action - you substitute cooperation for confrontation

By setting forth a mutual goal of resolution, you welcome the other party to participate in the process.  Once you've communicated the appropriate objective, you can be the passenger, not the driver.  This allows you to conserve your energy. 

Then if the other person remains inflexible or becomes emotional, calmly choose how to respond later or deal with someone else.

Are you worried your prices are too high?  In the next entry I'll explain why they are probably too low.  And in a later post I share the Grandfather Discount, an ingenious way to raise prices without raising your customers' hackles.  I appreciate your questions and comments letting me know how these techniques are working for you.  Until then, 

profitable business All!


  1. Nice post, "I believe that the moment someone loses their temper in public or in the business world is the moment that they have lost whatever is at stake"

  2. This post recommends an approach that is contrary to the normal "butt heads" approach, where the end result is almost invariably frustration or, worse, anger. This certainly seems like a much better approach! After all, what does one have to lose but frustration?


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