Friday, December 14, 2007

Whine Power

When it comes to persuasion and the arts of influence, your primary gift is your voice. Surely there are other techniques that sophisticated and experienced people use, but by far, it's the voice.

Not only do we communicate multiple layers of information with our words, but there is a tremendous amount of additional impact in our tones, our pitch, and our pacing. You can certainly read more about how to use tone and pacing in my other writings; in this post I want to talk about whining. Specifically how you can use the power of the whine to overcome obstacles.

The obstacles that whining is great for removing are objections. Objections are the reasons we give to justify our movement or lack of movement. They answer the question "Why could/should/would we do. . ." or "Why we can't/won't do. . ."

Objections are a natural and necessary part of any negotiation. During the persuasion process you either overcome them and achieve influence, or you don't. Whether you succeed or not, objections can provide a ton of information about the person objecting. You can find out about their needs and motivations, their discovery and planning processes, and so much more. I'll save decoding objections for another post.

Handling obstacles before you encounter them is a great way to smooth the way for your negotiation. Whining is a great way to deal with them before they ever become a problem.

If you want to be able to address objections before they are presented, you first have to forecast what the likely objections might be. There are many ways to figure these out but generally playing devil's advocate for your discussion or running a practice negotiation with a friend beforehand are great ways to discover possible objections.

Once you've predicted the obstacle, you can disarm it by using the power of the whine. As part of laying out your discussion, present the obstacle with a whiny, annoying voice. You can play it for comedic effect, use hand-gestures, and really get into it. The more whiny and annoying it is, the better. No one wants to be associated with such pitiful tonality and obnoxious behavior. So instinctively they will distance themselves from the objection.

For example, work into the discussion about price "Some people say It's Too Expensive!" and whine obnoxiously on the italics. The same can be done for other common objections like I'm Too Busy, or I've Never Done That Before.

For maximum effect, put the whiny bits into a larger sentence with a positive outtake. Such as "Sometimes people say: Doesn't That Require Specialized Knowledge, but the training in our class is open to everyone including beginners!". Having a positive outcome doesn't just push them away from the objection, it gives them something to hold onto so they work with you to convince themselves.

Next time you need to be persuasive, put the power of whining to work for you.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Where's Your Elephant?

The following is a great story sent to me by a friend on the importance of not making assumptions. I have no idea of the original source...
In 1986, Mike Membre was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Northwestern University.

On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air. The elephant seemed distressed, so Membre approached it very carefully.

He got down on one knee and inspected the elephant's foot and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it. As carefully and as gently as he could, Membre worked the wood out with his hunting knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot.

The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments. Membre stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away. Membre never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.

Twenty years later, Membre was walking through the Chicago Zoo with his teenaged son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Membre and his son Cantri were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Membre, lifted its front foot off the ground, then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man. Remembering the encounter in 1986, Membre couldn't help wondering if this was the same elephant.

Membre summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder. The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Membre' s legs and raised him high into the air then slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.

Probably wasn't the same elephant.

Funny but poignant. I sit at my desk listening to conversations every day watching people walk up to their own elephants with nothing more than a vague hope or some wishful thinking. Sometimes I catch them in time. Most of the time I don't. It's a great show though.