I’d watch hours of wild animal footage in nature documentaries (David Attenborough’s magnetic voice must have something to do with it).
I would pay particular attention to segments about primates… our closest cousins from the depths of the jungle.
You see friend…
You’re still stumbling around in the same “meat wagon” your ancient ancestors crept the jungle in… tossing spears at woolly mammoths to bring home the bacon.
You’re still wired with hunter gatherer DNA down to your core… left unchanged for 200,000 years and counting (facebook barely made a dent in mother nature’s programming) – all to protect you from getting jacked by a jungle cat out looking for a snack.
What does this all mean?
Well… we’re all chasing the same reward chemicals which kicked-in way back then every-time you sunk your teeth into a juicy piece of fire-grilled wild boar after a bountiful hunt with your tribe.
Sure – our phones talk back and some of our cars can drive themselves now…
Yet those are just shiny new tools replacing the staff, bow and arrow, the drawings on the rocks, and the big spiky club in case some a-hole from another cave came looking for trouble.
My point is… we mistake our behavior as “complex” in response to the crazy evolution of our awesome technology.
I mean – as I type this – I have absolutely no idea how these buttons on this computer work, or how my coffee machine spits our a perfect cup every time, or how these words find their way to your screen hundreds (or thousands) of miles away.
Unless of course you’re reading this way the hell into the future and you’re on some Mars colony… In this case, why the hell are you sitting around listening to me ramble? Go expand the human race or something!
One of those “complex” things we’ve managed to consistently muck-up is having a “sensitive” conversation with one another… one where there’s a lot at stake.
I call it “sensitive” because it can easily escalate into a full-blown atom bomb… raining down dark mood-killing ash on you for days on end.
It can be a conversation with a significant other, a business partner, a client, someone of authority, a boss, a close friend, or even a family member.
Here’s how 99% of these usually go:
“What a d*ck!/B*tch!”
“Who does this person think they are? I’ll give them a piece of me!”
“Wow, I can’t believe I ever had sex with this person!”
“This arrogant $#@! thinks he can run my business better than I can huh?”
“It’s always about you isn’t it?”
Sometimes… you also get a bunch of this:
Clothes flying out the window.
Public reputation slamming.
Insults and blown fuses.
There’s also the classic avoidance behavior:
“I’m just not going to bother with this”.
“I don’t give a sh*t anymore”.
“I don’t have time for this crap”.
“It’ll work itself out”.
You get the idea.
We’ve all done it…
It’s hard NOT to.
Here’s the thing…
These are already stressful…
However – they’re even more damaging to you as an entrepreneur.
It’s simple really, if you don’t get good at conversations (especially difficult ones), you’re leaving A LOT of money on the table.
How will you grow your business when your relationship is on the brink of collapse?
How will you pour your heart and soul into your venture when your internal mindset is all out of wack because this one thing is gnawing at you.
How will you influence and connect with awesome people if you have no idea where to begin the conversation?
How will you overcome the energy-sapping darkness of difficult situations? (they can easily turn hostile and take you out of your element)
Plus-and this is the kicker- how will you make more money if you’re botching up your conversations with customers, clients, mentors, and business partners?
The Psychological Trick To Getting What You Want In Any Conversation
Remember when you used to play pretend as a kid?
We still do it on Halloween… actors do it for a living.
The interesting thing is you’ll notice your personality changing based on who you’re playing.
I’m not talking major shifts here… But certain elements of the “character” do seep into your actions subconsciously.
I remember once dressing up as a Zombie Apocalypse survivor for Halloween… and all I did the entire night was be suspicious of everyone (for no reason at all!)
Ever hear about the Stanford Prison Experiment?
They gathered a bunch of students and split them up into guards and prisoners for social research…
Long story short… the students took on their “actor” roles too seriously, and the whole thing got out of hand and people got hurt… forcing the researchers to immediately abort the experiment.
This shift in “character” is precisely what you’ll require for conquering sensitive conversations in your business and personal life.
Most of us (including yours truly) are on auto-pilot during an important conversation… unless we consciously DECIDE not to zombie through the whole thing.
Strong (sometimes overwhelming) emotions start to control our actions.
Actions we’ll likely regret after “cooling-off” (Ever go off on an angry rant and post it somewhere public only to wake up the next day wishing you never did?)
The reason things go horribly wrong so quickly is because our brains are LOADED with stories.
Stories about us, the world, people in general, and especially ones about the person sitting across from us.
These stories light our brains up as fast as lightning… it’s how we observe the world around us to make quick sense of it and to stay alive.
This observation triggers a story… which sparks an emotion. This emotion then guides an action.
You can see how this is problematic: we’re enslaved by emotions triggered by stories which MAY or MAY NOT be true!
So, why do we do this to ourselves?
Well, it’s not exactly your fault.
A cocktail of survival instinct, social conditioning, fear of change, a dash of insecurity, and some good ol’ ego all kick-in thinking it’s saving the day on your behalf.
However, we don’t want this knee-jerk reaction to keep us away from more money, more success, and more profitable relationships now do we?
In a nutshell, when you react this way… you’re saying to the other person: “what about me?”
The 3 Words “What about me?” make up the one sentence turning all of your conversations sour, leaving money on the table, and killing your profitable connections.
“What about me?” is the classic cry of the ego…
It prevents us from finding common ground with people. It prevents us from recognizing basic humanity in others.
When you approach a conversation with this mentality… your body language, mindset, and “vibe” are all perceived from the selfish perspective of “what’s in it for me?”
We want to change this to “How can we conquer this together?”
This is the “character shift” I mentioned earlier.
We want to detach, or “zoom out” from the entire conversation for a moment, and focus not on ourselves, but on the other person.
Oh I know I know…
It’s really hard to put aside our wants, dreams, desires, and god knows what else and focus on the other person for a minute.
The magic in this approach is… what ever you think you’re “giving up” to make this conversation work, will come back to you bigger than ever.
Here’s what happens when you detach, place your focus on the other person for a second, and start asking yourself “What do I REALLY want here?”
You start to…. (gasp) LISTEN!
If you ask any top-notch doctor with a steady flow of patients (as opposed to the one who can barely book one check-up) what their secret is… they’ll tell you they just listen to their patients…. so they keep coming back and even refer friends and family.
When you shift your conversational mindset from “what about me?” to “let me listen to this person and see where we can find some common ground to work with”… Cool things start to happen.
You jump-start your creativity to come up with new solutions.
For example… suppose you’re sitting down to discuss an important business decision with a partner (with a lot of money on the line) where both of you have completely different angles for getting things done.
This qualifies as a sensitive conversation… because it can easily escalate into a full blown disagreement, and worse – an end to your partnership. It happens all the time.
Here’s what usually goes down…
You want to go with solution A, your partner wants B.
You both explain why your way is better… and one of two things happens next:
1. You’re not buying the other guy’s solution… instead you butt-heads and say “screw this, I’m out”.
2. One of you goes silent (feeling unheard and disrespected), the other goes aggressive… and no decision is made in the end. Your Business screeches to a halt.
Here’s a better way to go about this….
Detach from the story you have in your head about the other person and their idea for a moment.
Go on a fact-gathering mission instead…
Then make-up a new story based on the facts you just gathered from both parties.
You do this by replacing “What about me?” with… L-I-S-T-E-N.
Once you both have your facts straight and make up a new story together… brainstorm a new solution C.
Solution C will have elements of both of your initial ideas (A & B)… and is likely light-years ahead of what you both had going in.
Now here’s where the magic happens…
Because you took the initiative to LISTEN to the other person… it’ll trigger reciprocity (I scratch your back, you scratch mine), which is hard-wired in all of us through millennia of tribal life, and they’ll gladly want to repay the favor to help you get what you want.
This is why you always feel “indebted” to someone who does you a favor… even if they ask for nothing in return!
Now here’s exactly…
How To Have A Deal-closing Conversation And Walk Away With What You Want
1. Establish mutual respect and safety to open the door for discussion.
No insults, throwing of objects, or unnecessary aggression.
2.Park your initial stories about the other person on the bench… and gather only the facts.
You can easily do this by asking (in a calm respectful tone): “Based on what I’ve seen in XYZ… I’m getting the feeling you’re not interested in [……], is this true?”
This will get the dialog going in the right direction where you both exchange facts and toss out the old made-up stories.
3. Based on the mutual fact-gathering mission… brainstorm a new solution.
Even if you don’t come up with something right away… you’ve still made BIG progress by opening the conversation up for different ideas to flow and triggering reciprocity.
4. Revisit the conversation a few days later if you hit a brick-wall… meanwhile your subconscious wheels will start turning to find a win-win solution behind the scenes.
Let me clear up a massive misconception about taking this approach when it comes to sensitive conversations.
Some people have the wrong impression this makes them appear “weak” or “spineless”. This could not be farther from the truth.
Detaching, controlling one’s emotions, listening, and focusing on the other person are NOT easy to do.
It’s waaaaay easier to blow a gasket and say “the hell with this”…
The idea is: be firm without being confrontational. Mutual respect is always maintained this way.
Make no mistake, people will always respect those who keep their cool in tough situations… and it opens up the door for a win-win conversation in the end.
At this point you’re probably saying “Well, Max, this is great and all if both parties are reasonable people who actually WANT to engage in dialog… the reality is most people don’t.”
I’m not going to bullsh*t you here…
You’re absolutely right!
Here’s the cold hard truth: If the other person doesn’t want any dialog to begin with, nothing you can say or do will change their mind.
But here’s another (more positive) truth to get over this hump:
The fact you took the first step to start a conversation (even if it fails at first) shows the other person you respect them and genuinely want to find a win-win solution.
You’ll find if you give them some space… they’ll either approach you themselves, or you’ll find a future attempt at a conversation surprisingly easy.
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