Responding to Objections with Emotional Intelligence
Posted by danspira
The art of handling objections (from co-workers or clients) is kind of like the art of handling questions : First you seek to understand, then you confirm your understanding, then you respond, and if you’re really good (i.e. a media-trained politician), you smoothly link your response to the message that you actually want to deliver.
Objections are different from questions, although the two things often get blended together — questions can be objections in disguise, or vice versa. “Small” objections can be “answered” quickly… we’ve all had the experience of a friend (or even sales person) who recognizes and pushes through our lazy, half-hearted excuse/objection, and manages to get us to go along with their recommendation.
But sometimes our objection is a bit more than half-hearted, and is based on deeper emotional concerns. In that cases, we don’t appreciate it when the other person tries to bully their way through the objection. Not only do they not convince us… they erode our trust.
Here’s a metaphor for handling deeper, emotion-based objections (this assumes you can tell whether an objection is deeply emotion-based… the subject for another post, another day):
When a person — particularly, a client — raises an emotion-based objection to you, it’s as if they have created a divide in the ground between the two of you. If you want to continue working with them, you’ll need to build a bridge across the divide, and carry them over.
The deeper the emotional content of the objection, the deeper the chasm, and the more you need to sit on their side of the divide and acknowledge their objection, before even attempting to respond to it. More resistance requires more empathy.
Once you’ve sufficiently validated their objection, you can respond using terms they understand, and which relate to their values. This is the bridge-building phase… and now begins the slow walk back over the bridge, over the chasm, where your message / proposition is patiently waiting.
Finally, if you do manage to bring them back across the bridge over to your side, don’t refer back to the objection. Keep on moving, don’t look back!