Responding to Objections with Emotional Intelligence


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!


About danspira

My blog is at: My face in real life appears at a higher resolution, although I do feel pixelated sometimes.

Posted on December 8, 2009, in Communication Skills, Metaphors, Sales. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. what i’m interested in is, how to react, when this process gets applied on us (ex: salespeople visiting my office)

    i see them validating me all the time.. making an effort to express that they understood my concerns… and i can’t help but respond to them “i really appreciate that you’re trying to make me feel better by validating my concerns, but i would rather you really told me what’s on your mind without the sugarcoating.”

    my point being, are all clients similar? that we can refer to them as “the client” entity (that by definition always behaves a certain way).. therefore reacting positively to the specific stimuli that “the client” is meant to respond to in a specific context?

    what do you do in situations where the client has a stronger mastery of interpersonal skills than you? would it offend them to use tricks they see right past?

    (true questions.. not rhetorical)

  2. All very good questions, not sure I can properly respond to them all in one fell swoop, but for starters, it sounds like you’ve encountered some salespeople who didn’t appreciate the depth of your attitude and wariness towards their “pitch!” Or maybe just clumsy salespeople?

    Yes, bridging the emotional gap doesn’t have to be all lovey-dovey sugarcoated… you can bridge it using succinct, direct language. A common example of this is when “things go wrong” in a customer relationship. Often all the customer wants is a simple admission of fault and sincere offer to fix things. That’s what I call firmly standing on the other side of the chasm.

    As for clients that have stronger interpersonal skills that I do, well, I just try to be myself and hang on to the ride as best I can… 🙂

    Not sure I answered your questions very well, though… wdyt?

  3. “Not sure I answered your questions very well, though… wdyt?”

    lol “hmmm and what do YOU think?”

    i think i would do the same.. just be myself, cut the fake, and enjoy the ride. in fact, that’s what i do no matter what the knowledge level of my client is.

    sure, i adjust my vocabulary to his. but without overdoing it. (pisses me off when people use dental similis to describe something from their own field.. it clearly sends a message that i know nothing BUT my field.. “no asshole, it’s NOT like pulling a tooth. how about you explain it to me again using words like pistons, fuse and radiator?”)

    i still believe the best form of handing public communication is staying as transparent as possible. keeping our words as true as possible to the way we feel. people can feel that. they can sense the passion, the level of belief in your words.

  4. LOL on the “it’s like pulling a tooth” story! I may have to use that sometime.

    Disagree somewhat on the matching words to feelings concept… I believe that we can modulate and modify our own feelings simply by the words we choose… so we can choose to amplify our mood (work ourselves up, dig in our heels, etc.) or moderate our mood (chill out, open ourselves to reconsideration, etc.), depending on what the situation calls for. Otherwise, we’re absolving ourselves of responsibility for the outcome of our communication.

    Ya know, recently I read (forget where) something along the lines of, “Underneath every cynic is an idealist who made the mistake of caring too much.”

    I’m just sayin’…

  5. meditate on the whole emotions/words/control/honesty/impressions issue, i must.

    my gut tells brain convo is of lower strength than heart convo.

    but you make some good points (influence on words one motions)

    lol@cynic.. dont believe everything u read!!! 😉

Leave a Reply -- for humans only, no spambots

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: