What is the #1 Thing Human Beings Look for in a Conversation With Anyone?

So you are talking to a prospect about, say, an annuity product. The conversation goes something like this:

  • You:  “Mr. Prospect, you may want to consider an annuity as part of your investment mix.”
  • Prospect: “An annuity?!  I just read those are terrible investments.  Why would you recommend that?”
  • You: “They are NOT terrible investments. Where did you read that?”
  • Prospect: “I don’t remember, but they said annuities came with higher fees and more risk than people think. Are you going for fees on this?”

OK . . . let’s stop the tape for a moment. Do you see where this is heading . . . the conversation is quickly turning confrontational with the potential of even getting hostile.  Here is how a psychologist would handle this situation using a very simple but powerful technique called “validation.”

  • You: “Mr. Prospect, you may want to consider an annuity as part of your investment mix.”
  • Prospect: “An annuity?! I just read those are terrible investments. Why would you recommend that?”
  • You: (Validating):  “Wow, you obviously have some strong feelings about this. I respect that and I am glad you have done some research.  However, we may not be talking about exactly the same things. Should we compare notes?”
  • Prospect: “What did you have in mind?”

Do you see the difference in the conversations? The first one is confrontational and quickly moving to hostile. The second one uses a technique psychologists teach in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, often within families who struggle with communication. It is based on the theory that all people have a valid point-of-view based upon what they know and believe at that moment in their lives, and while we may not agree with it, we should validate their feelings, as they should ours, as opposed to immediately trying to devalue their positions. Then, having established basic understanding and mutual respect at the beginning of the conversation, we can move forward in a much more productive and natural way toward reaching mutual understanding and, if appropriate, compromise.

Validation is an incredibly powerful concept and mastering it as a consistent way of communicating with others can be a life changing experience. And when it comes to building professional relationships and selling as a profession, there is simply not a more important dynamic to practice and understand.

Remember, you do not have to agree with someone to validate his feelings. But you do have to establish your acknowledgement that he has a right to his opinion and that he probably feels as strongly about it as you do about yours. When you apply such “validation,” the emotional doors open toward establishing a positive and likely productive dialogue and relationship going forward.

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