I’ll never forget an experience I had when I was running my advertising agency. I felt we needed a fresh look for our own branding and marketing, and so I called in a designer who had been recommended to me by a colleague. Even before she sat down in my office, she began criticizing almost everything we were doing. According to her, our colors were wrong, our logo wasn’t balanced, our home page didn’t send the right message …
There’s no doubt in my mind that she thought she was being helpful. In fact, she had superb credentials and was obviously extremely talented. But each time she added something to the growing heap of negative criticism, my back got stiffer.
“Surely, we can’t be doing everything that badly,” I thought. “How else could we have achieved this level of success?”
The fact is, no matter how valid her comments were, she gave me no choice but to conclude that she didn’t understand our business and would probably take it in such a drastically different direction that we simply weren’t a good fit.
I politely thanked her for her comments and showed her the door. It wasn’t until later that I realized that the dynamic in the relationship between us is at the heart of all relationships, whether in a sales situation, a team situation within a lab, or between managers and their direct reports. In fact, it even plays a part in the dynamic you have at home with your spouse, kids, and friends.
Do you enjoy being criticized or talking about your weaknesses?
If you’re like most people, the answer to that question is a resounding “No!” None of us does, even when the other person is truly trying to be helpful. And even when we know the other person has valid points, the advice and recommendations are hard to accept if they are critical.
The solution to effectively offering criticism is to seek out the positive in the other person—or in the other person’s position—before making any comments or suggestions. Now, if you think this is manipulative, like all you are doing is “buttering up” the other person, you’d be right if you don’t seek out the positive in an active and genuine way.
That’s the key.
Starting with a genuine appreciation of the positive helps you understand the building blocks of the other person’s success to date, which in turn puts you in a far better position to help them build on that success with your suggestion or recommendation. In fact, your deeper understanding of the foundation you’re building on will undoubtedly help you improve your recommendation.
Starting with a genuine appreciation of the positive also provides the best possible foundation for the relationship you have with the other person.
That’s because our natural programming as human beings is to match the communication of people we want to understand. People who hear us say “yes” are naturally conditioned to say “yes” back to us.
Quite simply, it builds rapport, which in turn makes it much more likely that the other person will treat your ideas with the respect, trust, and appreciation that you deserve.
So, before you “pounce” your brilliant idea on others or talk to people about what they’re doing wrong, begin by asking yourself, “What are they doing right?”
The result may just positively astound you!
Michel Neray has a science degree from University of Waterloo, an MBA from Mc- Gill University, and over 25 years of experience as an advertising copywriter. Michel helps companies dramatically increase their sales and productivity by getting everyone in the organization to rally around and communicate core competitive advantages. He’s married and has three children, two dogs, three snowboards, a white-water canoe, and a black belt in karate. For more information about Michel’s company, visit www.TheEssentialMessage. com.
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