A few months back Aaron and I had been talking about going to the grocery store. He was eager for me to go as he needed supplies for dinner, and I well, I just didn’t feel like going. So, I was dragging my feet a bit, playing with Weston, doing this, doing that, anything but going to the grocery store. Then he had a stroke of genius, as he often does, and came downstairs to find me procrastinating still and said, “Hey, I was wondering if you’d like to go to the grocery store now as it probably won’t be busy and they’re usually putting out their samples around this time?” I got up, well aware of his genius move, laughed at the fact that it had worked despite my awareness, and went on my way to the grocery store.
Talk in Terms of the Other Person’s Interests
See over the years of being married to Aaron, I’ve talked pretty frequently about Dale Carnegie with him. I love Dale’s principles, his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, the courses, pretty much everything that he did – so much in fact that I even worked at Dale Carnegie for awhile And while I think pretty much everything he said was ingenious, probably the most effective and widely applicable principle is “Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.” So much so that even when you’re fully aware that someone is trying to go “Dale Carnegie” on you, you simply think to yourself, “Hmm, good point!” and are then motivated to take action.
Like I said, I really didn’t want to go the grocery store. And, despite the fact that he had asked me a number of times, I just kept saying, “Ok, I’ll go, I’ll go.” but then not moving. Naturally, he became frustrated as he realized the approach was ineffective. Rather than continuing to push me to go though, he realized, “hmm, rather than telling her why I need her to go, let’s see how I can get her to want to go,” which he did by saying that the grocery store would be empty and I could get free food.
Now why is this so effective? And why am I willing to share my embarrassing story of laziness with you? Well because learning this principle, and how to apply it, is extremely helpful in just about everything you do, personal, business, or otherwise.
I Hate That Idea
The thing is, people are naturally motivated by what they want. So, typically when we try to get someone to do something, we talk about that in terms of what we want, need, or find important. We all do. It’s our natural default. But the thing is, well, it’s just not that effective, and in certain situations, insensitive.
Let’s look at another situation – one that you may run into as a designer. Your client has said they want everything in their home to be “Tuscan” and you think, “uhh, that’s not a good idea. I not only hate the Tuscan look, but I also know that that look will become quickly dated (actually, already is dated) and at some point could even keep them from selling their house for a good price. So, I need to change their mind and redirect them. But how?”
Well, you could take it from the direction of you don’t like it, or even that you think that the house will look quickly dated, but those options really aren’t going to be effective. They also can be seen as a bit insulting. However, if you take it from the angle of knowing that they don’t want to spend money on a design again for a very long time, which they already stated to you, now you have a real chance of changing their mind.
Here’s the difference in how those two responses might sound. Option one where you state only what you want or think, “Well, you know, the Tuscan trend has really come and gone and would make your house look pretty dated pretty fast. It wouldn’t really be worth your investment, and I wouldn’t recommend it.” It comes across as slightly offensive and insensitive, and the only mention of how it benefits the client is that it wouldn’t be worth their investment.
Now let’s try that again with the principle “Talk in terms of the other person’s interests” in mind. “Ok, wonderful! So what’s your favorite part of the Tuscan trend? The colors, the cozy feeling, the “Earthy” look? That way I know where to really put the design focus.” Then they share that they love the colors, the browns especially. Your response to that? “Great! Brown is such a versatile color and has so many tones that we can work with. And as you shared that you want a classic design that won’t have to be changed anytime soon, even if you decide to sell, I’d recommend mixing in some creamy colors with the browns so we can give you the Tuscan design you love, while also giving you the classic look that you want.”
See the difference? Now which option do you think is both more likely to change the client’s mind, and also less offensive? Clearly, option 2. However so often our inclination is to say something closer to option 1. We don’t like the Tuscan trend. We don’t think it’s a good idea, and we don’t want to design a space in that vein. It’s all about what we want.
But here’s the thing, the client doesn’t care about what you want. They care about what they want. All clients do. Every person does. And when that person is giving you money to do what they want, then they really really expect you to not only give them what they want, but to also talk about what they want.
Lead Them to the Right Destination
The challenge though comes in when you know that giving them what they want, is a bad idea. When what they want is a bad idea, and you know that in the end it’ll cause them to be unhappy, well, that’s when you need to get creative.
That’s when you need to link up what they say they want, with what you know is a good idea and will actually benefit them in the end. You need to lead them down a path that moves them from point A, where they are now, to point B, where they need to go. And that path is “talking in terms of the other person’s interests.”
See if Aaron had kept on going in the same vein that he had been before of “Ashley, I need you to go to the grocery store” “Ashley we need the stuff from the grocery store” “Ashley, when are you going to the grocery store?” we both would have just gotten more frustrated. He’s not getting what he wants, and I’m getting irritated that he keeps asking me. But, as soon as he turned it around to, “Hey, I was wondering if you’d like to go to the grocery store now as it probably won’t be busy and they’re usually putting out their samples around this time?” I could see why I should go to the store and was excited to do so, without frustration or resentment building up on either side.
Humans Aren’t Perfect, So Our Words Need to Work Around That
The fact of the matter is, unfortunately, we’re all motivated by what we want. Admittedly, I should have gone to the grocery store when Aaron had first asked me. But, I didn’t. I’m not perfect. I really don’t like grocery shopping (it always seems to take foreverrrr…..). And, it wasn’t an emergency situation. So, I procrastinated. However, as soon as Aaron moved the statement from what he wanted, to what he knew I wanted, then, I was motivated to get a move on.
Your clients are the same. They’re not motivated by what you want. They’re motivated by what they want. They’re working with you and keeping their best interests in mind, at all times. So link up with that, make a connection with that, and work with that.
Realize that clients are understandably thinking of everything from their perspective at every turn as, well, it is their home, their money, and their project. So the next time you can see that in order for your client to be happy and well served they actually need to be motivated to change or take action, well, remember me. Remember my procrastination, my eagerness for free samples, and my willingness to change when they were mentioned to me. Remember that and ask yourself, “What does this client want out of this project? And how can I connect their interests to what I need them to do?” And when you do, you can both get what you want, a jaw dropping space, without any of the needless frustrations.
Let me know in the comments below, do you struggle with getting clients to change their minds, even when you know it’s in their best interest?
And if you’re ready to learn even more about how to effectively communicate with your clients throughout the entire project, you can learn how to do just that here!