Four Words that Get Buy-In from Even the Most Resistant Employees – Part One

I’m often told by well-meaning clients, “Our employees are going to be a very difficult crowd for you. They hate listening to speakers. So expect lots of eye rolls, crossed arms, and virtually zero participation. Don’t take it personally, they’re just mad they have to come in on a Saturday.”

In fact, this happened again just a few weeks ago. I was “warned” by the client, I delivered my presentation, and then the person who warned me had their jaw on the floor when his “terrible and resistant” staff was suddenly engaged, laughing, participating, taking notes, and completely “buying in” to what I was saying.

He said, “How come they ignore me and everyone else when we tell them the SAME EXACT THINGS that you told them today?”

That’s a good point. Sometimes your message is right on. Sometimes you’ve just got to change the messenger. Or at least change the “packaging” so that your message is received instead of resisted.

Here is the first of four words I use to create impossible amounts of engagement and enthusiasm in people where seemingly none existed before.

1. Why?

In my book, Magic Words, I talk about the power of the magic word, “Because”. The Huffington Post called it, “The most persuasive word, according to science.” However, we’re going to use it in kind of a different way than you might expect. Instead of telling your employees all the reasons why they MUST do something, you’re going to find out the reasons why they might WANT to do something. You’ll do that using because’s cousin, “why”.

Here are a couple of examples…

“Why did you choose this line of work?”

Or, “Why did you choose to work for this company?”

Questions like this are much more powerful than statements. They’ll connect with their own motivations MUCH faster than they’ll connect with yours. Also, asking questions like this eliminates the guesswork. Why try to figure out what motivates someone? Just ask them. They can’t argue with their own answers, but they certainly can argue with yours.

Problem is, you might not always get a very compelling answer from them. So, if the above gets you an answer like “Because it was there”, then try this clever technique:

“On a scale of 1-10, how motivated are you to implement this new change?”

They’ll come back with a low number. They might say, “Probably a three.”

“Interesting. Why didn’t you say a lower number?”

Now they’re focused on all the positive things about the change rather than the negative. No matter how small the positives appear to them, a shift in focus has been made. In a very small, but very real way, they’ve come to your side.

In my presentations, I’ll often ask employees, “In one or two sentences, what do you do?” I usually end up getting answers like, “I help people” or “I solve problems”. That’s a clue into their big “because”. Down the road, when they begin to show resistance, all you have to do is remind them how the change they’re complaining about is actually going to help them to do their big “because” easier, faster, or on a larger scale.

Leadership is about getting people to overcome their short term change-resistance so they can enjoy the long-term rewards. It’s not about bending people to your will. So speak less, listen more – make fewer statements, and ask more questions – and you’ll be well on your way to an engaged group.

I hope you enjoyed the first part of this series. The other three words are on their way. To be sure you don’t miss them, or any other of my practical, real-world communication techniques for managers, supervisors, leaders, (and parents!) be sure to sign up for my weekly email updates using the form below.

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One thought on “Four Words that Get Buy-In from Even the Most Resistant Employees – Part One

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