When I was very young, I was asked to make cold calls for the family business. I had a little experience, having made cold calls for a charity a few years earlier, but I had had no training. I was, however, provided with a set of index cards that included a script and language to “overcome” any “objections” I might receive while dialing strangers.
One of the first calls I made was answered, and the person answering hung up on me. I called my leadership team and asked what I was supposed to do when someone hung up on me. I was told, “Call them right back.”
That didn’t sound like a good idea. First, the person had just hung up on me. That is not a sign that someone wants to continue any kind of conversation. It’s evidence that they are quite committed to not having the conversation. Second, and more importantly, calling back means making someone who is already unhappy that you called them even more unhappy. This would be creating conflict.
I called back. Indeed, the person on the other end of the phone was miffed. He was in no way impressed that I called him right back. Nor was he moved by my strategy for starting the conversation over (something that I improved over time). But he didn’t punch me in the face, he didn’t yell me, and he didn’t hang up on me. Instead, he said no to my request for a meeting. That is all there was to that call, and it was one I would occasionally have to make while prospecting.
Making the call, however, had the positive effect of eliminating the potential to become conflict-averse. It also helped me come to the idea that I was a peer to my clients, not some subservient, milquetoast order-taker.
Do not read anything here as a license to go create conflict. You are better off creating an opportunity to collaborate than you are creating conflict that is not necessary.
That said, you are going to have to deal with conflict if you work in business. You are going to be comfortable dealing with issues and challenges where there will be disagreements. Avoiding conflict is allowing tiny monsters to blossom into gargantuan monsters.
When you need to have the difficult conversation, have the difficult conversation.
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