Dealing with Conflict Is Not Aggressive

There is something people call aggressive that isn’t something that should be attached to that word. People who are generally more averse to conflict believe that this behavior is aggressive when it is not. Instead, what they deem as aggressive is nothing more than dealing with challenges directly.

Let’s say you have a client that always asks you for a discount (this is a very poorly disguised hypothetical). You don’t believe you should have to discount your pricing because you create value in excess of your competitor’s pricing. Regardless of what you believe, your client always asks you for a better price. This is what you might call a systemic problem, because it continues to happen over and over and over again . . . like a giant cable knit sweater.

One choice is to try to defend your pricing and your model on every call, repeating the same pattern from week to week. By avoiding a bigger conversation, you eliminate the risk of making your client unhappy by asking to change the nature of your relationship from one that is transactional to one where you create greater value—and one in which you are entitled to capture a little more value for doing so. By making this choice, you avoid the potential conflict and a potential negative outcome that might come from broaching the subject. You also leave the problem unresolved.

A second choice is to ask to have a conversation about your relationship and the value you create beyond the product. By asking, “Can we talk about how I can best serve you and why it makes sense for you to buy from me even if our price is a little bit higher than our competitors? I want to make sure I am serving you and make sure you know that I will take care of, even if I don’t always have the lowest price?” Now the cat is out of the bag, and we can now give it a name. Let’s call it “reset.”

By dealing directly with a systemic challenge, you can work on a systemic solution. Instead of leaving the issue unaddressed, you address it, and you work towards a resolution. This is not aggressive, nor does it have to be. You can choose to enter this conversation in a way that is playful, professional, and one in which no one feels that you are being aggressive.

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