+Scott Watson

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Just This Once? - Asking With Purpose

Language is a funny subject. So many things can be misinterpreted or misunderstood because the language used isn't particularly clear or precise. My thoughts revolve around the greater the clarity, the clearer the understanding. Here's a quick tip on how to ask someone for something and enhance your possibility of your request being successful. As always, this technique needs to be used with a genuine win-win outcome in mind.

The example - Last Saturday evening I visited Manchester on a 'Stag Do' with 11 friends in the group. I had anticipated that some of bouncers (or security associates as they call themselves these days...in court) at the nicer, less rough bars may not be keen to let a dozen blokes in to their establishment. Why not? Potentially, they may view a group of males as high risk of causing trouble, perhaps they feel that, if trouble did break out in the bar, it could be difficult to influence or control a group of men - whether or not they had consumed alcohol or some other reason altogether. With this in mind, I took the opportunity of phoning several bars on the afternoon prior to our visit. The reason for my call was to establish whether we would be welcome to visit their bar. Long story short, I advised the staff member at each bar of the purpose of our visit and asked if we could visit. The answer from the 3 bars I called was a very positive 'YES'. At this point I asked for the name of the Manager who had authorised our visit and was promptly advised of each name. Advance planning is always a good thing in any influencing situation.

Bouncer at the first bar - 'You can't come in, there's too many lads.' My response, 'Oh, I understand what you're saying. The Manager, Christine has approved our visit earlier today. Please feel free to check with her.'The use of referring to a higher authority is a good step when aiming to influence. This principle was also successfully applied at the second bar we visited.

But, it called for a different approach entirely when we were advised by a fellow reveller,to visit a nice bar not on our list. So, no prior invitation or approval, where do we go from here if we get the same initial response from the 'security associates' at this bar? Well, here's an approach that worked, and can also work wonderfully well in any one-off situation.

The phrase is 'JUST THIS ONCE'. You can't though just say the words. It has to be congruent, genuine and supported by a positive and friendly personal impact. The bouncers had a host with them at the entrance, a lady who may add a softer side to 'negotiations'. So here goes!

Host - 'Good evening lads, how many of you is there?'. SW - 'Well, even though we're walking in 3's to help us all get in, there's actually 12 of us.' Host smiling responds 'There's too many of you, I'm sorry but you won't be able to come in tonight...There's 2 private parties going on at the moment.' Think about it, the justification for us not being allowed entry (at present) is the number of males in our party and the 'fact' there are 2 private parties enjoying themselves.

SW -'Oh, that's a shame, we're only in Manchester for this evening and as this place was highly recommended as a bar which rarely has trouble (looking at the bouncers) we just wanted to enjoy a quick drink here.' Notice the safety and time bound comments which pre-suppose we want to avoid trouble, not cause it and 'quick' implies we don't intend to stay for long. Host is now off script as her normal pattern of thinking has been heavily interrupted. SW - 'Oh come on, just this once'. Host looks to 2 bouncers for approval and then replies 'OK, go on then - JUST THIS ONCE.'

We proceeded in to the bar, each thanking the host and her colleagues for their kindness - which is really what it was. We enjoyed our visit and noticed that the alleged 'private parties' were so private that nobody knew about them. It appeared to be a technique the host used to justify her decision to refuse entry. So, 'Just This Once' can be used to help the other party understand that you are not going to repeatedly return to them badgering them for something. It implies that it is a one-time-only request and this can help the other party be more open to accepting your invitation or offer. 'Just This Once' sounds manageable, doable and not too much effort. You can apply this approach with sales reps attempting to sell you something, with a boss when negotiating resources, with someone performing poorly who needs to change their approach. Try it and let me know your results.

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