Maister’s Exaggeration Ploy
post # 101 — June 8, 2006 — a Careers, Client Relations post
I have noticed something very strange about engaging in discussions (and even disagreements) with people.
The more you disagree with them, taking the other side in an argument, the more vehemently they push their original point of view. However, if you don’t disagree, but restate their point in an exaggerated form, they often back down, or at least tone down their original statement.
This works so well, I’m thinking of copyrighting the idea and calling it “Maister’s Exaggeration Ploy.”
(I know, I know, there’s little new in this world and someone else probably thought of it before me, but I don’t think I stole this from anyone. And if I did, I can’t remember from whom.)
To see how my principle works, imagine a family member, say, a brother, who is upset at how he has been treated by a cousin. Your brother says: “I’m really upset with Jimmy. He had no right to speak to me that way!”
Because you want you brother to calm down and get over it, you might say: “Don’t let it bother you. Perhaps he really didn’t mean to be unkind.”
As valid as your point may be, you can bet your remarks will only serve to annoy your brother. After all, you appear to be defending cousin Jimmy by downplaying his intentions. This will set your brother off on another tirade, and also, probably, cause him to get annoyed with you, too.
But what if you had said: “You’re right! Jimmy’s a louse. He always has been! I think we should have nothing to do with him, ever again! Let’s leave him off the invitation list for all family gatherings from now on!”
Nothing with people is a certainty, but I would bet that your brother’s next remarks will be something like: “Well, maybe it wasn’t that bad. I’m upset, but there’s no point over-reacting.” You have calmed him down by agreeing with him and exaggerating his own point!
The same principle of exaggeration applies in the workplace. If your boss (or client) berates you because you were late in delivering something, don’t fight back, saying it was his or her fault (especially if it was!)
Instead, say: “I realize what a problem this has created for you. I’m really sorry that I caused you such turmoil. Can you help me figure out a way to prevent this in the future?” The boss (or client) will, with high probability, calm down and you’ll survive! Or at least the odds will be more in your favor!
Try my approach out. Let me know if it works for you!
Bud Bilanich said:
You make a suggestion similar to something I always tell my coaching clients.
When trying to resolve a difference with someone, focus not on where you differ, but where you agree.
Conceptually, it’s very close to what you’re suggesting.
I find that when two parties are trying to reolve differences, they often focus on their points of disagreement. If they turn things around and focus on where they agree, they usually find that their differences are smaller than they think. They tend to adopt a problem solving mind set.
A problem solving mindset usually leads to an agreement. A problem mindset, one in which both sides focus on their differences often leads to a lack of agreement.
You can see this play out in most labor—management disputes that end up in a strike. In most cases, it is in the best interests of both parties to avoid a strike. When both sides focus on this point of agreement, they usually work out a deal. However, in most labor disputes, both sides often tend to focus on where they differ—health benefits, wages, working conditions etc. The result all too often is a strike that could have been avoided.
Sorry for the long winded response, but I agree with you in prinicple. It’s better to look for and focus on points in which you agree with another, than to focus on the points on which you disagree.
Afterall, it’s only common sense.
The Common Sense Guy
posted on June 8, 2006