Jim and his mother argue. You see Jim is 10 and has argued with his mother about lima beans for years. “Jim, I don’t want to tell you again. Eat your lima beans or you will go to bed right now,” says Jim’s mother.
So, who wins the argument? Does Mom win if Jim concedes and eats his lima beans? Does Jim win if he holds his ground and refuses to eat the very thing he detests? Does anyone win and win what? Why the argument to begin with?
Everyday in your clinic, business or personal life, you negotiate through situations just like this. Or perhaps a better word is persuade. You help others see your point of view, adopt a particular position or take a course of action. Getting Jim to eat his lima beans requires persuasion more than coercion if you want your son to respect and follow your sage advice later in life when the stakes are much higher – like drug use.
First of all, children at some point in their development need direction. In some cases, very firm direction. But as a child grows, so must the discussion. So how do we help Jim eat his lima beans? First, what’s in it for Jim? Will Jim die if he doesn’t eat his beans? Will he contract some awful disease? Will his growth be stunted? Will he suddenly sprout a hump? Of course not, but the issue is not the lima beans. The issue is control and the resistance and refusal to eat lima beans represents a loss of control to Mom. The harder Mom pushes on Jim, the harder he pushes back. Remember, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. True in physics and true in relationships.
All successful persuasion begins with an understanding of what is important to the other party. Dial into WIFM, “What’s In It For Me?” To get Jim to eat lima beans, assuming we can agree that lima beans are really important, you will need to connect lima beans to something else that has deep meaning and value to Jim and help Jim see that by eating lima beans he wins. He gets what we wants. Tough sell no doubt, but perhaps a better approach is to discuss why he doesn’t like lima beans and along the way discover what he does like. What you’re concerned about is his healthy growth and there are lots of alternatives to lima beans. But you will first have to fight the urge to win. To really win, it sometimes feels like you lose and none of us like the feeling of losing. Hence, we argue about lima beans and end up winning nothing.
Just remember, to get Jim to eat his lima beans, focus on what the lima beans represent. Ask more questions, find out what’s important to him, lose the lima beans and win a son.
How many of your clients have a “lima bean” issue with you? How can you win by losing?
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