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Shaping Perception in the Art of Communication, Part 4

By Terri Davis, Director of Client Relations And Tom Brennan, Senior Writer

Part 4:    Turning negatives into choices

This is the final installment in a gripping, big-budget four-part mini-series on the importance of shaping the perception of the people we communicate with. The ideas apply to just about any communication or interaction: between a company and its market, a provider and a client, manager and employee, and others.

The plot so far: in Part 1 I made a case for taking a deliberate approach to shaping perception. Part 2 outlined a strategy for ensuring that, in any interaction, the other person comes away with a positive perception. In part 3 I focused in on laying the groundwork for making it easier to handle interactions involving the negative. But let’s kick it up a notch: what if we could transform negatives into choices?

Choice is Powerful

Choice gives us greater control over outcomes. More significantly, having no choice means having no power, so even when the choices aren’t ideal, having some options is better than having none. As we head into an example, imagine a scale measuring emotional response to any given situation, with +10 indicating “I am delighted” and 0 indicating “This is some serious %^()$#!+.”

Now imagine you are managing a project, at a recruiting firm, to build a pipeline of Customer Service Reps for a client. Up until now the project hasn’t delivered the number of qualified, available and interested candidates that you — and the client — expected. Based on candidate input and market research, you’re 98% sure that low pay is the issue. You schedule a conversation with the client.

Zero or Hero?

You could start the conversation by saying, “You’ll never fill these roles unless you offer more money.” But that’s almost guaranteed to ensure the client registers a 0 on the response scale. And the client’s perception is likely to be that (1) you can’t get the job done and (2) you’re not helping them achieve their goals.

That approach essentially eliminates choices. What if you share your insights and then recommend some options? The client’s emotional response may not be +10, but it should be higher than 0 . . . and the client’s perception should be that you (1) know what you’re talking about and (2) have good ideas to help them achieve their goals. Borrowing from a recent post by Decision Toolbox (DT) Founder Jay Barnett, you might even turn the negative into a selling point. How? Recommend an approach that markets these openings as an opportunity for candidates with little or no experience to gain the skills and launch a new career.

Another example: DT’s leadership team is proactive about managing our employees’ perception of us; for one thing, we want our people to know that we value their ideas. In fact, Recruiting Machine (RM), our proprietary ATS / CRM / ERP (I could go on) system, has been shaped over the years by input from the recruiters and clients who use it.

Like Those Ideas

We have a “wish list” of almost 600 suggestions to improve RM, contributed by the team, and the list is visible to everyone. Until recently, the IT team prioritized the suggestions. But it’s hard to feel your ideas are valued if your suggestion is #377. So we put a “Like” button next to every suggestion in the list. Employees now have the option of actively campaigning to drum up support among their peers (“If you want a quick snapshot of where you are with each project, vote for this tool!”).

My key message here is to be deliberate about how you communicate and manage perception. You’ve seen it before in DT’s blogs, but it’s worth repeating: Design what you want, or deal with what you get.

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One Response to “Shaping Perception in the Art of Communication, Part 4”

  1. April 16, 2013 at 9:41 am, Shaping Perception in the Art of Communication, Part 3 | Blog | Decision Toolbox said:

    […] my next post I will perform some daring acts of pretzel logic and explore how to turn negatives into options. […]


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