There’s nothing worse than a blank stare.
If you work in sales, pitch new projects, teach, work with or parent children, you might know what I mean.
Here you’ve offered the appropriate preamble, like the wind-up before a pitch, given it your best toss and – nothing.
It’s hard to find a comeback to that. An argument or objection would be better. More fair. You know they’re fighting you, you just don’t know where or on what grounds.
I’m not sure why people behave this way, really. Sometimes I think it’s because they really don’t know how to respond. And at other times, most of the time, perhaps, I think it’s a sneaky, passive-aggressive way to stop something or someone, without taking a stand.
When I run into those blank stares, I feel like Wily Coyote, smacking into a mountain wall and slowly sliding, frantically looking for a handhold all the way down.
And whether you’re selling a product, an idea, or simply trying to get students to learn something, the key is to somehow get a flicker out of those glassy eyes.
I’ve found that I need to resist my urge to confront their resistance head on. Doing so only shows you’re rattled and signals you’ve lost this round. Not only that, they probably wouldn’t give you much of an answer to work with, anyway.
The important thing is to get them to talk, preferably about what they want, their goals and objectives, but for starters, I’m happy if I can get my blank colleagues to say anything other than, “I don’t know.”
Sometimes you can get a conversation started by making statements which you think reflect their position and asking them if they agree or disagree. After a while you can slide into questions, which will give you more information, but not if you make them too direct.
And always come in with a Plan B. Just in case your boss doesn’t want to talk about your new initiative, or the client doesn’t want to talk about purchasing, be prepared to approach your issue in more than one way.
But once again, don’t make the shift too abrupt. Abrupt changes in communication style and activities will only make all involved realize how high the stakes are. Take a step-by-step incremental approach. As your clients gradually start talking about what matters to them, you’ll be able to make changes in your program to everyone’s benefit.
by Danielle Dresden