You’ve come home after a long, wearying day at work. You know there’s not much in the fridge, you don’t have the time or energy to stop at the store, and you really don’t much feel like cooking. Your partner’s not home yet, but you know she’s expecting a meal because it’s your night to cook.
What’s the best way to get your partner to agree to go out to dinner with you instead of eating at home?
Here are two approaches you might use when you speak with her:
Hey Sue, I know it’s my night to cook, but I’m tired and we’ve got no food in the house. Let’s go out.
Hey Sue, you know that Mexican restaurant you said you wanted to try? I drove by it on my way home today and it looks great… and not too crowded. How about if we try it tonight?
Which of these approaches is likely to work better?
Notice the difference?
The first approach is all about you and your needs.
The second is about Sue and her desires.
Manipulation or Intentional Conversation?
Is the second approach, which frames your needs in the context of Sue’s desires, manipulative and therefore unethical? Or is it actually just a well-conceived, intentional conversation that connects your needs to her desires?
I believe that people often have intentional conversations when they enter an interaction with a preconceived idea of the result they’d like to achieve.
Think about talking to your boss into a raise, or getting your daughter to study for her exam.
Or how about asking someone for a contribution for your nonprofit. Isn’t that an intentional conversation?
Intentional Conversation = Win Win
I’m convinced that there is a big difference between having an intentional conversation and being manipulative.
What’s the difference?
In an intentional conversation, you try to find the ways in which what you’re after also serves the other person and you approach the conversation from that standpoint. And though you enter the conversation with a clear intention, you may shift or alter it according to the other person’s desires and needs.
When you are manipulative, you are driven only by your own desires and far less likely to accommodate.
Notice that having an intentional conversation is akin to getting someone the perfect gift. In both cases, you’ve got to know something about them and what they would like.
Notice the Strategies You Use to Get to “Yes”
The next time you start a conversation with a particular result in mind, see if you can figure out why the other person might also want that result. If you can determine where your common interests intersect, you may both be able to get what you want.
Are you anxious when you think about asking for what you want? You might find this post on Lizard Brain and the Courage to Ask helpful.
Can you think of a conversation you’ve had when you used that approach? If so, tell me about it in the comments below.