"Tip, you and I are political enemies only until 6 o'clock;
it's now 4 o'clock... can we pretend that it's 6 o'clock?"
chortles Ronald Reagan.
"How can you dislike a guy like that?" muses Tip O'Neil.
"He's always... disarming."
Conversationally, it's called "stopping them dead in their
tracks." It comes from the analogy of dropping a charging
wild animal in its own footprints with a rifle shot. And to
do so requires a pretty hefty round.
Catching the public, the press, and his negotiating
counterpart offstride is one of Reagan's great communications
skills. Though Ronald, the Great Communicator, he has other
skills as well, he plays this technique for an Academy Award
each time. All in sales, marketing and pr should take note.
Muskie shed as tear and he was a whimp. Nixon shed a tear
and he was a slobbering sleaze. Reagan chokes at Normandy,
at the mass funeral for crash victims of a troop transport,
and at most any other time that is packed with emotion and he
is a strong President.
Reagan's open expressions of feelings are disarming. They
allow those around him to lower their guards and communicate
through either words or gestures. They also make others
bumble for answers as they attempt to regroup from the
There are six basic conversational responses: silence, self-
disclosure, questions, interpretation, reflection, and
Some disarm more than others...
Clearly, self-disclosure tops the list, since the one doing
the disclosing is voluntarily leaving themselves vunerable.
That's a position many spend their entire life shoring-up
against. Isn't it then understandable how openess attracks
attention and fosters trust.
Reflection is also disarming. In a world of hustle, bustle
and rustle, isn't it also understandable how an accurate echo
of one's voicing crying out in the wilderness is endearing.
Close to reflection is questioning. Not the parental
"gotcha" questioning, but the revealing questioning that
relaxes the other party into voluntary disclosure.
Advisement follows reflection and questioning. It doesn't
work for everybody, however. How often have we all heard
"if I need your advice, I'll ask?" Obviously, that's the
response of someone who has not been disarmed.
Interpretation, though often confused with reflection is far
different. Where relection seeks to mirror the position
of the other party, interpretation seeks analyzes the others
behavior or feelings to catergorize or rationalize. If done
right interpretation can disarm; if done wrong it can anger.
Reflecting, questioning, advising and interpreting are the
four horsemen of c-a-r-i-n-g. Simply stated, if one doesn't
care about another person, they don't go out of their way to
perform any of the four. In modern business that can oft
times be cold and distant, communication that reaches also
touches... and when it does the recipient is play dough in
the extender's hand.
Finally, there is the important element of silence, or better
yet timing. Comedians rely on timing to delivery the impact
of their words. Good conversationalist rely on timing to
allow the other party the space to get their piece said.
They also allow timing to build trust and impact. It's
doubtful that interpretion has any chance of being disarming,
if it is offered without contemplation.
So if you or your campany's sales, marketing or pr force is
not using the above techniques in their daily activities,
they are depriving themselves of devastating disarmament... a
key element in soft selling.