Handle objections, reduce stress
It can be distressing to think an idea through carefully, only to be met with objections. The key message within this module is simple – how you choose to react to objections and obstructive comments, determines whether they will trigger a rise in your stress levels. You can choose to react badly and see objections as a personal attack, or you can adopt a more mature approach and attempt to work with the other person in coming to a resolution. Most of the time, objections are made in good faith. Keep this principle in mind next time someone raises the possibility that you may be wrong, or that there is a better solution than that which you have proposed.
Don’t take it personally
Unless you are in the unlucky position of knowing that someone is waging a campaign or a vendetta against you, remind yourself that whoever is presenting an objection has difficulty understanding how the concept they have heard will work, or improve the organisation’s current predicament. It is highly unlikely that anyone tossing you an objection is doing so on the basis that they don’t like you as a person.
Occasionally, even the nicest of your colleagues will appear unusually grumpy. Forgive everyone a bad day here and there – they may not be feeling well, their child may be in trouble at school, or they may have had an argument with their partner the day before. It is impossible to look inside someone’s head and arrive at a definitive reason for their grumpiness, so save yourself some stress and give them the benefit of the doubt. Assume that there is a reason for their bad temper, but realise that it isn’t your job to analyse them.
Remember, too, that some people are defensive when putting forward their opinions. They may have been met with hostility in the past, when contributing in the workplace - and may appear more aggressive or antagonistic than they realise. Focus on what they are actually saying, rather than the tone in which the words are delivered.
Get all of the facts
Remember, just because you happen to dislike what someone is saying, or dislike them as a person, it doesn’t mean that what they are saying is wrong. It is your duty as a professional and as a diligent employee, to gather all relevant facts. When someone raises an objection, ask them to tell you their thoughts in detail. Note them down, or have them minuted. Once the other party has stopped speaking, paraphrase their key points and repeat them back. Do not attempt to move forward, until you both share an understanding.
Take your time
Your focus should always be on making the best possible decisions for your organisation. If you need a little more time – for instance, if an objection raises a possibility of which you were previously unaware – thank the person for their contribution and request that more time and thought be given to the matter in hand.
Keep your shared goals in mind
If someone objects to an idea you propose, ask them what they would do, whilst making reference to your shared objectives. For example, suppose that you have been asked to come up with a budget for the coming year that reduces spending by 3% across the company, but someone in your team does not agree that your ideas have much merit. Remember that, as employees of the same organisation, you are all united in your duty to keep it financially viable.
Reframe the problem, not as something you alone have had to work on, but as an issue that concerns you all. In the above scenario, you could ask them how they would reduce spending by 3%, keeping a respectful tone of voice. You may be pleasantly surprised to find out that they have some constructive suggestions to make! Never be too proud to listen to feedback. What have you got to lose? If it is constructive and positive, it will make your life easier - and if it is thoughtless or negative, for the sake of being negative, then at least you will have heard what the other person has to say and will never be accused of shutting someone else’s voice down.
Make sure that if an objector must be overruled, that they feel heard
If you have the power to overrule someone’s objection, it is in your best interests – and shows you to be a compassionate individual – if you make sure to emphasise that you appreciate the objector’s input. For example, saying something like “I appreciate your input and your point is valid, but, given all the evidence available, I’m sticking with the original decision” This reduces the likelihood that they will feel annoyed or angry, as a result of “not being heard”. If someone goes to the trouble to make a constructive objection, they deserve your thanks. Swallow your pride and acknowledge their contribution.
Remember that handling objections gracefully, gives you future leverage
When you demonstrate that you are capable of handling objections in a gracious manner, you are more likely to be granted more respect if you raise your own objections on future occasions. Human nature is such that many people believe that we are entitled to what we give – so if you show yourself to be a respectful listener, others will be more likely to grant you an audience if one day you need to explain why you disagree with one of their ideas.
Imagine that you have spent several days working on an important presentation, in which you propose a number of stress reduction measures that could be implemented across the organisation. You present your findings and suggestions to several members of senior management. The presentation seems well received and three people have questions. The first two are seeking clarification on a couple of points, but the third simply gives a blanket objection – “I don’t see why we need to spend all this time and money reducing stress in this company”. How would you react to this objection?
10. Precise Questioning
Why a few questions can save you plenty of stress
The greater clarity you have at work, the less scope there is for stress. Even if you are in a high-pressured environment, the difference between a minor degree of stress and the potential for burnout can come down to whether or not you have the knowledge you need. The best way to ensure that you are doing exactly what you ought to be doing is, of course, to ask questions. However, not all questions are created equal. This module covers the basics of precise questioning – those questions that help you uncover exactly what you need to know, with the minimum of fuss.
How to avoid vague questions
Vague questions are of little use to anyone. They waste time and can result in long-winded, rambling, confused answers. If you are taking part in a structured event or meeting, such as an interview panel or review, always arrive prepared with a list of questions you need to ask. Think about the purpose of the meeting – is it to clarify information, to update everyone as to the organisation’s progress, to ensure that the right person is hired for the job, or something else? If you aren’t sure what the purpose of the meeting is, then by all means, ask. Once you know, you can create a checklist of questions you need answered.
Before you ask any question, ask yourself whether the person answering it will understand exactly what you mean. Is there any room for ambiguity, or misunderstanding? If you are unsure and you plan to put your question forward in an important meeting, check your phrasing with a trusted colleague or friend first.
Powerful words to use when questioning someone
If you need to hone in on specific details quickly, make use of the following words. If you can work out the key who’s, what’s, why’s, how’s, when’s and where’s of a project or assignment, you likely have all the information you need. These are also excellent words to use when interviewing to fill a job vacancy, as they demand precise information from the candidates.
Examples: Who is involved in this particular project? Who will I be working with? Who is the client, exactly? Who are the stakeholders? Who will I be reporting to? Who have you worked with in the past?
Examples: What are we trying to do here? What are our aims? What is the tangible or final goal we are working towards? What will it take to get us there? What pieces of equipment will we be using?
Examples: Why is this team/department undertaking this task? Why is it important? Why do you want this job? Why do you think we should opt for this particular strategy, as opposed to the others mentioned as possibilities in this report?
How are we going to stay within budget on this project? How are we going to recruit enough people to account for our projected business growth? How are we going to find the time to complete this project, given other commitments? How would you begin to re-organise the department, if we offered you the job?
When are we due to begin work? When is the next relevant deadline or milestone? When exactly are you available to take up this post? When do you feel that we will be able to ascertain whether the intervention has been a success?
Where will the work take place? Where will the final project presentation be held? Where will the exhibition be held? Where are we currently along the projected timeline of events?
Prompts to use when you require more information
If someone answers your question, but does not provide you with sufficient information, it’s time to use prompts. These are phrases that will encourage the other person to expand upon their original point:
“When you said X, could you tell us more about that?”
“I didn’t quite understand what you meant by X, could you re-phrase that?”
“Could you go into more detail about….?”
“Could you please give me another example of X, so I know exactly what you mean?”
As you make progress on a project or delve deeper into an issue, you may find that you have more questions requiring answers. The moment a new question comes up, ask the relevant person. Do not delay, because even a day’s wait could set you back, if the person you need to speak to is busy, or just so happens to be on annual leave – send off an email, or make a phone call and keep a record of what was said. It is always better to ask a question, regardless of how stupid it may seem, than to make a mistake because you were too embarrassed to admit that you didn’t have all the information available to you.
Imagine that you are working in a team of six, at a graphics design company. One morning, your team leader informs you that you are to work on a new brief for the next fortnight, producing designs to a tight deadline. They only have ten minutes to discuss this brief with you. What are the most important questions that you would want answered? If your team leader couldn’t provide you with the information you required at that moment in time, how might you pursue the matter later on?
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