When Disagreement Creates Trust
Establishing a connection in a new relationship is hard enough, but the task can be compounded when the target of our persuasion is of high status and deeply experienced.
Senior clients, leaders, and decision-makers are naturally suspicious of being sold. They expect advocates to agree with them and tell them what they want to hear to garner their attention and enthusiasm.
They are, as they say, a very tough sell. Experience tells them to distrust most of what they hear when others will benefit from their decisions.
Persuasive salespeople, dealmakers, and advocates know a secret. They look for an opportunity to disagree.
Of the many tests to pass before senior decision-makers deem someone trustworthy, the most important yardstick is whether the advocating party will tell them the truth, especially when it is not in their best interest to do so.
So decision-makers push against viewpoints, ask difficult questions and challenge the assumptions made by the advocates. They expect others to play it safe and confirm their biases by telling them what they want to hear.
This creates an opening for those clever enough to see it and brave enough to engage it.
Disagreeing with the decision-maker early in the new relationship is a critical sign that the advocate will tell them the truth about other matters. Looking for a point of disagreement and expressing it requires confidence and fearlessness. Best of all, it flips the script. Decision-makers rarely experience it and don’t expect it. Those in the obsequious position of needing to curry favor don’t normally disagree. In fact, at first blush, it looks like a dangerous path to take.
The symbolism of disagreeing with someone who holds all the cards, especially early in the relationship, suggests a commitment to the truth and a willingness to express it irrespective of the consequences. What happens as a result is somewhat remarkable. A trusting bond quickly develops between both parties.
Expressing disagreement is typically not a recipe for creating trust, but when trust is highly suspect it is exactly what works best. In new relationships, disagreement can be a sign of true progress.
A friendly clash of viewpoints can actually deepen the connection between opposing parties. Agreement with experienced decision-makers is expected and highly over-rated. Disagreement, anyone?
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