So often we propose an idea and get shot down but can’t figure out why. We’ve prepared on our end: the pitch is perfect, our message is clear, we’re feeling ready. Then, bam – the answer is no!

It could be a big client meeting with millions at stake, or when making the case for putting a junior team member up for promotion. Whether large or small, these situations can be hugely frustrating.

The good news is, I recently received some great advice that can help you get your points across successfully on a consistent basis. And (hopefully!) eliminate a lot of those frustrating situations where the outcome is not what you wanted it to be despite your best efforts beforehand.

When you’ve done everything you can

When you’ve done all that you can to prepare for the meeting, the answer often lies in what happens once you walk into the room.

If you just push full steam ahead with your perfect plan for the meeting, it can still flop.

For example, you could plan for weeks or even months the perfect moment to get on bended knee and propose to your loved one – the perfect ring, the perfect outfit, the perfect location.

But when you get there, if he or she has just had a major argument with someone else, then you might not get the joyful response you want (and the one that they want to give) if you were to pop the question just then.

First, you have to remove the impediment of your loved one’s understandably bad mood.

The same holds true in our work lives. Just because you’re ready to get on with your pitch or request doesn’t mean the other person is ready to receive it.

So when you get in the room, it’s time to take a real-time look at the other side of the equation: the recipient of your brilliant message.

What’s the recipient’s state of mind?

When you begin that meeting or call, start by checking on the recipient’s state of mind. Yes, put aside all your preparation and even your anxiety or anticipation of plowing into your message and do this check first.

A particularly problematic mindset is the “fear state”, which Gary Klaben (my coach at Strategic Coach and CEO of a highly successful wealth management company) talks about in this short video.

Being in a fear state shows up as being negative and risk averse, seeing obstacles rather than opportunities, and having a closed rather than abundance mindset.

The problem is that when the person across the table from you is in a fear state, they aren’t in a position to make good decisions. And people are often operating from a fear state.

That’s why you might end up with “no” when the better answer for everyone would be “yes”.  That is, you might end up in the proverbial “lose/lose” box.

So it’s worth understanding and recognizing when you’re facing someone in a fear state.

Recognize the “fear state”

Start by knowing that people typically get into a fear state for one of two reasons:

  • They fear losing something they have, or
  • They fear not getting something they want.

Based on that, you can take a look at what they are working on and what’s going on in their lives.

Are they stressed? Is your proposal threatening to what they have or what they want? Is the way you’re approaching them helpful and aligned with how they like to receive information and requests?

Once you recognize that someone may be in a fear state, you can do something about it to improve your chances of getting your point across and even getting to yes.

Remove the “fear state” obstacle

As Gary states, the best way to do something about it is this to help the person become aware they’re in that state and help them get out of it.

The trick is to artfully shift the dialogue to remove the “fear state” obstacle so that the real conversation – an open and constructive one – can take place.

You can do this by identifying the issues they bring up, and turning the scenario around by flipping it on its head. So if you were proposing a new hire in a tough market environment, here’s an example of what you might say.

“I hear you saying you believe the market will turn down, so we might lose money. What if we turned that on its head and looked at it from the perspective of positioning the organization for competitive advantage. What would that look like?”

Then you let them state it on their own terms. They may have an “aha” such as this is a strategic hire that could give us a big leg up over the competition. But even if not, at least this can get them into a state of mind where they can consider other frames of reference.

You become their thinking partner, working through the scenarios together, understanding their perspective, and imagining possibilities rather than shutting things down prematurely.

It’s mutually beneficial

When you take into account the recipient and their state of mind, it can make the difference between a yes and a no. And it can give you richer information about your colleague, team member or manager.

And no matter what the answer, this approach can improve your relationship with that other person. It’s a mutually beneficial scenario all around.

So remember, a great way to get what you want and have great meetings is by paying attention to what the other person is thinking, feeling, and experiencing… especially if they're in a fear state. And don’t plow ahead with your brilliant message until you’ve removed the fear state obstacle.

What’s your biggest insight from this strategy?

Leave a comment and let me know.