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It’s amazing how much an approach makes a difference in getting at the desired outcome. We have so many biases and are hyper alert to threats that we will quickly put up out guard if we perceive an attack.

Predators approach directly

I remember learning somewhere that preyed upon animals look at how other animals approach them to discern threats. Predators will approach directly while friendlies (or neutral) will have a curved approach.

This seems to be a analogous to many situations where conscious entities interact. If you go too strong forward, you will be blocked. Even in desparate situations, being forceful almost never works unless the relational power dynamic is in your favor. Even then, you erode other powers. It had better be a transaction because they will remember.

Ask in the form of a question

One of the more memorable quotes I took from Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends was when you want something, to ask for it with a question. It might seem silly to those who are used to asking this way, but commanding erodes relationships.

In fact, asking in the form of a question in most cases is not enough. If it’s a work colleague who’s helping you out, it’s a bit of a balance to not act like you have relational power over them. Just the tone of your approach can cause issues.

Shields Up

Shields come up quickly, come down slowly. It takes a long time for someone who feels threatened to let down their guard again. There are ways to deflate situations, such as mirroring, but it’s not guaranteed and can even lead to more conflict.

Once shields are up, the reflects gets stronger. They might come up again sooner and never be down around you. They can also calcify and you’re left with an impenetrable shell.

The initial approach makes a huge difference in outcome. It’s important to avoid triggering inadvertently the defence mechanisms of others or you’ll be left with twice the work.

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