Winning Without Intimidation: How You Say It

Didn't Mom always say you could catch more flies with honey than vinegar? (Part four in a seven-part series.)
Bob-burg

In part three, Bob Burg detailed the use of the Three P's to pursuade other individuals. Continuing this theme, he now reminds us that the delivery of our words can be as important as the words themselves.


Sitting at the restaurant counter for breakfast, I noticed the waitress possessed one of the most unusual foreign accents I’d ever heard. It was very nice, just different. In fact, I could hear that the couple next to me was trying to figure out its origin — as was I.

When the waitress came back over to our general area I said, "Excuse me, that's a lovely accent you have. Where are you originally from?" With a big smile she thanked me and mentioned that a lot of people seemed to enjoy her accent.

As she walked away, the husband of the couple next to me said to his wife, "Now that's how you ask a person something." I believe he was saying that taking a moment to phrase a question nicely — with kindness and respect — and saying it with the right intonation, makes a big difference in getting what we want and need from people. I simply call it Winning Without Intimidation.

You can imagine the special service, attention, and smiles I received from the waitress for the remainder of the meal.

A person I’d recently met was sharing with me the reason why welfare was necessary — that without it, the “little guy” would have nowhere to turn.

Now, when you hear this, don’t you just begin to steam? I mean, does this person not realize the foolishness of that statement? Really, don’t you want to tell him that, “Not only is welfare totally contrary to the U.S. Constitution, not only is it legal theft, but it actually hurts the very people it is theoretically intended to benefit! Not only that, you ignoramus, but seventy five percent of that government-pilfered money gets lost in the hands of the bureaucrats with a vested interest in perpetuating this scam and those who can help themselves but choose to take advantage of the system. And furthermore, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…” (which is exactly what it sounds like to that person — who is now more committed than ever to the benevolence of the welfare state).

Instead, I asked him to explain why he felt this way. This allowed him to feel important, as though his thoughts mattered (which they probably don’t to many of the people in his life, a fact of which he is well aware). Just by doing that, I put him into a state of relaxation and trust, instead of the usual defensiveness.

I then said, “You know, the very fact you feel this way tells me that you’re a person who cares about his fellow man and woman.” Please understand; this is exactly how he sees himself, so by pointing this out to him, he is now more open than ever to what I have to say.

The next step is what my friend Marshall Fritz calls the Ransberger Pivot. That is to find a point of agreement and express is thusly: “Dave, like you, I’d also like to live in a country in which everyone has an opportunity to thrive and be able to make a living for themselves and their family.”

Again, total agreement.

Then, I was able to persuade him into my area. “Dave, at a first glance it seems like welfare would do that. However, when you look closer, you begin to see a few things. And I wonder if it helps or hurts that person.”

Now I could compare the kind of opportunity a person receives in a free society as opposed to a welfare society. In fact, you can, too. Actually, you and I know the exact same arguments.

I would bet the only difference is not what we say, but how we say what we need to say to the person we’re addressing.

If we make him feel stupid, we might convince, but we’ll never persuade.

If we first make him feel good about himself (thus, good about us), persuasion then becomes only a matter of saying the right words.

A woman named Glenna Salisbury is one of my friends and mentors from the National Speakers Association. She tells a very funny story illustrating that what you say isn't nearly as important as how you say it.

Glenna tells of a young English teacher who had worked hard all year trying to help an Asian transfer stu¬dent master the English language. Understandably, he was very appreciative.

On the final day of school, the teacher walked into her classroom, and on her desk was a single yellow rose. Next to it was a note written by the young man. It read, "Dear Teacher, one day this rose will fade and die but you will smell forever!" The words may not have been exactly right, but do you think she felt insulted or complimented?

She was delighted because of the intention.

Here's a little game I learned from Zig Ziglar which demonstrates how the way you say something can dramatically alter what you mean to say. In this exercise, I want you to accentuate the one word in the sentences below which appears in bold-faced italics. Just put extra emphasis on that one word as you read out loud. Each sentence is exactly the same, but watch what happens when you place emphasis on the different words.

I didn't say she stole the money.

I didn't say she stole the money.

I didn't say she stole the money.

I didn't say she stole the money.

I didn't say she stole the money.

I didn't say she stole the money.

Aren't the differences interesting? All because you merely accentuated a different word in the exact same sentence!

Often, it isn't what we say, but how we say it! Our pets know what we mean by the way, tone, and manner in which we talk to them. So do our children. It's safe to say your customers, loved ones, friends, those with whom you disagree philosophically and politically, and anyone you come across on any day — especially those difficult people you may need to win over without intimidation — can sense the very same thing.


Bob Burg speaks on the topics of positive persuasion and business networking. His books, Endless Referrals: Network Your Everyday Contacts Into Sales and Winning Without Intimidation: How to Master the Art of Positive Persuasion have each sold well over 100,000 copies. He maintains a web site which includes the expanded e-book version of Winning Without Intimidation.

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To post comments, please log in first. The Atlasphere is a social networking site for admirers of Ayn Rand's novels, most notably The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In addition to our online magazine, we offer a member directory and a dating service. If you share our enjoyment of Ayn Rand's novels, please sign up or log in to post comments.