The Secret Sauce in Appealing to Someone’s Best Self

My husband will be the first to tell you that he’s not a fixer-up kind of guy. He can change a lightbulb, but if anything else goes wrong around the house, we have to call Denny, our handyman. If Denny can’t do the job, then it’s a plumber, electrician, carpenter, exterminator, roofer, or cable guy to the rescue. (If you’ve heard me write about our beloved handyman Roger before, Roger has retired. Denny is his son.)

But we always get excellent service and good prices—and more after-the-service help and questions answered than you can ever imagine.

Here’s why:


The VERY Best Way to Appeal to Someone’s Best Self


Put Ego Aside

When the repair person shows up, my husband immediately confesses his ineptness as a handyman and at the specific task to be done. He’ll typically say something like this: “I’m totally useless when it comes to this sort of thing. Do you mind if I watch you do this? I don’t want to get in your way while you work, but I’d like to learn. Consider me your gofer. Just tell me what you need me to do.”

The repair person may use him to hold a ladder, go get tools out of his truck, send him to Home Depot for parts, or tell him just to leave things alone for a few hours. Then he’ll report back on what he’s done and teach him how to prevent the problem in the future.


Acknowledge Competence—Theirs!

But in all cases, the repair person’s attitude changes dramatically. My husband’s confession puts the repair person in a one-up position. That simple admission appeals to ego. People like to feel competent, they like to have others acknowledge their expertise, and they like to explain what they know.

You may ask, “But won’t others take advantage of you—when they discover they have the upper hand in a situation? Won’t they repair things that don’t need repairing? Won’t they charge more than necessary?” Some may. But in all our years of home ownership, we haven’t found that to be the case. Such a confession of helplessness and/or ignorance appeals to the other person’s nobler self.

Whether it’s the same reluctance to take candy from a baby, kick a dying person when he’s down, or loot a home hit by a hurricane, most people choose to overcome any such fleeting temptation.


Remember Takeaways That Kill Temptation

So what does all this have to do with your relationships at work and home?

  • Admit what you don’t know and can’t control.
  • Make others feel smart, not dumb.
  • Let others know you trust them to do the right thing.
  • Demonstrate that trust visibly.

If you need help with this, call my husband to see how it’s done.


Learn more ways to encourage others to be their best in Communicate Like a Leader: Connecting Strategically to Coach, Inspire and Get Things DoneDownload an excerpt by clicking here or on the image below.

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