One of the most exhausting things about being a sales person is those times when we encounter unreasonable clients.
Seth Godin wrote a fabulous post this morning which, I think, hits this nail squarely on the head.
Seldom do I publish a “Re-Blog” but in this case, I’ll make an exception:
No one says, “I’m going to be unfair to this person today, brutal in fact, even though they don’t deserve it or it’s not helpful.”
Few people say, “I know that this person signed the contract and did what they promised, but I’m going to rip them off, just because I can.”
And it’s quite rare to have someone say, “I’m a selfish narcissist, and everyone should revolve around me merely because I said so.”
In fact, all of us have a narrative. It’s the story we tell ourselves about how we got here, what we’re building, what our urgencies are.
And within that narrative, we act in a way that seems reasonable.
To be clear, the narrative isn’t true. It’s merely our version, our self-talk about what’s going on. It’s the excuses, perceptions and history we’ve woven together to get through the world. It’s our grievances and our perception of privilege, our grudges and our loves.
No one is unreasonable. Or to be more accurate, no one thinks that they are being unreasonable.
That’s why we almost never respond well when someone points out how unreasonable we’re being. We don’t see it, because our narrative of the world around us won’t allow us to. Our worldview makes it really difficult to be empathetic, because seeing the world through the eyes of someone else takes so much effort.
It’s certainly possible to change someone’s narrative, but it takes time and patience and leverage. Teaching a new narrative is hard work, essential work, but something that is difficult to do at scale.
In the short run, our ability to treat different people differently means that we can seek out people who have a narrative that causes them to engage with us in reasonable ways. When we open the door for these folks, we’re far more likely to create the impact that we seek. No one thinks they’re unreasonable, but you certainly don’t have to work with the people who are.
And, if you’re someone who finds that your narrative isn’t helping you make the impact you seek, best to look hard at your narrative, the way you justify your unreasonableness, not the world outside.