In the final part of the trilogy we’re going to give you a few more pointers to get rid of any doubt the blocker may have.
10. Consider the stakeholder’s natural tendencies
In a given context, we have a tendency to behave in a certain way according to particular traits (metaprogrammes) ₁. For example, if your stakeholder has an ‘away from’ metaprogramme you could highlight the risks involved with staying with the incumbent supplier (risks which they will want to move away from), but if they are more of a ‘towards’ person you could describe how changing to a new supplier would bring benefits (which they will want to move towards).
11. Play on desire and fear
The fear of losing something (i.e. belief in the incumbent supplier) can outweigh the desire to acquire something (i.e. a new belief in an alternative), especially if the stakeholder has an ‘away from’ metaprogramme, which could exacerbate their Belief Perseverance. Perhaps creating a new fear of loss may overshadow this, e.g. losing value for money, competitive edge or respect in the marketplace. Or, for a ‘towards’ stakeholder, build their desire for the additional opportunities the project will bring.
12. Talk in their language
Apart from the obvious aspects of speech such as tone and use of confrontational language, there are linguistic elements that influence the rapport that you can build with your stakeholder. Everyone has a preference as to what type of information they process: visual, auditory or kinaesthetic ₂. Tailoring your phrasing to your stakeholder’s preferences (‘I see what you mean…’, ‘I hear what you’re saying’, ‘If I can touch on another point…’) may help to bridge the gap between you.
13. Think positively
It takes less cognitive effort to accept than reject a statement ₃. Don’t make the conversation difficult for the stakeholder from the start by bringing up ideas that you know they will reject. Start with statements that they are likely to agree with, such as ‘We need our suppliers to be competitive’, which will make the dialogue easier for the stakeholder, which in turn will help you to build rapport before broaching more contentious subjects.
14. Consider whether you are the best person to talk to the stakeholder
If your stakeholder rejects your arguments, you may fall foul of ‘generalisation of source distrust’₄ whereby they will also reject all future communications from you.
Can you risk this? Or perhaps existing source distrust may be contributing to their reluctance to change their mind – have you crossed swords before? On the other hand, the stakeholder is more inclined to believe evidence put forward by an already trusted source₅. So think twice about who should be discussing the transfer of work to an alternative supplier – does your project have a helper or champion who has a positive relationship with the blocker?