It’s one of those days. You make a passionate speech. Then, your mood is dashed as the audience lobs contradiction and rebuttal. You walk away dejected.
Hours later the perfect counter-reply pops into your brain. You groan. Why in the world didn’t you think of that earlier??? You could just kick yourself in the butt.
Stop for a moment, and consider how many times this happened to you. Once? Twice? A dozen times?
People throw us zingers everyday. We deflate, especially when we fail to come up with a PROMPT defense.
Consider the following nasties that wreck our day:
“You’re late again. You don’t love me.”
“That’s lousy work; you’re no good.”
“Why are all you religious people so narrow minded?”
“If you love me you’ll have sex with me. Since you refuse, you don’t love me.”
Don’t you wish you had the perfect answers to these seemingly daunting questions?
As you read this and recall the countless frustrations you’ve faced, you naturally begin to wonder why there are some special people who always come up with the right answers. You’ve met them. The perfect debaters. The unstoppable negotiators. The superb orators.
Pocket that frown. You too can be an Aristotle . It just takes deploying the right tools. With proper semantic implements, you CAN be a master negotiator. You CAN manhandle arguments with ease. No longer will you say, “I wish I said xxxx when she told me that!”
The Sidewinder Method to countering arguments: THE PRINCIPLE OF SPECIFICITY
An argument, retort or remark can always be broken down into its constituent parts. By examining the innards of any statement, we often can identify logical lapses, semantic ambiguities and rational failures. This makes a statement VULNERABLE to counter attack.
Now, pause, take a deep breath , and etch this phrase into your brain:
“HOW SPECIFICALLY DOES….”
This is your first line of defense to ANY attack thrown your way. With such deft counter strike, you force the antagonist to examine his own statement. If his retorts are based on shaky evidence, he will see it almost instantly. Wait for his answer. Listen well. Then fire volley after volley of “How specifically does xxx ” to each response. A chain of evidence will be needed to support his remarks. Without evidence, he will yield the high ground.
Why does the line “HOW SPECIFICALLY DOES…” work so well? It’s because most people open their mouths without thinking! They say meaningless things that can be ripped to shreds after close scrutiny.
I urge you: have people back up their statements with concrete evidence. Questions of specificity unearth the evidence… or lack of it. This is your first step to achieving the skill of Objection Mastery.
Theory class over. Let’s see some examples.
She says to you: You’re late again. You don’t love me. Ooohh nasty. How do you counter this with questions of specificity?
Tell her: “HOW SPECIFICALLY DOES MY BEING LATE INDICATE THAT I DON’T LOVE YOU?”
She says, “It means you don’t care.”
Tell her, “How, precisely do you know I don’t care for you? My tardiness has good reason. I was tardy because I went out of my way to get you four dozen blue roses at a spot just out of town. I also made sure the kids were properly left with a responsible guardian so we won’t have to worry about them tonight. And most importantly, I wanted to ensure that the restaurant we are going to is ready for us. That’s why I was late. I wanted our evening to be perfect.”
Let’s try the other venomous barb now.
Your colleague says: That’s lousy work; you’re no good.
So you smile and firmly ask, ” What precisely is the ‘lousy’ work you pertain to?”
He says, “You submitted the plan to Marketing for execution without consulting me. That’s sloppy and in violation of SOP”
So you hold your breath and say, “How specifically, is being proactive in violation of SOP and sloppy work? I noticed you were busy with the accounting and had no time to concern yourself with branding issues. I simply offloaded tasks that would have rattled you and diminished your focus on your more crucial assignment.”
He says, “I still should have been consulted. I want my inputs in whatever the team does. ”
You say, “That’s precisely why we are talking right now. Your inputs will always be welcome. Marketing can always modify their agenda since they’re still in the process of integrating the programs.”
He says, “I still feel left out. I don’t like it.”
You say, “How precisely are you left out? If it’s influencing the final campaign, don’t worry: you are the program manager. You will have a say even during final phase execution. The boss knows that we equally share the glory of the project’s success. And the team looks up to you as their mentor. Surely you’ve noticed the pile of progress reports already in you inbox.”
He says “Well, ok…. now that you put it that way, I gues you did a fine job”
Now let’s try one of those lines we hear in teenybopper movies: “If you love me you’ll have sex with me. Since you refuse, you don’t love me.”
Difficult to counter? Definitely not, with your standard phrase!!
Say, “HOW SPECIFICALLY does my desire not to have sex right now mean that I don’t love you? You do realize that I love you so much which is why I want us to be perfectly prepared for all complications. I love you so much that I want to minimize the risk of unexpected childbirth. This is how much I love you.”
So there you have it. The first technique to masterful objection mastery. Let’s not put good theory to waste, shall we? Go grab a partner and practice. Have her throw argumentative remarks at you. Think briefly then counter with Questions of Specificity. See how long they can hold up. Just say “How specifically does…”
Smile and watch them fold.