Executives come in many shapes and sizes. Some are arrogant, some are sneaky, some are self-serving, and some are loyal to the wrong people. And you may find yourself having to persuade all of these to get buy-in, support, or even to have your performance recognized or negotiate compensation.
But there’s one specific type of executive in particular that is hard to persuade…
And that is, the executive that just hates you.
Maybe they are frustrated that you progressed faster than them. Maybe they doubt your authority. Maybe they are loyal to someone opposing you (or even someone who already left). Or maybe they still hold a grudge over something you did to them.
But one way or another, you are going to have to convince people that just hate you sometimes.
What do you do in those cases?
There are a couple of persuasion techniques that can assist in this scenario.
1. Mood Mirroring
Out of the different types of mirroring, mood mirroring is especially useful here. In short, feeling the same way as the person does. Or at least, showing it.
When an executive hates you, chances are they want you to suffer as well. They are bitter and want you to be as well. They are cynical and want you to be as well.
If you are in a different mood, they will immediately realize you are different from them. They will resist you. Instead, you have to stop for a moment and feel their pain. To speak to them being in the same mood as them.
After you establish this similarity, thought, you can start leading them to a different mood.
This is the NLP concept of “Pacing and leading”. First you adjust yourself to be the same as the person. Now that you’re on the same wavelength, you can slowly move them out of there.
By being in the same mood as them, they won’t see you as disrespectful. As belittling their pain. They will see you as a kindred soul, someone similar.
2. Empathetic Ramp-Down
Empathy may also be useful, especially if the person is angry or resentful. Sometimes, you can literally see an executive pout or foam at the mouth when they dislike what is being said.
The empathetic ramp-down is nothing more than using empathy until the person calms down. Verbalizing that you understand them and the specific worries they have, or specific negative feelings they may have.
You keep showing that you “share their pain” over and over as they slowly calm down. Their amygdala, the “emotional brain” will slowly come down as they come back to the realm of logic.
And that’s where the next two techniques come into play.
Displayed authority simply means having objects or other people say things for you. When you say it, it sounds biased. When others do, it doesn’t.
If you say, “I have achieved over $5M in savings in optimizations in this company”, it may sound cocky or arrogant. But if you let a diploma, or a report, or someone else speak for you, it will sound a lot more reasonable.
This is especially important for people that hate you. When something comes from others, it may sound reasonable. But when it comes from you personally… ouch.
This is why you should, as much as possible, get others to make your claims (and possibly your asks). Don’t ask for support for an initiative yourself – have one of the other stakeholders make the request jointly with you. Don’t use your own email – forward someone else’s with your ask on top of it. Don’t use reports you made yourself – use data from others.
In short, since they hate you, try and remove yourself from the equation as much as possible.
4. “UP” Answers
And finally, there is a small optimization that can be made for logical arguments.
“UP” Answers are a persuasion cocktail that combines two different elements: Uncertainty and the Potential (therefore the name).
Uncertainty is all about seeming more authentic. When you sound too confident, people’s BS radar immediately goes off. By seeming uncertain, you actually have more authority.
The “potential” is all about anchoring. When pitching something, you can either talk about its proven track record of results, or the future potential. And counterintuitively, the future potential has a much bigger effect than the track record.
This is due to the anchoring or primacy effect. When you start with the best-case scenario, the potential, everything else afterwards is filtered through that. But if you start with the past performance, then everything else is filtered through that (so the potential sounds unreasonable).
You can combine both principles into one simple statement format:
“I’m not sure about the general case, but for [ABC] in specific, this has the potential to save you/earn you/help you in [ABC] ways”.
By using both uncertainty and the potential, any answer can provide the same facts but sound a lot better while doing so.
Conclusion: Dealing with the Most Difficult Type of Executive
Out of all of the possible executive relations scenarios, negotiating or asking something of someone who just hates you is one of the hardest. But it’s not impossible.
By applying some targeted persuasion techniques to decrease or even neutralize the person’s emotions, while reinforcing the logical aspect of the ask, you can improve your chances considerably.
Naturally, as with anything, it’s not a silver bullet – but it is a substantial upgrade over the otherwise “normal” communication.