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Preemptive Labeling

Our goal with this technique is to preempt the objections that the other side will have before they do, which takes away their weapons.

Underlying Psychology/Biases

By simply stating the problems that someone would raise before they do and addressing them beforehand, the intensity of them will be limited. You will disarm most of their objections.

  • It also works due to perceived contrast. You’re illustrating the problem, and then the fix;
  • “I know you’re going to think this doesn’t work, but we have testimonials from 7 top experts in similar positions that prove it does;

But when the person has a very strong objection, that one will remain even after you disarm it. So you know that’s the objection that is the true one and is still there.

Sub-Techniques

There are four major categories of elements you can preempt:

  • Existing risks
    • “I know you are going to think that there’s a risk that [ABC], but we do [DEF]”;
  • The person’s fears and negative assumptions
    • Taking the negative assumptions the other side may have about you – and mentioning it before them;
      • The equivalent of Chris Voss‘s Accusations Audit;
    • “I know you’re going to think I don’t care about you, but [ABC]”;
    • “I know you’re going to think that we’re lowballing you, but [ABC]”;
  • Specific prejudices and traumas the person may have
    • “I know you fear being scammed, because you have been in the past, but [ABC]”;
  • Doubt they may have
    • “I know you may be doubting this, and I’ve done it myself, but I came back because of [ABC]”;
    • You’re telling them that you’ve already doubted this yourself, and it wasn’t a good idea;
    • It’s a type of removing exits as well;

It’s important to use a future hypothetical tense and not the present:

  • “I know you’re going to think we don’t do [ABC]”
    • Versus:
  • “I know you think we don’t do [ABC]”;
  • You want this to sound like a future hypothetical element, and not something in the present they already do. Because then, they will assume they already think that, and it’s more consolidated;

Another technique you can use here is augmented mirroring. Feeling their emotions more than they do.

  • If something is particularly skeptical, seem even more skeptical, which disarm them by comparison:
    • “John, I know you’re skeptical of [ABC], and I am even more skeptical. Which is why I got evidence to address all the issues you’re thinking of, and even more. What do you think?”;
    • “John, I know you’re angry at our company, and I am even angrier. This is completely not tolerable. Which is why I have already talked to the team to deal with it, and contacted other departments as well for this purpose. What do you think?”;

Examples

  • “This is what’s wrong”
    • For example, just like Jack Dorsey listing “all the reasons not to invest” in Twitter, leading with your weaknesses at the beginning of a presentation;
    • It’s an example of both this and adverse transparency;
  • “I know you think X”
    • When, in casual conversation, you already know that a person will have an objection, you can literally look them in the eyes and say, “I already know that you’re going to dislike this because [ABC], right?”. And the person’s objection will be diminished;
  • Risk assessments
    • Building a risk matrix, strategically, in a corporate environment, is doing this. It’s being honest about what may go wrong and addressing it;
  • Objection compendiums
    • Objection compendiums – something recommended for anyone persuading – is doing this;
    • It’s predicting what may go wrong – and will go wrong – and dealing with it;
  • FAQs
    • Similar logic as the above. An FAQs is just a website telling you, “This is what you’re going to think will go wrong, and how we deal with it”;
    • Not only does it disarm objections, but it reduces mental effort through streamlining;
  • “I used to think like you”
    • An example of preempting doubt;
    • Telling the person, “I have doubted this myself just like you, but I left that point of view behind because it wasn’t worth it;

Commercial/Known Uses

  • Chris Voss‘s Accusations Audit (in specific, preempting the negative thoughts or feelings the other person will have);

Key Takeaways

  • The core concept of preemptive labeling is that you take the person’s weapons and use them against yourself before they do. This disarms their power;
  • This is a type of adverse transparency. You’re preempting everything negative the person could say and saying it yourself first. You could hide it, but you choose not to;
  • You can make this technique work more and more by both feeling it more than them, using augmented mirroring, and by zooming in on the specific traumas and feelings they have;
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