I took my car into a Toyota dealership some weeks ago for a repair I thought Toyota should pay for. After stating I knew my car trouble was not the service rep’s fault, I noted that I did think Toyota should be asked to pay for the service. How the service rep. replied has stuck with me ever since. The rep said:

“That’s not the way you should think about it.”

I can’t tell you how the rep thought I should think because his opening totally derailed my attention. Here is a situation where the rep challenged my thinking right away with no attempt to establish rapport. His efforts failed to keep my attention on what he was saying and made me very resistant to anything I eventually heard him suggest.

How could the rep have done better?

In any conversation, you are almost always trying to get the listener to think a different way, so I can’t blame the rep for his intent. However, what he did ended up pushing me away. Negotiation expert Chris Voss might suggest you do what Voss calls an accusation audit, where you defuse a bad response like I had by anticipating the listener’s reaction before hand: “I know this sounds self-serving and you may think me disingenuous, but….” It might have softened the blow. Another tactic would have been to acknowledge my feelings to help me feel the rep understands me, then perhaps the challenge would have been better received. There are many options, but the main lesson is to delay challenging a listener’s thinking until after you’ve built some rapport. Otherwise, you’re likely to trigger a negative response and not get what you want. And of course how you word a challenge matters, too, but that’s a topic for another post.

The rest of the story

I did not end up getting service from this dealership or the rep. Neither did I get Toyota to pay for the repair. But I did get the repair done for half of what that dealer rep quoted.

Photo by USAG-Humphreys

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