Every event planner experiences it at one time or another. They present an idea that they think is a "slam dunk." Instead of getting an enthusiastic "Yes!" by their responses, it is clear that clients or colleagues are "underwhelmed" at best or totally opposed at worst. When one idea after another is rejected, it's tough to know how to to proceed.
The Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) concepts of "matchers" and "mismatchers" can be helpful in uncovering the dynamics at play and figuring out a strategy. It's based on the idea that everyone has habitual patterns of thinking, perceiving situations and reacting.
When ideas are presented:
- Matchers: A matcher's initial reaction is agreement. The glass is half full for matchers.
- Mismatchers: By contrast, a mismatcher will initially take the opposite position and search for flaws. Recognize a matchmaker with the phrases "Yes, but" and "That won't work" - or just stunned silence when you were expecting enthusiastic endorsement.
While it can be frustrating to deal with mismatchers, they do play an important role. If a group consists primarily of matchers, there will be a tendency to arrive at consensus too quickly before options have been thoroughly explored. Groupthink and arriving at the wrong decisions are real possibilities.
Mismatchers put the brakes on and force the group to slow down and thoroughly analyze options. With a group of mismatchers, the risk is that really great ideas might be shot down and discarded prematurely. The key to influence is to help groups balance these two approaches.
When dealing with mismatchers try:
- Setting up a pre-meeting or conference call with mismatchers a few days before the main meeting.
- Prepare a written summary of the situation and send it before the pre-meeting. Include thought-provoking questions to give mismatchers a time to reflect on the situation and come up with ideas.
- Allocate more time for your meeting than you think you need. The process will definitely take longer if there are a number of mismatchers in the group.
- During the pre-meeting, present the situation, and, especially if they are introverts, give them more "thinking time" to analyze the situation and formulate their own ideas and solutions. They are less likely to shoot down ideas that they have had a role in formulating.
- Preface your ideas with statements like "This may not work but...," "I'm not sure if this is the best approach but...," and "Some of the pitfalls of this approach are...." Mismatchers will take the opposite position and uncover why things will work.
- Build on ideas that mismatchers present and highlight how what you are presenting incorporates on their suggestions and addresses their concerns.
- Elicit their feedback and use it to improve your offering.
- During the meeting, again present the situation and let the group spend some time brainstorming.
- Wait until the group's brainstorming process bogs down before throwing your ideas into the mix. The group is more likely to be open to input at that point.
- Be sure to identify ideas that originated during your pre-meeting and give credit where credit is due.
- If you find yourself becoming frustrated, take a break or let the group explore options on their own for a while.
- Guide the group in a pro and cons exercise or through a force field analysis to encourage an objective exploration of all options.
It isn't always easy to help client groups make decisions. With mismatchers, the direct approach is never the most optimal. Giving the group time to reflect and the opportunity to present their ideas first, will greatly improve an event planner's success in influencing client decisions.
Fore more tips for helping groups make decisions also read 12 Steps for Influencing Corporate Clients to Make the Best Decisions, Meetings 411: 10 Tips for Getting Beyond Groupthink, and Business Meetings 411: Decision-Making Tools for Event Planners.
Photo Credits: Nguyen Hung Vu