I arrived at the airport last weekend and I realized that the group I was travelling with was spread out all over the plane. Our seats were nowhere near each other, and there was some work that we needed to accomplish during the flight. I told my colleagues, “Don’t worry. I’ll talk to the agent about switching our seats.”
They scoffed at me. “Good luck with that. The plane’s totally full. We tried to switch our seats online and then again over the phone this morning. They can’t do it.”
What came to mind then were the 8 magic words Bob Burg talked about during an interview for the RichLife Radio Show. I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to apply them, to see if they really were magic. After standing in line at the check-in counter, I walked up to the agent.
Actually, I have a problem I was hoping you could help me with
WHAT USUALLY HAPPENS
The agent was tense and busy and the line of people waiting to check in their bags behind me was long. “Name, please.” He was all business and didn’t even smile.
I handed him the boarding pass I had printed up myself and told him, “Actually, I have problem I was hoping you could help me with.”
I chose those words carefully. What usually happens when customers find themselves lacking in what they’d hoped for is blame. They fall into the trap of thinking that it’s somebody’s fault – the seat assignments weren’t handled correctly. They assume the worst – that somebody wasn’t doing their job. Then they take that frustrated energy and throw it at the one person who potentially has the power to help them. I didn’t do that. Instead, I offered the agent an opportunity to show me how good he was at his job.
WHEN TO SAY IT
I explained the situation. Then I let him talk. I listened to all the reasons why it couldn’t be done. I nodded to show I was listening – and I really was listening. I agreed with him -what he was saying made perfect sense. I let him have his say. Then, I spoke the 8 magic words.
If you can’t do it, I’ll definitely understand
WHAT TO SAY
“If you can’t do it, I’ll definitely understand.”
I waited and held my breath. The agent’s brow furrowed and his fingers flew over the keyboard. He said, “Check back with me up at the gate and I’ll see what I can do.”
Elegant Psychology: Expecting More of People & Giving Them A Way Out
WHY THE 8 MAGIC WORDS WORK
Those eight little words – If you can’t do it, I’ll definitely understand – are very effective because they do two things:
- they present a challenge
- and they give a way out
Most people respond better if you expect more of them rather than less. You almost always come off better if you adopt the attitude that people want to help you. Your job is to show them how by being clear without being patronizing, and always being kind.
That last part – I’ll definitely understand – is what gives them a way out, because sometimes, they really can’t help you.
In this case, however, it worked. Our group was seated all together in a row, and we had a very productive flight.
Try using these 8 magic words to turn around your next conflict and see what happens. Does it lead to an interesting conversation? A funny story? Tell me about it in the comments below. I’d love to share your experience with our RichLife community.