“Actually, I’m a total weakling,” I told Bob. “I’ve got a lot in common with the guy in those classic bodybuilding ads who kept getting sand kicked in his face.”
Bob had just commented on how I looked like I worked out a lot – and I sensed that, because I looked so “big,” it bothered him.
We were meeting for the first time, and I wanted to secure a deal with him. I didn’t want him to feel intimidated or get his guard up. (Not that being bigger and stronger is worth much when it comes to business.) So I used an old comedian’s technique to win him over.
Not only did I admit to being a “natural-born” weakling, I told him that I’m a lousy athlete. I said that any strength I had was artificially created through years of working out – and that the moment I stopped exercising religiously, my muscles would melt away with alarming speed.
Bob did just what crowds do in a comedy club when a performer uses this technique. He smiled and loosened up.
People don’t go to a comedy club to listen to some guy on stage who presents himself as being smarter, better looking, and making more money than they do. They go to feel good. And when a comic uses self-deprecating humor, it makes them feel good about themselves. It’s just human nature.
Putting yourself down to build up the other guy works just as well in the business world – whether you’re trying to close a deal, get other people to support your objectives, or win new customers.
Here’s an example of how it works…
John, a real estate multimillionaire, was interested in buying an office building that was about to go into foreclosure. The owner had taken a risk when he bought the building by using almost all his cash for a down payment. Then, when the economy slowed and several tenants moved out, his cash flow slowed to a trickle… and he was in trouble.
When John met with the owner, it was clear that the man expected to take a financial beating on the property – and was blaming himself for the situation he was in. So before John even made an offer, while shuffling through the papers in his briefcase, he chatted about his own “problems.” Shaking his head, John said, “I don’t know how it happened, but I have no control over anything at home.” He confided that his wife ruled the roost – and he felt lucky that she even allowed him to watch football on Sundays.
There was a smile on the owner’s face as he read through John’s offer… and then, feeling very much in control, signed the contract.
Here’s another example…
When Jane was hired as the manager of a retail jewelry store, she expected trouble. The assistant manager was 20 years her senior, and had worked for the company for eight years. Needless to say, he resented having been passed over for the promotion.
As Jane walked through the door her first morning on the job, the assistant manager made some flippant, borderline-offensive comments. The other employees laughed, and Jane knew she had to do something quickly to overcome this potential obstacle to her success.
She could’ve given the assistant manager a verbal lashing in front of everyone, but she knew that would simply make matters worse. Instead, a bit later in the day, Jane asked him to come into her office.
“I’m going to be honest with you,” Jane admitted. “I’m so scared about doing a good job that I almost lost my breakfast this morning.”
The anger in his eyes dissipated as Jane continued: “I know that I’m an outsider, and there must be a ton of things I don’t know that could ruin me. I’m hoping I can count on you – so, together, we can make this the number one store in the chain.”
The assistant manager’s attitude completely turned around. From that moment on, he went above and beyond the call of duty to get the entire staff to support all of Jane’s decisions.
Now before you try this self-deprecation technique for yourself, there is one important caveat: What you say about yourself must ring true, or you’ll completely alienate the person you’re trying to win over. But when used correctly, it is a very powerful tool – and only one of many that I have in my arsenal.
There is nothing more important to a business career than knowing how to deal with other people. If you want to have every advantage on your side, click right here and check out my free report on People Power Skills.[Ed. Note: Paul Lawrence is a successful entrepreneur and publisher who has started over a dozen profitable enterprises. If you’re interested in starting a new business with less than $100 in capital, you should take a look at Paul’s Micro-Business program right here. It could add thousands to your bank account in as little as 30 days.]