Rules of Engagement:  The Art of Proposal

That title has a nice “ring” to it.. doesn’t it?

All puns aside… How good are you at proposing?  I find that in my business life, most people are just as bad as my wife and I are at the video store.   Whether deciding on a new process strategy or picking a DVD for Friday night, the conversation goes something like this:

“What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know…what do you want do?”

“Whatever.  I don’t know…you?”

And on we go, down the indecisive spiral.

In these kinds of situations, people generally fall into three categories:

  1. Those that don’t know what they want
  2. Those that do, but are afraid to ask.
  3. Those that know, and ask for it.

If at all possible, you should strive to be “type C”.

To become that and do it tactfully, you must master the art of the proposal.  And that’s the easy part…

All you have to do is put something out there.. anything… just to get the conversation started.  As long as you aren’t one of the people that truly doesn’t know what they want, this shouldn’t be a problem.  You just say something like:

“Well honey, what if we rent that new Bruce Willis movie?  Does that sound good?

It works equally well in the office:

“I’d like to suggest we hold off on discussing that for now, to make sure we get through our other agenda items.  Any objections?”

In each situation, you have done two things:

  • You’ve planted an idea. The only options now are to accept or reject.  Indecision is not an option.
  • You’ve engaged the other party. By closing with a question, you solicit their input and get them to accept or reject.

The good news is:  Most people accept when faced with this kind of proposal.  If, however, they do reject, make sure you have them offer an alternative.  For instance, if the answer to your proposal is “no”, you can quickly follow with:

“Okay.   If you don’t want Bruce Willis, what did you have in mind?”

If the other person is unable to offer a “counter” suggestion, you can quickly throw out another suggestion:

“It is tough to decide, isn’t it? about a comedy?  Maybe this one?”

And the process repeats… until finally you reach agreement.

Start practicing the art of proposal now.  You’ll be surprised at how much time it saves and how often it works in your favor.

Unless you’re one of those people that really doesn’t know what they want…. but that’s a story for another blog.

“If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.”

– Nora Roberts

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