As talented and wonderful an attorney as you may be, chances are pretty slim that every one of your settlement proposals was immediately accepted. There was at least one objection and possibly many of them to most of your proposals. Since you can’t make everyone happy all the time, what’s the best way to respond to an objection?
When you get an objection to your proposal take it as a good sign. The person is interested, engaged and may be motivated to find a way around the problem in order to reach an agreement. You need to find a way to finesse the objection and prevent it from grinding the mediation to a halt. Sure ways to turn the objection into a problem is by failing to address the core issue presented, downplaying the objection or making the other party feel foolish for bringing it up.
Handled Properly An Objection May Help Seal the Deal
There could be any number of reasons for an objection.
- The other party doesn’t understand your proposal. Instead of appearing ignorant the person gave a negative response. Don’t assume you and the other party are on the same page. You may need to go over the proposal again. Make sure the other party understands it.
- If there are several parts to your proposal the objection may concern one or two issues not the entire proposal. Try to narrow down where the problem lies and build momentum by confirming those parts both sides can agree upon.
- The other party may have difficult time making decisions whether it’s what to have for lunch or whether a lawsuit should settle. Help the person decide.
There are many things you can do to keep the communication going in the right direction after an objection is made.
- Hear the person out. Focus and listen. Get to the heart of the disagreement. Don’t cut the person off, be argumentative or act dismissively. On the other hand don’t blow the objection out of proportion.
- Show respect for the other party by acknowledging the objection. Show some empathy, talk about why you understand the objection could arise. Then put yourself in the other party’s shoes and talk about why your proposal is in their interest.
- Treat the objection as a question. Re-phrase it as a question and pose it back to the other party so everyone understands the basis of the objection. Are there missing facts? Are there assumptions that you’re making that the other party isn’t making?
- Find out if there are other objections. You need to know how big the fire is before you can plan how to put it out. One objection may be related to another. See if you can take an approach that will solve more than one objection.
- If the objection comes early in your presentation, acknowledge it, and then continue with your presentation in a way that may address it. If the objection remains, talk about it later.
Objections are all part of the mediation and negotiation process. Don’t let them rattle or frustrate you. Take advantage of them by using them to learn more about the other party’s interests and position.
Try to package your proposal to make it appealing or go back to your client to come up with a different proposal both parties can live with.