Most of us have the habit of solving problems and trying to influence others by starting from where we are. Here’s a story illustrating the creativity that can get unlocked when we start from where they are.
“Excuse me,” said the gentleman. “Do you have a dollar for four quarters?”
Bestselling author, entrepreneur, and thinker extraordinaire Seth Godin had just parked his car on Manhattan’s Upper West Side when he was approached by a panhandler.
The question caught Godin’s attention because it’s not the question he expected from the panhandler. And Godin actually did need quarters for the parking meter. So he and the stranger completed the transaction.
Then the gentleman asked Godin, “Excuse me, do you have a quarter?”
This happened many years ago but Godin still tells the story because it’s priceless:
And the brilliance of the question, of course, is yeah, he knew I had a quarter. He had just given it to me. And that we had a transaction that had helped me, so now it was obvious I was going to give him a quarter. In fact, I gave him three, because I wanted to reciprocate.
The panhandler understood something fundamental about being persuasive: He understood that most people in New York City were not going to interact with a homeless man and just hand him money. He understood that commuters needed quarters for those meters. And he understood the powerful force that reciprocity can be.
When you want to change hearts and minds, whether you’re in the board room or the living room, try starting from where they are.
My gratitude to Seth Godin for permission to use his story in this post.