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Playing Hard to Get?

From the blog Mediation Marketing Tips

I am ever so slowly catching up on blog reading after my extended leave of absence.

There have been some recent (ok stale for real time bloggers) posts from mediators about saying “no” to new business. One angle is that if you are not competent to do the work, you should say “no” so that you don’t ruin your professional reputation. Tammy Lenski posted about that here.

The logic is that if you say yes to something that is out of your league, you will likely screw it up and do more harm to your reputation than good.

An interesting thought.

Another angle, posited by CKA Mediation and Arbitration BloggerChristopher Annunziata, is that if you don’t stretch yourself you will never grow. Christopher tells anecdotes about lawyers who come out of law school with very little real world training and everything they do in the beginning is a stretch beyond their skills and experience.

To me, I see the first reason for saying no as rooted in fear. Fear that you will screw up. Now, this isn’t a license to commit malpractice, if you don’t know what you are doing and get “stretch” work by all means consult with others, research, learn, grow, stretch yourself to do the best job you can and competently.

My view is inspired by my dear ol dad who recently passed. One of his favorite stories was of my grandfather who got in line during the Great Depression to get a job with a motor company. When he got to the head of the line the guy asked, “what do you do?” He said he was a “machinist.” The guy in line told him they didn’t need any machinists. So he asked what they needed, he said assembly line workers. So my grandfather turned around and went back to the end of the line. When he got another chance at the front of the line, he told the man he was an assembly line worker and got the job.

My dad’s motto in life was, “Yes I can.” His life was full of examples of saying yes to something that before he said yes, he didn’t know how to do. He figured it out. Sometimes he ended up becoming an “expert” in a new area.

There will always be new areas, new twists. Innovation not stagnation drives our world. If we are afraid to say yes to something new because of the fear of ruining our reputation, we may never grow. There is always a first for everything.

Realistically speaking most beginning mediators don’t know what they are doing. The basic mediation training does not adequately prepare a new mediator for dealing with the difficult people and situations that come up. But how are you ever going to learn if not by doing? Study, take courses, practice, prepare yourself, but then you must jump in the game.

Forget the fear. Do it afraid. Stretch yourself. Might you screw up? Perhaps. Will it do irreversible damage to your professional reputation? — probably not. Chances are you might just become the new expert in a difficult and cutting edge area of practice.

Still want to turn down business? (as counter-intuitive a thought as this may be…)

And now, for a whole new reason to turn down business — playing hard to get. This is a new twist on an old theme. It’s what Ford Harding calls the “flip.” (If you haven’t checked out his Harding Co blog you really should, it is full of great rainmaking stories).

The point here is that in turning down business you become more attractive to the person. It goes back to some basic psychology of human behavior and the ol’ hard to get game. Sometimes we desire more that which we cannot have. It also ties into the notion of scarcity.

I’ve known mediators that make their calendars appear full even when they’re not to generate a little scarcity.

Take a look at the flip. When you turn down business the person looking to hire may then “flip” and begin selling you on why you should work with them.

The interesting intersection between human nature and building business.

You do want to be a rainmaker don’t you? Do you have the guts to say no? Not because you’re afraid you are incompetent but because you want to see if the client will flip? Give it a try.



p.s. I will not be able to do the Phoenix marketing workshop. I’m sorry, but will catch you next time.


Kristina Haymes

Kristina R. Haymes is a mediator of litigated and non-litigated cases.  She has successfully assisted parties in resolving employment, real estate, commercial and family business & estate disputes. MORE >

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