I’ve learned over the years that sometimes we can say or ask something that can make a huge difference to the outcome of a business conversation.

Today, I’d like to share one of my favorites.

I have something magical for you to try next time you are headed for a war of words with a client, candidate, a consultant…. your mum! (or mom for my U.S. friends ); anyone really.


First, let me ask you a question.

What do you do when you are verbally attacked by somebody?

Bar the temperate few, if we feel it’s unfair, tend to get a little defensive or at least a tad hot under the collar as we wait patiently to calmly present our solid defence that often only serves to fuel our attacker.

If you have a measured and appeasing personality, I take my hat off to you; I wish I could be more like you. What I’m about to share took me a long time to master and it’s brilliant at diffusing most hot heads keen to see you squirm; at least to the point where you can have a civil conversation.

It goes like this.

Harry Hothead calls you to let you know your agency is a joke. Your consultants deliver 2nd rate service, the last candidate they placed is about to be let go, they want a full refund and he is going to tell ALL his friends in the industry never to use your agency etc.

Our trained reaction is to listen ever so politely waiting for our moment to calmly address Harry’s concerns and protect the honour of our agency by stating our defence.  And then on goes the back and forth as Harry grabs onto something else you say and throws that back at you too!!

Try this Next Time

  1. Let the rant play out. 
  2. Don’t be tempted to interrupt.
  3. Once the verbal attack on you has run its course politely say this after 5 seconds of silence.(This will seem like a week!)

“Is there anything else?”

If you can remember to wait and then say this, it works like magic to slow them down and diffuse the anger.

…Why, I have no idea, but it does!

Once they run out of puff under your magic “Is there anything else?” spell you can start to deal with the issues one by one.

Try it; the hardest thing about this is to actually remember to say it when you are caught off guard.

Don’t forget the pause, that is where the gold is because the silence somehow shifts the anger to anticipation to what you are going to say. (Or if you are on the phone they could be thinking you have hung up!)

This question is in its element when used in the above example and it can also be used in other situations to get that extra little bit of valuable info.

For example, at the end of a client meeting when you are getting ready to leave, it’s amazing what people tell you when you ask “Is there anything else?” It can lead to jobs, referrals and more often than not you will be given extra useful information.

I always found it interesting when I would ask “Is there anything else you would like to add?” at the end of taking a reference and the referee would say “No, I don’t think so.” and then go on to detail more about the candidate.

A simple question that can certainly make a difference for you.


All the best,

Belinda Kerr

P.S.  For any of you with children; this works a treat with them too!



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