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Matching wits with decision-making 'mismatchers'

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Have you ever been in a communication situation such as a sales call and felt you and the other person were like ships passing in the night? Have you ever felt frustrated when you were trying to decide something simple with a significant other and it felt like you were spinning in circles?

Here’s an example. My spouse, Brooke, says to me, “Honey, do you want to go see a movie?” I say in response, “Why not?” So, she starts rattling off movies and I keep saying, “Oh, I don’t want to see that.” She then says, “What do you want to see?” I say I will see anything except the movies she has named so far.

What’s the problem here? What is the communication challenge that causes us to lose many a sale and to have many a misunderstanding with loved ones?

Each person has his own unique system or strategy for making decisions. The most challenging of them all is the difference between someone who is a “matcher” and someone who is a “mismatcher.” The most simplistic way to put it is that each of us looks at life unconsciously as either “half empty” or “half full.” Mind you, this is not how you think you should think, it is how you actually do think.

This very simple communication difference between two people can drive you crazy when you are presenting information to someone for the purpose of helping them to come to a decision. No matter what you say, the other person points out what’s missing or potentially wrong about what you are suggesting. This can be interpreted as disagreement, when in fact it could easily be that the person is a mismatcher, someone who notices what’s missing.

If you want to get a quick read on whether someone is a matcher or a mismatcher, just notice what he says whenever you greet him with, “How’s your day?” Listen for his response. Some people will say, “Not bad” (which usually means good, by the way). Others will say, “Not good” (which means bad). The person is articulating what is missing, which is another way to identify what is there.

By contrast, if you ask a matcher, “How’s your day?” he will either respond, “Good” or “Bad.” He is pointing out what is there. You must understand that both ways of thinking are just as valid and it is pointless to make a value judgment about what is. Instead, we need to learn how to be flexible in our communication and sensitive to the different ways that people need to have information presented to them.

When speaking with a mismatcher about going to go see a movie, you might end your suggestion with, “You wouldn’t want to go see the movie I’m suggesting, would you?” To which a mismatcher might easily respond, “Why not?”

In the process of uncovering how someone thinks about issues and decisions, we can then present our recommendations in his language, as opposed to unconsciously trying to get him to conform to our own.

A recommendation to a mismatcher might sound like, “You wouldn’t want to get started right away to get these kinds of benefits, would you?” Of course, the likely response is, “Why not?” Again, these are just unconscious patterns, strategies we developed as children to have a way to navigate the world and make decisions. The decisions are obvious to us, but like the tip of an iceberg, the larger, more powerful strategy for how we make decisions is largely submerged.

I challenge you as you go through this week to count how many matchers and mismatchers you can identify just by listening to what people say when you ask them, “How’s your day?”

While this kind of unconscious communication is powerful, there is an even deeper level, a level that goes beyond people’s behaviors or even the strategies determining their behavior. This unconscious communication is even more powerful, of course, when you can also read people’s behaviors and strategies.

I look forward to sharing it with you next time. After, all, “Why not?”

Don’t miss Sarano Kelley’s keynote presentation at Senior Market Advisor Expo Aug. 22-24 in Las Vegas. For more information visit