I was a big West Wing fan back in the day, and I really think I learned more about the nature of politics there than in all my readings in high school, college, and law school. I suppose that doesn’t speak that well of either those educational institutions or my attendance records, but that’s a story for another time. In the last season of the series, the character Leo McGarry was running for Vice President. He was given one of the most useful pieces of advice I’ve heard about how to deal with questions. “If you don’t like what they’re asking, you don’t accept the premise of the question.”
Let’s take a look at my favorite scene from Thank You for Smoking:
Notice, the first thing we see Nick do is reject the premise of the question. In reply to the question of whether vanilla or chocolate is better, he doesn’t choose one side or the other. He doesn’t accept that either vanilla or chocolate needs to be better. That’s not winnable. Instead, he appeals to the value of choice and why that’s more important.
We can see the same principle in action in the real world, as well. In the phone wars, Google touted its Android operating system as open, while Apple’s iOS was closed. Not one to miss a beat, Steve Jobs instead categorized the Android system as fragmented, stating that Apple preferred an integrated approach. By changing the vocabulary, Apple side-stepped the open/closed debate, instead re-framing it in more favorable terms.
This is brilliant – it’s exactly how you deal with something like this. It’s tempting in that type of situation to talk about why a closed system makes sense or to go after Google and attack the limitations of open systems. But the moment you do that, you are automatically accepting the premise that you are a closed system and they are open. And who really wants to be called closed? It has shades of big brother, narrow-mindedness, and limitations.
Let’s take a look at wedding meetings now. Suppose someone says to you “Why do you cost so much?” There’s a loaded question if I’ve ever heard one. It assumes you cost a lot, it assumes the value isn’t there, and it assumes that the cost isn’t reflective of the quality. These are not things you want to buy into. Don’t go there. Don’t talk about the cost of production, the time you put in, the amount of items you give. These are quantitative items that validate the premise that you’re expensive. Worse yet, you’re actually encouraging your prospect to look at your worth in analytical terms!
Instead, re-frame the issue. For example, “My photography is about creating memories. It’s not just capturing an image. It’s letting you return to the day after it’s over.” Notice how the premise has shifted from cost to value. Creating memories is a value statement. A person can’t attack it saying it’s not that important, and you’re no longer stuck justifying your prices – instead, you’ve created a platform to present your core values and talk further about the things you do. You can even segue into the costs of not capturing the right images, allowing you to talk about what’s lost if you’re not the one selected. And best of all, you’re back on the emotional level, which is really what you should be talking about in the first place. Isn’t that the reason you take pictures? To connect?