Monster in Their Closet


Angry Woman on the Phone“I’m Right and I’m Gonna PROVE IT!”

I hear this frequently.  Perhaps not in those words, but I hear versions of this online, in blogs, and in person.  I believe it has become even more common as frustrated business people deal with frozen, fearful clients or management.

This is particularly common where potential clients are fearful due to bad national economic news that may not be applicable to that person’s local market economy.

“I’m afraid to buy a house right now because the national news said the market is so bad.”

Then I hear business people in decent local markets talk about presenting facts about the local market, examples of why now is the time to buy, blah, blah, blah.  In other words, the response is,

“My clients do not understand the local market and I am going to beat them in to submission with facts and statistics.”

If your potential customer or manager is more influenced by national news than understanding the local market, then this is not a market-educated, logical businessperson.  Using education and logic to make them “feel better” is the wrong tool.

In fact, I submit that using facts alone to battle fear is typically a losing battle.  Sorry.

Fear is not always a bad thing.  But many people would rather follow the herd than think for themselves.  As a professional, your job is not to push facts alone but to truly HELP others.  Present facts if you like but a focus on empathy and understanding will likely take you further in building a relationship as a trusted adviser.

Monster ManFor instance, a child scared of monsters in the closet at night can be presented with the fact that nothing is in the closet by a close inspection.  However, what typically makes the child feel better is reassurance that they are safe, that a parent or two is close by (and available) and that someone will come back and check on them later. 

In other words, reinforcement they are safe and in a safe environment will often work better than a “factual” check of the closet.

Your potential clients, colleagues and managers are not much different.  Present facts if you like to support your position but display empathy, understanding and suggest new perspectives.

For example, let’s say you are a Realtor and your potential client says they cannot buy or sell because “the market is dead right now.”

Politely get permission to ask questions.  Perhaps tactfully ask if you should quit your profession and cancel the deals you have in progress.  Ask if you should tell your current clients to stop buying and selling because the national news said the market was awful.  And do NOT be sarcastic… ask as if you really want their advise.  Get them to look at the market from someone’s eyes besides their own, their scared friends and the national media.  See if they can explain why you have business when the TV says the market is awful.  Do NOT tell them this…. ASK THEM!

What I don’t get are the so-called professionals that keep using the same approach to overcoming fear time after time, then continuing to complain that others won’t listen to them.  While some people are not able to let go of fear in trying times, some will… if you are truly considered a trusted adviser.

But doing the same process over and over and complaining it does not work is crazy.  If the horse is dead, dismount.

Building relationship of value and trust is more than presenting facts.  It is also about inspiring trust and confidence.  This can be done with empathy, understanding and perspective.


Glenn S. Phillips is the author of Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself. His website,, will lead you to more information about effective communication training, risk assessments and genuinely helpful tips. You can email Glenn directly

© 2012 All Rights Reserved.  Glenn S. Phillips and Forte’ Incorporated. (205) 985-1111


About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.