“If I Were You…” Doesn’t Work In Marketing Or Mediation

May 24, 2012

     Seth Godin, the marketing guru, author and master blogger wrote today at Seth\’s Blog about the common error of many trying to sell a product, service, idea or anything else to a less than receptive audience:

“If I were you…”

But of course, you\’re not.

And this is the most important component of strategic marketing: we\’re not our customer.

Empathy isn\’t dictated to us by a focus group or statistical analysis. Empathy is the powerful (and rare) ability to imagine what motivates someone else to act.

     In any mediation, each side is trying to “sell” the other on its side of the dispute. Often, a party to a mediation will come into the process with a clear idea of what the other side should be doing instead of whatever it is that\’s creating the conflict. In essence, they are thinking, and sometimes saying, “if I were you, here\’s what I\’d do.”

     What such parties are really saying is, “if you were me, here\’s what you would do.” To Seth Godin\’s point, the other side is not you. What you would do is not that important to them.

     What would be useful is each party trying to better understand what the other side is trying to do, and why. The more each party does this, the greater the chances they will see the ways in which both of their interests can be addressed. This is where the mediator comes in.

[Image: Two “street signs” at Boxwood Public School, March 9, 2010]