The Velvet Hammer:
A Quick Study In Getting What You Want
You can force your will on others,
or leave it all to luck,
or leave it all to luck,
but why do that when you can
use a velvet hammer instead?
Yes, the Velvet Hammer is the name of a drink. No, that's not what I'm suggesting you use to get what you want at work. Although some days, it might help. What I'm referring to here is the ability to consistently get what you want in a way that feels good to the other people involved.
We've all worked with people who hammer their way through the day, pushing others around and bullying them to their point of view. They may get their way more times than not, but if you're on the receiving end of their antics, you aren't a fan. It's like standing in front of a jackhammer. At the opposite extreme are the people who don't speak up and just accept things as they are without ever trying to get what they really want.
Sometimes you need to be firm - a hammer - to get what you want. By far, your best approach is almost always to be a velvet hammer. Here are three easy ways to pull it off and get what you want more often.
The Power Of The Velvet Hammer
Here's what you need to know before you learn how to use a velvet hammer. First, this is a practiced skill, not an inherent talent. Second, all the practice and skill in the world won't matter if you don't have an inclination to make your choices work well for other people. If you're a jerk, you should probably just stop reading. And third, just because you master how to get what you want doesn't mean you always want the right things. Use your new toy with care.
1. Go for the panoramic view.
The best way to get what you want, and be velvet in your approach to getting it, is to understand the big picture. You can't make your choice positive for everyone involved if you haven't stopped to consider their perspective. What are all of the options available to you? What do you want? What do other people want? Why is what you want good for the business? Why is it the best choice? If it isn't the best choice (but you want it anyway), why is it worth not going with the best choice? How does getting what you want help you, your boss, or others?
Bottom Line: Look at what you want from all angles before you press for it. Think about the person who can give you what you want, or the person you're trying to convince to line up beside you. Take the time to consider what's important to them, even if you have the ability to hammer your way through their opinion. This is how you earn respect while getting what you want, vs. commanding respect and taking what you want. This panoramic view can be assessed in less than a minute for some situations. It's time really well spent if you want to become a person of influence. People come to respect you and want to support you.
2. Make it okay for others to say yes.
A big part of using a velvet hammer with success is making it okay for other people to say yes. The best way to convince anyone of anything is to talk about what's in it for them. If you know what matters to others and you can speak to why your choice satisfies their preferences, at least in part, you have a much better chance of things going your way. The icing on the cake? If your choice doesn't satisfy their preferences and you acknowledge that - and explain why you're asking for their support or permission anyway - you're more likely to gain their support.
Bottom Line: People want to know that they matter. If you practice awareness and the ability to acknowledge other people's preferences in comparison to your own, you'll master this skill and become a person of influence. You'll use persuasion to your advantage because you're being respectful of other people and trying to make your choices positive for yourself and others. It's a classic win/win approach, but with a twist. You don't have to give and take; you just have to make it okay for someone to say yes by helping them see why your choice doesn't hurt them, disadvantage them, or otherwise undermine them.
3. Stick to your point like glue.
Once you know with clarity what you want and how it relates to what other people want, develop a four point message. What do you want? Why do you want it? Why is it good for you, the other person, or the business? And if it isn't really great for anyone but you, how can you make it okay for others to say yes? Conversations can become a runaway train. Think through what you want to say in advance and stay on point. Once you've done this for awhile, it'll be second nature and you'll know how to do this without any preparation.
Bottom Line: To use a velvet hammer approach, state your perspective clearly and gently circle back around to your key points over the course of the conversation. Don't expect to say what you want once and have people line up. Be persuasive through reinforcement of the key points that matter. Acknowledge what others have to say and respond with genuine interest. If something comes up that changes your perspective, say so. Just don't meander or wander through conversations. Be clear, ask for what you want, and make your point for why it's good for all involved. Chase a few shadows if you have to, but avoid unnecessary bunny trails. Even if you end up having to force a decision or action without agreement from others, you'll garner more support for having had the conversation.
A big part of your success in business is determined by how well you influence others to your point of view. Assuming you're smart and your opinions are worthwhile (benefit of the doubt, of course), you need to be able to convince others to see your point of view. You need to be persuasive up and down the organizational chain.
To be a velvet hammer, you have to start by considering the big picture. Go beyond your own perspective to think about what matters to other people. You'll make better decisions and you'll be better positioned to influence others' views. Find a way to make it okay for people to say yes to what you want. Acknowledge their perspective and respect their point of view even as you try and influence it to match your own. The more you can demonstrate you've been thoughtful and care about other people's reactions, the more effectively you'll change their minds or win their favor. It's natural human behavior in and out of the workplace.
One of the most important factors in using a velvet hammer with success is having clarity. Know what you want. Know what others want. Take the time to think through your approach whenever possible. Be clear, consistent, persuasive, and persistent in your position. Ask for what you want. Don't dance around it. Don't try to manipulate an answer without full disclosure. Gently push for what you want by being compelling to the other person. (Note: this means you have to listen, understand, and acknowledge their perspective.)
A velvet hammer approach is about everyone feeling heard and respected when a decision is made, even if it isn't their preference. The more you practice this skill, the more you'll get what you want. The more you get what you want, the happier you'll be. The happier you are? Well, I'll let you sort out the rest.
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