Receptive and Responsive or Reactive and Defensive

I was coaching a gentleman recently to prepare him for a big presentation.  We’ll call him Paul.  Prior to working with him, Paul’s boss and I met to discuss goals for the process.  He wanted Paul’s presentation message to be clear and memorable.  In addition, Paul’s boss was concerned that Paul often comes across as intimidating and over-bearing, particularly in Q and A.  I needed to help him become more likable and engaging in the prepared presentation as well as when he responded to questions so that he would make a positive impression on clients.

Paul and I began by working on some Q and A so I could see for myself what his boss was most concerned about.  Sure enough, when I asked Paul a question, he became defensive and reactive which is not ideally what you want to show a prospective client.

I suggested to Paul that while he comes across highly intelligent and knowledgeable, we might try a kinder gentler approach to ensure that his message is received more favorably.  When one person in a conversation becomes reactive and defensive, it typically makes the other party respond in kind.  The other party becomes tense and defensive.  Paul agreed that clients don’t want to work with someone who makes them feel tense and defensive.

Instead, I suggested that he greet questions and concerns with gratitude.  Be receptive and responsive rather than reactive and defensive.  Use the presentation and Q and A as an opportunity to help his client achieve greater understanding.

After the presentation, Paul’s boss told me that he did a fantastic job.  Paul’s message was clear and compelling AND he came across very likable and approachable.  We achieved our goal and also won the project!