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Getting Buy-In While Counseling Parents

Smiling parents on couch with infant

Sometimes, people don’t buy into whatever great idea we’re trying to sell. We remind ourselves that it’s their decision, and we don’t want to be too pushy. But is it possible we’re just going about it the wrong way? When you’re trying to get buy-in from parents, consider Gretchen Rubin’s description of the four main tendencies.

She talks about external expectations (e.g., meeting a deadline or carrying out a procedure correctly) and inner expectations (e.g., how to feed or care for a baby, or keeping a New Years’ resolution.)

1. Obliger

Rubin says the obliger will honor external expectations and resist inner expectations.

It’s almost too easy to win these people over! You tell them what’s best, and if they assume you’re the authority on the topic, then they are likely to buy whatever you’re selling.

What should you do? Be sure you’re rock solid on your advice-giving. Be sure you have elicited a solid history and conducted a thorough, respectful interview before giving advice.

Remember that you don’t understand all their life circumstances. You don’t have to go home with that baby.

2. Upholder

Rubin describes the upholder as one who honors both external and internal expectations.

She emphasizes, however, that upholders can only meet their inner expectations when those are well articulated. Hence, helping them to get clarity is crucial.   

What should you do? Recognize that they are likely to seek perfection. Focus on helping them to get started with the task at hand, rather than to get it perfect.

In general, help them to gain focus. Scheduling, clarity, pairing, or monitoring (e.g., frequent weight checks) are all strategies to help the upholders.

3. Questioner

Ah yes. Questioners do what they think is best, and if you’re suggesting something that doesn’t make sense to them, they won’t do it.

I consider myself an expert on this, because … guest what? I’m a questioner! It’s not possible to get buy-in from me unless your suggestion is completely logical and backed by solid evidence. I will honor internal expectations but resist external expectations.

This video made me laugh! I mean, a full belly laugh! I swear she eavesdropped on all the words I’ve used when talking with my husband, my team, my doctor, and everybody else in my life — including myself! (And if you want some insight into what I’m like in real life, you’ve gotta watch the video!)

4. Rebel

The rebel is exactly what you might assume: one who resists both internal and external expectations. Rebels want to do something their own way.

What should you do to get their buy-in? Rubin says that if you “make” them do it, they are less likely to do it. Instead, lay out the options, outline the possible outcomes, and then invite them to make their choice.

Basically, they need to think the idea or suggestion is theirs. Not yours.

Most of all don’t give unsolicited advice; they will likely perceive your advice as criticism. Instead, ask questions and make them curious.

The best absolute best strategy to use with rebels is anything pertaining to increasing their sense of self-identify. Other good strategies are those that emphasize clarity, and convenience.

About the four tendencies, Rubin cautions:

While many strategies work for just about everybody (Convenience, Inconvenience, Foundation, Clean Slate, Lightning Bolt), some strategies that work very well for one Tendency can actually be counterproductive for another.

Rubin gives plenty of insights for running our own lives and helping others in her books:

In this post, I’ve given just the highlights of what she has covered in her recent book, The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too).

Consider taking her Four Tendencies Quiz to find out what tendency you prefer. Even though I knew that I would turn out to be a Questioner, I still appreciated the details in the report that followed the survey.

Understand, I’m not suggesting that we bamboozle parents — or anyone else — into doing something that they truly don’t want to do. But often, people do want to move forward with their parenting skills, their life, their job, their money, or whatever else they are struggling with. Presenting the information with the strategies that match their tendencies can be a key to better outcomes.  

How do you get buy-in from parents? What Tendency do you have? Tell me in the comments below!

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