Imagine this: you’re in charge of planning exactly when to present the Big Proposal to the boss, and you have to pick the location, day, and time for the meeting. You’ve got a slot on Tuesday at 10 a.m., 3 p.m., or 4 p.m. Which do you choose so that the boss is the most receptive to your ideas?
A recent New York Times Magazine piece shared research about “decision fatigue,” a concept coined by a social psychologist studying how mental activities can affect how people make decisions and which choices they make. The research showed that those who have to go through the laborious process of weighing potential outcomes from a block of information are often less in control of their own willpower.
So, to relate this research to our question at hand, if you’re giving a long, potentially expensive pitch to someone, their choice on whether to act on that proposal might be extraordinarily taxing on them, mentally. And if you want someone to negotiate with you and give a little bit of leeway, forget about it if they’re worn out.
People who have been hit with a lot of information, options, and scenarios to sift through (say, in a long business meeting) might just be unable to “be the decider” by the end of the presentation (hence “decision fatigue”).
So how do you combat it and make sure your big complex idea makes it out of the boardroom unscathed?
1. Schedule that meeting as early in the day as possible. Fresh minds are going to be your best bet. Ever try to get even a small issue resolved at 4 p.m. in the afternoon? No way, not going to happen.
2. Have experts ready to offer their opinions in your favor. If your decider is decision-fatigued, they may just ask for a recommendation. What you want to offer is the most respected array of people who’ve already come to the same conclusion you want to win. When the boss asks for their help, you don’t want to hit him or her with even more to worry about.
3. Tempt them with something that will appeal to their senses. Like something sweet and cheap at the checkout lane, the end part of your presentation should be especially hard to resist. How about a cost savings or some flashy perks? Maybe it’s a promise of notoriety or free press that couldn’t possibly go wrong. All of that would be awfully tempting at the end (and with minimal effort by the decider). If they are tired and depleted, it will help steer them in your direction.
4. Finally, feed them. The study showed that no matter how delicious (or not) the chow, glucose helps stimulate willpower and can help keep your brain in check. If you have a skittish boss who will want to bolt as the meeting creeps towards lunch, provide the old standby: snacks. Help your target focus on the task at hand, and hopefully come away from the meeting on your side.
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