Cooperation between admissions officers and faculty members can be crucial to a college’s strategic marketing efforts. This is particularly true when transfer credits need to be approved, when accepted students or their parents have detailed questions about academics and when yield events are taking place on campus. But developing collaborative relationships with faculty members may not be the easiest of tasks. Some colleagues may be stubborn and difficult. How can you develop a beneficial alliance with a colleague who doesn’t want to cooperate?
Set the Stage for a Mutually Supportive Relationship
Before trying to persuade a difficult person it’s important to prepare your mind. Persuasion expert and bestselling author Robert Cialdini, PhD makes this recommendation: ‘First, think of qualities and traits of this person that you can like and admire. Reflecting on these will cause you to like that person (at least a little bit). Studies show that people can instinctively sense when others like them, and when they don’t. We tend to like those who like us,’ so if your colleague senses that you appreciate him or her, they will be inclined to like you in return. Cialdini concludes, ‘We are much more easily persuaded by those we like.’
Next, Get your “Foot in the Door”
Now that you’ve set the stage you’re ready to take the next step in getting your colleague on your side. In order to get cooperation, people will often argue with those who block their efforts or make obvious attempts to “butter them up.” This can backfire and leave you in a worse position.
If the one you’re trying to influence is stubborn or resistant, you may need to take another step first. The Foot-in-the-Door technique can effectively warm up relations – and a spirit of collaboration with faculty members or other colleagues. Benjamin Franklin discovered this when America was still a British colony. His experience was analyzed by Dr. Elliot Aronson, a social psychologist voted to the list of The 100 Most Influential Psychologists of the Twentieth Century and coauthor Carol Tavris, PhD. They wrote: “While serving in the Pennsylvania legislature, Franklin was disturbed by the opposition and animosity of a fellow legislator. So he set out to win him over. He didn’t do it, he wrote, “by paying any servile respect to him” – that is, by doing the other man a favor – but by inducing his target to do a favor for him – loaning him a rare book from his library” In Franklin’s own words:
He sent it immediately and I returned it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favor. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death. This is another instance of the truth of an old maxim I had learned, which says, “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged.
Franklin’s experience illustrates, as Dr. Aronson observes, that the favor a difficult colleague has done you conflicts with any negative feelings about you he or she may have in mind. Minds don’t rest until such conflicts are resolved. Controlled experiments have replicated Franklin’s experience – that those who do a favor for another usually justify their actions by feeling that the recipient deserved their generosity. That can warms things up considerably.
Use Ben Franklin’s strategy to jumpstart a spirit of partnership
So, to get a stubborn faculty member or colleague to stop blocking your efforts and start cooperating with you, why not use a communication strategy endorsed by luminaries like Ben Franklin and Elliot Aronson? Start by asking him or her to accommodate you in some small way. Make it a request that would be hard to refuse. Then, once they’ve done what you asked, be sure to warmly thank them for helping you out. This is one of the marketing communication strategies used by airlines when they say, “We know that you have a lot of airlines to choose from, so we want to thank you for choosing us.” Like Franklin’s fellow legislator, we all tend to think that if we’ve chosen to do something, it must be a good idea. So, getting a truculent associate to assist you in some way will often warm him or her up to helping you in the future. It can at least get the ball rolling in the right direction.
What further creative steps can you take to forge partnerships with previously unhelpful faculty members and coworkers? You’ll find the answer in “Getting Cooperation from Faculty and Colleagues - Part Two.”