Cringe-Worthy Requests and What to Say - Christine Kane

When was the last time someone put you on the spot? Maybe a dear friend asked you for a discount. Maybe your sister volunteered your time and ignored the fact that you just started a business. 

These scenarios can feel defeating and frustrating, and sometimes stop us in our tracks. Those lovely Gremlins pop up in our heads and in an instant our attention is diverted into a blackhole of self-doubt.

That’s exactly why I created something for myself – five steps in fact – so when on-the-spot questions came up, I could respond clearly and confidently.

I share the experience from a recent client as an example of how an awkward discount request was turned into a confident response. 

You’ll never get stuck wishing you knew what to say with these strategies in your hip pocket. Cheers!

Episode Transcript

The key thing to understand here, and in any scenario like this, is this, it’s not about knowing what to say. Knowing what to say is just a pay stub job. The response, in this kind of situation actually goes deeper. You want to be able to access your wisdom and find an authentic response that is clear or equanimous and gets you the result you want.

Welcome to The Soul-Sourced™ Podcast, unconventional business advice for the highly creative secretly sensitive, and wildly ambitious entrepreneur. I’m your host, Christine Kane. Let’s do this.

Welcome to episode number four, the very most special episode number of all the episode numbers. Sorry, that’s just a bit of Enneagram humor there for you. The issue we are going to talk about here today is what to do when someone asks you for a discount or wants you to lower your prices or puts you on the spot.

And we’re probably not going to cover every eventuality for how this might happen in your business, but that’s okay, because what I will walk you through is how to navigate this issue so that you can have kind of a roadmap for all kinds of scenarios, where you get put on the spot and typically might feel awkward or irritated, or just plain old wish you knew what to say.

So this episode is brought to you by my client, Renata, which is not her real name, but she will know who she is. And I’m going to lay the scene out for you. And I’m going to change all the specifics, except for the fact that Renata is a very successful artist.

A year and a half ago, Renata did a large studio sale of her paintings. And we’re going to say that it was called the “Never Ever Will This Happen Again Ever” sale, which isn’t what it was called, but it had a similar kind of name, kind of a flavor. And the sale was successful. Everyone was happy. Renata made a lot of money. And then she went back to her commission work and other projects that were on her plate.

So there was this one painting that did not sell at the “Never Ever Will This Happen Again Ever” sale. And Renata was actually relieved because she loves this painting and she didn’t think the sale was reflective of the true value of that painting. So that painting went back with her, to her studio.

And just last week, a friend of Renata’s emailed her, we’ll call him Rudy. And Rudy had found Renata’s old flyer from the “Never Ever Will This Happen Again Ever” sale. And Rudy had remembered how much he loved this one painting at the sale. And being a friend of Renata’s he also knew that it didn’t sell. So last week he emailed Renata and he wanted to know if he could have it now at the same price that it was a year ago at the “Never Ever Will This Happen Again Ever” sale.

Okay. I’m going to press pause on the story right there. And I’m going to let you call to mind anytime that you have as an entrepreneur, been put on the spot with your pricing or with discount requests or odd requests like this.

So typically when someone wants coaching on a situation like this, they want me to tell them what to say, which was how the scene was presented to me as a coach. What do I say? So the key thing to understand here, and in any scenario like this, is this, it’s not about knowing what to say. Knowing what to say is just a pay stub job.

The response, in this kind of situation actually goes deeper. You want to be able to access your wisdom and find an authentic response that is clear or equanimous and gets you the result you want. And I will remind you that as a soul sourced entrepreneur, the results you want, aren’t just about making the sale and getting the money. You also want to be able to experience the confidence in this kind of transaction and then act from a place of congruence and real power, because that is what then builds your own trust in yourself and you’ll be able to feel present to all kinds of scenarios in your business.

So we are going to unpack three different elements of this situation here, because business wisdom like this, doesn’t come from me spouting off a bunch of cool things to say, to get people to shut up and pay you first. We’re going to look at you, the entrepreneur. Second, we’re going to look at the person who makes this kind of request. And third, we’re going to dive into the responses and how to clearly communicate your response to this kind of situation. And this might seem like a lot of deep diving in order to find one quick answer, but quick answers do not a business make. Wisdom is more than all the little one liners that every coach says off the top of their head.

So let’s begin the first thing. And that is you, the entrepreneur. And there’s an opportunity here. And that opportunity is found in all that internal chaos that happens anytime someone puts you on the spot like this. If you check in with yourself, you’ll notice typically that in a situation like this, all of your energy kind of constricts and you get tense, and this is called a pattern.

So consider that at first, what you’re typically responding to is that feeling. And you’re trying to avoid that discomfort. And it’s usually a very old feeling and it is usually fraught with the word should. As in I should discount or this person making their quest should know better than to make this request. Like all the ways we want the world to behave so that we can feel good about ourselves.

And so what we tend to do in these situations, because our body feels so uncomfortable. And because that constriction and collapsing of our energy feels so awful. And then on top of it, all those should start shouting at us, is that most of our energy in an effort to just get the hell out of there and try to figure this shit out or to relieve the discomfort. Most of our energy raises up into our heads and we try to find all kinds of answers up in our heads.

We look to the mind. We look to our thoughts, to our left brain. But the response we most need, oddly to some people, does not come from our thoughts. And if you’re going to succeed as a soul-sourcedTM entrepreneur, you need to address your own energy first. And now I want to be clear, this doesn’t involve incense or crystals or candles or angels or unicorns. It’s actually fairly tactical.

The first thing I would say, would be to never answer a request like this in the moment, always, always take a pause, do not hit reply in the moment. Do not need jerk your answer in the moment. And on a future episode, I’ll probably talk about how to phrase this kind of thing. And, and my book, the Soul-SourcedTM Entrepreneur has a whole section about this, but for now, just know that you don’t want to respond in the moment.,

Find a way to say, Hey, interesting idea. I’ll get back to you within 24 hours. Does that work for you? Or something like that. And then once you have that space, it’s time to dive in. And this is what I did with Renata. The first thing I did with her and what you want to do is check in with yourself and find the honesty. There is absolutely no harm that comes from mining for the truth that is inside of you.

And in Renata’s case, we mind a little bit, and we found three things. The first thing is that she didn’t want to discount this painting. She had actually been excited that it didn’t sell at her sale. The second thing is that her sale was called the never again will this happen again ever sale for a reason. And that is because she told her patrons that never again, will this happened. Not never ever again will this happen unless you email me in a year and asked for the same price.

The third thing is that Rudy’s request made her feel icky. She felt like she should give him the price because it was a friend. And she felt like, well, it’s just sitting in my studio. So why wouldn’t I sell it to him? But the truth was, she didn’t want to put such a low price tag on this work that she loved so much. So there was this kind of, a bit of a battle going on inside of Renata. And I know that this, this kind of thing, isn’t where your typical business coach is going to go, but this is what here at Uplevel, we call the soul track of business.

So when you have a business, you are moving that business forward on two tracks. The first one is what I call the strategy track. And that’s all the stuff that we typically associate with business. That’s selling, negotiating, hiring marketing, systems, team building all the left brain stuff. Which is where we think the answers lie in the strategy track in our mind and our thoughts. But the second track is where we find all of the challenges and the obstacles that make us or break us. And it’s what I call the soul track. And this is the soft stuff, the underlying stuff that is when you look deeply running the whole damn shit.

So if, as a business coach, I don’t get my clients to understand this part of themselves. Then all I’m doing is telling them what to say. I’m giving them a bunch of tactics, which often leads to an unsustainable business because the entrepreneur isn’t actually facing their own patterns, their own shit. And as I often say, your business is the playground for your soul’s growth. Which is why it’s so valuable to take a moment to stop avoiding the discomfort you feel.

So if you’ve made it with me this far, in this episode, you might relate to Renata’s internal workings. All that constriction, all those little contractions inside, and then the should is telling her to just be a good person and give Rudy the damn painting. Even though the sale was called never again will this happen ever again sale.

What we tend to do at this point is unconsciously we try to avoid all that discomfort. Like I said, we tend to exit the scene and we go to all the wrong places and we completely lay waste to our own energy. And one of those places that we go is that we tend to blame the person who made the request, the person who asked for the discount and mind you, this process can happen in a matter of minutes, but it doesn’t matter because an energy drain is an energy drain and soul-sourcedTM entrepreneurs know that anything that drains your energy is a drain on your whole business. And that impacts your money as well.

And this brings us to our second place that we want to go in this process. And the second place is the person making the request, because this is where all the shoulds can come from. And this is your projection onto this person.

So, this person, the one who makes weird requests, drives us batshit crazy. They send us into places of this like righteous indignation, and they give us hours of conversation that we can have with other people who are equally indicated. I’m going to make up a word at similar people in their own lives and businesses. And then we have these long drawn out conversations and we rail against all these stupid things. All these stupid people do without examining our own responses. And then we move on with our lives, knowing that we’re better than everyone else and that no one struggles quite like we do or whatever story that you would like to tell yourself about how much more refined you are than everybody else.

I’m going to assume you don’t want to be like this anymore. And that even if you have had conversations like this with other people about, you know, all your righteous indignation, you start to understand that these conversations are not contributing to your wellbeing or to your energy and that you want to move on. So great. Let’s do that.

Here’s the thing to understand about the person who makes this kind of request, be they friend, foe or family. They don’t know what you do. They don’t know the background. They don’t know the backstage or any of the secret stuff that happens in your business. Rudy didn’t know that Renada had really thought out this sale and plotted it out. She they’d even know how many hours she spent on this painting. He doesn’t know how many hours she spent abroad studying from the masters, any of that stuff. And the key thing to understand about this is they shouldn’t have to, that’s not their job. When we go to have conversations with people like this. One of the biggest mistakes we make is that we sit around and we explain ourselves, or we want them to understand the way we do, why their request is so completely out of bounds or whatever.

And I’m going to give you a totally unrelated example, but it still applies. So when I was a musician, I would go on very long tours and let’s say it was February. And I was going to the upper Midwest because my agent used to love to send me to the upper Midwest in the winter. So I’d have a big tour and let’s say it started in Cincinnati. And then I went up to Chicago and then up into Michigan and then over to Wisconsin and into Minnesota. And because my agent was my agent, I’d have to do some random show back near Chicago. And then I drive all the way over to North Dakota. Basically I’m going every which way. Right? You get the idea.

So these tours could last anywhere from three to five weeks. And when I was younger, they were even longer, but it never failed. My mom would call me when I was on the road. And then she would find out that I was going somewhere like to St. Paul in three days. And she would get all kinds of ideas and she would start telling me of, you know, Aunt Dottie, Aunt Dottie lives outside of St. Paul, just about 35 minutes, or she’d think of some former elementary school principal that I had, who lived there as well. And then my mom would find the museum exhibits in the Picasso exhibit was there in Minneapolis. And she would have this list of things for me to do because my mom, she keeps in touch with everyone and she loves museums and tourism and going to places. And she would describe all these things that I should do. And because mother daughter, relationships are complicated. I would want to scream because here’s the thing.

If you’ve ever been on the road, you know that your life looks like this. You drive, you may be, do a radio interview at an NPR station somewhere. You then have a soundcheck time. And most of the time you don’t get to check into your hotel. First, you go to your soundcheck, you stuff, food in your face, as fast as you can. And then you get already in the dressing room. You put on your makeup, you perform you’re up late. You’re signing CDs. Sometimes you have to drive a little bit after the show. So you can get closer to your next performance. You check into your hotel, you sleep as much as you can. Maybe you do a little business in your room before you check out. And then you’re off to the next date. And my mom has me driving all over St. Paul for tea and crumpets and the Picasso exhibit.

So here’s the thing to understand though. No one knows whatever the version of your backstage of your businesses. And that includes the people who ask you to discount and includes my mom wanting very badly for me to have a good time or to be a good daughter or whatever it is. People are just being the way they are and they’re spouting off what occurs to them in the moment. Our righteous indignation implies that every one of us knows the workings behind every single one of our jobs, our businesses and our lives. If you own a business, then the faster you understand that they don’t, the better it’ll be for you and everyone you lead or manage or communicate with. And that includes clients and prospects and vendors and family and friends or whatever. So being a soul-sourced entrepreneur means you recognize that your indignation is an opportunity to go deeper and get clearer and be a leader.

So in the situation with my mom, I could simply say, Oh, those are sweet suggestions. I love Aunt Dottie. She’s fabulous. I’m going to give her a call, but I can’t fit that into my schedule. And Renata’s case, Rudy doesn’t know, he’s stepping over a boundary. Rudy’s just doing what Rudy does. He’s asking for the painting. And he’s realizing and regretting, he should have gotten it when he first saw it and loved it. The reason it’s so important to understand this is because it impacts how you are able to step up and communicate with Rudy or anyone who asks for discounts or steps over a line or whatever. They have no idea they’re crossing a boundary that you have never communicated.

And this brings us to the third place we want to go here. And that is what to say in this situation. And I’m going to start by saying that one of the hardest things about running your business hands down is that you, the solo entrepreneur, you don’t have any kind of built in excuses.

And we all love having built in excuses. Like, you know, I can’t, I’m sick or Oh, it’s company policy, or the dog ate my homework or whatever it might be. Most of us have a lifetime behind us with no kind of training or encouragement on how to be clear or how to set a boundary or how to honor your clarity or communicate your clarity. Instead, we have been taught to make shit up, to lie, or blame some outside force wherever possible.

So a built in excuse just makes everything easier. Like if you had someone to blame like your boss or Wanda over in HR, or some nebulous policies and procedures manual, but you’re not a big company. You’re just you sitting at your desk looking at an email and you can’t say, Oh, sorry, my hands are tied here. Cause you would be the one style, the one tying them.

So the first thing we talked about was your insides, your energy, your truth. And in Renata’s case, the plain raw truth was she didn’t want to sell this painting for such a low price. Bottom line. But most of us have been conditioned to think this kind of clarity is unacceptable. That people who are clear are bitches or assholes. It’s worse for women because in all the dysfunctional environments, we’ve all been in like public high school comes to mind. We all learned survival techniques. And one of those techniques is a complete and utter lack of clarity in order to fit in and never ever be called a bitch. And so when you’re an entrepreneur and you’re now faced with scene after scene, that requires you to step up, make clear choices and communicate them because there is no way to be successful without that.

This may seem at first, like it truly sucks, but it actually doesn’t suck. In fact, let’s reframe this. I want you to consider that not having built in excuses, not being able to blame someone else in situations like this and being forced to communicate your clarity is actually a gift. In a world where very few people are willing to be clear and subsequently allow the space for others to be disappointed in their clarity. You get the opportunity to own your clarity and to have what’s called a fierce conversation or radical candor or whatever the cool kids are calling it these days. And it is often a very uncomfortable learning curve at first. And this is why these books are so popular. And why you hear people like Tim Ferris saying that the measure of your success is directly correlated with the number of uncomfortable conversations you’re willing to have. That’s my favorite thing that he says, I think, across the board.

And that’s exactly what this is. It’s a conversation about value, pricing, about clarity and ultimately about boundaries and requests. So with that said, let’s talk about what it can look like to articulate a response here and what it means to stand in your truth.

First, there are three traps that you want to avoid. The first is that I just said truth, right? And so a lot of people think that telling the truth or sharing your truth means that you get to then dump all your emotional baggage onto the other person. And that is not what it means. When Renata and I uncovered her internal discomfort and irritation, that exercise was simply to get clear about what she truly wanted. It’s defined out what you, the entrepreneur really want completely outside of all the shoulds. Not so you can tell Rudy how hard he just made your life and how he needs to understand how much resentment he created in you. Laying your gunk all over other people is not what it means to stand in your truth.

The second trap is that we often think that in a conversation like this, we have to get the other person to agree with us. We make the mistake of thinking that if we share our clarity, we got to get buy in, or that everyone has to be on board. And that is not true. Being clear means that some times people don’t like your choices or they don’t like you, or they are vocally disappointed in what you’ve just told them.

And the third trap is being attached to getting the sale. And yes, I know this is the big one. And of course far be it for me to say, you must let go and get all sermon on the mount like with you. But you have to admit that the problem is that attachment and clinging are going to screw you up every time. When people bring me this issue, it’s often laced with an underlying issue and that is Christine. I want to be unattached. I want you to help me be unattached and confident and clear, but I still want to make all the money every time, even if it means lying or manipulating or shortchanging myself. And that’s like saying, I want to be spiritually enlightened, but I’d like to do that while still having my ego fully intact.

The bottom line here is that you have to be willing to let go. And that can often look like you experiencing the discomfort of your attachments. As you learn this new skill for soul-sourcedTM entrepreneurs, the reward of standing in your clarity and telling the truth and the process of learning, how to communicate has to at some level outweigh getting the goodies.

And I will say that you often do get the goodies, but eventually you realize that the true reward, the true goodies, is your own integrity and confidence and being unscarred of yourself and unscarred of the situations that can arise in your business.

So let’s talk about how to respond here. I’m going to share five steps to this conversation and what I encourage clients to do when they’re just starting with this is to make sure you actually sit with yourself and do a bit of writing first, before you have the conversation. Again, giving yourself the space to find your clarity. You’re learning a new skill set here, and that’s not something to rush through. In fact, I’m going to be the first to admit, this is a long ass podcast episode to sort through something that will ultimately be a 62 second conversation for you. But this is a lot like music.

When you first learn how to play a tune, you do it with that little metronome, you know, that metronome going really slow. And you go slow and you take your time and you learn every single finger move slowly and painstakingly as you go through Stairway to Heaven until you can do it without even thinking. You know, same thing here. We’re going to break this down slowly. So I’m going to walk you through the steps first, and then I’m going to share the actual thing that Renata would say to Rudy in her email. All right. So let’s do the steps first.

And the first step to your conversation is this. You always want to acknowledge the request and thank the person for whatever you can thank them for. You know, thanks for such a great idea or thanks for your kind words about my painting. That’s very sweet. Thank you for caring enough to make this suggestion. In any communication, as much as you can acknowledge the other person, you will go a long way to moving tension or resistance out of the way.

The second step is to then state the fact either you want to list the facts of the situation or of your business model or how you do things typically. And in Renata’s case, it was a sale called the “Never Ever Will This Happen Again Ever” sale.

The third step of the conversation or the email, whatever it is that you’re doing, is to acknowledge the thing that this person wants or are requesting, and that you would love for them to have it, or you would love to serve them at this level. And again, it depends on your business model and the request itself.

And then the fourth step has two options. The first is to offer an alternative solution or the second option is you simply say, no, like you deny the request.

And then if you did offer an alternative solution, the fifth step is going to be a call to action. We call this CTA at Uplevel. So there’s two ways that you can do this. You can either tell them what to do next, you know, like write me back or call me or whatever. Or the, the higher level of that is that you tell them that you will be the one to reach out to them in the next 24 hours or some kind of way that you can check on them. And what that does is that it kind of puts you in the driver’s seat and says, I will make the move, which is a little higher level, but those are your options.

And then your last step, your bonus step is that you let go of the outcome, which I know is a biggie, but that’s what you have to do is just send it out there. So here is how this would look for Renada and I’m going to take those steps and I’m going to apply them to how Renata might respond to Rudy in her reply to his email. And it would, it would go like this and I’m reading now. So I’ll try to, I’ll try to insert my little steps in there. Okay.

So it starts with, “Thanks for the note, Rudy. I hope you’re doing well. How cool that you remember that painting? It’s one of my favorites too, and truth be told I was happy it didn’t sell last summer.” You could put a little sideways smiley face, but all of that is step one. That’s acknowledging.

Now we move to step two. “So here’s the thing. Since that sale was called a “Never Ever Will This Happen Again Ever” sale I want to honor what I called it. And I want to honor the people who purchased my art during the sale so that I can remain in integrity.”

And now we move into step three. So, “But if you love this painting, I would love for you to have it. And here’s what I’d like to propose.”

And now we’re moving to step four. “How about I give you my friends and family pricing and we’ll take 20% off the retail price, which would take that too.” And then you list the price like the offer. This is the counter offer.

And now we move into the call to action. “If that works for you, I can personally deliver it to your house this Friday. And maybe we can meet for tea beforehand and catch up” Question Mark. “Let me know. And thanks for writing. It’s great to hear from you.”

And then that’s it. And like I said, I highly recommend that you spend some time writing this out. Like almost like turning the metronome on. Walk through this. Even if this is a face to face conversation, get yourself clear, get yourself ready, just taking the time to do that will really remove you from that knee jerky reactive place. That it is so easy to find yourself in. And the cool thing is this becomes a very fast process that you start to do naturally, not just in sale conversations, but you start to step up in every conversation you break out of old, emotional conditioning, which is really what a lot about leadership and becoming a leader in your life is about. And you start to let go of all the attachments and all of those, just emotional reactions that come along with trying to avoid these very natural things that happen inside of yourself.

Okay. So if you liked this episode, here’s what I’m going to tell you to do. Please subscribe to the Soul-SourcedTM business podcast. I would love that. And if you really like this episode, would you be so kind to give it a five star review over on iTunes? And then if you really, really like this episode, there’s more for you out there my book is called the Soul-SourcedTM Entrepreneur and unconventional success plan for the highly creative secretly sensitive and wildly ambitious it’s on amazon.com. Right now you can go get it before anyone else. Thanks for listening. And I will see you next time.