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Op/Ed

This scientist puts a unique spin on how to get your way in negotiations

(EDITORIAL) It’s not only what you say and how you say it, but also how you interpret what others say and spin it to your advantage.

A Black man on the left and a white woman on the right deep in conversation in a blue and yellow room using the spin methods to have a conversation.

It’s easy to confuse genuine enthusiasm or passion with putting a spin on something. I’m convinced there is a fine line between the two. Get me going about something I’m really passionate about, let’s say body surfing, and there aren’t enough superlatives in my personal dictionary.

It’s always “Great!” “Fantastic!” and “You’re not gonna believe how cool this is!” Is that really any difference between that and the person who puts a verbal spin on something? (I’m thinking maybe because they have to. Not necessarily because they are passionate about it.)

The art of spinning

Jeremy Sherman PhD, in a way-cool article for Psychology Today breaks the art of spinning down and explains that it’s what we say and how we say it that can assist us in getting what we want or at the very least how we deal with people. For example says Sherman, there’s “The gestural spin, (the posture of authority). There’s status spin (it must be true because this important person says it is). And of course there’s verbal spin, terms like great, tremendous, huge and awesome that are truly generic.”

Our language, points out Jeremy, “is full of spin that makes it sound like you’re just describing things as they are when, in fact, you’re weighing in with your opinions.”

And imagine all this time I thought it was mastering the art of groveling. I have also had limited success with hysterical crying and dropping to the ground and attaching myself to the ankle of the person I’m asking for a raise. Obviously Mr. Sherman has cracked the code on something I have not.

You gotta believe

According to Sherman, being gullible enough to be persuaded by spinplexes will tip the scale of substantive argument hard, perhaps in your favor. Which could be a good thing. But you better be careful what you wish for.

These days, many of us are too savvy to be persuaded by overt spinning. For example we tend to view things in black and white:

Lifting up: Very, very, really, really, great, huge, tremendous, amazing, classy, big. I guarantee you.

Pushing down: Very, very, really, really, horrible, loser, failed, stupid, phony, lightweight, unfair, mean and dumb. I guarantee you.

Yes, but what I really mean is…

It all depends on your interpretation. In fact the trick, says Sherman is putting the reverse spin on what you hear in order to subconsciously turn an argument into your favor. For example, when people say, “Stubborn” whisper to yourself “steadfast” and tell yourself the opposite. When people say, “Be flexible and tolerant, not stubborn and pigheaded,” whisper to yourself, “Be principled and committed, not spineless and wishy-washy.” 

If you can perfect the lesson that Sherman is selling then good on you. For me personally, life would be a lot simpler if people would just say what they mean and mean what they say. Without either of us having to put a spin on something.

Written By

Nearly three decades living and working all over the world as a radio and television broadcast journalist in the United States Air Force, Staff Writer, Gary Picariello is now retired from the military and is focused on his writing career.

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