From time to time you run into adversarial contacts within your dream client’s company or within your clients companies. It can be extremely difficult—and frustrating—to deal with people who aren’t partner-minded. They aren’t looking for value creation; they are looking for a vendor to blame.

One of the worst possible ways you can deal with an adversarial contact is to play their game. They’re better at it. But more importantly, becoming adversarial yourself means that you now have two adversarial people to deal with, only one of which you can control. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Greeting force with force is called fighting. It’s called conflict. You greet force by getting out of the way, defusing it, redirecting the energy, and letting the force dissipate.

Divorce Yourself from Your Emotions

Adversarial people lack resourcefulness. They don’t know how to get what they want, and they have trouble dealing with the constraints and obstacles to better performance. They are low on the business maturity continuum, so they blame their partner (whom they would refer to as their “vendor”) for any issues or challenges.

Whenever the adversarial are unhappy, they attack. It’s difficult to restrain the urge to fight back when you are attacked, but that’s exactly the wrong thing to do.

Instead, divorce yourself from your primal instincts. Divorce yourself from your emotions. Don’t flail around and lash out at the adversarial. The target of their attack isn’t you. It’s something inside them that are really struggling with, and attacking them back only feeds a conflict.

Say to yourself: “This isn’t really about me.”


Stephen Covey is fond of pointing out that there is a space between stimulus and response. Take that time. Observe the pause.

By pausing, you can let your own negative energy dissipate, and you can let the adversarial’s energy dissipate. The passage of time allows things cool. It allows things to be seen in their proper light. If you don’t have to respond immediately, don’t!

Build Alliances

You need air cover.

It’s easier to deal with the adversarial when you have alliances within their company. Hopefully, you have built alliances at a high enough level that you have air cover. It’s always better to gain the support of your allies before you respond to the adversarial.

Go directly to your partner-minded sponsors and share with them whatever you are dealing with from their adversarial co-worker. Help them understand your side of the issue, and share with them how you intend to deal with the adversarial. Get their advice on how you can best manage the issue. Ask them for their support.

If you forced to deal with the adversarial, you can be sure that the rest of your contacts within your client’s company know exactly what you are dealing with. Making sure they know you what you are dealing with, that you are taking a reasoned approach, and that you need their support to help you resolve the issue can protect you from any damage.

Kill them With Kindness

When you do respond to the adversarial, you have to greet their adversarial attacks with a partner-minded, level-4 value creator’s response. This starts and ends with you being kind, thoughtful, and professional (things you can’t be if you take things personally).

It’s very difficult to maintain an angry, aggressive, adversarial demeanor in the face of kindness and professionalism. It looks petty, and it can be embarrassing. It’s difficult to fight with somebody who isn’t willing to fight with you.

If you can make light of the issue with humor, you can do much to defuse the adversarial. If you can’t be calm, cool, collected, and professional.

Respond with Options

Most of the adversarial people you encounter are adversarial for one of a couple reasons. Some are very unhappy in their personal lives. Some have very little power and want to exercise the little power that they do have. All lack resourcefulness and struggle to find a way to produce the results that they need.

Your best response is to help them identify options to produce the result they want. Your job is to help your client produce the results that they need, not to help only the partner-minded people within your clients.

Be cool. Be professional. And defuse the adversarial.


What is the best way to deal with an adversarial person?

What do you have to do to keep from allowing your emotions to exacerbate a conflict?

How can you let the emotional part of the conflict in you dissipate? How do you help make it dissipate for the adversarial?

How do you help others find their own resourcefulness?

Sales 2012
Post by Anthony Iannarino on June 20, 2012
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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