The importance of the Buy-In

Have you ever gone to an event your friend dragged you into and you weren’t quite sure if you’re getting value out of it? Or maybe you’re going to see a doctor a friend recommended but you’re not sold on the idea of acupuncture or a chiropractor?

In every social interaction, before a social contract can be formed, there is a buy-in. The buy-in is the mental permission one needs in order to temporarily step into another person’s reality. In other words, a basic level of acceptance of and willingness to actively support and participate in something.

The buy-in acceptance level for a 5 minute conversation with a bank teller is low to non-existent because it’s their job to talk to you. Getting a stranger on the street to buy-in to a 3 minute conversation about being a tourist and asking for places to go may require a little more skill. At a job interview, the person is already “sold” on your resume (or at least, HR is) and you have 30 minutes. Convincing them you’re right for the role, however requires a little more. A level 1 buy-in in this case could be how you carry yourself in the first 7 seconds, or the first 5 minutes of your articulate, concise and powerful speaking patterns. A level 2 buy-in would be you demonstrating the core values of how you can add value to this role for 30 minutes and how you communication 3 competitive advantages you have compared to other candidates.

In romantic situations, your date wants to know you’re the real deal. If you met them online, they will first assess your appearance and vibe (a.k.a. energy field), how you carry yourself, and then your conversation skills. A woman will continually test a man for his honest signals (micro expressions or reactions that’s very hard to fake) until she feels like he’s stable and congruent enough in her perception of him.

Without proper buy-in, a coach, an interviewer or a potential date can continue, but the lingering doubt will also continue to grow like a virus that eventually overtakes each level of the body’s immune system. The spread is exponential as each level of “defense and repair” is destroyed for viruses. This is also true for lack of buy-ins at each step of a social interaction. Seeds of doubt grow exponentially.

Therefore it is best to address any issues with buy-ins early on in the interaction.

A common statement of intent phrased as a question can be used. For example, if the interviewer asks, “tell me about yourself”, you can reply with “Sure. I can briefly take you through my professional journey from college until now. Is that alright with you?” The interviewer will either agree with your statement, or offer a calibration, “sure, but also tell me which role you did and what you learned from each one”.

On a date, your statement of intent could be, “let’s get some tea at this amazing place I found and just see if we get along. What do you think? Do you prefer tea, or coffee?”. In a date situation, as a man your voice tonality should be neutral to downward inflection (more dominance) and you want to lead a little more as the man. In a job interview situation, a neutral inflection is usually safer until you learn more about the person you’re interacting with and you always let the interviewer lead. The only exception to this rule is if the interviewer doesn’t lead properly, in which case you lightly nudge him/her in the right direction while still giving them the reigns… or if they ask you to lead them through how you would tackle a problem.

Sometimes people unconsciously have a bias towards you. Maybe it is something small you did that meant a big deal for them. For example, at a company interview that they were running late for, I went to the kitchen after getting HR’s permission to get some tea. I saw a girl and I said, “hey, what’s up?”. She said hi and left. Later on she was one of the my interviewers and she gave me a very hard time. I asked her, “did I do something wrong?” and she replied, “you said ‘what’s up’ to me in the kitchen. That was really rude”. I asked why she felt that way and she continues, “it’s so casual and unprofessional and rude”.

I could not control how she reacts to me, but I told her, “I understand and I’m sorry about that. I meant no disrespect, I felt comfortable in this space and for me that’s how I greet someone I feel good energy from”. I didn’t get that job offer and I learned that in professional situations, err on the side of caution.

It is also important to realize that if a company has someone who is that sensitive, perhaps there are deeper issues at play here. How did this person become so sensitive? Why were they carrying negative pain body and is this a common occurrence or maybe she just happened to have a bad meeting? I ended up taking an offer at Google, and that company declared bankruptcy and was acquired a few years later. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but a company’s culture flows throughout the organization. I have since avoided using “what’s up” in professional interview environments.

In a date situation, sometimes the girl will really test you. Or a guy will test the girl. A woman usually tests a man if he doesn’t look like his profile, she senses weakness, she feels like he’s being dishonest about something, or she has a certain MPR but he hasn’t met it. Either way, she senses the man’s weakness or incongruent behavior patterns. For a woman, an incongruent man is tested the most. She needs to know who he really is. She needs to feel something real.

For men, sometimes the woman isn’t as attractive as he thought, or her communication is so sub-par that he wonders if she’s worth his time. In these situations there is a make-or-break situation. You NEED to get the other party’s buy-in, or you’re out of the picture. The interaction will end. There is a scene in Sex And The City where Samantha goes on a date with a very short man, but he’s super confident and congruent. He goes to the bathroom and she sees the tag on his jacket is from the kids section, so Sam gets up and leaves. He catches her on the way out. “What changed in the last 5 minutes?”. Sam replies, “You shop at Gap Kids”. The man doesn’t flinch. “So what? It’s cheaper and they make great jackets. You’re so tall you’re like a giraffe with a pair of nice tits”. She laughs and continues to date him.

Ideally you get buy-in right off the bat on the date, but if you’re in recovery mode, here’s something you can say: “I’m enjoying you being here so far, but I sense some hesitation. I’m ok cutting this short, it’s not a problem. Time is the most valuable non-renewable resource we have. (Willingness To Walk Away mentality) That said, what can I do to make this better?”

When you give people an “out”, even if only perceived, they relax. It releases the social pressure from the situation. If they do nothing and continue with the date / interview / interaction, every second that goes by, their unconscious is agreeing with the precedence you set. That’s why the phrase “you can leave if you want to” is so powerful and can potentially be abused by a sociopath. At High Integrity Skills, it is my belief that a real intent to walk away, not “perceived out”, is the only way to live authentic life. That means when you say something, you REALLY mean it. I am ready to walk away from this job interview, and I am willing to walk away from the dream girl if they are not feeling me. I don’t need to shine my light where it is not welcome.

On dates, usually there are multiple tiers of buy-ins. For example, getting a girl to a date may require a low investment buy-in, but walking her home is another level. She has to feel comfortable, safe and attracted to you at that level of investment. In each level of investment for the man and woman, there is a minimum buy-in level you have to address. An easy way to gauge his or her interest level is, “what are you thinking right now”, or if you want to be more subtle, “how are you feeling right now?”

Interestingly, great salesmen and con-men are usually the best people to use subtle, unconscious buy-ins throughout their interactions. They move you through higher levels of investment without triggering your conscious objection of “stop, this is uncomfortable”.

As a leader, it’s important to gauge your group’s investment level and allow for proper checks of your team’s buy-in. With limited buy-in, you get mediocre effort and with insufficient buy-in, you may even have deserters or a rebellion.

If you are someone who can get people’s buy-in and commitment, they will feel more invested in the cause. And, if you understand and can calibrate buy-ins at each level of individual or group investment, you will always hold a strong team together towards a shared vision or objective.

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