How to Turn Suspicion into Appreciation


I arrived with great suspicion at the baseball card shop on 98th and Lyndale last week, hauling five years of my childhood from the trunk of my car to the feet of the shop’s owner. I was burned by baseball card trades in my childhood, so I fully expected this guy might try to take advantage of me.

I’d always assumed that this collection was going to net big money as it gathered dust in my basement. Today was the day of reckoning—and the answer to whether it even mattered that I’d hung onto them all this time.

“How old are they? Are they all from when we were kids?” he asked.

“Yes, all from the eighties,” I said.

“Yeah, I’ve got them too. I hate to say it, but they aren’t worth anything.”

My suspicions were confirmed, and my thoughts raced:

Have I been naïve in storing and moving this collection around for 30 years?

Should I trust this guy?

Could I look these thousands of cards up on eBay?

Then he said, “I know. It’s too bad. I’m sure you invested a ton of time and money into this collection.”

And then he started to look through it.

“Ah, remember this card?” he said. Then, “Oh man, you have this one!?” And, “Remember we all thought this guy would be a star player!”

I started laughing and looking. Side-by-side, we rifled through the collection like we were ten years old again.

Finally, he said, “I can give you forty dollars for everything. That covers the two or three items of value in the collection. The rest I’ll give away to kids who come into the shop. They love to see the old cards.”

He went on: “You know, the cards that are much older are the ones that are worth something. An older man came in the other day with his childhood collection, and we offered him $15,000! He declined as he wanted to check other options. We gave him a good offer. Cards like yours from the 1970s and 1980s are just so common that they don’t get the same value.”

And then he asked, “Are you sure you want to get rid of all this? Do you want to give them to your kids to play with?”

“No,” I responded sadly. “We want to clear them out of the house.”

“I know. It’s really hard. Are you sure?”

I looked him in the eye and knew that he understood.

Now my guard was down to ask a more honest question: “You think I should try eBay or hold onto these for a while to get more money for them?”

“It won’t be any different on eBay and probably not much change in value for years. Too many of these are in circulation.”

That’s all I needed. I took the forty dollars, thanked him and walked out. All suspicion gone and replaced with appreciation. The monkey was off my back.

Disarming the Skeptics

Do you ever work with people who are suspicious or guarded? Perhaps they’ve been burned before or they just don’t buy what you’re saying? It’s not always easy to convince people who come from a point of skepticism and hesitation.

But maybe we could learn a thing or two from how this baseball card shop owner moved me from suspicion to appreciation.

He…

  1. Started with a posture of inquiry. Begin by asking questions to get the other person talking. This also helps to clarify any assumptions.
  2. Let me know that I wasn’t alone. Knowing that others have gone through similar situations is reassuring.
  3. Empathized with my situation. When he said, “I’m sure you’ve invested a ton of time and money into this collection,” my default response was, “Yes. Thank you.”
  4. Appreciated what I was bringing. Avoid the temptation to take an I’ve-seen-this-before attitude and rush along to the next task. Consider the card shop owner who took a few minutes to admire and appreciate what I was bringing to the table.
  5. Made a direct suggestion. Anticipation and ambiguity increase skepticism. Transparency reduces it. The card shop owner made the offer quickly and clearly.
  6. Helped me to see the emotional value. The card shop owner didn’t just make a logical argument for his suggestion; he added an emotional perspective. It would benefit the kids, he said.
  7. Built credibility with a story. Stories illustrate and substantiate. The story about offering $15,000 to the older man made me believe that my $40 offer was fair and that this shop was willing to pay more if it had been worth it.
  8. Challenged me not to take his suggestion. Anti-selling has a powerful psychological effect. Gently encouraging someone to not move forward with something causes them to internally justify the reasons to move forward.

As Dale Carnegie said, “When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.”

Who is coming to you with a collection of suspicion?

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