Whether you’re debating someone or talking your boss into giving you a raise, learning how to be persuasive is one of the most important skills that you can have.
Today, I want to share with you my approach to being persuasive. Being persuasive isn’t about winning arguments. It’s not about defeating the other person. It’s about finding common ground, not educating others or shoving your ideas down people’s throats.
The first step to be persuasive is to find common ground. Let’s say you’re concerned about school shootings and all the children that have died as a result of them. You’re talking to someone who’s really into the second amendment who doesn’t believe in gun control of any kind, who believes that you can own a tank if you can afford to buy one.
We need to start by listening and understanding why they believe what they believe. This is without a doubt the most difficult thing to do because we are so set on our ways. And it’s very hard to open up and really hear what they have to say. But this step is critical.
They might say that they want to have guns in case somebody breaks into their house, they are able to defend their family, or that they believe they should have the freedom to own anything they want without any governments telling them what is okay and what’s not okay.
When they’re done making their point, we need to validate those points. We might not agree with everything they said, but most of the time there’s something that we can agree with. So we can empathize with their need to protect their family, or we can agree that freedom is very important.
So it’s very critical to this process to acknowledge the way they’re feeling. And this is so, so powerful because it makes them lower their guard and understand that you are on their side, that you’re trying to work towards a solution that works for both parties. That first step is about finding where there’s agreement.
The second step is about finding where there’s disagreement. A very effective way of doing this is to use the words “yes, but.” Yes, I see how important it is for you to protect your family. But I wonder if there’s a way for you to do that without a fully automatic guns. Or yes, I believe our freedoms are really important, but I want to make sure that we can have our freedoms in a way that is not jeopardizing the lives of our youth.
The first step is about finding areas of agreement. The second step is about finding those areas of disagreement. And the third and final step is to own the solution together.
This is what it could look like. You could say, I wonder if there’s a way that I can get this while you also get that.
We have to resist this tendency we have to want to give people an answer, a solution. And instead we need to work with them to come up with that solution together. When people come up with their own ideas, they feel empowered because they own them. They’re their ideas. You’re not telling them what to do, but instead you are working with them to come up with a solution that works for them and works for you.
This is what it could like. I wonder if there’s a way that we can keep the freedom that is so important to you and me and protect the lives of our children. Do you have any ideas? I wonder if there’s a way for us to protect our families and, at the same time, prevent dangerous guns getting in the hands of people with mental problems. Do you have any suggestions?
The goal is to validate the way they feel. When we make people feel crazy or we make them feel stupid, they close down and that’s the end of the conversation. There’s no way to move past that. So we need to show them that we are on their side and that we do care about the things that are important to them.
That’s the only way they’re going to open up and listen to what matters to us. If we don’t care about them, why would they care about us?
So that’s how we have those conversations: by being fair, by listening to what they have to say, validating those feelings, finding those areas of agreement first, and then finding where you disagree. And if there’s a way that you can get what you want and I can get what I want.