What to Do to Create Influence & Be Heard

A Guide to Civil Conversations

We begin with an idea to influence.

Then – Anxiety. Confusion. Frustration. We present our idea. Another person has a different one. We believe our point is better. 15 minutes later (or hours) we have general feelings of disdain toward the other person. You have had by all accounts – an argument. What results is possibly a strained relationship as both think they’ve had the upper hand and the other is just ignorant. What happened?

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I have learned through many, horribly failed attempts, a few practical ways to have a civil conversation with a person with an opposing idea, whether it’s a differing worldview or just a difference of opinion over a business matter.

If our goal is to influence we must follow three rules to civil conversations:

1. Respect

Without the mindset and attitude of respect, you’re set up for disaster. Displaying a genuine respect for the other person, even if you don’t agree with them, is the starting point to enter all conversations. Think of the last time someone thought they were better than you and proceeded to try to tear you down – didn’t work out so well, right?

2. Understand

Someone smart said, “To be understood, you must first understand.” Knowing the reasons why a person disagrees with you and what causes them to believe that way is foundational in knowing how to continue. It is critical that you never begin by arguing at the surface level point the other individual is making.

Begin by saying you want to understand their position. Then, ask probing questions in a sincere manner. This will serve you well for opening up the opposing idea in its own assumption and getting to the heart of the issue. Again, the questions must be genuinely sincere and not antagonistic.

Questions such as:
Why do you feel that way?
Why do you believe that?

Can you give an example?
Is that the real reason?
Please expand on that.

These questions will establish a foundation for understanding the other person. After you have thoroughly heard out the opposing idea, acknowledge you respect their idea and then, if you still feel yours is better, present your perspective in the manner of suggestion. Remember, influence is what we’re after.

3. Suggestion

Now, it’s your turn. First, show appreciation for explaining their side. Then, once again acknowledge that you respect their idea and then proceed to offer your take on the matter or side of the argument.

Side Note: What we say, sometimes, isn’t as important as how we say it. Tonality, posture, & facial expressions may convey a different message if you’re not careful.

Here, ask questions beginning with:
“What do you think of….?”
“What if we did it this way…?”
“How about this..?”

If you can convince someone your point of view is actually their idea, you are a master of persuasion.

Finally, it’s important to note that you should not expect people to come to your way of thinking solely on the basis of your initial argument. Change takes time and they will need to think about what you’ve said.

Dale Carnegie said, “Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still.”

Every situation is different and no two arguments are the same. The important thing is to maintain an attitude of respect, keep your emotions under control, and have discussions in a civil manner.

That’s how you influence.

Question: What’s your favorite way to communicate?