Category Archives: Persuasion

Skills 360 – Defending Your Ideas 2

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Hello and welcome back to the Skills 360 podcast. I’m your host Tim Simmons, and today I want to continue our look at how to defend yourself and your ideas in a competitive world.

One of the tough things in business – and life for that matter – is that you’re not just dealing with ideas, and numbers, and rational decisions. You’re dealing with people. And people don’t always take a cool and logical approach to things, even if you do. They get emotional about ideas and worked up about disagreement. And you might get that way too. Passion is a good thing, but too much negative emotion is counterproductive. So how can we manage people’s emotions while continuing to defend ourselves?

Well, one thing I’d like to emphasize is the importance of patience. Listen carefully before reacting, and think before speaking. If we think someone is attacking us or our ideas, it’s easy to start firing back. But the war of words is usually won by the person with the more strategic approach. Don’t get into mudslinging. Just be patient, and keep your cool.

The opposite of this is getting defensive, which means being emotional and reactive. So when a difficult colleague says, “Sam, I’m afraid your plan will never work,” don’t respond with something like, “What are you trying to say? I spent a lot of time on this, and you just shoot it down…” Instead, show patience and listen, which means you could respond with, “Okay Dave. Can you explain exactly why the plan won’t work?” You see, like I said in our last lesson, we need to keep it focused on ideas.

And we want to keep it positive. Believe it or not, that can mean actually praising the people who seem to be attacking us, like, “Thanks Dave, you’ve got some good points there.” And it can mean actually thanking them for their comments, like, “Dave, I appreciate your feedback.” Even when that feedback came in a way that you don’t like, praising and thanking is part of taking the high road in debate. And in many cases, you get back what you give out, so you may find that aggressive colleague actually toning it down a bit.

Of course, there are times when you have to say something negative, when someone continues with an aggressive approach. And at times like these, sometimes you have to address the issue directly, or call someone on their behavior. The important thing there is to make sure you focus on behavior, not character. What’s the difference? Focusing on behavior means saying, “Karen, could you please lower your voice and just stay calm about this.” But focusing on character means saying, “Karen, you are too loud and emotional.” Which do you think is going to serve you better in an argument?

So, we exercise patience and we stay positive. That’s great. And the third big thing we need to do is watch our language. You’ve surely been in an argument that starts out about ideas, but pretty quickly becomes about the words people choose or the way they phrase things. And I’d bet that a lot of those arguments have been about two big words to avoid: “always” and “never.” You can just strike those words from your professional vocabulary right now. They will only lead to trouble.

Watching your language usually means making your statements softer and gentler. We sometimes say that we qualify our statements. And there are many ways to do that. One way is by using words that show uncertainty, like “maybe” and “might.” Another way is to find indirect ways to make a point. For example, saying something like, “Gordon, what you say makes no sense” might get you into trouble. But if you say, “Gordon, we might want to reexamine whether that’s the best option”, you are playing it safe.

Softening your language can also mean couching – or surrounding – your ideas with extra words. Take a statement like, “we are getting off track.” Saying it just like that could come across as aggressive. But what if you said, “I’m kind of thinking that we are getting off track here on this issue.” Again, softening your language can help reduce the level of emotion in the room. And you’ll be in a better position to explain clearly why you, or your ideas, are right.

So, just to review here, we’ve focused on three key tactics for defending yourself and your position in the face of difficult emotional people: number one, stay patient; number two, stay positive; and number three, watch your language.

That’s all for today. So long. And see you again soon.

Skills 360 – Defending Your Ideas 1

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Hello and welcome back to the Skills 360 podcast. I’m your host Tim Simmons, and today I want to take a look at how to defend yourself and your ideas in a competitive world.

Some people might think that good ideas will win the day, simply because they’re good ideas. But it’s not that simple. If you’ve got good ideas, you’re going to have to convince people of their value. And you’ll definitely have to defend them against all the people out to criticize or compete with you. It’s a dog eat dog world, as they say, and you want to make sure you’re not the dinner.

So what do you do when you’re in a meeting, you’ve just laid out your plans for a new new marketing strategy, and the guy across the table jumps up and yells that what you’ve suggested is impossible? Well, it starts with attitude. And having the right attitude means being calm, diplomatic, and logical. What you don’t want to do is get dragged into an argument that’s personal, petty, or unproductive.

One way to do that is to reference your organization’s broad mission and goals. Show how your ideas fit with the larger strategy. Say something like, “Well, as an organization we decided to expand our target market, right? I believe my strategy helps us do that.” Referencing broader organizational goals helps to elevate the debate.

And elevating the debate means ensuring that the discussion is about ideas, not people. So instead of, “Dave, you always do this and it drives me nuts,” It should be, “I can’t agree with this approach.” Or, instead of, “Com’on Dave, you’re always fixated on cost!” You can try, “I don’t think cost should be our primary concern.” And if you are able to elevate the debate, then what you’ll get in return is not, “John, you must be crazy to think that will work.” Instead, you should get something like this, “John, I think your plan has some problems.” And that makes for a better discussion.

So, if the debate is about ideas, how can you get people on board with yours in the face of criticism? One great way is to use questions. One kind of question is a leading question, one that has an obvious answer. For example, you could say, “Does everybody here agree that we need a really professional and slick ad campaign?” What you’re doing with this kind of question is getting people to nod, to agree, and that’s an attitude they’ll carry over to other things you say. You can also use negative rhetorical questions. A rhetorical question is one that doesn’t really need an answer. For example, someone might ask, “Don’t you think we need to increase our market share?” Or maybe, “Isn’t a website an important part of any business’s marketing strategy?” Who could answer “no” to those questions?

Now, sometimes people are actually right. You might not like the way they’re criticizing your ideas, but they’re right. So, what’s the logical approach to take? Well, admit it. You might say, “You know, you’ve got a point there.” Or, “Yes, well, the plan does appear to have some problems.” You don’t have to defend your ideas just because they’re yours. Remember, we talked about being logical and elevating the debate. That means you need to give a little too.

But you don’t have to give everything. And you can still concede a point while continuing to defend your idea. I’m talking about the old “yes, but” construction. As in, “Yes, the timeline might be too aggressive, but that’s not a reason to ditch the plan.” Or like this, “You’re right about the colors, but the layout is more important.” By admitting that your opponents are right about something, you’re showing that you think clearly. That you’re logical. And that you don’t stubbornly hold on to your ideas just because they’re yours. And that will bring more people on to your side, and the ideas that you do continue to defend will be stronger.

We’ve talked about staying calm, using logic, and elevating the debate. But this isn’t always easy. People get emotional, they get personal, they get defensive. And sometimes we need to manage other people’s emotions carefully when defending our own ideas. That’s what we’ll talk about next time.

That’s all for today. If you’d like to test yourself on what we’ve just covered, have a look at the website. There you’ll find a quiz about today’s show as well as a complete transcript.

So long. And see you again soon.

360 – Tips and Techniques for Selling your Ideas 2

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Hello and welcome back to Business Skills 360. I’m Tim Simmons, and I’m glad you could join me today for more tips and techniques for selling your ideas.

Now, you know your ideas are good, but how do others? You need to make them think or even just feel that they are good. Last week, we looked at some techniques you can use. In this show, we’ll look at attitudes that you can adopt. This isn’t exactly about what you say, it’s about how you say it and the feelings or impressions your delivery creates.

The first attitude is positivity. People naturally gravitate to positive people and tend to avoid negative people. So, make a habit of doing simple things like saying hello to people in the hall and at the water cooler. Keep discussions upbeat. Show excitement about your ideas and keep smiling. There’s a lot of power in a smile, and you should use yours to cultivate an atmosphere of positivity and warmth. People will be drawn to you, and, as a result, to your ideas.

Another attitude that will bring people on board with your idea is empathy. This is about showing people that you understand how they feel. Not just that you know what they’re talking about, but that you have felt it too. If that person is feeling frustrated by red tape, describe an experience in which you also felt frustrated by red tape. They will feel you’re on the same side. Show people that you get it, and they’ll be more likely to believe and follow you.

Empathy creates a feeling of inclusion, or belonging. And there are other ways of doing this. Have a welcoming attitude. Your great idea is more than just an idea. It’s an idea plus all of the people who believe in it. In this sense, your idea has its own little club, and everyone who believes in it belongs to that club. So talk about “we” rather than “I” and make people feel like accepting your idea admits them to a group. People want inclusion and fellowship. You can make them feel this with a welcoming attitude.

Okay, now there are other tacks you can take when you’re trying to sell someone on your ideas. One of them is shock and disbelief. This is a very useful tool for making people feel that another idea, maybe one that disagrees with yours, is useless or absurd. It goes something like this: “Did you hear what the consultant said? He actually thinks we should spend more on marketing. My jaw dropped when I heard that.” People who might have thought the idea was good will have doubts. After all, if you think the idea is crazy, then other people probably do too.

One more attitude or impression is something called the “last resort.” The last resort is the only option. It may not be a perfect option, but it’s the only one remaining. Your idea might actually be one of many, but if you talk about it as though it’s the only one left, people will stop considering other ideas. “Well, we’ve looked at all the alternatives and none of them are up to scratch,” then you can hit them with the punchline, “So I guess we really don’t have any other choice…” You see how this works? People will get the impression that all the other options have been explored already.

So, remember that bringing people on side doesn’t just mean giving them reasons to believe you. It also means adopting certain attitudes to create an emotional response.

That’s all for today. If you’d like to test yourself on what we’ve just covered, have a look at the website. There you’ll find a quiz about today’s show as well as a complete PDF transcript.

So long, and see you again soon.

Discussion Questions

1. What type of personality or attitude are you naturally drawn to?
2. What types of attitude or behavior will make you less likely to believe someone?
3. When someone appears very surprised by your ideas, how do you feel?

360 – Tips and Techniques for Selling your Ideas 1

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Hello and welcome back to the Business Skills 360 podcast. I’m Tim Simmons and today we’re going to take a look at how to ‘sell’ your ideas.

You may be full of great ideas, but exactly how do you get people to buy into them? How do you get people on board with your brilliant plans? Well, today I want to share a few tools and techniques that will help you do just that.

These tools and techniques have two important effects: they build connections and they build credibility. The connections can be between you and your listeners, but they can also be between your listeners and your idea. Those connections will generate buy-in. And that credibility can be your credibility and your idea’s credibility. You, and your idea, have to be believable and trustworthy.

Okay, let’s start simple. One of the most basic yet powerful tools you can use is a person’s name. People love to hear their own name repeated in conversation. It makes them feel important. It tells them that you care about them as individuals. This creates a strong personal connection between you and your listeners, which makes them more receptive to your ideas. So instead of telling me, “I think you should do a presentation on your project,” tell me this: “Tim, I think you should do a presentation on your project.” The effect is subtle, but strong.

Great. Now, let’s talk about what you do with your idea. You need to help people connect to that idea, to understand it, and to see how great it is. Making comparisons can help do that. People love to compare things, situations, points in time, people… We do it naturally, it’s how we organize our world and how we evaluate things. So show people the difference between your idea and others. Show them exactly how your idea will make a difference. It’s like the before and after pictures in an ad for a weight loss product. It’s clear and persuasive, and people will be able to connect better with your idea.

Now, why should people believe you? Well, you and your ideas need credibility. You need to demonstrate that you’ve thought your ideas through, and that there is good reason to believe in them. To demonstrate that, you need to give evidence and provide concessions. Evidence is basically proof that your idea is a good one. Don’t assume others might agree with you just because you’re a fun colleague or a hard worker. Tell them why you believe what you do, and if the reasons are strong enough, they’ll believe it too. Keep the evidence real. Show them examples that they can relate to, ideas that improve that connection between them and your idea.

And then there’s concession. Giving concessions means actually mentioning evidence or ideas that go against what you’re trying to say. Don’t talk about this too much, but show that you realize things aren’t black and white, that nothing is perfect. It improves your credibility. Just think about the last time you heard someone refuse to admit any kind of criticism of their idea. That person didn’t sound too reasonable, did they?

Now, there’s another reason to mention ideas that go against yours: to knock them down. You set them up, then you knock them down. You have to anticipate the criticism or the arguments against your idea. Then you acknowledge them. You say exactly what they are. And then you say why they don’t make sense or should be ignored. In this way, you are taking and destroying weapons against your idea. It’s a preemptive strike, so to speak.

So remember, your ideas are only truly great if you can sell them to others. And to do that, use people’s names, use comparison, give them evidence and concessions, and knock down your opposition’s ideas before they get a chance to mention them. With those techniques, your ideas will stick.

That’s all for today. Next week we’ll look at different attitudes you can adopt that will help sell your ideas. If you’d like to test yourself on what we’ve just covered, have a look at the website. There you’ll find a quiz about today’s show as well as a complete transcript.

Thanks for listening, and see you again soon.

Discussion Questions

1. Do you have tricks or techniques that you use to persuade people of your opinions?
2. In which work situations do you often need to convince people of your ideas?
3. Think of people you think are good at ‘selling’ their ideas. What techniques do they use?