Getting someone to change their mind, especially when they feel strongly about something, is never easy. If you go straight in, and especially if you let your strong feelings on the topic get the better of you, the chances are you will trigger the ‘Backfire Effect’, leaving them more convinced than ever.
To increase your chances of successfully persuading someone to at least see your point of view, use this process to prepare for your meeting:
1. Put yourself in the shoes of your intended audience
‘Become’ the other person, in a ‘method acting’ kind of way, as much as you can. Now, staying in the character of your intended audience, ask yourself these questions:
- What’s important to me about this topic?
- What do I feel most strongly about?
- What do I already believe about this topic?
(actually your audience probably thinks in terms of “What do I know to be true about this topic?”)
The more closely you can ‘become’ the other person – stand like they stand, breathe like they breathe, talk at their normal speed, and so on – the better your chances of getting useful insights from this step.
2. Now come back to yourself
Bring back everything that you’ve learned from that exercise (while remembering that it’s only guesswork – you still need to check your intuitions against your audience’s actual behaviour, since behaviour is the only reliable evidence about a person).
In the light of that tentative information, ask yourself these questions:
- What knowledge is assumed in order to make sense of your argument?
- Does your audience actually have this knowledge?
- If not, how will you get that information across to them in a believable way?
These questions will stop you from omitting to give them any bits of knowledge they will need to even make sense of your viewpoint.
3. Does your message fit with your audience’s belief systems?
- What values and beliefs does your argument appeal to?
- What emotions are you aiming to evoke?
- Are these values and beliefs shared by your audience?
- How are you going to preframe your argument to appeal to their existing values?
4. Establishing credibility
- Is there anything in your argument that seems wrong or will not make sense to your audience? If so, change it.
- Are you using any jargon that will alienate your audience or seem like you’re talking down to them? If so, change it.
- And – this is particularly true in business situations like pitches and presentations – from their point of view, how credible are you as a speaker on this topic? How will you establish your credibility?
(for this step I am indebted to Shelle Rose Charvet’s tips on ‘presenting ideas to skeptical people‘)
5. Getting beyond persuasion
Finally, and this goes beyond persuasion or advocacy and into openness and learning, what can you take from their map of the world to enrich yours? What can you learn from the conversation?
To even take this step, you have to be prepared to admit that the other person may be someone you can learn from, even though you disagree with them. Not everyone is brave enough to do this.
In the business world, but also in everyday life, most communication is about ‘advocacy’ – persuading people to accept or at least go along with our own point of view – rather than genuine conversation that can lead to learning.
Are you brave enough to admit that you can learn from someone you disagree with?
For more ideas about how to lead and influence people, download my e-book Leadership EQ: How To Lead With Emotional Intelligence from the Amazon Kindle store.