The words "stupid," "low IQ" and "loser" appear in multiple quotes in news stories these days. Using words like these elicits a shock response and can get people's attention but does little to build relationships and persuade others who think differently.
Want to influence your boss' decision about an upcoming sales proposal? Persuade a colleague to support a shift in a working team's approach to a project? At the office, in the political arena, even at home, being able to communicate better with those who differ from you is paramount. Whatever you want to convey to the differently minded (let's use the abbreviation "DM"), here are a few techniques to help.
- Find common ground. It's there. Don't give up. Co-workers can agree that the company needs to be profitable and customers need to be kept happy. Politically DM types might be able to get consensus that the national debt is an issue. Coming to places of agreement builds trust no matter where you stand on other issues.
- Ask questions, then keep your mouth shut and listen to the answer. Really listen. Ask another question. The questions you ask can be more convincing than the statements you make. Taking the time to ask questions and listen shows the DM you respect him or her no matter how your views differ.
- Ask the hard questions. In the workplace, it might be time to ask: "If your idea becomes policy, how will it affect the bottom line?" "How will your project affect employee morale?" Think ahead before discussing issues with a DM. Think: "What are the tough questions?"
- Breathe. If you are not calm and are feeling strong emotions, delay the discussion. Wait until you are emotionally ready. Be aware of the DM's emotional state as well. Timing is everything. Gauge whether the DM is capable of listening. If not, abort ASAP.
- Rethink reasons for communicating. Rather than talking to the differently minded to control or change the person, make your goal to develop your relationship and get your idea discussed.
- If you feel afraid to talk to DMs, admit to yourself that you feel afraid. The act of admitting fear will help alleviate your fear. Give yourself a mental pep talk. For example, you can say to yourself: "I can do this. "No matter what the other person says, I'm okay." "It's okay if I make a mistake in this debate."
- Talking one-on-one is easier than one-on-more. Being face to face with one DM person is the easiest way to communicate. If you feel comfortable taking on an entire group, more power to you.
- Consider not communicating. Some DM people are in denial. And some don't care. Skip conversations with these DMs.
- Avoid shaming at all costs. Really stop to think about your words. If you say things like "How can you believe that?' and "How could you have done that?" you are shaming the person. When you state that a person is not smart to think something, you are shaming the person. Shaming doesn't help your relationships or get others to listen. Shaming is counterproductive to communicating. When in a disagreement with a DM, think more than usual before speaking. Choose phrases such as "Please help me understand more about your point of view."
- There is power in the positive. Use as many positive comments as possible. "I hear what you are saying and I agree with that point." "That makes sense to me too." "You are articulate when you talk."
- Have a summary of points to say in case you get tongue-tied. But don't let your comments keep you from listening.
- Strongly consider skipping conversations about charged issues with family members. If you love a DM, feeling the love might be better for you than making waves. Go make some waves with co-workers, friends and strangers.
- Talk to people different from you in other ways such as age, religion, economic status and gender. People often get into a pattern and talk only to their own peer groups. At work, you can learn a great deal from having conversations with staff members not at the same level as you. If you yearn to have a political conversation, try talking to a stranger who seems different from you in some way. Challenge yourself to overcome fear of differences and strike up a conversation.
No matter where you work, talking to differently-minded people can be a struggle. Rather than giving up having conversations that you deem too difficult, throw your shoulders back, take a breath and start communicating.
McKellar Newsom is real estate investor always looking for a good deal. Contact her at Tennessee1428@gmail.com.