Do you want to influence quickly? Part 2
How to advocate so that our ideas have a greater chance of being accepted
Part 2 is less about influencing quickly and more about influencing effectively through advocacy. Have you ever tried to convince your boss, your colleague, your customer or even your spouse about something and it didn’t work out? Or maybe tried to sell something, either an idea or a product or service or a project proposal which didn’t work out? Or perhaps just explaining something to someone about an issue or proposing a recommendation that didn’t quite get through to the receiving side? If this happened before, and you find yourself nodding to some of the questions, have you ever wondered what you could do differently to maximize the chances of the receiver accepting what you’re saying?
There is a caveat however – you will not meet with 100% success, simply because the timing may be inappropriate or the receiver is not in the proper state of mind or just not listening. However, I know that these steps will help you advocate much more effectively. How do I know they work and that they’re practical? I have tried them myself and found that it works for me. Don’t take my word for it though – try it for yourself the next time you’re about to advocate something.
The hubpage on How to Influence Quickly is the first approach, i.e. asking questions instead of advocating straight away. Please consider reading that post before proceeding. This article talks about effective advocating.
Always provide a reason
Always provide a reason when you advocate. This sounds like common sense and is simple enough. However, it may not come naturally. Think back to your previous conversations. Did you follow up your statement with a reason? Pay attention and be aware of how you advocate next time. When you make a statement, how do you say it?
1. I need you to write this down
2. I need you to write this down because it’s very important
Which is more persuasive?
As long as you provide a reason or use the word “because” and provide a somewhat rational sounding reason, people will do what you ask them to do. So, statement 2 is more persuasive. There is no real sound reason in sentence 2 but just by using the word “because” and some form of explanation, people are more likely to accept what you say.
The human mind is naturally programmed to seek a reason or explanation whenever a statement is made.
Sometimes we advocate in the form of a question. For example, we may say:
“Would you mind if you take this on?”
It would be more effective when you say “Would you mind taking this on because it would help me/the team tremendously?”
Create contrast when you make a statement so that your point comes across more strongly. Doing so also provides the listener with a sense of balance of another view. For example,
“This workshop is not just a significant investment on company's time, but also a significant investment of your time to attend.”
“A sizzles but B fizzles.”
“See this activity not as a burden or a threat, but as a way to renew ourselves, to learn and to grow.”
Use either/or questions
This is advocacy in the form of a question and it makes the assumption that the listener already agrees instead of asking them for a yes/no answer.
Instead of asking: “Should we do this?”
Ask: “When is a better time to do it, this month or next month?”
Instead of asking: “How come you seldom update me on what you’re doing?”
Ask: “When can I get an update from you on your activities, this Friday or next Monday?”
Instead of asking: “Do you want to go somewhere this weekend?”
Ask: “When do you want to go for a movie, Saturday or Sunday?”
Asking an either/or question helps us get a more specific response from the listener and presupposes that he/she already agrees. The receiver could of course, disagree but asking things this way helps us get a more substantial response.
This sounds simple, but in practice it is not. It is somehow difficult for us to pause if we speak in our native tongue or a language that we are very familiar with because deliberate pausing somehow disrupts our train of thought. We want to get our point across as quickly as possible. This is efficient, but not as effective. Learn to control your rate of speech and pause more often. It makes the message more powerful. Pause after you have said something important. Pausing allows the message to sink in because it allows the listener to reflect on what you just said.
These are some pointers on how to advocate effectively and are some of the building blocks of good communication. Pay attention to how you advocate the next time. Give it a try. We learn best by doing. Confucius once said “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.”