How to have conversations that move forward
Remember the last time you tried to talk someone into changing their mind?
Maybe it was a small disagreement, like the best salty snack or whether to get the family coordinating Christmas sweaters this year. Or perhaps it was a discussion about something bigger, like the focus of a marketing campaign, revisiting next year’s budget, or a cross-country move. Whatever it was, you probably prepped and delivered the best argument possible, pulling out all the stops to convince your listener.
While a perfect presentation sometimes works, I argue that a series of conversations, with little bits of pivot, will more effectively change your listener’s mind.
Right info, right time
Take this example. Our client had a big agenda for her healthcare organization: she wanted her colleagues to reconsider how they purchase their millions of dollars of medical equipment every year.
As we talked, we uncovered a series of logical conclusions her colleagues needed to reach before they saw things differently. Every future conversation between our client and her colleagues could be a little step, introducing information and emotional connection to nurture a new perspective.
Providing the right information at the right time in the proper emotional setting would help our client reach her objective. That’s because we use rational thought to change our minds. But changing our minds is also an emotional activity. Reason and emotion together help us see and do things differently.
Dogmatic statements bring binary responses
If you hold rigid beliefs about something—and most of us are dogmatic by default on dozens of topics—then you state your opinion flat out, forcing your conversation partner into a binary response:
“Yes, I agree that spicy Cheetos are the finest snack ever. You and I are family.”
“No. Triscuits are best. You are dead to me.”
Holding a strong opinion is human, but the conversation doesn’t have to end because your listener may disagree. Using a less dogmatic tone while considering the value of someone else’s opinion positions us to deliver a more nuanced message that moves the conversation forward. What we say next allows us to bring more information and emotional force. And even if we don’t persuade someone of our opinion, we’ve had a conversation where we’ve learned something.
And that is significant.
Small pivots transform perspectives
Gracious and responsive conversations provide the small pivots needed to change someone’s perspective. Next time you start a controversial discussion with your business partner, friend, or neighbor, consider how you talk. Are you introducing disruptive ideas gradually, allowing room for another’s perspective during the process, or are you setting your listener up for a binary response?
The answer may make the difference between convincing or alienating your listener.