Legendary management thinker, Peter Drucker, is quoted as saying “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” In other words, communication is more complex than people realize. The important thing can be to “read in between the lines” of what the other person has said, which is fraught with misunderstandings. The listener has to process what you are saying through their filters to form a message from what they thought they have heard. Being aware of these complexities, and allowing for them, can help you win people to your point of view.
For instance, what you tried to say may be different from what you actually said, which may in turn be different from what you thought you said.
Then what you actually said needs to get past barriers to reach the other person. The barriers may be distractions, noise, interruptions, disruptions, intrusions or diversions – either internally as thoughts or externally as physical things, as shown in the image below:
And what the receiver of a message may have thought they heard may be influenced by factors such as their values, culture, environment, knowledge, attitudes, opinions, experiences, occupation, sex, and interests.
Finally, the receiver takes away the message from what they thought they heard. Given all this, communication is definitely not a simple task!
Drucker could easily have been thinking of non-verbal communication when he made his observation – we can easily forget how we are perceived, especially how our body language is perceived by others.
People aren’t idiots. They like to think they are rational, but often they are not. And when they aren’t being rational, there is an emotional reason for their attitudes. When a person resists your message, try to put yourself in their shoes. Try to understand why they have resisted your point. This will help you to win people to your point of view.
Generally, there are three type of resistance to a message:
Before you can be persuasive, you need to create credibility with the people you are dealing with – give them the opportunity to trust you – and lead them to like you. Find out as much about them as you can – their professional roles, the formative things in their careers and their demographics, and what has led them to take a particular stance on the issue in question.
Good sales people do this. They take an interest in the person they are dealing with so that person likes them.
Another tip is to present your information in consistent ways so that your non-verbal communication is aligned with your words. Leaders are positive, so don’t get involved with negative gossip and speculation. Instead, think of positive, but not banal, things to say. As above, take an interest in the people you are dealing with and follow up what they say with questions to explore their views further. Make your body language and movements open and inclusive. Use open gestures of your arms and offer reasonable eye contact to each person. You can reader further about non-verbal communication or body language in my article, “Mirroring another person’s body language builds good rapport.”
A final suggestion is to present the opposing information along with your side of the argument when you know the subject is debatable. This is the tactic used by political lobbyists. When they present a case to a politician, a good lobbyist will always include the argument of opponents so the politician is aware of both sides of the argument and isn’t caught by surprise when the opposing view is later pushed. When you raise the opposing side of the case first, it reduces the opportunity to resist your case. And seek their suggestions. When you are inclusive and seek their help in developing the case, they are much more likely to at least meet you halfway, if not further.
If you take the trouble to follow up on these suggestions you are likely to develop more positive long-term relationships with others and are more likely to win their support when previously they may have resisted your side of the argument. And it is likely their views have merit – you will probably compromise to some extent to reach a mutually satisfactory result. By taking these factors into account, you are more likely to win people to your point of view.
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