However, when it comes to convincing others to join our side of an argument, most of us do a…how do I put this lightly?… an absolutely horrendous job.
We as humans are wired to believe the way we think just has to be the right way — after all, we wouldn’t think something if we believed we were incorrect, right? So our thoughts have to be the correct ones…right?
Ideas, beliefs, and habits can get us fired up — as we’ve clearly seen enough examples of in 2017.
But most of the time what we find is this:
When describing the things that get us fired up, not everyone around us will get as fired up as we are (and usually it is not even close).
This means we are not persuading in a way that is convincing enough for others to join our frame of thought.
So why do people not care as much as you do?
Let’s have an example first.
I have friends who are gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan, and they all have their reasons for doing so. Most are okay with (or at least tolerant of) the fact that I eat both gluten and meat just about every day, but every now and then they will try to convince me to join the bark side (that was a plant joke; sort of a stretch).
The reality is, I just don’t care as much as they do and the reason is simple:
I haven’t had the same experiences in my life as they have had.
Some of my gluten-free friends are simply gluten intolerant. They get ill when they consume gluten, which means they have an obvious reason to be passionate about a gluten-free diet. This is something to which I cannot relate.
Some of my vegan friends care deeply about animal treatment. This can be for a lot of reasons, but one of those reasons might be that they had pets growing up that they cared for deeply. I grew up with family members who hunted and fished regularly — this sets a different frame of reference.
Now please don’t get distracted and think this is a blog about gluten-free or vegetarian diets, celiac disease, or animal rights/cruelty — it is not.
This blog is about why others don’t care about certain ideas, beliefs, or habits as much as you do, and how you can be more persuasive.
The foundational point is this:
At the core of what we care about are the experiences we’ve had.
No one will care exactly like you do about anything because no one has lived exactly like you have.
I say this for two reasons — please keep these in mind if trying to persuade.
- Using your personal bias typically doesn’t help.
This would be like a manager saying, “Hey employee, you should work really hard because if you hit your numbers, I’m going to get a huge bonus at the end of the year.” The manager’s enormous bonus isn’t going to do much to motivate the employee (it actually might make the employee work less hard out of spite).
- Gaining understanding helps others care.
Knowing what others care about will help you tailor your message. While my gluten-free friends may not get very far telling me about how gluten is terrible for people with celiac disease (which I do not have), they might strike a chord if they talked about nutritional benefits that lead to a healthier lifestyle, higher energy levels, and increased athletic performance. When they have aligned what they care about with what I care about, they are more likely to persuade me to shift my perspective.
No matter what it is you care deeply about, you cannot expect others to care about it in the same way you do. If you are looking to convince others to care, keep in mind they have not experienced what you have experienced.
Your best ally in persuasion is asking questions.
Once you find out what others care about, you can present your passions in a way that might inspire them (even if you’re presenting a piece of the equation that is not most inspiring to you personally).
People may not care as much as you do about the important topics in your life, but if you are looking to be persuasive, check your personal bias, find out what others care about, and push yourself to speak to their passions.
You will always win more people to your way of thinking when you align your passions with theirs.
What ideas, beliefs, and habits are you passionate about and how are you bringing them into the world? It’s worth a short evaluation — you may make a small adjustment that helps you win over the skeptics with whom you interact every day.
How an old man’s bizarre move brightened the world for one short moment.
Last summer, I was walking in a park and something very bizarre happened.
I had been sitting at a picnic table reading. It was a beautiful day — one of those days that brings a small smile to your face whether you notice it’s there or not.
After reading for some time, I started to head home. I stepped on the sidewalk near the picnic table and began walking through the park back to where I had parked (no “park” pun intended).
An old black man was on a stroll on the sidewalk about ten feet in front of me. He must have been in his upper 60’s or early 70’s. His shoulders bent forward naturally and he walked slowly.
I wasn’t in a hurry so we were walking at about the same pace. As the man walked, he glanced back and saw me casually walking behind him. He looked forward, took a few steps, then looked back again. A part of me was thinking, why does this guy keep looking at me?
Then he did something completely unexpected.
The old man stopped walking, put his hands above his head, then DID A CARTWHEEL on the sidewalk!
I was so taken aback I stopped walking and just stared at him. My small smile turned to a look of confusion as my brain was trying to put together what had just happened.
He stuck the landing, and we stared at each other for a brief moment, him with the small smile that had previously belonged to me and me with a look of bewilderment. After just staring at each other for a moment, he smugly broke the silence. All he said was:
“I bet you didn’t think I could do that.”
I didn’t know what to say. It was too strange. I was caught off guard. I managed to just say, “Nope. I didn’t.”
He gave a nod and a smile, then turned and continued walking. Within a minute or two, he turned to go a different direction and I headed toward my car.
Have you ever been completely by yourself and laughed so hard you cried (then hoped no one was watching you)? This is what happened as soon as I closed my car door. I felt like the Chewbacca Lady. The encounter was so random, it just got the best of me.
To be honest with you, I just wanted to tell you this story because it was a little crazy and I don’t think it happens every day. But when I think about it, there are some cool takeaways that can be drawn from it.
I’m sure you could come up with some of your own, but my takeaways are these:
· You have the ability to brighten others’ days
· Age may not be a choice, but “Old” is a choice. Stay youthful!
· Random acts of joy may be just what we need now and then
I’m going to chalk this up as a bizarre, once-in-a-lifetime moment, but a part of me wants to believe that this old man spends his days walking around parks doing cartwheels for unsuspecting bystanders — bringing joy into the world one cartwheel at a time.
It’s not a likely scenario, but who knows? The world needs a few more cartwheels and maybe this old man knows it.
So if you happen to see an old man doing cartwheels in a park, please walk up to him with a small smile on your face and casually say, “I didn’t think you could do that,” then simply walk away.
(and also let me know because it would make my day).
Why the First Can’t be Solved Without the Latter.
No conflict can be solved without communication.
This is a short post because the main point is in the first line.
To bring this point home, I offer you a short story.
Devin recently graduated from college and is eager to excel in his new position. He is motivated and wants to have an impact on the company.
Devin’s boss, Jeff, has been with the company for 22 years. He knows how things operate at the company and has grown accustomed to the process he has built over time.
After several months in the position, Devin begins to feel frustrated because his ideas seem to constantly be overlooked. He was hoping to contribute big things right away, but it seems as though no one is interested in trying anything new.
Jeff is frustrated too. While Devin is doing a good job in his role, he is constantly questioning the process that Jeff has been using for 22 years.
In this scenario, both the boss and the employee are frustrated. This frustration is leading to tension in the workplace; so much so that Devin has begun looking for a new job.
So what should they do?
The answer is simple, but not easy. They should communicate.
There is no clear cut answer for this scenario. This is why effective communication becomes so vital.
Devin may sit down with Jeff and say, “Jeff, I respect your knowledge of the business, and would love to sit down with you once a week to learn from you.”
In this way, Devin can bring his ideas to the weekly conversation in a non-aggressive way. He could say, “I had an idea that could potentially improve our business; I’d like to run it by you because I’m sure you have insights that I’m missing.”
Similarly, Jeff could check in with Devin and become a more active manager. He could say, “Devin, let’s sit down once every two weeks to just check in. You can bring thoughts my way, and I’ll listen. Keep in mind, we may not use them, but it will be helpful to discuss.”
By doing this, Jeff is letting Devin know that his thoughts are valued, even if they are not acted upon. He can also use this time to teach Devin more about the business so his ideas are more aligned with the 22-year-old process he has already established.
However, if neither Devin nor Jeff approach each other for a conversation, the tension in the office will continue to grow. Devin will feel under-appreciated, and Jeff will write off Devin as someone who can’t “get with the program.”
This is just one example of conflict resolution. There are thousands of examples out there. But one thing remains true through them all:
No conflict can be solved without communication.
We, as humans, make excuses every day – and they have the capacity to cripple us.
But if excuses can cripple us, there must be a way to bring us back.
What is the opposite of an excuse?
I’ve found I make a lot of excuses – I find ways to justify skipping workouts or eating poorly.
The excuses I make are rarely based in facts – they are small lies I tell myself to feel better about not doing what I know I should.
An excuse, by definition, is pretty negative – it is “an explanation put forward to defend or justify a fault or offense.”
So in plain terms – you’ve done (or will do) something wrong, and you decide to convince yourself it was (or will be) right.
Why do we do this to ourselves?
Our excuses can cripple us because: we typically believe whatever we tell ourselves.
Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
We are all living, breathing examples of self-fulfilling prophecies. We build our lives based on the vision we’ve set for ourselves.
When I tell myself I am too tired to get up early to work out, I am establishing this is a perfectly acceptable action in my life (and it is not).
When nothing earth-shattering happens when I’ve skipped one workout, I start to believe it is okay to skip workouts regularly (and it is not).
Every excuse we make tells us our unproductive actions are acceptable – this puts us into a negative spiral making it easier and easier to make excuses moving forward.
We need to break out of this spiral.
Which brings me to the opposite of excuses.
We are most apt to make excuses when we don’t have firm convictions for what we’re pursuing.
We need to establish why our actions matter.
We need REASONS – reasons are the opposite of excuses, but only if taken in the positive sense of the word.
If excuses justify not doing a task, reasons need to be our justification for doing said task.
The more reasons we have to do the right things, the less persuaded we’ll be to justify the wrong ones.
When our reasons to act outweigh our excuses, we control the narrative. We shape our story based on what we know is right, and we overpower the voice in our head telling us we can’t, or shouldn’t, or don’t need to.
There are a million reasons to do great things – we need to feed our mind with these reasons. If we don’t, we’ll be stuck listening to the excuses our brain comes up with and acting accordingly.
Why do you want to stay motivated?
What reasons do you have to do great things?
Make a list – even if it’s just in your head.
When your reasons for doing outweigh your excuses, you will have no problem finding the motivation necessary to accomplish your goals.
There are two things you need to do right now to fix them and make them work for you
I hear people making New Year’s Resolutions every single year that flat out won’t work.
People tell themselves that they are going to exercise every day or lose all the weight they didn’t lose during their last New Year’s Resolution.
These promises are empty and the outcomes are unlikely.
The New Year’s Resolutions people make:
- Are not “lifestyle” resolutions, but “challenge” resolutions
- Are not long-term and actionable
Let me tell you how to fix your resolutions.
Accomplishing anything of significance takes time, effort, and dedication with a long-term outcome in mind.
Losing weight doesn’t happen with a 28-day-cleanse or working out 3 days a week to start the year.
These are “challenges,” but the goal of challenges should be to form habits that become a part of your lifestyle. If forming lifestyle habits is not the goal, your resolutions will fall apart.
Want to lose weight? Sign up for a race (even if you are out of shape now) then join a running group to help you train for it. Ask the people in your running group what they eat to prepare for races, and slowly start to fill your fridge with the items they recommend.
This is one example of a lifestyle change resolution.
It is something that happens over time to make your desired outcome come true. It is less about challenging yourself for the month of January and evaluating yourself (which will leave you disappointed), but rather it is about looking ahead to where you want to be and making slow and steady progress.
One more example so you know this is not just another weight loss blog.
Want to get promoted at work this year? Look to prove your value in a long-term, sustainable way.
Talk with your boss about your goals and plans, and ask what you need to do to get where you’d like to be. Let the feedback be your guide towards the promotion you’re after. This way, you’re setting a collaborative roadmap, and similar to training for a race, you have an aim for success that is macro instead of micro.
Long-term, actionable resolutions
Coming into a new year should be motivating, but what happens when that initial motivation goes away?
When you challenge yourself to set long-term goals, you give yourself the opportunity to mess up a few times and still get to where you want to be. It’s much better than the all-too-common, “I didn’t work out last week so I think my resolution is over” feeling.
Let’s say you’d like to set a financial goal for yourself.
Some people say, “I want to go out to eat twice a week or less to save money.” This is a terrible resolution. As soon as you eat out three times in a week, you lose and there is no going back.
A better resolution would be, “I’d like to have x amount of money in my bank account by the end of the year.” This is a long-term goal that allows you to set actionable timelines along the way.
If you know how much you want to have at the end of the year, you can then plan what you’ll have to make/spend each month leading up to that moment.
This means that you’re allowed to go on a shopping spree every now and then; your resolution won’t be broken by one splurge. It is a long-term goal that you are taking action toward every day, week, and month.
Here is how a better resolution could look:
Have x amount of money in my bank account by the end of the year
High level action Items:
Make a monthly budget based on my income and evaluate how I did each month
Tactical action items:
Eat at restaurants twice a week or less
Spend only x amount of money per month on items that aren’t “necessities.” Examples being: new clothes/shoes or daily soda/coffee (even if this is a “necessity” for you, could you do a medium instead of a large at Starbucks? Could you do a coffee instead of a latte?)
This is just one example of how determining a large, overarching goal and creating an action plan to get there is important. Decide where you want to be, then just like Google Maps, determine the best route and take it.
It is not easy to make New Year’s resolutions that will actually work. It’s hard. This is why no one does it.
But if you actually want to accomplish your goals this year, here’s how to do it in two sentences:
- Make long-term, actionable resolutions that change your lifestyle, not just your immediate actions.
- Make it happen.
And if you’d like help creating great resolutions, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’d love to help you get on a path to a better you.
Photo credit: http://www.wdish.com/health/5-ways-make-your-workout-more-efficient