Lately, it seems like conversation has become a competitive sport in which the end-game is to “win” or have one’s opinion proven right. In order to win we present our airtight cases and debate to convert others to our way of thinking. There is nothing wrong with these influencing tactics but when they become the default and dominant approach, we actually become LESS influential, LESS convincing, and LESS credible. We become… bulldozers.

Too often leaders who want to influence others forget one thing:

People are less open to hearing your point of view until they feel seen, heard, and thus, understood by you.

In our desire to show others the merits (and “brilliance”) of our thinking, we make a number of common errors that come under the category of excessive advocacy. Think about the last political conversation you had with a colleague or friend who thinks differently than you do. If you did any of the following you were probably bulldozing.

* Talking without pausing or asking for the other person’s reaction to what you said
* Framing your opinions and beliefs as facts or “the only possible conclusion”
* Using questions to weaken others’ positions and strengthen your own
* Citing only information that supports your point of view
* Overstating the credentials of the sources you site
* Withholding information that weakens or contradicts your perspective
* Using dismissive or negative language to describe people who disagree with you
* Calling into question the motives, judgment, and intelligence of those who think differently

What’s the impact of using these tactics? The person on the receiving end feels shut down, overwhelmed, and browbeaten. The person you are trying to influence stops listening! But there’s an equally important impact on you. You become seen as someone who lacks curiosity about others’ views. You develop a reputation as someone “too certain about your own certainty.”

To avoid the error of excessive advocacy, I recommend the following three actions:

1. Change your purpose: Instead of going into a conversation with the purpose of winning a debate enter into a conversation with the goal of enriching your understanding of each other’s viewpoints.

2. Balance advocacy with inquiry: Work as hard at genuinely asking about the other person’s views, the reasons for their views, and their reactions to your views as you do at clearly expressing your perspective.

3. Own Your Limitations: Each of us only sees things from where we sit. By definition each of us brings a unique but limited way of seeing to every issue. Adopt as your mantra: “Here’s the way I see things from where I sit…”

Have you ever been on the receiving end of someone who was over-advocating? How did you handle it?

Photo Credit: begemont_dn

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