Wouldn’t it be great to be able to influence people using perfectly rational arguments? I bet you’ve tried time after time, and failed consistently.
Perfectly rational arguments have never convinced anybody to do anything that they weren’t already convinced about for other reasons. Even in the most dramatic and difficult situations such as hostage negotiations, where you might think logic and rationality are top of the agenda, the FBI recommends that negotiators use active listening, empathy, and rapport.
As you will notice, there is no trace of “use perfectly clear and logical argument” or “make sure that what you’re saying is correct” or “show a rigorous and analytic approach when you talk.”
We know that communication is more emotional than analytical, but we can’t resist the temptation to think otherwise. The illusion of control is hard to overcome.
Most of the time, despite knowing that it doesn’t work we follow what I call the 3R (rational, right, rigorous) communication approach, especially at work and in the business context.
Now, when was the last time during a meeting or a sale presentation that you persuaded somebody to do something based on a perfectly logical and rational argument? Let me guess: never.
Being rigorous, informed and knowledgeable gives us a sense of control, but when we’re dealing with human beings this is just an illusion.
The framework the FBI uses in heated situations when lives are at stake is based on what I call the 3E model:
– Emotional: connect with our emotions and the emotions of the person we are talking to
– Empathic: recognise and acknowledge how the other person feels
– Essential: communicate and focus on essential information that the other person needs to know.
Next time you face a difficult sales presentation or customer meeting, ask yourself:
– How do I feel right now?
– How might the people in front on me feel?
– What can I do, say or tell them to make them feel that I acknowledge them and understand how they feel right now?
– How can I make them feel that I care?
– What do they need to know about me that will make them feel that I’m trustworthy and reliable?
As Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”