Being right is one thing. Being persuasive quite another.
Often passionate people--myself included--communicate in ways that appeal only to those who already agree with or think like us.
We "school" people with facts and logic and congratulate ourselves for our reasoning skills and courage but are confused and frustrated when met with silence and inaction even when we see how it could benefit our audience.
This happened to me when I told my husband how he could resolve a health issue by changing what he eats. I laid out the evidence, including research methodologies. But when he dismissed my advice, I got mad. Really mad. I ascribed all kinds of meaning to his inaction: He doesn't love me enough. He's stubborn. He doesn't think as deeply as I do...
I want him to be healthy and live a long life because I love him and enjoy his company, but the biggest influence on longevity and health was the thing that was driving a wedge between us. I didn't understand his position when mine made perfect sense.
When I went to the Plant-Based Prevention of Disease (P-POD) medical conference last month and heard close to thirty speakers in three days and talked to many people, it dawned on me that I wasn't applying the communication skills I use when writing and editing to my verbal communication and that the closer I am to someone, the harder it is not to preach and force my will on them.
I was reminded that the most persuasive people--the ones who are most effective in the long run--are the ones who bring people to the table and make an effort to understand the other person's needs, goals, and motivations.
On the plane ride home, it dawned on me that I wasn't considering my husband's personality (long-term thinker versus an in-the-moment type) and unique set of logistical and personal and interpersonal challenges. I wasn't meeting him where he was, embracing him, and showing him that I care about him as a person not just about how his behavior impacts me.
As a professional writer, editor, and speaker, I'm now even more aware of words, phrases, and tones that preach rather than teach and, in spite of being right (evidence-based), are counterproductive.
I realize that if we are to be effective, if our words are to be catalysts for change, we must find ways to bridge the communication gap between ourselves and those we're talking or writing to. It's not easy, and the more urgent the message, the more focused we must be on what is in the way of the other person converting to our way of behaving.
When we remind ourselves that we're passionate because we care about people and believe that our position can make their lives better, we can shift our communication style from preachy and pushy to educational and embracing. When we do that, we will be people others seek rather than shun.
I hope that by sharing my failures and ah-ha moments you feel safe and empowered. It's scary to be vulnerable, and progress can be uncomfortable, but it's easier when we know there are others who have the same challenges.
CI Communication Strategies