If You’re Nice, You Win. If You’re Not Nice, You Lose!
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” – William Arthur Ward
To achieve success in any field, including professional speaking, you need to get things done through others. However, many times this interaction with others is, at best, uncomfortable and, at worst, confrontational. Either of these interactions keeps us from achieving success.
Below are three rules for your interactions with others you may want to consider to reach your success faster.
Request, Don’t Command
One of the main reasons people become defensive or stand offish when you ask them to do something is, if you are too direct, you may be viewed by the other person as giving a command instead of asking for a request.
When someone gives another person a command instead of a request, the person given the command immediately become defensive thinking what gives this person the right to give me a command. I illustrate the difference between a command and a request below:
Command – “I need you to finish the monthly report today.”
Request – “I know you are very busy today, but is it possible for you to finish the monthly report today? Joe (supervisor to both of them) has to present the monthly report to the Board of Directors tomorrow.”
Do you see the difference. In the first sentence, you are giving a command to the other person not taking into account their workload. In the second sentence, you are doing two things that soften the request. You are acknowledging the other person is very busy and you are giving her a reason for you needing the report today.
Some of you may be saying, “I don’t have the time to “sugar coat” every request I have. To this I ask, “Do you have the time to haggle with the other person with the distinct possibility of what you want not being satisfied?” Giving a command will always cause you more consternation than if you give a request.
Earl Nightingale says it best when interacting with others: “Use a fly rod (request), not a feeding tube (command).
A good portion, maybe even the majority, of your communication is through e-mail. However, there are some real problems with e-mail not communicating your intent properly.
The Problem with E-mail
In the last ten or twenty years, you, like everyone else, have dramatically increased your communication through e-mail. My guess is most of you even have more than one e-mail address.
The problem with e-mail is that it does not convey your communication in two areas that makeup the majority of your communication: body language and tone of voice. I will say there is always a tone of your e-mail messages and for the most part it is not the tone you want to present. So how can you fix this.
Well, first refer back to the previous “Don’t Give a Command” section. In e-mail messages, just like in conversation, you should not give commands. This only makes the person(s) receiving the message more defensive. This will slow down the process of the recipient satisfying your request. You should make requests not give commands. If you follow this advice, recipients of your e-mail will give you what you want quicker and with much less consternation.
For important e-mails, have someone else read it and give you their impression before you push the “Send” button. Adjust the wording and tone appropriately to change your e-mail into a request.
So, it behooves you to take great care to make requests of people and don’t command them to. Also, pay close scrutiny to the e-mail messages you compose.
Possibly the most powerful way to interact with people to get what you want is to always, and I mean always, give the other person a face-saving way to back down.
Always Give the Other Person a Face-Saving Way to Back Down
Sometimes, when you have a difference of opinion with another person, the other person may see the logical nature of your argument and realize they were wrong. However, if you continue to press the other person in a belligerent way, they will only become more defensive and you will not get what you want.
A better way is to provide the other person with a face-saving way to back down from their argument. Your life will be much easier if you provide this face-saving option for the other person. So how do you do this?
What you could say is, “I could be wrong. I often am. Have you considered [ your argument ]?” Notice, I did not use the word “but” in my reply. The word “but” is a “hot button” word for most people. Try substituting the word “and” for the word “but.” The word “and” is not a “hot button” word and, generally, calms the other person down.
Admitting you are wrong most of the time allows the other person to admit they also may be wrong. If you are particularly adept at this, the other person may start defending your position. It is the craziest thing, but it works most of the time. Believe it or not!
Your life will be more pleasant and you will get what you want if you take great care to make requests of others and not use commands, paying detailed attention to the tone of your e-mail messages, and always give the other person a face-saving way to back down.
It’s true. If you’re nice, you win. If you’re not nice, you lose!
Call to Action
Make requests of others, don’t command them
For important e-mails, have someone else read it and give you their impression before you hit the “Send” button. Adjust the wording and tone accordingly to ensure the intent of your message is clear in the message.
Always give the other person a face-saving way to back down
“When speaking in public, your message – no matter how important – will not be effective or memorable if you don’t have a clear structure.” -Patricia Fripp
DiBartolomeo Consulting International’s (DCI) mission is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence colleagues and other technical professionals through improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence.
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