How to get on the same page and inspire others to work cohesively.
BY: Chris St. Hilaire
Whether you’re talking with family, friends, or colleagues, many conversations involve trying to get other people to do something. You can resort to nagging or demanding, but it's so much better to create unity around a common goal. The secret is keeping your ego in check and focusing on the others. When they feel safe, valued, and included, they’ll be much more open to your ideas.
Here are 12 simple ways to inspire other people to give your plan a big, enthusiastic “Yes!”
Let the goal evolve from the group
Instead of announcing your plan, encourage others to speak up. You can simply ask, “What’s our goal here today?” Let people give you the answer, and repeat what they say to make sure you’re all on the same page. Boil their ideas down into one or two simple sentences. Now it’s everyone’s goal, not just yours.
State the goal out loud
There is great power in stating the “obvious” goal. The minute you say the goal out loud, you become the leader even if you’re not officially the one in charge. This is because every group has an innate longing to be unified, and people unify around a goal.
Make other people feel safe
In the first few minutes of a business meeting, thank your listeners for taking the time to talk with you. Throughout any conversation where you aim to persuade, use phrases like “From my perspective” to show the others that they can have a perspective too—you’re all equals.
Solve their problem
If you’re talking to someone you know, start off by solving a problem they’ve mentioned before. Do they hate the sound of their neighbor’s barking dog? Bring them a pair of earplugs. Are they always fishing around for eyeglass wipes? Give them a packet. Small gestures like these show that you’re really paying attention to them.
Find something to like about your listeners
If you’re giving a presentation, people will be more open to your ideas if they like you. The good news is, they’ll generally like you if you like them. Your feelings have got to be genuine, so find one thing to like about everyone in the room. It could be a person’s smile, the joke on her coffee mug, or the way he offers a pen to a colleague. Some little detail that reminds you that we’re all human, and we all want to feel valued and included.
Stay in the moment
All great communicators understand that being totally present with your listener is key to successful communication. So turn off your cell phone, and if possible ask the others to do the same. Pay attention. Stay focused on what other people are telling you. Don’t get distracted thinking about what you’re going to say next. Listen.
Don’t use acronyms
Never assume the others in the room know your profession, your cause, or your background. Explain your terms, and be careful not to talk over your listeners’ heads.
Absolutes are words like all, always, never, and every. It’s tempting to use them if you want to appear strong and consistent, but absolute promises are very hard to keep. Instead, use words like most and rarely. Replace everyone and everywhere with anyone and anywhere.
If you need to fidget, wiggle your toes
Sometimes you can’t help but be nervous in front of a group. Wiggling your toes gives you an outlet for that nervous energy without signaling your tension to the rest of the room.
Use your listeners’ language
If you can incorporate other people’s words, you’ll instantly make them feel included. It can be anything from a specific technical term to a funny way of describing the weather.
Don’t take silence personally
Silence at the end of a presentation can mean anything from awed approval to boredom or confusion. Never assume what your audience is thinking. Ask for feedback.
Don’t reject bad ideas—instead, add good ones
First restate the goal you both want to reach. Then, instead of arguing against their bad idea, offer other options in addition to theirs.
Chris St. Hilaire is a message strategist and the author (with Lynette Padwa) of 27 Powers of Persuasion: Simple Strategies to Seduce Audiences & Win Allies (Prentice Hall Press, 2010). The book offers a Buddhist approach to communication techniques St. Hilaire developed while working in the fields of politics, marketing, journalism, and the law.