We all want to be heard. And we all want to be understood. It’s gratifying, empowering, and makes us feel valued.
In a difference of opinion, we want our side to be represented.
We want others to get who we are and to hear our valid arguments, even if they don’t agree with us though, of course, we’d like that as well.
Have you found that in a meeting, no matter how hard you try, it seems that no one understands what you’re trying to say? Then we make efforts to force people to appreciate us, defending our case over and over, which can simply create negativity and make the situation worse?
If you find this happening, pause for a moment.
Consider the idea that, in many cases, we are more likely to be understood by others if we are understanding of them. It will actually strengthen your case to learn and respect the opinions of others, even when they are disrespectful of yours. Often, you will find that they eventually return the favour.
Another issue we might have is when trying to share our opinions, many of us have trouble getting to the point. When it comes to bringing forward an idea, we feel awkward. Sometimes it’s because we’re worried about being criticized, in which case we tend to spew out a lot of supporting material to show we’ve done our homework. Other times we’re so nervous we rush and wind up blurting out our argument before we’ve completely thought through the concept. Or we’re just so eager to make our point that we simply don’t know when to stop talking. Either way, our audience ends up thinking, “Where is this going?” or “When will she/he finish?” We sound scattered, disorganized, even flaky, not the way we want to come across.
In the end, you may find that “getting your point across” can be a competition and that there are more efficient ways to achieve your objective. You are less likely to create defensiveness in the listener when you:
- Disclose your thinking.
- Acknowledge his.
- Maintain respect and safety.
- Establish consequences.
Here are some things to consider when trying to get your point across effectively:
So don’t start with, “You are really out of line, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” or “your reasoning is full of holes!”
If you want to get your point across, start by acknowledging his/her argument and appreciating his/her position. Specifically:
- Summarize his/her thoughts for him/her.
- Compliment his/her reasoning.
- Speak first to his/her positive intentions.
- Look for one thing you can agree with.
For example: “John, you’ve obviously put a lot of thought into this and care a great deal about the outcome. I liked what you said about … ” You must be sincere. We’re not talking about manipulation but rather a willingness to step into another human being’s shoes.
- Change your thinking
Change your thinking from getting your point across to offering information that might be of value to him/her. He/she is more likely to receive your offer favourably if it helps him/her achieve their goals, look good, or save face.
For example, “Sally, from what you’re saying, you believe you’re doing a good job and living up to the requirements of ….. I have a slightly different take on it. Would you like to hear it? As I see it, you put a lot of thought into preparing ……., and I think you want to do a good job. I have some ideas about how you can ……”
- Only talk when you are calm and comfortable.
Many times, we have a tiny intuitive voice in our mind that tells us to be patient, but because it is tiny, we ignore it. When we do so, we may say something that will be counterproductive to our goal. It’s okay to feel angry about a wrongdoing. However, at a certain point, anger becomes a choice. It is at this time when you can make efforts to understand the other person’s position.
- Get to the point.
Form a tightly focused message in your mind before you start to speak. Begin by asking yourself, “What is my point?” to help improve your thinking. Your main argument should always be something you can state in one sentence. It’s okay to set it up (for instance, if you need to link it to the discussion at hand, you can say something like, “I’ve been listening, and I think that…”), but no matter what, your central point should be the second or third sentence you say. And you should focus on a single subject if you are going to have a single, powerful message. Remember, having a clear and concise point turns you into a leader in your audience’s eyes, making it easier for them to understand what you believe in and feel confident that you know what you’re doing.
- Use power words.
To ensure everybody hears your message, highlight it with phrases like “My view is…,” “My point is…,””I believe that…” or for more formal situations, “The message I want to leave you with today is…” Having that verbal cue makes you sound authoritative and keeps your audience from having to guess what you’re getting at. Then, once you’ve stated your message, prove it. Use the reasons why you think as you do (no more than three). For example: If you’re arguing for a new kitchen, you might say to your partner, “First: If we enlarge the kitchen, we’ll spend more time there as a family. Second: Kitchens add greatly to the resale value of homes. And third: We’ll be able to whip up more gourmet meals.”
- Once you’ve made your point, stop speaking.
Pausing after you’ve delivered your message is powerful. It gives others time to think about what you’ve said and give your idea a chance to sink in: plus, it buys you time to organise your thoughts. This way you can prepare for the next thing you want to say, so you can express yourself well every time and your ideas will get the respect they deserve.
*Silence is a very powerful tool, mainly because most people are very uncomfortable with it which means that they will likely fill the silence with their thoughts. This gives you additional information to work with and will also give you the time to organise what you want to say.*
- Don’t fight.
The moment you are in an argument and you begin to raise your voice, get upset, flail your arms, speak ill of others, you become irrational. People are rarely going to hear you in this state of mind. “Right and wrong” are harsh words to describe concepts that either “work or may not work.” Consider this when you begin to take the argument personally.
Perhaps you don’t agree with their position, but insulting them, cutting them off, will only cause them to get defensive, and perhaps do the same to you.
- Don’t push your point across.
When you push for your way, you virtually guarantee failure, because the harder you try to persuade, the harder the opposition will do the same.
He/she wants to be heard, too just like you.
If you want to get your point across, don’t make getting your point across the goal.
Make understanding the goal.
When you try to understand your conflict partner’s view, you create an opening for him to do the same.
- Set limits and expectations.
Establishing limits and consequences is usually a more practical and effective way to be heard than attempting to gain agreement. At home, if getting your point across with your teenager means gaining agreement, you will almost never succeed. However, you can set limits and expectations. For example, “I hear you when you say that your friends can stay out until midnight. Nevertheless, you have to be home by 11:00.” “But, Mom! …”
“I realize this seems hard to you. But I expect you to be home by 11:00.”
- Not winning, walk away.
If you feel that you are at that messy point where you can’t get the other person to listen, just let it go.
You can revisit the issue later but forcing it now will only make things worse.
It’s also true that space and time after a confusing conversation will help others to reflect on the important points that you discussed, which will help them to identify with your position. Think of what helps you speak your mind calmly and effectively?
We all were given two ears and one mouth, use them in that order. What we may not realize is that the best way to get our point across is often counter-intuitive.
To be successful we must try to speak less and listen more.
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