One of the biggest hurdles we all face in life is gaining buy-in from others when we are taking steps they may disagree with. The easiest position to take is that of defence – ‘I am right and I am sticking by this’ – although perhaps not the best route to take. The more emotionally intelligent approach is to try something a little different. What steps can you take to ensure you get what you want without losing anyone? This blog reveals how.
Having to convince others that your viewpoint is an acceptable one is no mean feat. Justifying your actions to someone else is one of those necessary evils in life that we must accept. If the people you love question your every move but you still want them in your life, accepting that they will challenge you along the way is the first step in bringing them on board. In doing so, you anticipate the resistance and plan accordingly. You are being emotionally intelligent. You are being a leader.
Persuading others to come round to your way of thinking happens continuously throughout our lives, whether it’s:
- I want to move away from home and my parents won’t like it
- I want to change my career and I am the sole breadwinner
- I don’t want to marry whomever my parents think is perfect for me
Portraying these messages in a way that will appeal to the recipients takes some planning, listening, and above all, empathy. In essence, this process goes through three key phases.
1. Understanding both sides
Stephen Covey’s advice to ‘first understand and then seek to be understood’ is as relevant today as it was when the book was first written. I’d like to add another step to it, and that is to understand yourself first, then understand others, and then work towards being understood.
Knowing what you want to achieve is key. This means asking yourself ‘do I really want this’? How will achieving the goal move me forward? Is it worth the effort I am about to put in? Is it simply a rebellion towards a restriction?
Questioning yourself will not only provide clarity in your head, it will also strengthen your conviction and keep you motivated when everything is against you.
Once you are clear, consider what your fears or doubts are if what you want to achieve does not happen. Do you fear that you will not ultimately live the life you want? Is it that your curbed ambitions will impact you long term? What is it that you will lose if you don’t do what it is you are about to? Really get inside your own head and understand the psychology behind your thinking.
So now your understand yourself – do you understand what is happening in the heads of those you will be bringing on board (spouse, family, friends)? What fears or doubts do they have? If you are both pulling in different directions, chances are their fears and doubts are exactly the same as yours. They too fear that you will not live the life they wish for you to have – they too question how your decisions will impact you (and them) long term. The irony of it is that those that care about us will have our best interests in mind. It is your job to guide the conversation so that you both meet in the middle.
2. Having the conversation
Believe it or not, the most challenging part of this entire process is actually over. Questioning yourself and understanding both sides is tough because you are moving from the unknown to the known. Once you know what is happening inside your head and the heads of others, the rest of it is a piece of cake. Or is it? Let’s see…..
The challenge you face is being the one that is ‘different’; the anomaly; the one that everyone else disagrees with, and turning this around to being the one they have started to support.
So, what happens when you’re the one sitting in a room full of people telling you that you are in the wrong? What do you do when you are faced with such fierce opposition?
And you learn.
You identify what emotions are at play and you understand them.
You see, when you are the different one, when you are the elephant in the room, the opposing views are most likely fuelled by fear. There is a fear that your difference will be the cause of your demise, the fear that you will leave everyone behind; the fear that they will not recognise you anymore. What fears and emotions can you identify?
Sit back a little – literally sitting back in your seat will help the shift in your mind – and just listen. When the other person has stopped talking, ask another question. If you are met with silence, remain silent until the other person speaks. The funny thing about a little quiet is that most people do whatever they can to fill it. Silence is uncomfortable. Don’t be the one who is doing the talking. Listening to the words being spoken will help identify what is fuelling their resistance. More often than not, a few sentences in and they will hone in on the exact reason.
It is at this point that whatever expectations are weighing on your shoulders will become lighter. It’s when words like ‘don’t live away from home’ and ‘you need to get married’ become ‘I’m afraid for your safety’, and this is when the real conversation happens. Engaging the elephant can now begin.
Address their fears. Talk to them about how your goal will not realise these fears. Engage with them on why this is important to you and how they will join you in this journey. Empathise with what they say and build trust. These people care for you – show that you care for them too.
End the conversation with one action that each of you will take. Make it a tangible, measurable action. Are you going to have another discussion? Set a date for this that you both can commit to. Are you going flat hunting in the new city you are moving to? Agree to research it together and when this will happen. Remember, if you do not commit to something with a date and time, it is likely to be forgotten.
3. The aftermath
One conversation may not be enough, especially if you are doing something life changing and significant. Sustaining change involves a process of revisiting the same conversation a few times before things can move forwards. The important stuff does not happen overnight.
Prepare for minds to change, and more (even old) challenges to surface. Expect it to be difficult and anticipate what resistance you will face. When this does happen, bring them back to the core of what you agreed. Let them know you are doing this as a team. Above all, remain loyal to the commitments you made. You do not want anything that you are responsible for to break the trust that you have built.
What have you done lately to turn things around purely through listening to others? I’d love to read your stories – please leave a comment below.