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Nuke negativity

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in Leaders & Managers

It’s easy to persuade people who are inclined to agree with you. The real test comes when you’re dealing with stubborn employees or closed-minded bosses itching to find fault with your proposal.

To break down their resistance, step into their shoes. Why are they so adamant? What’s at stake for them? Identify any assumptions that influence their thinking. Don’t get so annoyed that you overlook their fears, biases and goals.

The best way to win them over is to understand their position and satisfy their concerns. Here’s how:

Let them “air out.” Rather than rush to interrupt roadblockers, let them vent. Listen to their objections. But beware: Don’t nod sympathetically while they tell you why they’re putting up resistance. In your eagerness to show that you understand, you may lead them to conclude mistakenly that you agree with them. Keep a poker face.

When it’s your turn to talk, acknowledge their concern. (“I hear what you’re saying.”) Then provide some fresh facts that solidify your position. (“But what you’ve said flies in the face of our most recent financial results.”) Then state that it would be irresponsible to ignore the latest results. Gently hold up the evidence like a smoking gun; this undercuts the basis of their resistance.

Boost their credibility. You may try to persuade holdouts by reminding them how they’ve been wrong in the past. But this approach usually leads people to hunker down and become defensive.

A friendlier way to woo resisters is to express your genuine respect and admiration for their accomplishments.

Present your case as an extension of their achievements by explaining how it fits perfectly into the framework they’ve built or how it is consistent with their beliefs or findings.

Probe for answers. Don’t guess what would convince the other side. Ask, “What would it take for you to rethink this?” or “What information do you base this on? Would it matter if you learned that information was faulty?” Use their answers to construct your argument.

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