by Coach Edwin S. Soriano, Contributor
The Good Men Project

“You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.”

It starts with a difference in point of view. It reveals not just the biases of the other person, but also your own biases. It happens all the time. You will hear an opinion that is different from yours. Maybe at an office meeting, maybe at a networking activity or even a social gathering. And if you find value in it, you might decide to engage on the topic.

And your response can spell the difference between a bitter confrontation or a conversation that makes everyone a better person.

The difference in opinion might be as mundane as what path to take (“We should pass this way”), it could be about relationships (“It’s annoying when Fred does that”), it could be about work (“They should all just resign!”), or it could be about politics (“Can you believe we have that guy as our leader?”).

And this isn’t about convincing some strangers on social media to change their mind (they won’t).

This isn’t about insisting on being right and proving the other person wrong.

This is about a casual, even jovial conversation. And allowing space to have a meaningful conversation where one or both of you gain a new perspective.

Here are tried and tested strategies to influence people with kindness.

1.) “Yes, and…”.

This is a principle in improv theater that gets the conversation moving forward. Acknowledge what is current, and add something to it.

Example: “We should pass this way.”
Bitter influence: “No. Let’s pass this way, it’s shorter.”

“No” creates disconnection.

Example: “We should pass this way.”

Better Influence: “Yes, we should! And I’m feeling adventurous. Would you like to adventure with me on this path?”

When you say “Yes,” you gain more connection.
When you say “and,” you build-up on what the other person said.

2.) Seek to understand.

Express curiosity. This is not an attempt to interrogate the person. Just a kind question that gets the person thinking differently.

Example: “It’s annoying when Fred does that.”

Bitter Influence: “Aren’t you overacting?”

This is confrontational, doesn’t build value.

Better Influence: “You know of people who are totally unaffected by Fred? I wonder how they are able to remain unaffected by Fred?”

Leave it at that, let the person think about the question. If appropriate, elicit an answer.

3.) Share a useful resource.

You’re not telling the person that you think he’s wrong. You’re just giving him an alternative position. It’s his for the taking … or not.

Example: “They should all just resign!” 
Bitter influence: “That would just backfire.”

Again, this statement creates disconnection, disagreement.

Example: “They should all just resign!” 
Better influence: “I thought so too! Until I read about the company that lost all it’s top leaders in one go, thus needing to let go of half their employees. Search for this article entitled: ‘When leadership resignations backfire.’”

Did you notice the “Yes, and…”?
Yes = “I thought so too.”
And = “I read about …”

4.) Share a story.

Stories have a way of creating space in people’s minds and hearts.

Example: “Can you believe we have that guy as our leader?”
Bitter influence: “What’s up? Is there anything wrong?”
Well, with the help of your question, they *will* find something wrong.

Example: “Can you believe we have that guy as our leader?”

Better influence: “Last year, I met a guy from Uganda. He survived the terror of the cannibal dictator Idi Amin. … I’m glad Idi Amin isn’t our leader. Today, I could express myself on social media, build an app or a business to make lives better. I’m glad that in our own way, we can contribute to making this world a better place.”

You’re expressing a story, and what you learned. You’re not imposing it on the person.

Accept that people will have their own opinion. If they don’t change their mind, that’s their decision. No need to insist on what’s right or what’s not.

Just trust that people gain more by being kind than being critical. Will you make things bitter or better? Will you contribute to making more meaningful conversations?


Originally published on The Good Men Project:

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