How to Convince People to Accept Your Ideas

Published: 26th July 2009
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People attending management training courses often ask how they can get their ideas accepted. How many times have you as a manager experienced just how difficult it is to get your ideas and initiatives accepted? Human nature tends to see problems and to concentrate on the negative side: if 80% of an initiative is acceptable, the remaining 20% will be the subject of heated discussions and the whole initiative will be turned down.



Our natural inclination when faced with the reaction "That'll never work!" is to overwhelm the objections with further arguments in monologue form. Rather than take this approach, try and find out what it is about your concept that bothers the other person. Remain neutral when doing this and do avoid any judgmental comments such as 'You can't be serious!' You must never hurt the objectors ego if you want to convince them! Suitable questions are: 'What is it about this that bothers you?, 'Could you be more specific in your criticism?'



The objectors first reaction may well still be negative. Faced with this on-going negativity many managers tend to adopt a reproachful tone. They thus force the other party onto the defensive and compel them to find further arguments to back up their negative attitude. Your goal, however, must be to initiate an objective discussion. By doing this you will learn what the other persons objections are and so how to handle these. An old Chinese fable gives a very apt illustration of the right technique to handling objections:



A farmer lived in a poor district. Because he possessed a horse for ploughing and driving he was regarded as wealthy. One day the horse ran off. All the neighbours felt sorry for him because of this terrible loss, but the farmer just said, 'Could be!'



A few days later the horse came back, bringing two wild horses with it. All the neighbours congratulated him on this gain, but the farmer just said, 'Could be!'



The next day the farmer's son tried to ride one of the wild horses. The horse, though, threw him off and he broke a leg. All the neighbours felt sorry for the farmer because of this misfortune, but he just said, 'Could be!'



The following week army officers came through the village enlisting recruits. The farmer's son was spared owing to his broken leg. All the neighbours were happy for the farmer, but he just said, 'Could be!'



Why tell this story? Well the key point, the message that we are trying to get across is that every event changes its significance if its context is changed. If one succeeds in shifting the context of an event or an argument, its significance too will appear in a new light! In this way problems can be turned into opportunities.



People attending management training courses often ask: How does this principle work in practice? Here is an example:



Imagine you would like to introduce laptop computers to your field engineers as a means of improving communications with the office. The high purchase cost of the equipment is cited as a counter-argument: 'We'd exceed our marketing budget by £20,000!'



Now you change the context: 'So you're not prepared to spend £20,000 - without knowing exactly what you're getting in return?', 'So you'd like to hear from me what you can expect for this £20,000?' This technique can be reinforced with a selective use of first-person-singular sentences: 'If I understand you correctly...', 'Now I understand your problem...' In this way you make it clear that you take your critics seriously.



In contrast, phrases such as 'So you're saying...' or 'In your opinion...' very quickly produce the 'I didn't mean it like that' feeling and hence arouse resistance!



Remain talking to your staff member until all misgivings have been cleared up.



Now the opportunity has to be explained, substantiated with facts and defined more precisely. It may also prove necessary to make minor modifications to the strategy as originally planned in order to rebut the employee's counter-arguments conclusively.



By doing this you have now transformed a problem into an opportunity and convinced your employee but you should go back and ask for further points of criticism. Whilst this may at first sound very destructive it is in fact indispensable. If there are further objections, you have to know what they are and treat them just like the first criticism! The employees will feel 'railroaded' if you don't talk an issue out to the end. The consequences are clear: Your strategy, concept or new idea will be inwardly rejected and only implemented half-heartedly - if at all. Only when every last misgiving has been cleared up will you have reached your goal!



The application of this four-point programme requires tact, discipline and practice. Don't throw in the towel if it doesn't work first time!



If you want to further develop you management skills, attend a good management training course.


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