CG #42 – Persuasion or Influence?

I’m not saying persuasion has no place in collaboration…or am I?

Word Count:  521

Reading Time:  1.5 minutes

Eric is well-spoken, dapper and energetic.  I’m watching him home in on and slowly tear apart a point someone has suggested that he disagrees with.  He never raises his voice, never gets personal and never utters a judgmental word, yet he conveys his distaste with every syllable he utters. His boss nods, apparently agreeing with Eric.

The rest of the team freezes when Eric starts his relentless campaign.   You can see them wilt, feel the energy go out of the room.  It’s hard to believe this is the same team who had just engaged in an electrifying give and take.

Candace cocks her head to one side and looks interested as she follows the conversation of her teammates.  When she speaks, she asks a thoughtful question that ignites the conversation and knits the team together.  Even when she expresses a difference of opinion, it increases the connectedness of the team.  By the time the team has reached a decision, it feels inevitable.  If asked who’s decision it was, no one would say “Candace,” yet it’s impossible to imagine this particular decision without her involvement.

Eric and Candace are real people.  The dilemma we share with them is also real:  How does a group of people with wildly different ideas come to an authentic agreement that everyone will fully support?

Persuasion is domination.  Persuasion values the “right answer” over any other consideration, and relentlessly eliminates options.  Persuasion feeds the ego. I’m not knocking it:  There are times when I’ve made the choice to be persuasive and ignore all other considerations.  Perhaps it’s just me, but I have always regretted it.

Influence creates more and better alternatives.  It’s a 2-way street:  all parties to a decision influence and are influenced by each other.  Because Influence generates power for everyone, it’s a better platform for collaboration than persuasion.  It stands the best chance for getting a unanimous agreement.

When I find persuasive language coming out of my mouth, I make the following changes to shift myself back to a more collaborative place:

I change:  “You’ll want to do this,” to “I’m liking the second alternative.  What do you like?”

I change: “I think you should do ______,” to “The way I make a decision like this is by thinking about what would give me the most peace of mind.  Which choice would do that for you?”

I change “What are you waiting for – confront them?” to “What have you done so far??”

In every case, I go from giving advice (telling someone what to do) to getting back in my own business with an “I” statement and an open-ended question.  When I’m really on my game, I say the the “I” statement to myself and go right to the open-ended question.

Persuasion and advice narrow options; staying in my own business and inviting others to stay in theirs expands alternatives.  More alternatives means we’re more likely to find one that does the job best.

I’m working hard on this right now. It requires constant vigilance.  I want to be the kind of person who leaves others with more power, not less.  Join me?

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