The prevailing model for speaking persuasively is a style of speaking that is enthusiastic, energetic and extraverted. The speaker is asserting a point in hopes to convince the listener to agree. However, this model can be a trap. It puts you in the position of selling. Of course others don’t want to be sold, so they have to resist all that you are saying.
In his book “A Failure of Nerve” Edwin H. Freidman says, “Others can only hear you when they are moving toward you, no matter how eloquently you phrase the message. In other words, as long as you are in the pursuing, rescuing, or coercive position, your message, no matter how eloquently broadcast will never catch up.”
In order for others to hear what you are saying, they have to be moving towards you. If you want to persuade someone when you talk, you can’t be pushing towards him. Instead, you have to be in a receptive energy state so you are drawing him towards you. When a listener is coming towards you, he is able to hear and absorb what you are saying.
Some time ago, I was reminded of how pursuing too much causes a prospective client to withdraw. A very skilled corporate coach referred her director-level client to me for coaching on executive presence, voice and presentation skills. She suggested we all have lunch together which we did. During the lunch, I asked the director what he wanted to learn. He shared a few things about his position in the company and feedback he had been given to the effect that he was being perceived as a light-weight and as not being powerful.
I liked him immediately, and I could see that I had the exact skills and abilities to help him develop a much stronger executive presence. At this point, I got overly excited about the possibility of working with him; and I began to push ideas and insights towards him in an attempt to convince him to work with me. Big mistake!
He listened politely from then on, but he was not really engaged; and I could sense it. Sure enough, he never sent his contact information as he promised. And even when I reached out by email twice, he never responded. I was not surprised.
Over the years, I have often seen how people run the other way when I assume a pursuing position. In a world that appears to value the aggressive standpoint, I continually see that taking a receptive position wins more clients for me.
If I had the opportunity to redo the meeting with the corporate coach and her director client I would do one of two things.
- I would refuse the lunch meeting and invite the director call me by phone to chat for a few minutes so I could hear about his situation. This is the best way for me to stay receptive and to keep prospective clients moving towards me.
- I might meet for lunch as originally requested but wait for the corporate coach or the director to bring up the topics of coaching. Then I would just ask what he wanted to learn to do or be. I might say, “Hmmm. Why don’t you call me and we can talk more deeply about your goals? I will do some thinking about your project. I may have some real solutions for you.”
While I am a big believer in crafting messages to be persuasive and I even teach the elements of persuasive speaking, I am also aware that there is a more powerful energetic message under the spoken words that can push or pull listeners. This subtle communication content of pushing or pulling energy must be taken into consideration when your goal is persuasion. Your message must be asserted with confidence, but your energetic style must be receptive. So, you must invite your listener to move towards you, so he can hear you.
Want to learn how to incorporate this subtle communication skill into your life for personal or professional reasons? Give me a call. I’d love to hear more about your situation and communication goals.