A guiding principle of effective communication is to be other-centered.
While this may make sense to us intellectually, what does this REALLY mean? Whether your ‘audience’ is one person or hundreds of people, look to identify what their common views, experiences and/or language is before you craft your message. When you interact in a manner that acknowledges the other side, you increase the chance of sincerely connecting with your audience.
My kids now know to always start any request with how it will benefit their Dad and I, not with what they want.
- “Video games will give us more peace and quiet while you and your brother promise to play together without fighting ? Sure go right ahead!”
- “Going out with your friends will teach you more responsibility since you are paying for yourself and you have a ride? Sounds good, have a great time!”
Step 1: Think about your audience.
What are their thoughts? While you can not predict or assume, my son knew enough about the desire for peace and quiet of his Mom and Dad to start with that when asking for video games. If he started with “can I play video games now?” He likely would have received a “no” as it was a time he would not normally play. However, he caught us right in the mood where we apparently needed some peace and quiet. So he started with our benefit. “Mom and Dad, what would you say if I could guarantee you both an hour of peace and quiet where my brother and I don’t bother you at all?” I was intrigued and eventually agreed to his request.
A client was drafting a presentation to ask for a raise. She wanted to start with how badly she needed the money, which was ill-focused. She knew her boss’s priority was staying on budget but also having a high performing team. We redrafted her ask and focused on the her performance, responsibilities and what a raise would allow her to accomplish.
As a junior in college, sitting in my dorm room in Dubuque, IA, I needed to ask my parents if I could study abroad in Spain. First, I told my Mom that I would be kept safe by a reputable program that was well-versed in working with American students abroad. However, approaching my Dad, I first mentioned that my new idea would not cost him one more penny over my current tuition. They both said yes. I knew what was important to each of them- safety and money, respectively.
Step 2: Utilize their thoughts and words
People like people who are like them. Similarity/Attraction Theory explains it in detail. It is a natural tendency to gravitate towards others who look like us, think like us and talk like us. When we want to communicate with any level of influence, we must consider our audience’s views, experiences and language. Then, we must use what we know to enhance our message.
What do you know about your audience’s views, experiences, and/or language that you can insert into your communication to get their buy in or agreement?
I was helping a college student apply for a scholarship. She followed the instructions and talked about her accomplishments, involvement in extracurricular activities and her thoughts on how she could add value to the school. However, we did not want to start the essay with only words describing the applicant. We looked up how the university described themselves, as a ‘service oriented learning’ community. Her opening line included that phraseology. The committee reviewing might recognize the applicant as if she already belongs there using their language and sharing their views.
How can you implement these steps?
First, focus on an upcoming communication situation that you seek to gain buy in, influence or at least the ear of your audience. Then, identify the opportunities where you can utilize THEIR viewpoint, experience or language. Lastly, work to implement some of what you have identified into your own message.
Meg Bucaro is a communication strategist and college adjunct faculty who is passionate about empowering clients to perform at their highest level by communicating with more comfort and confidence. She is especially passionate about positioning women for success by teaching them powerful communication behaviors. For more information on how to nail that next presentation with confidence, or for help crafting your next important message, schedule a chat with Meg. https://megbucaro.com/contact/ or follow Meg Bucaro Communications here https://www.instagram.com/meg_bucaro_communications/