I was listening to Lord David Owen on the radio in the car the other day. A high profile, big personality MP now sitting in the House of Lords, he explained how he liked controversy, he enjoyed an argument, he welcomed discussion, alternative points of views, he loved rolling up his sleeves and getting stuck into heated discussion!
I was reminded of this when a couple of hours later, I sat with a new client who had quite the opposite approach. Fearful of what people might think, she has stopped putting forward her opinion. Worried that people might be talking about her, she is assuming the worst and creating distance between her and her co-workers and peer group. Terrified of doing things wrong and below the high standards she sets herself, she is holding back on actions, decisions and risk taking.
Of course these are two different personalities: for one, argument and different views were positive, exciting, enjoyable. For the other, difference is perceived as an attack on personality and to be avoided.
It gave me pause to think: we all see the world through different sets of lenses. To be able to build relationships, influence and persuade others, we need to be able to see the world as others see it. For my client, recognising that a difference of opinion is not an attack will be crucial in developing helpful strategies for conversations and developing working relationships. Realising that her colleague enjoys the cut and thrust of argument and wants to hear alternative view points and differences of opinion, will help her to express her true thoughts and feelings without feeling she is attacking or being disrespectful.
As speakers, we also need to be mindful that in our audiences are different people with views of the world as wide reaching as we could imagine. Our language, structure and the way we seek to persuade needs to take account of that. I’ll finish with a favourite quote of mine:
Don’t judge my outside by your inside
In other words, ours is not the only perspective. Cheers to that!