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What to Do When Your Audience Thinks Different

Getting Your Idea Across to Business People who Think Different from You

It is tempting to present your ideas in the same manner that convinced you.

Your job was to collect and analyze the data not to present that data. Your job is to present the conclusion with 3 strong reasons why it is the best solution.

Then ask for questions and thoughts, followed by a quick repeat of the conclusion.

How to prove your point

Data may prove your point and drive away your audience at the same time

When we are trying to make a point, attract followers and support for an idea, we don’t want to appear to be expressing only our unsubstantiated opinions.

What to do? Use diagrams, not graphs and charts, use diagrams, simple drawings that make your point quickly and easily.

Grab a piece of paper or paper napkin if you are sitting in a restaurant, explain with a quick drawing. This is how it looks, this is how to get there, here is how I think it will fit, this is one way we can accomplish the goal, here is a mind map of the options we have.

Crucial Conversations

Who do you attract into your conversations and teams at work? Are they as much like you as you can find? Do they think like you? Does that feel good!?

Consider for a moment what happens at work if everyone thinks alike. Why do you need more than one of you?

Instead consider for another moment what happens if you work with people who complement you, who think different, who add to the diversity and options to be considered. Now this may seem confrontational and difficult at first. But at least you would all be needed because you are not just clones.

Being open to the value of different opinions and viewpoints can result in much better decisions.

Yes, everyone can draw using stick figures

Drawing or diagraming information you want to explain helps everyone understand it better, including you. When you sketch using stick figures, or flow diagrams, or a mind maps, or any way to help visualization, you will be able to show as well as verbally explain. The process of doing the diagram helps you simplify the ideas in your own mind. The process of explaining using a diagram helps others understand, and later remember, what you showed them.

Tony Buzan, in memorial

Tony Buzan
June 2, 1942 – April 13, 2019
Tony Buzan is the person who brought mind mapping into my and many people’s world. He taught us and pushed us to use color and art and our brain processes as we organized ideas and brought out our own creativity. His voice, his British accent, is in my head as I think of all his books that I have read, all the times I recommended his Mind Mapping for Kids book, and all the times I shared the advantages of mind mapping with an audience. Thank you Tony Buzan.

Your Mental Shortcuts

Mental shortcuts, we all make them throughout the day. In a sense, they are necessary coping mechanisms your brain has been developing your whole life. Because there is no way to pay equal attention to everything within eyesight, earshot, and close enough to touch, our brain has developed filters to let in what it believes you need to know and leave out a large majority of what is going on around you.
Consider for a moment how you function during your daily drive or ride, or even walk, to work.
Most of what you pass by is a blur. Most of what you pass you take little or no interest. So much so that when you arrive at your destination you will not remember seeing or hearing most of what was actually there.
Your cognitive bias made those decisions for you. The filters you have built up to protect yourself from over stimulation and clutter worked.
But, and that is a big but, did you miss something that in the past wasn’t important but now is? Did you assume you knew what happened but really didn’t?
We can’t function in a busy world without our filters and we can’t take for granted that we didn’t miss anything important.
So what can you do? Ask others what they saw and heard. Ask for other viewpoints, other experiences, to add to your own. Be open minded about what you might have missed or added into a scene because of your filters, your own cognitive biases. They, too, have biases. Together you may both get a more complete picture.
Ask open questions and listen openly to the answers.

What if Someone Asks for Your Help With a Problem They are Having?

When an employee, family member, or friend brings you problem they are facing, how can you tell if they want solutions from you or for you to just listen?

Ask them.

Also if they are looking for a solution, ask first what they have tried or thought they could try. Get them thinking first.

Then if it does come down to offering your ideas, offer options, plural, so they can choose, and make it clear that these are ideas that if they choose something different you won’t be hurt. The choice is still their own.

The power of sincere questions

Questions are a sign of intelligence, of interest, of curiosity, of caring about the other person and the topic, and of being a critical thinker. Can you think of anything else you can say that is this powerful?

Questions, to be able to drink in that power, must be paired with power listening.

Once you ask that question, it is essential that you become silent, wait for and pay attention to the answer.

Some people try to answer their own questions. Some think that the other person pausing to think before answering means they don’t know what to answer.

Just like asking the question is a sign of interest in the other person, waiting and paying attention to the answer is a sign of respect.

Making Decisions With Too Much Data

Making decisions with too much data is just as difficult and risky as making a decision with too little data.

There are ways to be logical and move forward in either case.

With too little data, you may want to step back and list or mind map the missing pieces. Which of them are critical, which, if known, would lead to very different answers, which can be discovered before moving on, and which would have little impact and are not worth pursuing. Then you can seek out or make estimates on the missing data noting, as you move forward, what needs a comment or footnote.

With too much data, again you may want to organize what you have into categories, perhaps with sticky notes you can cluster on a board or on a mind map. It’s important to be able to see the big picture all at one time. Then you can highlight, circle or bring to the forefront, the groups that will impact results the most. The others can go on an imaginary parking lot or into the background so you can focus on the most important without distractions.

In neither case, too much or too little data, do you want to feel so stuck that nothing happens. Doing nothing is a decision, too, but one that happens to you instead of by you.

Does any of this describe Your Business Meetings?

Another Look at Your Business Meetings

Business Meetings are a microcosm of how your company includes and excludes ideas and contributions. Who speaks up, and even more important, who is listened to. Who gets credit for an idea, who takes credit for an idea. Who grumbles. Who rolls their eyes. Who keeps looking at their smart phone or laptop. And do they do it consistently when certain people are speaking.

Conscious and unconscious bias is contagious. Like a sneeze, we can pick up the disease without realizing it.


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