We coach people to be as persuasive and powerful in their communication as possible. But sometimes, your audience is just not open to what you have to say. Our clients often share experiences where the audience is not always open minded. Some of our clients tell us, “They don’t want to hear that from me,” due to a lack of seniority on the organizational chart, or a lack of gray hair, or (let’s be honest here) due to gender or race. And when your executive coach (that’s me) is coaching you to be as persuasive and direct as possible, and your audience isn’t interested in hearing what you have to say, you are caught between the proverbial “rock and a hard place.”
The typical human response in this situation is to compromise your preparation, and worry less about being a powerful and persuasive communicator. “They don’t want that from me,” is the frequent mantra.
But this is exactly the incorrect response. No matter what your audience wants from you, the best possible behavior for your development is to constantly prepare to be powerful and persuasive in your communications. Always be ambitious. Always do your preparation. Always have a communication goal. Always have a clear message.
And then, if you think your audience isn’t ready for it, you have two potential paths: First, think about ways to warm them up so they will be open to your communication. Maybe you spend time getting to know them. Maybe you get another colleague to endorse your idea ahead of time, giving a little shared credibility. Maybe you ask in a respectful way, “I’ve got something to share that may be helpful to you, but that you may not be used to hearing from me. Do you mind if I share it?” Your first option is to look for ways to soften the ground so that this previously unwilling audience opens their ears to you for a few moments.
Or, your alternate path, is to “keep your powder dry” so to speak, and live to fight another day. If you cannot soften the ground, then don’t waste your political capital on an audience not ready for you and your message. BUT… there is still no reason not to prepare as well as possible.
This is the real world, and prejudices and bias will often cause audiences to not be willing to hear you. But just because you think that may be the case, don’t compromise your ambition or your efforts to be the most powerful and persuasive communicator. At worst, you will be honing the skill for the future. At best, you may surprise yourself and may be able to turn around the skeptical audience.
The Latimer Group will launch a new workshop for our clients in 2014 on Listening Skills and Followership. It would be our privilege to have you and your team join the discussion. To learn more, e-mail us at info@TheLatimerGroup.com
Photo: Hilde Skjølberg