Resisting Persuasion Is More Important By The Day

On Big Think today I posted a blog about resisting social media and online persuasion. Since much of my career has focused on persuasion, including my first book, Persuasion in Practice, I’ve always been more than intrigued by the novel ways developed to get us to do what we’d not even think to do otherwise.

Research shows that when we’re distracted, we’re even more easily persuaded.  We have difficulty formulating counterarguments when distracted.   And how can we avoid being distracted given all the messages we’re bombarded with in only seconds on the Internet?

Are you an easy target?  Are you children critical consumers and aware of how easily they can be persuaded by crafty advertisers who know far too much about them?  In this blog, there’s a technique useful in beginning to fight back against subliminal persuasion which we experience far more everyday than ever before.

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Shaking Off The Idea That Politics Is Always Negative

That’s the main thought in a blog posted on Big Think yesterday.  One of the most substantial obstacles to developing political skill is the commonly held belief that politics in the workplace is mostly negative.

In actuality, politics runs along a continuum from positive to negative.  More positive forms tend to involve interpersonal sensitivity and astute timing — the who, what, where, when and how of getting things done.  How, for example, to introduce a new idea at the right time, with the right people, in a way conducive to positive reception involves political skill.  As does managing humor to avoid offense.  How to not “step on toes” and ways to make others feel good about working with you are positive forms of politics.  So too is knowing which people to have on board before you make suggestions — and getting them there.

And what of the more devious, surreptitious forms?  It doesn’t hurt to know what they look like, especially if you work in a highly political or pathologically political arena.  Knowing and using them, however, are very different.  At least if you know about them, you won’t be blindsided.

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Comebacks at Work – Who Knew?

Just to let you know, this week I noticed that Comebacks at Work is for some reason reduced to $3.99 on Amazon Kindle.  Don’t know how that happened, but if you’ve been waiting to learn more about what to say in challenging situations, this may be your chance!  You can just click on the picture of the book to the right or here.

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Can You Bury Your Head in the Sand When it Comes to Politics as Work?

At HBR today this question is answered. Much as many, if not most of us, would prefer to ignore politics at work, whether for profit or not, wherever people come together with different views and in competition, politics exists.  When we’re young, it’s possible to be purists.  People enjoy mentoring us.  We remind them of their younger selves.  As we mature, it’s nearly impossible to not get in the way of someone else’s goals.  To accomplish theirs, some people engage in virulent forms of politics.  Hopefully, you don’t work at a place where that’s the norm.  But it’s always a good idea to go into any job with your eyes open.  In this article, you’ll find some good places to start.

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Changing Politics At Work Before It’s Too Late

It takes courage to confront the political landscape of any group, family or organization — moreso when that landscape is what Pope Francis recently described as “ailing.” Identifying 15 “ailments,” he took a huge step toward potential change.  But knowing you’re ill doesn’t always lead to a cure.  In a highly political arena, it can lead to even greater clandestine behavior, hiding the “sickness” rather than changing it.  If within the Curia there are those with courage, ones given to soul searching, if the infection is not too pervasive, there’s likely a way back.

It begins largely with leadership of the kind that alters the reward system and/or the route to reward.  What matters to those currently in power is made attainable by more constructive paths.

Where many who attempt this fail is assuming what matters — identifying what should be important — rather than assessing what does matter to the people who are capable of changing.  The way back from pathological politics, when possible at all,  is not usually  through the creation of a whole new path foreign to everyone involved, a sudden transition from bad to good, but discovering within familiar terrain a means of creating a new culture.

It will be interesting to observe how members of the Curia respond to Pope Francis’ observations of how far they’ve strayed.  Will soul-searching be sufficient to “devine” a new path that includes breaking up cliques and revising the qualifications for future members?  Will a leader emerge who can elicit enough support for change, not ridding the terrain of politics altogether, as that’s an impossible goal, but altering it to a more constructive level and creating conditions for long-term maintenance?  Discovery of virulent politics is crucial, but the greater challenge is turning things around when the creators of the problem are still in power.

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The Persuasiveness of “Taking The High Road” – The UVA/Rolling Stone Example

Taking the high road is the subject of my most recent Big Think blog, as you can read here. But how do we take the high road when under pressure?  In the midst of anger, frustration or other negative emotions, how is it that some people are able to “raise all boats” with their responses?

First, taking the high road is a persuasion tactic. It is among those that involve responding rather than reacting.  As has been discussed at some length in blogs on this site and in my books on politics, we all participate in repetitive episodes each day.  We learn how to talk with various people in certain ways.  Over times, some of these ways of interacting become intractable.  We are stuck in them and if they are dysfunctional, then they are “unwanted repetitive episodes” (URPS).

People who take the high road have the capacity to bypass reaction and URPS and instead to thoughtfully respond.  It’s as if a mental red flag stops an unproductive reaction.  Sometimes this occurs with the advice of others as is often the case with CEOs turning to advisors in high profile challenges.  If you know that you’re inclined to make “off-the-cuff” comments, it pays to have people less inclined around to help avoid this route, especially in crisis situations.

Were more of us to develop the capacity to take the high road and employ it, conflicts in our lives might well be substantially reduced.  Since communication is a lot like chess in that every “move” one person makes limits the choices of the other(s), when the high road is taken, and done so with sincerity, it becomes difficult in most cases for the reactions or responses of others to be as negative as they might be otherwise.

Of course, like any persuasive effort the proof of its legitimacy and also effectiveness long term is follow up.  In the example provided in the blog, the president of the University of Virginia, Teresa Sullivan, has committed to follow through, to do what is best for students and to contribute to the challenge of on-campus assaults shared with so many universities.

So, taking the high road is not a shallow tactic for her but part of the larger strategy of ending the danger students can face on campuses.  It commits one to then following that road.  Otherwise, the next time this approach is used, credibility will have been lost along with effective influence.

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Can’t Get A Word in Edgewise This Holiday Season?

Social interaction increases at this time of year at work and at holiday activities.  It’s a good time to assess whether people listen to what you have to say.  Or, whether you might be monopolizing conversations.

On Big Think today, I posted a blog about ways to deal with being interrupted, dismissed, and ignored.  Too often we simply give up and go away annoyed or even angry when we’re unable to participate comfortably and effectively in conversations.

That’s a good thing for conversational hoarders to keep in mind.  Talking too much, interrupting others, talking over them or dismissing what they have to say by not responding on topic are offensive types of communication.  There’s enough tension during the holiday season without people feeling that their ideas are not valuable enough to be allowed expression.  They may not say that they’re perturbed by being put in such a position, but relationships, at work as well, suffer when this kind of conversational bullying goes on.  No one wants to feel unimportant or invisible.

If you’re the one who can’t get a word in edgewise, it’s time to make some changes in how you enter conversations and hold the floor.  Don’t wait for someone to do that for you.

Take a few minutes to read the blog.  You’ll find some tips for assuring that what you have to say is not ignored or in some other way demeaned.  I’ve written about how we’re all at least 75% responsible for how people treat us.  So rude as a conversational monopolizer may be, it’s not just his or her responsibility to bring that behavior to an end.  Some people simply don’t notice that they talk over others or say too much instead of asking others their opinions or in some other way inviting them to the conversation.

Try treating social occasions as opportunities to try out new ways to enter and stay in conversations without monopolizing them.  One of the greatest gifts is so often overlooked.  It’s listening.  When you really listen to others, your comments reflect that.  And yet so many people rush into “Oh, that reminds me” and talk about their experiences instead of asking a question about what they just heard or inviting the person who just spoke to elaborate on some aspect of what was said.  This can come across in a very phony way, so be careful.  Ask about what really interests you or don’t ask at all.

Try noticing when people have not been able to enter a conversation.  Ask their opinion on something.  A good host does this.  So does an observant member of a team.  Just make sure it’s a topic about which you know they’ll have something of interest to add.

The most interesting people are not the ones who hoard conversations.  They’re the ones who participate in intriguing ways but also make sure others are involved.  So, if you’re talking too much or talking too little, consider some of the thoughts shared in the blog.  It could make this holiday season much more pleasant.

Posted in Comebacks, Holiday Conflicts, Unwanted Repetitive Episodes | 1 Comment