No Idea Stands on Its Own

I’ve always started my persuasion classes with this comment — No Idea stands on its own. That is more true today than in years past. There are so many forms of competition for attention, often with the most inane taking up huge amounts of time and space. In fact, you have to wonder how superb ideas reach the light of day in a world so enamored with junk. For some people, sometimes, an idea occurs at the right time. The world is primed to receive it because it is relevant to our needs and concerns. Other ideas “grab” our attention because they’re novel. But, for most of us on most days, ideas need a lot of help. They need persuasion.

I meet so many people who expect others to read their minds — to get what they’re thinking and love it as they do. That’s simply not how persuasion works. When a seemingly great idea is introduced, it’s usually new to those hearing it. The action is like planting a beautiful flower in the wrong kind of bed, absent fertilizer and adequate water. The flower withers and dies.

Persuasion is not something we do to people. It’s something we do with them. It involves preparing the ground for the delivery of our thoughts at a time propitious to their fruition. It also involves knowing what the recipient’s objections will be or why disinterest might result.  Then comes knowing how to overcome such obstacles.  While it’s not possible to provide a persuasion course here, I’ve written about it in books, articles and on this site if you’d like to learn more.

In any case, the next time you have what you think is a great idea, don’t squander it. Consider who should receive it first, in what way, with what support. Keep in mind that the germination process involved in your coming to love the idea took time. It’s your idea, not theirs. They may not love it right away for those reasons and others. Persuasion is work. It’s a skill. It’s often incremental. Impulsive people are usually not persuasive. They may grab our attention, but they don’t keep it. That’s why the most skillful persuaders are excellent listeners. They won’t send out a cherished idea until they know the ground on which it will land is fertile and prepared.  This doesn’t mean being slow.  It means being smart.

Posted in Influence, Politics, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Politics of Making People Feel Good

Given the contentiousness of the U.S. presidential race, you might wonder if politics has been turned on its head. Where is civility? Where is statesmanship? Why all this ringside excitement as if we’re looking forward to a fight?

In The Secret Handshake I wrote that people who get ahead are usually those who make others feel good about having them around. If you’re always pulling the rug out from under other people, you make a lot of enemies.

As one astute business executive shared with me, “You always have to ask yourself what good is going to come of this? You might get anger off your chest, and pay for it for the rest of your career.”

Since we are creatures of habit, it’s wise to check in on those habits. Do you make the people around you wish they were somewhere else? Is your solution to offense one of making the other person pay? Is disagreement always insulting to you or is it an opportunity to learn something new?

Why be like people who confuse power with the ability to punish?  Why not become versatile?  Predictable people, no matter how supposedly powerful, limit themselves.  The versatile thinker is not stuck in a rut.  He or she has the capacity to figure out ways to deal with and around people who are smitten with themselves .  That has to be better.

Posted in Confrontation, Politics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What To Say When a Conversation Turns Negative

That’s the subject of my Harvard Business Review blog to be published today (11 a.m. EST)  here. When studying for my doctorate, my research focused on how children deal with disruptions in conversation. We learn early, if we’re fortunate, how to get conversations back on track. If we don’t, everything we do involving other people is more difficult.

How we look, what we wear, where we come from, and how “smart” we are influence the course of our lives. We worry that we and our children might not measure up in terms of these perceptions and assessments of our value. But, we and school systems rarely pay attention to how we talk in social situations. We may study public speaking. Yet, few of us engage in that everyday. We talk to others though. And often those discussions derail. In this blog, you’ll learn of seven ways to turn such conversations around and put them on a more constructive course.

Sometimes conversations can be turned around simply by replacing a word. If someone says, “You certainly are stubborn” chances are it wasn’t meant as a compliment. You might reply, “I am persistent when it matters.” Simply changing one word can change a conversation and even a relationship for the better.

Posted in Confrontation, Negotiation, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Sequel to Shadow Campus — Draft Completed!

For those of you who have read Shadow Campus and, by the way, kept it for quite some time on the Amazon Top New Releases and a darn good seller for a debut, I wanted to let you know that this weekend I’m finishing the sequel.

Today, I was reading an article about the commitment it takes to sell novels.  Stephen King sold books out of his car, I read.  Countless authors have put inestimable hours into keeping their books afloat.  For some time, Chris – my harshest of editors and husband – and I got the word out, especially to academics.  Dorie Clark wrote at Forbes that Shadow Campus was a “masterful” and “fast-paced” debut mystery-thriller.  The launch was great.

But I did drop the ball eventually.  My publisher, a small house of great people, isn’t set up for marketing. It wasn’t for lack of caring, because I’ve enjoyed every minute of books clubs and talks where people told me about Shamus, Meg, Dr. Michaels and what they envisioned my characters would do next.  In fact, I’ve felt a fair amount of pressure to be sure they did have a next in their fictional lives. Thank you to those who nudged me along.

This is the first, of what I expect will be occasional commentaries about the characters in Shadow Campus and the sequel.  If you’ve read SC, I hope you’ll add your own thoughts when those blogs appear.  For now, I just wanted to share that the new novel is on the way!

All the best, Kathleen

Posted in Fiction, Shadow Campus | Leave a comment

Clinton vs. Trump – Not likely to be a Pretty Picture

That’s the topic I wrote about today in a blog at Huffington Post. Clinton isn’t the Democratic nominee yet. But looking ahead, it may be that the very traits that have drawn Clinton considerable criticism are the ones that will prove most useful challenging Donald Trump. As I’ve written in The Secret Handshake and It’s All Politics, when the political climate is nearly pathological, you can’t be a purist and survive. You have to be a street fighter. That’s what Hillary Clinton is capable of being. Though, that side of her is what has caused many to think she needs to be more feminine.

Well, those days need to be over. First, you don’t need to trade in your femininity badge to spar with incivility. You have to not take what rude and crude people dish out and know how to give as good as you get. There’s no need to lower yourself to their level. You have to refuse to demure, think on your feet, demonstrate conviction, counter lies with facts and empty claims with data, meet crude jokes with higher level humor, and skillfully unsettle their foundation.

It’s a tall order. I’ve often been asked why I didn’t write The Secret Handshake years earlier by people who could have used it in their younger years. The answer is that learning how to manage politics — especially the nastier versions — takes a while. Clinton has put in the time. She’s garnered the experience. And she can run the gauntlet of insults regarding her style and femininity. She knows if they don’t get you one way, they’ll try another. And this time it’s for the presidency.

This battle will be about respect around the world and what America is and stands for. It’s the tough side of Clinton, the aspect that’s been so frequently criticized, that may save America.

Posted in Gender Issues, Politics, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

The ‘Cute-and-Little’ Stage Hurts Hillary Clinton Chances with Young Women

It’s been a while since I’ve written about this topic, but little has changed.  On Huffington Post today, I revisit it in terms of Hillary Clinton’s run for president.   In They Don’t Get It, Do They?  (re-released recently on Kindle – $2.99), I wrote about the “cute-and-little effect” where young women are perceived as nonthreatening and so their work experiences are not, as a rule, fraught with gender bias.  During this period of time, it’s easy to think that gender no longer makes a difference.  Later, women learn that isn’t the case.  But the early years can leave us unprepared for the change.

TDGI was published a while ago.  Of course, so was Aristotle’s Rhetoric and Poetic.  And while I’m not Aristotle, some things are true for a long time.  One of those is that when it comes to preparing oneself for politics in the workplace, in nonprofits or in government, women often have a slow start.

Women, as a rule, start their careers enjoying male mentoring and encouragement.  They begin to think that things have changed.  They don’t need to be feminists, God forbid. They can sit back and reap the benefits of those old gals who worked so hard to level the field.  The truth is that often young women are eventually blindsided by politics.  If you have a daughter, you might tell her this.  There is no point too early to learn that negative forms of politics are inevitable in most organizations and your turn to deal with them is going to come.  Most men know this as well they should.

Hillary Clinton knows this in spades.  She has had to deal with politics in a very public way.  She knows that she has to be twice as good to even get a chance at grabbing the gold ring.  She makes mistakes.  After all, who is there for her to learn from?  Not many women.  Much of what she does is trial and error.  Given that, she’s doing well.

Some women try to stay in what is referred to in They Don’t Get It, Do They?  as the “cute-and-little” stage for as long as possible.  I’m not referring here to young women actually being cute and little, but rather being perceived as such, especially in terms of power.

Recently, a woman told me that she used that stage effectively, allowing that perception to persist for a while.  She was aware of the stage, which is far better than not knowing it can’t last for ever.  Some benefits accrued.  She was seeking tips for moving out into her organization’s arena of tougher politics.  There comes a point where it’s up or out and up means becoming a threat to some people.  It’s best to be prepared.  That’s why I wrote The Secret Handshake and It’s All Politics and why they’ve been bestsellers for male and female readers.

Women need to learn about politics before they enter the workplace and particularly about the forms that are used more frequently to derail  women’s careers.  There’s no need to become demoralized or defensive about the inevitability of politics that get in the way of women’s progress.  Once you know the terrain, navigation becomes easier.  Positive politics can be learned and the ability to “read the tea leaves,” see political moves coming, can be developed.

Clinton has known the terrain for some time.  Her navigation efforts may seem unnecessary to some young women.  But it won’t be long before the perception of them as “cute-and-little” runs its course.  If they are ready, they won’t be blindsided.  They may be criticized for being assertive or even aggressive, but nobody becomes a leader by being demure and criticizing other women for not being sufficiently feminine.

Updated blog 2/7/2016

Posted in Gender Issues, Leadership, Politics, Tutorials for Women | 8 Comments

What Exactly is Political Correctness?

When I begin to write a blog entry on this site, a question pops up. It asks, “What’s on your mind?” The answer for the last few days is the term “political correctness” bandied about for some years, and especially by Republican presidential candidates of late, as a way to disparage forms of speech often intended to stem hated and bias.

What is political correctness to you? When we don’t ask such questions of ourselves, terms like “PC” are used as propaganda. If we’re not paying attention, if we fail to question the appropriateness of their use, we are more easily persuaded.  We are like sponges.

Having studied persuasion all of my career, watching how words are used is a significant part of what I do. And so it is with “political correctness.”

Here is one definition:

“Political correctness is a term primarily used as a pejorative to describe language, policies, or measures which are intended not to offend or disadvantage any particular group of people in society; in pejorative usage, those who use the term are generally implying that these policies are excessive.”

Excessive by what standard? Inconveniencing which people? It’s easy to refer to consideration for others by using words not offensive to them as “PC” — a negative thing. Is it really? At least, is it really in all cases or is it also a way to reduce conflict and to enhance civility?

More on this later. Just raising the issue right now. When is such consideration of people unlike ourselves in some way a negative thing, when is sensitivity to what might cause them offense simply too much in light of other concerns, and when is it a useful and productive way to raise our own sensitivity to cultural, gender, age, or other differences? The answers are not simple.  Asking these questions of ourselves is important. At least then, we’re thinking.  At least then we’re not duped.

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