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Facts are the most persuasive. In addition to being less contro­

versial, facts are also more persuasive than subjective conclusions.

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Facts form the foundation of belief. So if you want to persuade

others, don’t start with your stories. Start with your observations.

For example, which of the following do you fmd more persuasive?


“I want you to stop sexually harassing me! ”

“When you talk to me, your eyes move up and down rather

than look at my face. And sometimes you put your hand on

my shoulder.”

While we’re speaking here about being persuasive, let’s add

that our goal is not to persuade others that we are right. We

aren’t trying to “win” the dialogue. We just want our meaning to

get a fair hearing. We’re trying to help others sec how a rca SOIl-




able, rational, and decent person could end up with the story

we’re carrying. That’s all.

When we start with shocking or offensive conclusions (“Quit

groping me with your eyes ! ” or “I think we should declare bank­

ruptcy”), we actually encourage others to tell Villain Stories

about us. Since we’ve given them no facts to support our con­

clusion, they make up reasons we’re saying these things. They’re

likely to believe we’re either stupid or evil.

So if your goal is to help others see how a reasonable, ration­

al, and decent person could think what you’re thinking, start

with your facts.

And if you aren’t sure what your facts are (your story is

absolutely filling your brain), take the time to think them

through before you enter the crucial conversation. Take the time

to sort out facts from conclusions. Gathering the facts is the

homework required for crucial conversations.

Facts are the least insulting. If you do want to share your

story, don’t start with it. Your story (particularly if it has led to a

rather ugly conclusion) could easily surprise and insult others. It

could kill safety in one rash, ill-conceived sentence.

BRIAN: I’d like to talk to you about your leadership style.

You micromanage me, and it’s starting to drive me nuts.

FERNANDO: What? I ask you if you’re going to be done on

time and you lay into me with . . .

If you start with your story (and in so doing, kill safety) , you

may never actually get to the facts.

Begin your path with facts. In order to talk about your stories,

you need to lead the others involved down your Path to Action.

Let them experience your path from the beginning to the end,

and not from the end to-well, to wherever it takes you. Let oth­

ers see your experience from your point of view-starting with




your facts. This way, when you do talk about what you’re start­

ing to conclude, they’ll understand why. First the facts, then the

story-and then make sure that as you explain your story, you

tell it as a possible story, not as concrete fact.

BRIAN: Since I started work here, you’ve asked to meet with

me twice a day. That’s more than with anyone else. You

have also asked me to pass all of my ideas by you before I

include them in a project. [The facts]

FERNANDO: What’s your point?

BRIAN: I’m not sure that you’re intending to send this mes­

sage, but I’m beginning to wonder if you don’t trust me.

Maybe you think I’m not up to the job or that I’ll get

you into trouble. Is that what’s going on? [The possible


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