How Did We Get like This?
It starts with a story. When we feel the need to push our ideas
on others, it’s generally because we believe we’re right and every
one else is wrong. There’s no need to expand the pool of mean
ing. because we own the pool. We also firmly believe it’s our duty
to fight for the truth that we’re holding. It’s the honorable thing
tu do. I t ‘s what people of l:haral:ter do.
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Of course, others aren’t exactly villains in this story. They sim
ply don’t know any better. We, on the other hand, are modern
day heroes crusading against naivete and tunnel vision.
We feel justified in using dirty tricks. Once we’re convinced
that it’s our duty to fight for the truth, we start pulling out the
big guns. We use debating tricks that we’ve picked up through
out the years. Chief among them is the ability to “stack the
deck.” We cite information that supports our ideas while hiding
or discrediting anything that doesn’t. Then we spice things up
with exaggeration: “Everyone knows that this is the only way to
go.” When this doesn’t work, we lace our language with inflam
matory terms: “All right-thinking people would agree with me.”
From there we employ any number of dirty tricks. We appeal
to authority: “Well, that’s what the boss thinks.” We attack the
person: “You’re not so naive as to actually believe that?” We
draw hasty generalizations: “If it happened in our overseas oper
ation, it’ll happen here for sure.”
And again, the harder we try and the more forceful our tac
tics, the greater the resistance we create, the worse the results,
and the more battered our relationships.
How Do We Change?
The solution to excessive advocacy is actually rather simple-if
you can just bring yourself to do it. When you find yourself just
dying to convince others that your way is best, back off your cur
rent attack and think about what you really want for yourself,
others, and the relationship. Then ask yourself, “How would I
behave if these were the results I really wanted?” When your
adrenaline level gets below the 0.05 legal limit, you’ll be able to
use your STATE skills .
First, watch for the moment when people start to resist you.
Turn your attention from the topic (no matter how important) to
STATE MY PATH 1 39
yourself. Are you leaning forward? Are you speaking more
loudly? Are you starting to try to win? Are you speaking in
lengthy monologues and using dirty tricks? Remember: The
more you care about an issue, the less likely you are to be on
your best behavior.
Second, tone down your approach. Open yourself up to the
belief that others might have something to say, and better still,
they might even hold a piece of the puzzle-and then ask them
for their views.
Of course, this isn’t easy. Backing off when we care the most
is so counterintuitive that most of us have trouble pulling it off.
It’s not easy to soften your language when you’re positive about
something. And who wants to ask for other views when you
know they’re wrong? That’s positively nuts.
In fact, it can feel disingenuous to be tentative when your own
strong belief is being brought into question. Of course, when you
watch others shift from healthy dialogue to forcing their way on
others , it’s obvious that if they don’t back off, nobody will buy
in. That’s when you’re watching others. On the other hand, when
we ourselves are pushing hard, it’s the correct thing to do.
Let’s face it. When it comes to our strongest views, passion
can be our enemy. Of course, feeling strongly about something
isn’t bad in and of itself. It’s okay to have strong opinions. The
problem comes when we try to express them.
For instance, when we believe strongly in a concept or a
cause, our emotions kick in and we start trying to force our way
onto others. As our emotions kick in, our ideas no longer flow
into the pool. Instead, our thoughts shoot out of our mouths like
water out of a raging fire hydrant. And guess what-others
become defensive. When this happens, when our emotions tum
our ideas into a harsh and painful stream of thoughts, our hon
<.:st passion kil ls the argument rather than supports it.
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Catch yourself. So what’s a person to do? Catch yourself
before you launch into a monologue. Realize that if you’re start
ing to feel indignant or if you can’t figure out why others don’t
buy in-after all, it’s so obvious to you-recognize that you’re
starting to enter dangerous territory.