It’s not what you say that matters. It’s what people hear you say that really counts.
As a pollster and consultant for Fortune 500 companies, I’ve met scores of politicians and corporate executives who are surprised that the messages they think they are delivering are not at all what the public is receiving.
Over the years, I’ve developed guidelines to make sure that listeners really hear what my clients are saying—guidelines that break through preconceptions and prejudices…
Point out the positives. Tell your listener how he/she will benefit from your point of view. If you want your spouse to eat right and exercise, don’t say, “If you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll get sick.” Instead tell him the benefits of healthy living. Say, “If you take care of yourself, you’ll have the energy to enjoy all the fun things we can do together.” That way you tap into his idealized self-image and he’s more likely to listen to you. You also are letting him know that you have faith in him and confidence in his ability to rise to the occasion.
Focus on the future. In general, it’s better to concentrate on what’s ahead instead of what’s happened in the past. For example, if you plan to ask for a raise, keep in mind that most bosses view a raise as an investment in future work, not a reward for past performance. What’s most likely going on in his/her mind is, What’s this person going to do for me tomorrow? Remind your boss that the company is making a major pitch to a client next month and that you can write that pitch better than anyone.
Ask questions. If you’re having a disagreement with your spouse, ask, “What did I do wrong?” When you offer an explanation, end with the question, “Does that make sense to you?” Asking questions gives the other person the chance to be heard, which opens him up to listening to what you say.
Source: Frank I. Luntz, PhD, chairman and CEO of Luntz Global, LLC, a message-creation and image-management company for commercial and political clients in Alexandria, Virginia. He is author of Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear (Hyperion). www.TheWordDoctors.com