I can’t stand when a colleague (or one of my daughters!) refuses to even consider trying something new. Over time, I have discovered a failsafe method to move such a person from resistance to cooperation. These four steps come from Dr. Xavier Amador, a psychologist who wrote the book I’m Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help. Using his technique, called L.E.A.P. (Listen, Empathize, Agree and Partner), I’ve found that colleagues and family members alike are more likely to come around and embrace my ideas as their own.
Listen. It sounds simple enough, but listening can be more difficult then you might think. When you listen, your goal is to gain an understanding of what the other person wants, feels and believes. Your goal is not only to hear the words, but also to gain a full understanding of the other person’s experience. To listen without learning is pointless.
When you listen, don’t react! I’m not saying that you should ignore the other person, rather, that you should withhold your opinion. Don’t interrupt or attempt to fill in the blanks when when the other person does not make sense or seems out of touch with reality—simply let chaos be. You can get the information you need by just letting them talk. Afterwards, echo back what you have heard in your own words. If the other person feels that you understand their point of view, they will more likely be open to your opinions later.
Empathize. Remember, your goal is to make the other person feel as though you understand where they are coming from. This means empathizing even when you disagree or sense an immediate lack of cooperation. Rather than discounting a false perception, use statements like “anything is possible.” Urgent matters may require an exception to this rule, but if you want someone to seriously consider your point of view, be certain that you have considered theirs.
Agree. Common ground exists between even the most extreme oppositions. Remain neutral, and pinpoint observations that will help the other person discover a motivation to change. Ask leading questions (“What happened after you tried your strategy?”) rather than making accusations (“This happened because you proceeded with your strategy”). Your overlap won’t be all-inclusive – in fact, it may not be much at all – but once the door is cracked, put your foot in it. Address potential disadvantages of your position and brainstorm possible solutions. Know also that agreeing to disagree can sometimes help you advance your point—your goal is to collaborate, not pontificate.
Partner. The aim of this final step is to accomplish the goals that you have agreed upon. Once you know what those are, figure out how to fulfill them on the other person’s terms. Strive for goals that are reachable—that will energize and motivate you both. Give your actions a purpose and define what the ideal end point will look like. Find out what the other person expects from you, and share your expectations as well. Identify the strengths that each of you brings to the project, and discuss how you can utilize them to their greatest advantage.
By using this four-step technique with someone who resists your ideas, you may uncover common ground where only frustration was before. Rather than treating this like a method, however, remain authentic in your approach, and tailor it to fit your situation. Breakthroughs are possible!
Andrea Zintz, President, Strategic Leadership Resources (SLR)