Understand Me 3 – What is their Opinion?


I didn't recognise the number but I was expecting a call and thus began another 5 minute rude interruption.

We all get them. We all hate them. And yet companies persist in using telemarketing and tired sales scripts.

This one was especially bad. It was someone trying to sell me a meeting arrangement service using LinkedIn. Essentially, they would trawl LinkedIn for (their words) “hot” prospects and arrange a meeting with them for me.

I wasn't interested and informed them. But this one was persistent and was unwilling to let me escape. On and on she talked. Didn't want to know anything at all about me, my needs, my business, my opinion on cold call telemarketing, anything about me at all. She was interested in getting through her script presumably to earn a pay check.

I gave up being polite and cut the call.

I have often wondered if any of such calls ever achieve their goal.

I have yet to meet anyone who relishes receiving these cold calls. Purely speculative, scatter gun. And yet, so many of my clients complain of meetings and presentations that they willingly attend where the presenter is concerned only with getting through their script, in spite of the audience's wants, needs opinions and preferences.

OK, perhaps “willingly” is a stretch. Grudgingly, then.

In the previous sections, we discussed what your audience already Knows and what they Need to know. And how you, as the communicator, need to make sure that you identify your 10% that they really must take away.

This time, we are looking at the audience's Opinion and Who they are

What is their Opinion?

I worked for a client a little recently where the Country manager was having problems with the local leadership team. Technically, the individuals were all brilliant and excellent, they just didn't get along together very well. There was quite a bit of power play going on and inter-department blaming and rivalry was rife. Essentially, they weren't playing well together, and like a football team that doesn't support each other well, they were getting thrashed by the competition.

As is often the case in such situations, the team members thought rather negatively about “this soft, fluffy stuff” and that the problem lay with the company's processes and other departments, not their team and certainly not something any coach could fix. They weren't quite ready to instantly change their behaviour… well at least until the other party admitted that they were wrong and changed first.

And sometimes it is personal. It's not your role they disagree with, it's you. In these politically correct days nobody says what they think, but they sure do think it. Maybe they prefer a female, maybe you need to be Asian to understand the local culture. Maybe you should be an engineer. Maybe the way you dress is deemed as threatening.

Even with a non-hostile audience, you want to know what they think about you and your topic before deciding how to approach your presentation.

What do they think of you and your topic?

I was enjoying my new position installing computerised tills and stock control systems throughout the central London pub estate for Chef and Brewer. My boss was a great guy and everything was going brilliantly well until he got replaced by an arrogant, opinionated know-it-all, who, quite frankly, understood nothing about computerisation and worse, hated the idea of it. This was the late 1980's and my new boss was determined to halt the technological advance at all costs.

Within a month I felt like Sisyphus. Pushing the computerisation agenda up an increasingly steep hill and soon to be crushed by the backlash.

I hadn't had time to build any real influence nor win any significant political allies in the organisation and my colleagues soon joined my new boss in undermining and stalling progress. My personal credibility hadn't been established securely enough and without it, I was going to struggle to overcome the logical and emotional resistance that I was convinced were at the root of the problem.

Aristotle noted that there were three key forms of resistance in an audience: Ethos, Pathos and Logos. The character or credible appeal of something or someone, the emotional appeal and the logical argument.

It is often difficult to distinguish whether it is you or your topic that is causing the problem.

Certainly, your personality colours your opinion about the topic. But when you are on the inside, it always feels personal.

To give your case the best possible chance of success, you need to establish credibility with your audience, present your logical argument and appeal to their emotions. That is, you need to win their hearts and minds. Notice the word “win” – because in every presentation, yours is just one more voice contending to be heard and acted upon.

People do resist change, and anytime that you are presenting you are instigating change.

All of your audience members (and you) share 3 basic human needs:

1. To feel safe with a positive self-image

2. The need to belong

3. The need to be right – that they, and their opinions, matter.

When your argument makes the audience FEEL that you are picking them out as non-compliant, wrong or simply for being different, then your argument falls on deaf ears.

Communication is much more that the words that come out of your mouth!

To ensure that your argument stands a chance of being accepted. You need to know what they think of you and think of your topic. And the easiest way to do that is to ask them.

I didn't understand all this back in the late 1980's in London. I just bulldozed my project through as best I could. Fifteen months later, I was generously made redundant the day I installed the last pub in the estate.

Professional Leadership Caddy

I help people unlock their talent, unstuck their potential and unleash their own (and their team's) performance through behavioural neuroscience based coaching and mentoring.

Most whip smart independent contributors, technical specialists and managers get frustrated trying to be heard and understood by their business leaders and they lack enough time and inclination to develop the skills they need to move into management and leadership positions.

Proven systems. A personal coach and mentor.

I combine time-tested systems, behavioural neuroscience and psychology research and practical tools with the accountability and guidance of a 1:1 coach and mentor to UnLock your Talent, UnStuck Your Potential and UnLeash Your Performance.

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