Roman statesmen and orator Cicero once said “If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings, and speak my words”. Believe it or not, as people, we feel much more than we think. Duh… news flash you may say sarcastically. True. But let’s slow down and ‘think’ about the implications. Cicero didn’t say that we can persuade him by proving him deathly wrong by using undeniable facts or by some amazing logic. We can persuade him by simply identifying with him, and feelings are critical element.
When we provide advice and feedback to family and friends, the answers many times they are seeking is not logical per se but more relational. There is an immense feeling component that must be embedded with our advice. We have to meet them at the heart level as well as the head level. Our answer must be empathetic or else we don’t identify. We move on feelings and not on the other’s facts.
I share an example of death. When someone passes away, we wouldn’t want to say to a grieving person “Oh buck up! I lost someone close to me too you know. You can make it if you do step 1, 2 and 3 of my plan.” Sounds pretty crass right? The best solution for that moment is a hug and a look of sympathy. We know reasonably that the grieving person will eventually move on with life if they take care of themselves. However, a rational answer is not the answer they are looking for at this time. They want a relational answer. Yet we are ever – so – tempted to want to hear ourselves talk and pontificate an answer. This is where we shoot ourselves in the foot and do more damage than good. The grieving may wish we were in the coffin too at that point!
Now the death scenario may not be a routine thing. So let’s make it more practical. Think about the tasks we do at home or at work. I think there is nothing worst when someone comes into my personal space at home or at work and tell me how to do my task better. Granted, they are probably right. I may be doing the tasks ineffectively or at least inefficiently for how many years. However, the fact you criticize my routine leads to my mulish resistance. (The criticism may not be truly critical but that’s how I perceive and feel!) The relational answer is to praise my routine and ask if you can offer suggestion for improvement. I’ll go on to further to say that I prioritize tasks that I feel it’s easier to do. This does not mean it makes sense to do it first. Hardly! But it feels as such, so I do as such. I could care less of the logic but more so the feeling of freedom that I chose the course of travel.
Now I know I’m in good company saying that. (Don’t leave me hanging on this reader.) When I offer my tried-and-true method to some struggling sap (as I think during my regrettable moment of pride), she looks at me as if I have two heads. Dare I tell her how to do her work better she says inwardly! She rather you offer a solution that makes her feel good about herself and not belittle her expertise. This is why in a disagreement or fight, it is not enough to win an argument; but you must win a friendship. The issue is rarely a head but a heart matter.
The late author and personal development coach, Stephen Covey talked about seek first to understand than to be understood. The classic guru on understanding people, Dale Carnegie mentioned sympathy is what every person desires and needs. Similarly Jesus of Nazareth taught his followers the timeless truth of considering first the feelings of others as a way to love our neighbors. Covey and Carnegie (both influenced by Jesus’ teachings in this area) clearly indicated that the logical answer was not enough. Our advice must be relational. It must be emotional.
Think about all people challenges at home or at work. Think about the issues encountered which seems to persist and possibly getting worse with mom, dad, sister, brother, best friend, boss, coworker or worse everyone. Think about why we are always spinning our wheels and not getting anywhere in many of our relationships. Could it be we have been brainwashed by culture and upbringing to think in terms of arguments and not affection? Could it be that we are bypassing the heart to get to the head? Could it be we are ignoring the true secret to influence? With persuasion, the head follows the heart and not the other way around; I believe this is the essence Cicero was saying.
Remember, people are not just looking for the right answer when we interact with them. They are looking for the right feelings as well. We are not human doings but human beings. And feelings make up our inner being from that perspective. We indeed move on feelings and not just on facts. If we head in that direction, we will always reach the heart of the matter!
~ Denley W. McIntosh