The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!
It’s our inherent nature to want people to do things our way – to say yes to our every request. There’s no better living example of this than a toddler. My son, going on 3, has learned there are few things in life he can control. Thus, he makes it his daily mission to find out exactly what those things are by answering nearly all of my requests with his own request to do the opposite.
What this experience has given me, in addition to an incredible amount of patience, is a crash course in human psychology. Though I don’t win every battle with my son (there are days we forgo a bath and allow him to leave the house wearing a crazy mismatched outfit), I have learned that the tactics that have proven successful can also be carried over into my adult relationships.
Here are five pieces of advice I have learned from my toddler about motivating people to say “yes.”
It’s easy to overwhelm someone (thus turning them off to your request), by approaching them with too large of an ask. You have to start small to earn their trust and to ease them into the idea of a bigger “yes” in the future.
When my toddler first wakes up, asking him to immediately go to the bathroom, brush his teeth and get dressed will surely induce a meltdown. Rather, I start by asking for something small to “warm him up” like having him find his favorite toy or helping me pick out a shirt. With a series of small asks, we achieve the same goal but with far less resistance.
Be specific and direct with your ask
If someone is unsure as to what you’re asking or if you leave anything to interpretation, you are far more likely to get a negative response. Be clear and direct! Not only does this show that you are confident with your request, it establishes you as a trusted leader that people want to follow.
My (almost) three-year-old son is still working to grasp the English language. Being specific and direct is the only way I can really get my point across, so I have learned the value of keeping things simple. My requests can be no more than a few words and I have to clearly align them with their consequences, should he not comply.
Clearly outline the unfavorable outcomes
Speaking of consequences, another important lesson I have learned is that you have to clearly outline any and all unfavorable outcomes if you want to increase your chances of receiving a “yes” answer. This is not to say you should employ scare tactics or stretch the truth, but rather you have to help people visualize the cons of not following your direction. They often won’t do it on their own.
With my toddler, he simply doesn’t realize that life has consequences (I suppose the same could be said of some adults). So it’s important I emphasize that should he continue to jump on the couch, for example, he will likely fall and get hurt. All he can process is that jumping on furniture is fun. It takes me reminding him of the unfavorable outcomes to help him see my reasoning for stopping this behavior.
Anticipate why there might be resistance
Anyone who has spent even the smallest amount of time around a toddler will know that they are quick to resist anything – often merely for the sake of resisting. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned to help encourage a “yes” response is to anticipate what resistance may occur and address it before it begins.
The same is true for how we handle our adult relationships. If we ask someone to do something, we also need to be aware of all of the reasons they may not be fully convinced to comply. This may have to do with money, time, motivation, fear, uncertainty. Then, we need to work to alleviate this resistance by providing adequate information to support your case for saying “yes.”
Finally, we can motivate people toward a positive response by offering reassurance throughout every step of the process. With my son, it’s important I maintain his trust and respect if I wish to get him to continue to do as I request. Though a parent-child relationship is more of a dictatorship than a democracy, you don’t need to rule with an iron fist. I have found that kindness, patience and small rewards (when deserved) go a long way toward keeping a peaceful home – and helping me move through the day with far less battles.
This advice proves true in adult relationships as well. People are more willing to do something for (or buy something from) someone they like. Put effort into building and maintaining positive relationships and you will be in a far better position to motivate someone to say “yes” than you would if they didn’t like or respect you.
Do you have other wisdom to share about motivating people to say yes more often? Share your thoughts and insights by commenting below!