“Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.” —
Judo is a Japanese martial art meaning “gentle way.”
One of my manager’s at Microsoft referred to my colleague’s ability to influence others as “Mental Judo.” My colleague was highly effective at influencing others in a gentle way, whether it was to share his own opinion, help others see another perspective, or to find another path. His approach was highly effective and surprisingly simple.
His mental judo boiled down to three things:
- Ask questions over make statements
- Share a story
- Ask somebody to share their story
Rather than just make a statement or take a strong position, my colleague would ask questions. His questions created curiosity. He invited people to explore the path. His soft approach made a safe haven to explore an idea, without making people defensive and without coming across like an immediate critic.
Share a Story
Everybody loves a story. My colleague was a good story teller. His stories were short and insightful. Rather than just state a conclusion or tell somebody they were wrong, my colleague would simply share a relevant story of his first-hand experience. You can argue facts, but you can’t argue somebody’s experience. His stories were a gentle way of sharing an alternative view.
Ask About Their Story
Asking somebody to share their story, is a simple way to see another point of view. When somebody shares their story, they take you on their journey. You can learn their mental model. This helps explain why they see the situation as they do. Together, this helps explain what’s behind their conclusion, and it puts their drivers and concerns in context. It also helps you know whether this is first-hand experience, or hear say, etc. It all starts so simply too … “Can you tell me about a time when you used that?”