If the answers to any of those questions suggest to you that your audience is starting out with negative feelings or assumptions, you can snap them to attention by acknowledging those feelings. You want them to drop their guard and really hear you, and the way you do that is to show that you understand how they think and feel. A simple statement or two is all it takes — not an apology or admission of guilt, but simply an acknowledgment of their feelings. Something along these lines:
- “I know how frustrating our last project was and that we missed our deadline. We’re organizing differently this time to try to avoid that happening again.”
- “I know that these systems diagrams are a bit overwhelming and might seem unnecessary, but there are a couple of key decisions that you need to make that require some context. I’ve tried to keep this at as high a level as possible.”
You’ll know almost immediately if you’ve opened them up. They’ll nod their heads in agreement when they hear you use emotionally laden words such as “frustrating” and “overwhelming.” And if you really work your way in, you’ll see them visibly relax, letting go of the stress they have associated with the conversation.
When you see that reaction, you’ll know that they’ve reduced their resistance and that you’ve got your best chance of breaking through.
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