I’m sure you’ve heard of the “Golden Rule” – Treat people the way you want to be treated.

But I think whoever came up with this got it wrong.  A better rule would be to treat people the way THEY want to be treated.  This is not about you, it’s about them.

Why? Because we’re all individuals and how I want to be treated is not necessarily how you want to be treated. So applying my standards of treatment to you, thinking you’ll be grateful might completely miss the mark. Especially when it comes to persuasion.

Here’s an example – yes, it’s a bit silly, but it illustrates the point well.

Bob and Jane are a newly married couple.

As children, whenever Bob was sick, his mother always lovingly fed him tomato soup. Jane’s mother always gave her chicken soup. Jane loved these times as she felt really close to her Mum.

Fast forward to their newly married life. Bob gets sick, and Jane (you guessed it) brings him chicken soup. After all, this shows she loves him.

Bob’s hurt as he now thinks Jane doesn’t love him. If she loved him, she’d have brought him tomato soup. And naturally the reverse is true too. Bob bringing Jane tomato instead of chicken soup would put a strain on their relationship.

Of course all of this could have been avoided if Bob and Jane talked about their feelings and what made them feel loved – but that’s a story for another day.

But it does illustrate the pitfalls of assumption in communication and persuasion.

The simple rule is do not assume the other person is like you.

For those of your familiar with Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), you’ll know the fundamental presupposition is the “meaning of your communication is the response you get”.  Ergo, if what you’re doing is isn’t working and the other person isn’t responding in the way you expect, it’s your problem, not theirs.  And it’s up to you to change something.

On a practical level you’ll often see this play out with different personality types.

Take an exuberant “extrovert” talking to your stereotypical analytical accountant.

One talks loudly, fast and waves their arms around.  Glosses over detail.  Near enough is often good enough.  The other is cautious, methodical, risk averse and often don’t display overt emotion.  Happy to sit in a corner and read a book.

So following the principle that it’s up to you to develop rapport and treat them the way they want to be treated, if you’re the extrovert, you need to change your behaviour.

If trying to persuade, use facts and data.  Be precise and analytical.  Explain your argument well. Keep on track, don’t waffle.  And above all, don’t pressure them to make a decision.

And of course, if you’re the accountant trying to persuade the extrovert, the opposite is true.  Lighten up.  Tell stories that illustrate your argument.  Don’t bore them with too much detail.

Remember, we’re all different.  One size does not fit all.  Want to become a great influencer?  The more flexibility you have in your behaviour, the better you’ll become.

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