Last week we discussed whether conflict is a good or a bad thing, and I concluded that arguments tended to be bad things whilst conflict isn’t necessarily. (

One of the reasons why arguments or conflict may be inappropriate and ineffective ways of influencing others lies in the way we have been brought up or socialised throughout our lives.

Firstly, when we are lying as infants in our cots, we learn that if we cry our mother is likely to come running. After a while, we notice that her reaction time has thoughtlessly slowed down, and so when she doesn’t come at our beck and call, we cry louder – and that seems to work, for a while anyway. Some of us decide we need to take this up a gear at some stage to a tantrum and sometimes we learn that the greater the tantrum, the sooner we get our way.

We tend to carry this strategy into our teens where we discuss and debate (aka argue and fight) ad nauseam. Once again, some of us find out that “if at first, you do not get your way, try and try again – but harder, and harder!”

Most of us carry this into our adult lives and so it is probably no surprise that the art of influencing is one of the more frequent development objectives that come up for a great majority of my coaching clients.

Secondly, a parallel process seems to take place as we endeavor to get our PhD’s in conflict, arguing, debating, dialoguing (whatever seems to be the most appropriate label for us), namely our expertise in creating statements of opinion that are intended to come across as pure fact. Once again, our socialisation has encouraged us to make ourselves right and others wrong whenever we engage with them in this way – hence our propensity to make our opinions sound, well, not like our point of view but a generally held fact. I think it was William Blake (or another of the classic poets) who said something along the lines that just because we say it louder and harder, “doth not necessarily make it so”!

So, try something this week. Notice whenever you, and others, state something as fact when it is, in fact (sic!), a matter of opinion. And then reflect on whether holding it as fact or opinion, would make it more or less difficult to influence the recipient in each case.

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