The art of communication: Tip #3

Here’s what I tell clients about managing change: It’s usually more persuasive to tell people what they’ll gain by following your vision than what they’ll lose if they stick with the status quo.

The same goes for public speaking. Scare tactics and ultimatums  inevitably backfire. It’s smarter, more strategic, and for more empowering to engage people in a shared vision for change than to deny, or belittle, their longing for a different world view.

Given this, I was a bit surprised by the tack British PM David Cameron took in his address yesterday on the issue of the upcoming Scottish referendum.

Admittedly, his speech was impassioned. However, it would have been far more convincing, in my view, had the opening section focused on what would be gained, should Scotland decide to stay in the United Kingdom, rather than how short-sighted leaving would be.

Compare this to what Bob Geldof had to say to the ‘No’ crowd gathered in Trafalgar Square:

“Before there was a United States, before there was a United Nations, before there was a united this, that and the other there was a United Kingdom and it was an extraordinary meeting of very different minds of two extremely close cousins. And what a construct this thing is. Because Scotland is a feeling. England is a feeling. Wales is a feeling, Ireland a feeling. But the United Kingdom is one of the greatest ideas for the modern age. Between the native genius of the Scots and the pure pragmatic drive of the English we made a world beater. The pity of this is that we are the closest of cousins – when one of our blood spills then it all spills. There is such thing as a big glorious no. No is not always a negative. …

The UK is a phenomenal modern idea, invented by the Scots. They invented our age and the 21st century really needs to be reinvented, which I think is at the heart of the argument. We are all fed up with Westminster but they’ve got an option and we should be able to work out, together, a new constitution. But breaking up one of the most genius ideas of the modern political times is not the way to go. 82% of people in England want Scotland to stay, that should show that this is a union that works.”

If you’re trying to lead people through a time of change…trying to rally them to think differently…or simply trying to get your point across…take the high road. Tell your audience, your employees, your investors, or your key partners, what’s good about your vision of the future, and invite them to join you, rather than what’s wrong with what they believe in today.


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