Credit the Other Person for the Idea
Estimated Lesson Time: 5 minutes
Early in my web hosting career, I was interviewed by a journalist for a local paper for my first web hosting business. It turned out to be a great article promoting my business locally while making me look very good. The truth is, during the interview I was a bumbling idiot, not yet skilled in the art of effective communication. The journalist knew this and used a great communication technique to create a win-win situation by making me look good and by creating a great article for her paper. The journalist knew what I wanted to say as well as the kind of information that would make a great article. She would ask the right questions then rephrase my answers while shaking her head up and down looking for a positive response from me, which she did get. The result: an article full of eloquent quotes that I believed came from me. The fact was, the journalist, through her excellent communication skills, was able to get me to say what she wanted me to say while making me think they were all my ideas.
Sounds a little manipulative, doesn’t it? Let’s remember the difference between manipulation and persuasion—intent. The journalist’s intent was not to discredit me nor make me look bad, but to make me look good. She helped me to say the things the readers wanted to read while leaving out the other facts that I liked to talk about, but which no one but me would be interested in. She created a win-win situation while not deviating from the truth and facts.
When people believe the thought or idea is theirs, they are much more likely to accept the thought or idea. By crediting the other person with a thought or idea, you are greatly increasing the chances that they will accept it. This can be an extremely effective technique to use in many different situations. For example, trying to get your boss to accept an idea, making a proposal to a committee, or helping a teenage child to take the right path.
To understand why this technique works so well, we must make some general assumptions about people as a group: they are normally defensive, they like to feel important, and they like to show leadership, superiority, and power when possible. For any one of these reasons, people accept their own ideas over equally as good or better ideas of another person. Once we understand this, we just need to practice techniques that allow us to credit the other person for ideas.
Here are three techniques you can use to give the other person credit for an idea or thought. Use them individually or in conjunction with each other.
- Credit. Directly give the other person credit for the idea by saying that they were the inspiration for the idea. This technique is only suggested if it is true. It is not hard to see how something or someone could have easily helped inspire an idea. For example, “Mr. Jones, last week at the meeting you spoke about the need to increase productivity. You also mentioned that I would make an excellent manager. I do agree that having me manage this new team would help with overall productivity.”
- Generalize. Rather than approaching someone with an idea that has all the details worked out, leave something for them to decide, thereby giving them part ownership. This way, they will feel as if it was at least partially their idea, or that they are in control. Add in the “assumptive close,” and you have a winner. For example, “Mr. Jones, I suggest we move the meeting to next Thursday. What time do you think would work best?”
- Rephrase. This has also been known as “putting words in other people’s mouths” and a favorite of lawyers. The key is to not overdo it. You want to use this technique to help people say what they mean, not trick people into saying what they don’t mean. Use phrases such as “So what you’re saying is...,” “If I understand you correctly, you’re saying...” or similar phrases. For example,
Mr. Jones: “I need everyone to be more focused on this project.”
Mr. Smith: “So you’re suggesting we put our side projects on hold for now?”
When it is more important that an idea be accepted than who gets credit for it, give the person or persons who need to accept the idea credit for the idea. This is a great persuasion technique as well as a great way to create a win-win situation.
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)