It’s presidential debate season. The fan faire surrounding the 2016 presidential debate can prove helpful to entrepreneurs, in more ways than one, once you move beyond political rhetoric and grasp the dynamics of persuasion and influence.
Your business and brand can even benefit from healthy debate. Here’s how:
Running a business calls for meaningful dialogue. Life is a series of negotiations. Strong communication skills are invaluable.
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As Forbes contributor Martin Zwilling explains: “Many [people] really don’t get the value of being willing and able to communicate effectively with team members, investors, customers, and a myriad of other support people, both one-on-one and one-to-many.”
While you’re not likely to find yourself in a formal debate, debate techniques are useful (from contract discussions to formal presentations and investor relations)—primarily in negotiations.
“The very thought of negotiating sounds intimidating, yet we are all experienced negotiators. Any time we come to an agreement on anything, we are negotiating.”
A discussion between people in which they express different opinions shouldn’t intimidate you. In fact, healthy debate can hone your interpersonal skills and help you become a more effective communicator.
Here’s a look at ten debate techniques that will come in handy the next time you need to hash things out.
Mental rehearsal and visualization can calm your nerves and boost performance. “In some cases, research has revealed that mental practices are almost effective as true physical practice, and that doing both is more effective than either alone” (Psychology Today). Preparation is never time wasted.
Stick to the subject and key points that support your ideas. It’s easy to mind drift, especially when new ideas are injected into a conversation. Stay focused.
“During a debate you listen for specific things, points you want to answer, weakness in logic, supporting material and key points.” The same holds true in negotiations. Concentrate on that is being said. It could very well help your cause.
It’s really hard to follow mumbled conversation. “Most of us do it without even knowing it. Sometimes we even do it on purpose. However, mumbling is a bad habit, particularly in a professional … environment.” Also, “you can instantly lose credibility when you don’t speak clearly and plainly.”
How likely are you to be persuaded by someone who is not confident in what they are saying? The goal of strong communication is to display full assurance and competence (not arrogance). “Content and strategy are worth little unless you deliver your material in a confident and persuasive way.” Strike a balance between the two.
Use non-verbal cues.
Studies show that “7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements,” according to The Nonverbal Group. This suggests that we pay more attention to “facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice,” and gestures than the words that are coming out of your mouth.
For instance, “Presidential candidates personalize issues as a way to connect with voters. In the same way, law students must try to personalize the story of their clients to the jury, and use simple, direct language” (Harvard Gazette). Negotiations don’t have to be combative; in fact, it never hurts to use finesse.
Prove your position.
William Edwards Deming, an American engineer and statistician, once said: “In God we trust, all others bring data.” This is particularly true in negotiations. “You need evidence to validate your explanation,” according to Samuel Nelson, Cornell professor and director of the No. 1 university debate team in the world. (Business Insider) When explaining your ideas it doesn’t hurt to back them up with reasoning (i.e., evidence).
A strong close can quickly turn a discussion in your favor. It’s your last chance to make a good impression. This is where you state your conclusion, provide emphasis and become memorable. Ideally, you empower those listening while advocating your idea.
Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, notes that “When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.” Trust is earned through “diligence, fidelity (i.e., loyalty) and applied effort.”