Relational resistance: Why should they trust you?

Demonstrating the magic

Picture of the lion Aslan

So, you have painted a picture of the possibility and opened a gap between the participants’ or client’s current reality and the ideal. Out of that gap arises five types of resistance, because to get to the ideal, they will have to change. You have begun to deal with personal resistance, but now you realise that some of them do not yet trust you. Sure, they can see that it is in their interest to change. They even see that it fits their own convictions to do so, byt why should you be the one to guide them across the gap? Why you?

The only reason why Frodo was able to go on that first leg of the journey to the land of Mordor, was because Gandalf told him to do so. Why does Cinderella do what the Fairy God Mother told her to do? Because it is the Fairy Godmother who told her to do it! But how did Gandalf get Frodo to trust him? And the Fairy Godmother Cinderella? By demonstrating their magic.

Yes, it helps to rattle off an impressive CV and it helps to list your credentials, but this is not half as powerful as turning pumpkins into carriages. You see, demonstrating magic simply means, letting your audience see ordinary things in a whole new light. What they thought were mice are really white horses and what they thought was an ordinary looking ring is turned into a powerful magic heirloom.

But this alone is not enough.

The magic provided must be personalised: the more it is personalised, the more pernanently resistance will dissolve. Cinderella could not go to the ball until she wore a dress perfectly fitted to her body, in a colour most flattering to her. And Frodo could only take up the ring knowing that only a hobbit like himself, who is resistant to its power, and only an heir of Bilbo, who knows how to have empathy with the weak, could do it.

Here are three of the most used ways in which I see people help the others to trust them by revealing their magic.

1. By revealing their knowledge and expertise

2. By sharing personal experience

3. By relating to the audience’s experience

But how personalised is it?

Let’s look at them more closely.

1. Demonstrating knowledge and expertise

How many times have you heard someone say from the front of a room something like: The Harvard School of business has proved that 93 % of a certain group of people do something a certain way, but in fact it is the 7% that is left that are successful.  Then you reveal the logic behind this finding giving facts, statistics and logical argument until, like that 7% your audience also sees the light.  If they buy the logic, they will buy you.

And then they go home and their friends or partner have a counter argument, how personalised was the magic? Can they rebuff?

2. Share your personal experience

The typical story here says: in 19 so and so, I faced this or that challenge, today I stand here having overcome, these are the simple things I did, the action I took,  to make it work.

This time you were the yahoo in the story and by trial and error, you saw the light and now you can share your innovations with the audience.  your magic. Your listeners believesyou, because you are living proof.

But how do they fit your solution to their personal context and reality? IS your identification with their pain strong enough and personalised enough?

3. Relating to the audience

The template fir this technique typically goes: you know how you sometimes do x, y, z only to discover a,b,c? How many times do we have to bang our heads against this same thing?

By citing typical behaviour and experience common to all human beings, you show how your listeners themselves intuitively know that these are the steps to take in spite of the doubts and questions they may have. You can do this with great humour as you typify universal experiences and satirise people’s common reactions.  . Again you have shown yourself to be the one to trust because you know them and you can even clarify their own muddled experience and make sense of it.

The better they can see themselves in your story and relate it to their own, the better the chances are that you have won them over for good. But what if you get it wrong?

I have to admit, I struggle with this one often, especially if I am not face to face to the audience, but writing a sales page for a training or coaching product. Speaking the language of the listener (client) is often the most tricky for me. This is because,  I do not blieve I have the right to presume anything about another person before checking with them about where they are. Too much helpful advise is given by people who have not listened to where the client is at. All the above methods are top down ways of working and might come across as patronising and self aggrandising. For starters, at the very least let someone else give your CV, not yourself. CV’s are important, they give context and gravity to who you are and help to build trust, but not if you have to deliver them yourself.

Far more important, though, is to allow the participants to try out your magic for themselves. Yes, tell them where it comes from and what your own background contributed to it, and then let them apply it to their own situation. The singularly most effective way to do this is to let them try it out.  Devise a taster of the tool, model or ideas to help them experience and make sense of it for themselves. Once you have done this, let then talk about it with their friends. A central principle of this way of working is SHOW, don’t TELL. Let them do the telling and so convince themselves that what you are offering fit their needs exactly. They have tried it, it works, you are not a liar and can therefore be trusted.

A story example

There is a powerful scene in C. S. Lewis’s ‘The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe’ where the lion and mentor Aslan tell Peter that he will be a king. Peter does not trust Aslan in this. He says that he could not possibly be  a king, that Aslan must be mistaken. Aslan does not know how much of a coward he, Peter, is, Aslan does not really understand him, Peter, at all. While they are still talking an enemy wolf attacks Peter’s sisters, Lucy and Susan. Peter runs to attack the wolf and his friends want to assist him, but Aslan holds them back saying “This is his fight”. He allows Peter to fight with the wolf and kill him overcoming his own doubt.

Of course Aslan does not send Peter into the battle without a sword, but it is in using the sword that Peter makes it his own – in fighting his own battle, that he overcomes his doubt in Aslan.

However, it is not always possible to introduce the magic and personalise it in the same breath. Sometimes people need another step to know this will work for them. This is when they ask: “Who else is using this? Are there others like me who is also doing this or trying this out?” This is essentially a question about the ‘tribe’ that I will be part of when I buy in to these tools, ideas or models. More on this in the next installment answering the question: Who is in this with me?

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