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19 Ways To Move People To Action Like Gandhi Did

19 Ways To Move People To Action Like Gandhi Did

I have just finished reading Gandhi’s autobiography. Gandhi’s persuasion achievement was bringing all Indian leaders together in his Satyagraha movement – non-violent non-cooperation. How did he do this?  How did he bring together different religions, different regions, different dress codes under one umbrella movement?

How Did Gandhi Move People To Unified Action?

Gandhi wasn’t interested in being “right”, he was interested in achieving his objectives. He never got caught up in debating games, and remained clear on his big objective. Aristotle described the objective of persuasive argument as being to move people to action, not to be right. This is a vital distinction. The arguments in a persuasive speech need to be enough to move the audience, not just to demonstrate total logical correctness. Gandhi was never interested in just being right – he was interested in progress.

Without action, you aren’t going anywhere.

– Gandhi

Gandhi’s highest value was Ahimsa, the principle of nonviolence towards all living things. His specific aim was to remove systematic mistreatment of poor people (specifically by corrupt hierarchical officials) and to protect those who could not protect themselves.

So how did he do it? With the following 19 strategies, which you too can utilize:

1. Understand Human Nature

People don’t resist change, they resist being changed. Most people take some time to change their mind – allow them to change at their own pace, don’t get angry and aggressive if it takes a little time. All ideas must face some resistance.

2. Avoid Preaching

An ounce of patience is worth more than a tonne of preaching.

– Gandhi

You need to provide the minimum arguments and evidence to move people to take some action. You don’t need to convert them to your cause for life. Don’t push for too much.

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3. Listen

Honest differences are often a healthy sign of progress.

– Gandhi

I believe that nobody ever does anything really stupid – everyone has their own reasons. Each of us sees the world in a way that makes our current action valid. What are others seeing that you are not seeing? What are they not seeing that you do see? Communicate your differences.

4. Seek to Understand

It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.

– Gandhi

Ask lots of questions.  Seek to understand the world view of the others. Seek to reflect back to them what they are seeing, how they are feeling, who they trust.

5. Stay Calm

Nobody can hurt me without my permission.

– Gandhi

The sure way to block change is allowing emotions to get out of hand. The moment that emotions become strong, blood flow reduces to the frontal cortex and people get locked into an animalistic fight or flight mode.  If you aim to change, you need to speak to the frontal cortex – make sense and stay calm.

6. Let Go Of Details

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.

– Gandhi

Don’t get stuck in a fight over every single issue. Accept some issues as complex and move on to the ones where you can make it simple and clear. Sometimes a shift back to the agenda, or asking a big overall question to raise the level of the debate out of a small issue is the best course of action.

7. Celebrate Those That Already Agree

Who is already with you? Raise their status and let the world know that you are proud to have them on your side.

8. Accept The Fence Sitters

The great majority are probably sitting on the fence. Acknowledge that they are wise, that it is good that they take their time to decide. Accept that they may have some valid concerns about your proposal. Be more passionate about the importance of choosing a good path than about the path you propose.

9. Love the person, attack the argument

An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.

– Gandhi

And those who argue against you? The hostile audience members? Learn to love the person and attack the argument. The person who questions your view will help you clarify your own reasoning.

10. Really Know the Person

See the good in people and help them.

– Gandhi

There is a an expression in the world of chess: that you can learn more about Grandmaster Kasparov by studying Karpov, his great rival. Our enemies hold us to the highest standards. Get to know them. Get to see the world from their point of view. If you don’t understand something, there might be an area that you are blind to. Be very careful of dismissing out of hand arguments that you can’t “get” yet.

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11. Stay Humble

Change yourself – you are in control.

– Gandhi

This is not about one side winning and the other side losing, this is about groups working through a process to improve the answer. Use the process to improve your case, to improve your own understanding of its pros and cons – do not celebrate victory, enjoy the path to greater clarity.

12. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Repeat your simple, clear arguments over and over. Do not expect the audience to get it because you said it once.

13. Use Next-Level Arguments

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

– Gandhi

Audiences are wiser than I often initially think. They have already reflected on the simple arguments. People know that staying healthy is good, yet they still eat fat and don’t exercise. It is not knowing more about health that will make them take action, it is something deeper. Find that argument that speaks to the next, deeper level.

14. Acknowledge All Good Points

It gives you credibility when you accept the validity of the opposition’s good points. Your aim is to get action, not to show 100% rightness. Be open in accepting that they have a valid point when they do.

15. Frame Your Argument With Metaphors

Metaphors are a powerful shift of perspective. Find simple metaphors that work in the world of the audience. Debate is sailing, not driving a car. You can’t drive directly into the wind – you have too adapt to the conditions.

16. Tell Stories

When I was in debating club as a 16-year-old school boy, I would justify my losses as being due to stupid audiences – not because I was unable to communicate in a manner that reached them. Now I know that I wasn’t telling compelling enough stories. Stories are important to keep audiences engaged.

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17. Simple Personal Examples

Be the change that you want to see in the world.

– Gandhi

Gandhi always traveled in third class rail carriages. He could afford more, but he wanted to experience the real life of those he represented.

18. Stay Simple

As soon as you get complex, you lose. You might impress yourself, but you alienate the rest. If you can’t explain your cause to a child, you don’t understand it well enough yet.

19. Stay Trustworthy

We finish with trustworthiness, because it is the most important. Where there is no trust, the words will not be heard.

There was a time in South Africa when thousands of poor Indians were forced to move from a township because of plague. They stored all their wealth by burying it. They were worried about it being stolen and knew no other way to keep it safe. The only person they trusted was Gandhi. In the end his office accepted to take care of all their money. 60,000 rand was handed in to his office into his keeping. A huge sum for these poor people in the 1900s.

Gandhi consistently tested himself and practiced ever greater self-restraint as he grew older. Initially he practiced with his diet – constantly restricting his food to vegetables, then only raw fruits and nuts. His practice of self-restraint and consistent actions in favor of the poor allowed millions to trust his every word and see positive meaning in his every action.

The devil is the details. If I can’t trust myself not to eat dessert after dinner, can I trust myself in leadership? As the pies get bigger, you need to have greater and greater levels of self-restraint in order to be trustworthy.

Featured photo credit: Conor Neill via flickr.com

More by this author

Conor Neill

Professor of Leadership, President Vistage Spain

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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