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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

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Conor Neill

Professor of Leadership, President Vistage Spain

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Last Updated on August 12, 2020

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

Learning how to trust your gut, otherwise known as your intuition, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.

In this article, we’re going to explore why and how you should listen to your gut, as well as some concrete tips on how to make sure you’re making the most out of your gut instincts.

How to Listen to Your Gut

The key when making any big decision is to always take a minute to listen well to yourself and your inner compass. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.

Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own. Here’s how to hone that skill for yourself and reap the rewards.

1. Tune Into Your Body

Your body gives you clues when you’re faced with a big decision. There are many visible and obvious symptoms that we feel in uncomfortable situations. Our body’s reaction is often something that we might try to hide, for example, blushing, being lost for words, or shaking. There are things we might do to try and hide that physical reaction, whether it’s wearing makeup, having a glass of wine or coffee to perk us up a bit, or learning to control our nerves.

However, paying attention to your body when you experience these feelings of anxiety can teach you so much and help you to make sound choices. Some people will experience an actual “gut” feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.

Ask yourself what’s really going on here, and explore what is happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.

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Sometimes we’ll get this “something’s not right here” feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion[1].

2. Ensure Your Head Is Clear Before Making a Decision

Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case–and it may sound obvious–do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important choice.

There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain[2], which is where terms like “butterflies in the stomach” and “gut-wrenching” originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings, and ignoring them might do more harm than good.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Think and Feel

Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.

As they tell you in the planes, “put your own oxygen mask on first,” and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.

This does not always mean taking the “safe” option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.

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4. Do Your Research If Something Feels Off

As well as listening to our instincts, we can also back up the evidence for our chosen course of action before taking the leap. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run such a network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research.

Having confidence in your gut instinct through these kinds of tests can help to minimize your risks, as well as spur you on. It will encourage you to trust your gut again in the future and trust that you are an expert with foresight and experience. You are!

5. Challenge Your Assumptions

When you look at the assumptions your making, this could be the clue to mistakes you are making.

In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.

A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?”

6. Educate Yourself on Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is something we all have, and it can trip us up big time!

There is a vital caveat to bear in mind when wondering about whether you can trust your gut and the feelings your body gives you, and that’s having an awareness of your unconscious bias. Understanding your own bias–which is hard to do because it literally does happen in our subconscious–can help you to make stronger, better, decisions instead of re-confirming your view of the world over and over again.

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Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colors our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.

Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.

Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed..

We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favoring people who we see as belonging to the same “group” as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favor people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.

The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.

We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, diversity is not just morally right; having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.

7. Trust Yourself

It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself[3]. Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it. When people talk about having great intuition or being good decision-makers, it’s because they’ve worked at honing those skills, made mistakes, learned from them, and tried again.

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Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.

If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.

The Bottom Line

The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. It’s simply about switching your thinking around, slowing down, and taking great care of this amazing machine that is your body and mind!

Learning how to trust your gut is one of the most fundamental ways to make decisions that will help you lead the life you want and need. Tune into what your body is telling you and start making good decisions today.

More Tips on How to Trust Your Gut

Featured photo credit: Acy Varlan via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Science of People: Learn to Trust Your Gut Instincts: The Science Behind Thin-slicing
[2] Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection
[3] Psych Central: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Trust

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