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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 April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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