In the previous article we discussed the importance of making sure we have our facts in order before providing our opinion; especially where it conflicts with someone else’s.
Often, however, you’ll find it’s the other person who is declaring a truth without having the facts behind them. How might we handle this in such a way that we can point it out without making him or her defensive? Bruise one’s ego and, while we might convince, we won’t persuade. In fact, they will most likely ‘defend their position’ even harder.
My great friend, Laura Sterling, an entrepreneur, talented writer of articles on Free Market Economics, and a very insightful thinker, also has an excellent sense of humor. She wrote:
A really fun question you can ask someone who is “offering an opinion” as if it is fact: “How do you know?” Ask them real sweet and watch them squirm 🙂
Of course, knowing Laura as I do, she wouldn’t make them squirm but she does make a terrific point: Simply ask (with genuine politeness) how they know. Its effect is powerful. Other forms of the question (again, always phrased with kindness and tact) are:
“If I may ask, what are you basing that on?” or “From where did you learn that?” or “How did you reach that conclusion?” (Did I mention phrasing with kindness and tact?) LOL
It’s then a good idea, after you see that they don’t know, to quickly and gently come to their rescue and provide them with an “out” or “backdoor” to save them from embarrassment. That way they are much more likely to embrace your opinion rather than feel defensive and defend their incorrect opinion.
An excellent way to help them “save face” is to say, “it (their opinion) would seem to make sense, wouldn’t it? I can absolutely understand that.”
Burg’s “Law of the Out or Backdoor” says: The bigger the ‘out’ or ‘backdoor’ you give someone to take, the less they’ll feel the need to take it.”
Let’s go back to Laura for a moment. Two great points she makes in reference to this situation:
- My intention is simply to make them aware that they could be missing something and perhaps they need to ask more questions for themselves.
- The side effect of my behavior is that now, I catch…myself when I forget and start spouting unsupported opinions.
Both of those are true takeaways for me.