During this Memorial Day holiday, I came across a very interesting article by Victoria Pynchon, a graduate of the prestigious Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution. The piece is a well-written personal anecdote about her volunteer work during the past U.S. presidential campaign. The lesson? you don’t have to be persuasive to persuade. Here is an excerpt:
Funny, but I wasn’t really trying to convince her of anything. We were women talking over the fence after hanging our laundry or putting our kids to bed. We connected. We had personal history in common with each other and with candidate Obama. We had shared goals and dreams. Here’s the thing. You can’t make this stuff up and you can’t pursue this type of communication for the purpose of changing someone’s mind. But if someone implicitly asks for your assistance in making an important decision, and if your goal is to help her make her decision instead of the decision you want her to make, you will, at a minimum, create common ground. And once you’ve done that, you can accomplish something constructive together, whether that accomplishment is what you had in mind in the first instance or not.
The full article is here: Changing Minds Is Easier When Yours Is Open, Los Angeles Daily Journal, May 19, 2009.