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Avoid attacking people to warrant respect

By Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson and Ted Hagen, McClatchy-Tribune News Service –

As our national election day approaches, more people are trying to enlist friends and associates to vote for their favorite candidates. The excitement heats up, people beat on their drums louder and louder.

Whatever your choices or opinions are, it pays to speak effectively to get your point across. People tend to believe our messages if we’re thoughtful and not coming across too aggressively.

This means we leave out personal attacks against individuals. Instead, we speak more about a person’s actions or behaviors.

A friend of ours is running for mayor in a small town. He recently told us, “My adversaries are ripping me apart. They’ve attacked me from so many angles, I must be doing something right! It takes real jealousy to make people act so viciously.”

If you want to influence others to do something, such as vote for a certain candidate, communicate in an educated, thoughtful fashion. Step back and think about how you’re presenting yourself to others.

These tips can help:

—Explain why a person’s actions are good or not. If you call someone a sleaze-bag, it’s hard for your listener to hear what you say. Few of us like advice from mean-spirited people.

—Paint a positive picture for your listener. If you’d like to see your friend, Jack, elected to the school board, for example, tell the great things he has in mind for your county. Don’t waste time hurling rocks at Jack’s opponent.

—Show your listener you honor people in general. It’s easier to convince your daughter to breakup with her alcoholic boyfriend, for example, if you tell her: “I truly hope he shapes up and has a good life.”

While negative messages can convince people to act, of course, negative people seldom can. All of us tend to believe people who act upbeat.

If you say, “I really like Candidate ABC, but I’ve looked deeper and her policies make me nervous,” your listener will take you more seriously.

If you say, “Candidate ABC is evil to the bone,” your listener will doubt that the situation is really that bad. After all, very few people are evil to the bone.

A few years ago, a friend of ours we’ll call A. Smith, ran in a local race for alderman in a small town. No one thought he could possibly win.

He went on TV to talk about the race. He bragged on his opponent by listing some of his opponent’s fine character traits.

But, our friend turned the tide and got elected by using his own name in a positive way. He said, “I believe people will make a wiser choice by voting for A. Smith.” He mentioned his own name three more times and didn’t speak of his opponent again. He won by a decent margin on election day.

“The whole time I was bragging on my opponent,” says Mr. Smith, “I knew people would judge me by how I was treating my worst enemy of the moment. I’ve always heard that when people are placed under stress, this is when true character comes out!”

If you do need to admonish your employees to shape up or encourage people to vote for your favorite candidates, use respectful language regarding all of the people involved. This way, your advice will seem much more credible to your listener.

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