Understanding Egos

Evaluate Egos

In order to persuade, you have to understand the people you’re persuading. At the most basic level, that means understanding how the ego works and learning to recognize when someone is feeling threatened. A threatened person is not going to be open to your ideas, which is why many of the powers in this book are geared toward making people feel safe and included. So you must learn to identify who is feeling safe and who is not. You are part of the dynamic, so you have to pay attention to your own ego too.

When people in the West talk about ego, they’re usually referring to a static condition “She’s an egomaniac, ” or “He’s got no ego when it comes to sharing credit.” The Eastern view is more fluid. It’s about the push and pull between ego and spirit. Eastern philosophers believe that inside each of us, at all times, is a struggle between the ego that says, “I’m different. I’m special, ” and the spirit that knows, “I’m just like everyone else.

We’re all the same.” The spirit tells you, “She has kids, I have kids, we probably share the same concerns.” The ego tells you, “Buy a new car, make lots of money, buy a big house, you’re better than the others.” There’s nothing wrong with big houses and nice cars. But when you tell yourself that you’re better, you usually end up feeling distant and separate.

The ego creates a wall between you and others; the spirit wants to connect. The ego is fear-based and usually accompanied by insecurity.

Once you’re aware of the struggle between your ego and your spirit, it frees you. Instead of being driven by your ego, you can recognize it and consciously decide whether to act from ego or from spirit. When you’re trying to persuade people, coming from the spirit-from a place of unity and inclusion-is more effective.

Before entering a setting where you’re hoping to persuade, it’s a good idea to evaluate the egos that will be in the room, starting with your own. Think about the conversation you’re about to have and try to pinpoint the parts of it that make you nervous. Maybe you’re about to ask your supervisor for three new employees and you’re secretly worried that even if she agrees, you won’t be able to meet your production quota. Or maybe you’re about to ask your team to contribute one weekend a year to a local food drive and you’re afraid they’ll resent it. Those are the areas where your ego is most vulnerable and might cause you to be defensive instead of receptive to other people’s input. You need to be aware of the fear so if it gets activated during your conversation, you can manage it strategically, not emotionally.

Then spend a few minutes thinking about each person you’ll be persuading. Was your last encounter friendly or confrontational? Do you consider the person an ally or a threat?

The people who threaten your ego are typically those who in the past have made you look bad (by publicly attacking you or failing to support you) or feel bad (by judging you unfairly, betraying you, or foisting work on you). Sometimes they’re simply the people who intimidate you. When that’s the case, remember that everyone has an ego. You’re in a better position to persuade people who threaten your ego if you can step back from your negative feelings and try to neutrally acknowledge the history you have with the person.

To evaluate other people’s egos, you can start by realizing that when they walk into the room, their biggest concern will be how you will make them feel. Will you ask their opinion or ignore them? Lighten their load or ruin their week? If they’re management, they’ll want to look good in front of their boss. If they’re workers, they’ll want to look good in front of management. This applies to everyone from the CEO down. People tend to assume that those in positions of power are always confident, but they’re not. No one is immune to feeling insecure.

Throughout the conversation, whether they are conscious of it or not, your listeners will be shifting between feeling threatened and feeling safe. My teacher, Master Truong, explains it this way: “All minds have a state of being ‘open’ and ‘closed.’ It doesn’t happen quickly, like hands clapping, but slowly, like a shell slowly opening and closing. At any moment in our conversation we always shift from one side to the other, open and closed. If you can detect the moment when a person shifts to a more open state, that’s a good time to offer your opinions.”

Whoever you’re dealing with, conversation clues will help you get a sense of that person’s ego and state of mind, open or closed. People whose egos are secure tend to be outwardly focused and aware of how the language they use affects others. They’ll ask how you are and will seem to really care about your answer, because they probably do care. They will ask for your input, and they won’t interrupt you as you’re giving it.

They know how to listen. Your gut reaction to people who do these things is to like them. You might not even realize why you like them, you’ll just think, “He’s a really nice guy.” If you dissect the conversation, you’ll realize that you liked this person because he or she made you feel valued and included.

You can also use conversation clues to figure out which people are not secure, and it’s usually pretty obvious. Do they say “I” a lot? Do they put other people down? Do they want to dominate the discussion? Do they interrupt? Is their speech generally negative? Do they use a lot of “buts”? Do they brush aside the opinions of others? These people may seem intimidating, but underneath it they’re insecure. That’s the piece of information you need to be aware of if you want to persuade them.

In any group, the people who know how to make others feel included are the people whose opinions you should be most concerned with, because everyone else is going to gravitate toward them. They understand the ego, whether they call it that or not, and they know that everybody wants to belong. One of the reasons they have power is because they’ve figured this stuff out. They’ll recognize when you’re using the strategies I teach in this book, and that’s good, because it puts you on equal footing with them.

CEOs are often masters at managing egos. Some of the best CEOs almost seem to have what’s typically called female intuition-they can pick up on the emotion of the group and use it to their advantage. However, some CEOs have one major blind spot: themselves.

I first noticed this years ago when I was hired to strategize for a political campaign in Southern California. The behind the- scenes effort was jointly founded by three local CEOs who will have to remain anonymous. The three men-let’s call them Steve, Phil, and Joe-and I spent many weeks together. I was low man on the totem pole, and they quickly began to relax around me. Whenever one of the three left the room, the other two would talk about him. After about a week I decided to engage in a little experiment. When I was alone with Steve, I said, “Have you ever noticed how insightful some people are about everyone except themselves?” “You know, you’re right! That’s Phil and Joe exactly!” he said.

I did the same thing with Phil and with Joe, and got the same response from each of them. Individually, they recognized that the other two were very perceptive about everyone except themselves. And they were all correct: None of them was self-aware.

It struck me that the person who could make the others feel good, who could put aside his own ego and focus on the goal, could actually be the most effective person in the room.

There are different power positions within any room, but the point remains that once you understand the nature of the ego, you can be more persuasive because you know how to play to it. You become a third-party observer of the group’s dynamics, even when you’re a member of the group. If you can set aside your own ego and effectively manage the others’, you put yourself in a great position of control.

Chris St. Hilaire is a nationally sought-after message strategist who develops communication programs for some of the nation’s most powerful corporations, legal teams and political leaders. Chris is the founder of messaging companies Jury Impact and M4 Strategies. Learn more about Chris’ new book, 27 Powers of Persuasion coming out in September 2010.Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Chris_St._Hilaire