Monday, February 28, 2011

How to Fascinate Others

Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.”  Esther 7:3-4

Esther makes an eloquent request. She doesn’t cut to the chase. Her words are intriguing. She left a few unanswered questions, and fascinated the king. Her goal was to engage the king’s mind and to evoke strong emotion. And, she succeeded.

Sometimes our attempts at persuasion boil down to a battle of wills. “This is what I want.” “Well, this is what I want.” Where do you go from there? Often confronting a situation directly just blows up in our face. When we take a person head on, they become threatened and defensive. When we speak frankly to another person about him or herself, their defensiveness causes them to miss the point.

People can’t look directly at themselves. It’s too close. It’s too personal. It’s hard for them to see. We can only see ourselves in reflections.

Esther doesn’t lay into Xerxes about his edict to exterminate the Jewish people. Xerxes wouldn’t have connected the dots. He would have felt personally attacked. Esther’s mission would have failed right there.

Instead, Esther causes Xerxes to look at the situation by talking about it indirectly. This wasn’t a passive-aggressive, innuendo, and insinuation kind of tactic. Esther’s approach allowed Xerxes to look at the circumstance objectively. He would automatically ask himself, “Who would do such a thing?” before he realized that he was the one.

How do you approach other people? Do you go straight for the jugular? Do you immediately rub their noses in it? How can you discuss the facts without causing them to become defensive? Is there a story you can tell from another situation? Is there a way to invoke their interest without provoking their anger?

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