Over the last several years I have been consumed with “stuff” in my life. Too many materials things. I’m not sure how it happened, but through some very sad loss, absorbing the “stuff” from two other households seemed to make things even worse and served to be the tipping point. It has been suffocating. I am making slow, but steady, progress to simplify our lives, our things, our time and our dreams.
Recently, as I was cleaning out old boxes of papers, I came upon some interesting finds. The box read 1983-1988. Yes, I am asking myself why I still have these items. But I’m also reminded of some very important lessons which started way before 1983.
Mainly, if you have the “gift of gab” and can clearly articulate your goal and the benefits to your audience...then often times you can influence an outcome, regardless of whether your intentions are good or not. I admit, I began practicing my powers of persuasion early in life. With the nuns at Catholic School-when I wanted a better seat. With babysitters-when we wanted to stay up later. With coaches-when I didn’t want to run laps. With my brothers-when we were negotiating who was covering for whom. With employers-when I wanted off early to go to a party. With professors-when I needed a better grade. With landlords-when I needed one more day to pay the rent. You get my drift. Ironically, my experience on the college debate team and years of Toastmasters only served to refine this sometimes selfish and unsavory skill.
Back to my old box of stuff. When tossing old files from college, I came upon three term papers. As I reread these papers, I realized that I am not the only one that honed their inducement skills for their own purposes. The topic of one term paper was the Impact Organized Crime had on Entrepreneurs in the early days of Las Vegas. Another paper was written about the accusations that led up to the Salem Witch Trials. And the third paper was written about the intriguing relationship between the Pinkertons, Outlaws and the Railroad.
What do all three of these papers have in common? The lead characters in all of these historical eras had tremendous powers of persuasion. However, they were not always used for the greater good, for the good of mankind or for world peace. Those that began the accusatory process that resulted in the Salem Witch Trials would have never been successful if not for their persuasive and charismatic rhetoric. The mob would not have been nearly as influential in the early development of Las Vegas without the ability to convince investors that people would want to drink and gamble in the middle of the desert. And the James Gang, the Younger Gang, the Dalton Gang and Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch would not have been nearly so successful in evading the law for so long without some serious smooth talking.
I am reminded, especially in today’s world, where so much conversation takes place through technology that we have done three things: a) become lazy about the way we communicate with others; b) listen more to people who have the skill of clear articulation, passion and interesting message; and c) expect people to believe us without explaining the “why”.
We can and should do something about all of these points:
Turn off the electronics.
Our age of “convenience” has rendered some people completely unable to hold a productive conversation in person. We, as a society, are more demanding and are losing the art of meaningful conversation. Even many sales and customer service organizations are no longer utilizing the skills necessary to create lasting business relationships, they are only concerned with the immediate transaction at hand. A study of the most successful global corporations has proven one thing in common: they have a leader that still meets with the employees to provide regular pep talks, holds personal evaluations and has regular conversations about staff goals and accomplishments. They can articulate a clear vision for the future. They are not just sitting behind a desk crunching numbers. They are using their voice. There is a reason people work harder for a leader that they feel believes in them and the mission of the company. It’s because they have a personal connection to them. That doesn’t just happen over email.
We all need to learn to listen better. While we might believe that we are fairly good listeners, we must ask ourselves: are we just listening to the one speaking or are we truly listening to the words they are saying. Are we deciphering in our minds that what they are saying is true? Are they speaking passionately about something that reaches our core values? Or are they just really, really good at speaking…about anything. We know those people. Sometimes they are the evangelist of a very strong, profound message, but do we agree with it? Or do we just go along because they were so eloquent in their delivery. We need to listen more to the message and less to the flash. The loudest is not always the smartest. Politicans, pitch people, protestors, preachers (and many more) are all good at delivery but let’s ask more questions about the substance of their message. Sometimes those that speak in quiet tones and few words, have the most to say. (ie: two of my favorite characters of all time: Captain Augustus “Gus” McRae and Captain Woodrow F. Call)
Speak the Truth.
Talking is a gift. A gift most of us take for granted. Let us not be flippant about our words. Just like in the Salem, Massachusetts, people learned that their words have consequences-Just not always the right ones. Too many believed when they shouldn’t have and spoke up way too late when they should have said something sooner. People believed charismatic and passionate accusations before searching for truth and evidence. The greatest advantage of speaking the truth is that you don’t have to remember what you said.
Let us all remind our children (and ourselves) that, often times, what you say on social media, you would never use your voice to say it in person. Let’s all learn how to communicate better with those who feel like they have been silenced by circumstances. And let us all remember that we have been given a wonderful voice. Let us use our voices to sing a beautiful song, to talk to our grandparents about their younger days, to talk to veterans about their needs, to promote worthy causes. Let us verbally appreciate our employees and our customers more. Let us say “please and thank you” more. Let us all truly mean it when we ask someone “how are you doing?” Let us ask more questions of those who lead us.
I have been blessed with the “gift of gab”. I admit that I am not perfect and haven’t always used it with the purest of intentions. But I am proud that, as I grew older, I learned to use my voice to instill positive change and economic growth in communities, to raise funds for scholarships and cancer research, to teach others the skills needed to propel their organizations. I have joined my voice with others to promote the assets and opportunities in Texas to prospects all over the word. I have used my voice to encourage the smallest of towns to believe in themselves. I have used my voice as a mentor, in Sunday School classes, in the bleachers, in the choir and at the ballot box. And I have learned to tell stories with humor, heart and inspiration. Sadly, I still sometimes catch myself using my powers of persuasion in a lesser than noble manner, but I hope that through my experiences, my voice has grown up with me. I'm striving to be mindful, thoughtful and kind with my words. Our world could certainly use more encouragement and less discourse these days. I hope you'll join me.
Because in the end, our voice is the one thing that truly belongs to us. Our words, our message, our intent. Let us all strive to use our Super Powers of Persuasion for Good and not Evil.
Because all we really do want is world peace. And one more day to pay the rent.
Lorie Vincent is a true trailblazer. She is a kick butt keynote speaker, writer, economic development consultant, marketing maven and chaos coordinator. She is the Founder and President of ACCELERATION by design LLC. Contact her today if you need some acceleration in your life!