How do you handle challenges and objections to your ideas? Use these 7 powerful ways to persuade even the most resistant audiences.
If you speak in public regularly, you're no stranger to challenges, resistance, and objections to your messages. From team meetings to high-profile speeches, we all face regular and sometimes vigorous push-back over our assumptions, views, or the actions we advocate.
And that's a good thing.
Such challenges from audiences aren't something we should fear. Salespeople understand that quibbles—and even clear disagreements—are often necessary steps toward a successful sale. Questions and objections show that listeners are still engaged with you and your topic. Much worse is an audience of silent objectors who only reveal their feelings when your ideas have been rejected with finality.
Your approach to your topic and the language you use are key factors in your speaking success or failure. But do you know the "danger words" to avoid when giving a speech? Educate yourself on this important element of avoiding a speaking disaster! Download my essential cheat sheet, 25 Words or Phrases to Avoid in Speeches and Presentations.
As in sales, objections from public speaking audiences are proof that listeners haven't shut themselves off and stopped listening to your argument. In other words, resistance is a natural component of a thinking and attentive audience.
The Power of Positive Thinking in Public Speaking
Clearly then, you shouldn't fear objections and try to avoid them by using only safe approaches and timid postures. You lose a considerable part of your persuasiveness when you adopt a "siege mentality," believing that your job is to continually dodge flaming arrows hurtling your way over the castle's battlements.
The instant you shift from vigorously prosecuting your ideas to defensiveness, you lose control of the speaking situation. And it shows. From that point on, you've stopped advocating effectively on behalf of your message.
So stay positive and hopeful! Audiences generally respect a speaker who stands up for his or her beliefs in the face of determined resistance. Here's more on how to use positive thinking for successful public speaking.
7 Practical Ways to Handle Audience Resistance
Here are seven strategies for dealing with the push-back that's sure to come your way when you speak publicly. Use them to help gain the respect of listeners who challenge and even provoke you, while still delivering your message effectively.
- Understand the type of resistance you're facing. Is it institutional or personal? Fact-driven or cultural? An ego trip for the questioner, or a flaw in your logic? Be alert to what's coming your way, and recognize hidden agendas, but respond honestly. Your credibility with listeners will stay strong and perhaps even improve.
- Listen for emotions. My emotional state as an audience member can be a major reason why I'm resisting your message. You represent a point of view, a company, the accepted way to doing something, etc. Therefore, you provide a convenient target concerning a recent problem or for venting after years of resentment or anger. There may also be subtle emotional connotations in what I say to you as speaker that you would do well to listen closely for, so that you can respond with tact and empathy.
- Recast erroneous assumptions. The more damaging an inaccurate assumption expressed by an audience member, the sooner you must publicly correct the error. This may even mean interrupting the questioner. It can be done nicely ("Excuse me, but I can't agree . . ."). But it's vital that you set the record straight as soon as possible. Otherwise, the faulty argument sits in the minds of the audience, slowly setting like concrete.
- Welcome unclear or fuzzy arguments. Yes! If the logic of your opponent is faulty, or her argument is simply so much fluff . . . you win! Accept this gift, and use the objection to take your response in any direction you choose. You may, for instance, state the strongest argument in support of your case all over again.
- Go low-key and conversational. The more an audience member attempts to provoke an emotional response from you, the quieter you should become. Take your time in answering his argument; be logical, patient, and if possible, kind. Your soothing demeanor will compare favorably with your antagonist's volcanic personality.
- Be aware of your tone. As stated above, erroneous assumptions and damaging assertions must be countered immediately. But the best arguments in the world will fail if you sound defensive or angry. Listeners will remember the tone of your response not your facts and statistics. Remember, a huge component of the message that's ultimately received by audiences resides in your tone alone!
- Disagree neutrally. Many opportunities will arise with difficult audience members for you to demonstrate your rapier wit. Resist every one of them, for the reasons given above.
For a handy cheat sheet of this blog click here for 7 Tips for Overcoming Audience Resistance.You should follow me on Twitter here.