Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman - not the attitude of the prospect. - W. Clement Stone
I like to think of sales as the ability to gracefully persuade, not manipulate, a person or persons into a win-win situation. - Bo Bennett
In Alberta this week, Motion 503 was defeated in the Alberta Legislature. The motion, with an eye towards allegedly protecting LGBTQ children, reads as follows:
Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the Government to introduce legislation, like Manitoba’s and Ontario’s, requiring all school boards to develop policies to support students who want to lead and establish gay-straight alliance activities and organizations, using any name that is consistent with the promotion of a positive school environment that is inclusive, welcoming, and respectful for all students regardless of sexuality, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
As is typical with such emotionally-laden subjects, the ignorant, the unintelligent and the misinformed quickly piled onto social media with many being unable to calmly, intelligently or respectfully discuss why the motion should pass or fail.
In fact, people on both sides of the debate were happy to bash each other incessantly, both wasting their own time as well as the time of the people whose feeds were overrun by their ignorant diatribe and yet, neither side seemed able to make a good case for or against the motion.
The most curious theme of the Motion 503 supporters was along the lines of it being necessary to provide a safer environment for LGBTQ children in schools. Being a data guy and someone who is strongly committed to the future of our children, when I hear that a safer environment is necessary, this implies that a threat exists and so I innocently tweeted the following:
It was a fair question (yeah, I know that I misspelled LGBTQ as LBGTQ by accident – people who are easily offended can stand down now).
I honestly wanted to know what the pending or imminent threat was or is.
In the aftermath of a respectful question from someone trying to understand what the imminent threat was or is, I received social media communication along the lines of everyone knows what the issues are, everyone knows what the threats are, we all have seen the proof, blah blah blah.
But in EVERY situation (bar none) when I asked for “the proof”, whether it be in the form of a file, a report, a link, ANYTHING, the conversation quickly turned into taunts and insults – using emotion to deflect the conversation away from the lack of data or at least data that they were citing as “proof”.
I even had a professor at the University of Alberta tweet this after I repeatedly asked for the proof he claimed to have in-hand:
He couldn’t (or wouldn’t) actually produce the proof he kept citing. Even when I went to his U of A website bio page, many of the links he cited for research were in fact dead links.
I wish I had him for a prof for all the papers I have written over the years (and still write). In the references section, I could simplify my Life by having one line:
Google all the references yourself.
Some data was offered …..
In fairness, one person offered a presentation that boldly stated “1 in 5 (21%) of LGBTQ students report being harassed or assaulted.”
Since context matters, I asked a few people:
- How does the alleged study define being “harassed or assaulted”?
- Did the alleged study point out how many non-LGBTQ students felt that they had been harassed or assaulted (for comparison purposes)?
Context matters. I know some people who feel harassed every time someone gives them “a dirty look”.
My questions produced accusations that I was trying to confuse people or trying to bury the issue in complexity and then those people commenced to crap all over me as well.
And to me, therein lies the entire problem with the LGBTQ conversation.
As a person of influence, as a person who believes and champions the fair treatment of all people and as someone who needs data when “proof” is cited, I often ask for additional information.
I don’t ask with an intent to refute someone or to tell them that they are wrong.
I ask with the intent to understand.
When I understand something and it is sold to me in a very convincing way, as someone with a very large, influential network, I can be a very powerful ally who will then promote this same message to others.
And yet oftentimes, people without data or who are relying purely on emotion get nervous when someone asks for the proof that they cite (which they often don’t have) and they quickly jump to the conclusion that this person must be trying to discredit them.
In doing so, they go out of their way to create an antagonist (and a powerful one) when they might have had a powerful ally in their corner instead.
The Bottom Line
The message from a person trying to sell an idea to others must resonate with the target audience and it must be consistent.
When people, under the guise of demanding respect for others, don’t know how to offer respect when trying to sell their message, it’s no wonder that their “sales pitch” runs into complications or resistance.
My message to parts of the LGBTQ community is this.
The message you promote must be:
- Data-filled (as much as is realistic). Don’t tell people to go search for the data. If you have proof, offer it. Don’t cherry pick data that is useful for your purposes or intentionally use data out of context since this will cause you to be discredited once you are discovered. You are trying to convince them – make it easy for them to be convinced.
- Emotion-less (as much as is realistic). Don’t chase people away with excessive emotion. Over zealous people, whether in politics, religion or any other cause, can frighten people away or encourage them to resist.
- Varied by target audience. There is no “one message fits all humans” model
- Open to scrutiny. You ask questions of others. Expect and embrace the same in return.
- One that resonates. To influence the mind, you must touch the heart and not stab it. Stabbing it has a tendency to create more enemies than friends.
- Respectful and understanding of the feelings and opinions of others. You don’t want to be stepped on, intimidated or insulted – neither does your target audience.
I say “parts” of the community because within my significant network of gay friends and colleagues, the vast majority get embarrassed or angry when they see how their lifestyle is being portrayed by others who claim to be representing the entire LGBTQ community.
And doing it very poorly, at least according to my friends and colleagues.
When the elements of a cohesive message are brought together, the vast majority of people won’t need to be convinced – they will easily convince themselves.
And for those who are not convinced, the last time I checked, we still live in a democracy where differences of opinion are not only allowed but welcomed and encouraged.
Well … unless I’m not entitled to that opinion either.
Respect and the welcoming of diversity are not things that can be legislated.
They are also not limited to being learned and protected in the schoolyard.
But until we learn to stem the tide of disrespect that is taught in the home, in the media and entertainment industry and in other places as well (and, in fact, modeled by some of our business, religious and political leaders), we will always have problems typical of a society lacking in respect and civility.
To our detriment.
As for me, I am not anti-gay at all. However, to the LGBTQ community, I ask that you stop trying to make me otherwise. I resist disrespect no matter what the reason it is shoved down my throat, even if the cause is a fair and just one.
There will always be people out there who resist your message, whether it be through intolerance, ignorance or because they have a right to a different opinion. In such cases, remember the rule of the 4 SWs and move on.
Some will, some won’t, so what, someone’s waiting
In service and servanthood,
Addendum – Making the Data Fit the Problem - April 9, 2014
Some of the people I dialogued with yesterday were suggesting that the primary problem (by far) of bullying these days are as a result of homophobic people assaulting LBGTQ individuals. Again, they had no data to back this up but spouted it as the ever-constructive, dialog-encouraging, “only idiots don’t know this” type message.
In my blog post Mitt Romney, Bullies and Red Herrings (written 2 years ago), I described my own personal childhood experiences with bullying where bullies (many of them gay) dry humped me into humiliation whenever they could get the chance (sorry – there is no gentle way of describing this).
I pointed out that in that blog post that these boys had been victims of sexual and physical abuse at home for years – at the hands of broken parents who themselves were victims of abuse in their own childhood.
The sexual orientation of my bullies had nothing to do with why they were abused or why they had become abusers.
However, some people in public and private dialog suggested that the abuse my abusers had experienced was irrelevant and that their abuse of others was “merely them exercising their right to stand up to the abuse they absorbed as LBGTQ students”.
This is the type of opinion that prevents constructive, solution-seeking dialog from occurring. Not knowing who these kids were, the people offering their opinion did not know that the kids who bullied me were in fact some of the most popular kids in the school. The abuse they absorbed at home was some of the most insidious abuse that children have ever had to face and which children continue to face today. The terrible pain they absorbed was expressed in their intimidation of others.
The opinion of some of the people I interacted with yesterday also suggests that revenge is a justifiable reason for bullying, even if the target of the revenge was not the original antagonist.
I would posit that if we embrace such a model of justifiable revenge, constantly attacking those who have affronted us while constantly defending against those whom we have affronted, we will spend the rest of our days fighting each other in an every-tightening death spiral of tit-for-tat.
Intolerance, anger and confrontation are never the solution for intolerance, anger and confrontation.
Well, that is unless some feel the need to be angry or feel affronted for the heck of it or for a different reason.
In such situations, maybe it is not justice and equality some are fighting for. For those people, the cry for justice makes for a convenient banner to hide behind or to lob grenades from for reasons unrelated to the cause that they allegedly champion.
For some politicians and business leaders, it becomes a useful leverage point, a means of promoting their own agendas on the backs of others whom they may or may not even care about as long as they get what they need.
And so the dialog gets murkier – and the people who want and deserve basic rights and freedoms get lost in the noise of a dialog that is more complex than it should be.
A final thought.
The afore mentioned professor at the U of A is now supporting a resolution to have the Minister of Education removed from his portfolio for not supporting Motion 503:
The philosophy of “do it my way or else face dire consequences” is not conducive to promoting a cause or encouraging dialog and in fact, may make some people view “the cause” as a source of intimidation or bullying and not as a just cause. The motion followed the parliamentary process and was defeated – this is the way it works in our society.
People who act as this professor is acting are often quick to cite bullying when they perceive it as coming in their direction but less so when they are the antagonist.
Maybe for some, their projection becomes their perception and thus their reality – that their need to bully heightens their sensitivity about receiving it.
Whatever the reason, “my way or the highway” rarely works.
“Educated” people should know better – but then again, education does not automatically cure people of intolerance or ignorance.