FILWP Presenting Tip #008: Avoid arguing with (someone in) your audience

FILWP PRESENTING TIP #008: AVOID ARGUING WITH (SOMEONE IN) YOUR AUDIENCE

Although this rarely happens, I have seen some presenters get very hot under the collar when someone in the audience has a different opinion to theirs.  FILWP Presenting Tip #008 will (hopefully!) show you how to avoid it, as there really is nothing to gain (and a lot to lose) by arguing with someone (anyone) in your audience.

WE ALL HAVE OPINIONS AND THINK (BELIEVE) THAT WHAT WE ‘KNOW’ IS TRUE

During a course that I presented in Auckland, NZ in Feb 2017 I found myself become very defensive and dismissive when someone said that something I had said wasn’t correct. It turned out later that he knew a lot more than I did about that aspect and that he was right and I was wrong!! (Also see Tip #007)

We all have opinions about things and when you and I disagree about something, we are BOTH right from our individual perspectives and with what we know and believe to be true.

As science progresses, it turns out that what was bad for you yesterday is essential for your well-being today.  (Fat, coffee and picking up a baby when they cry, to name but three.)

With the nature of the placebo effect, biased experiments and about 5 billion ‘experts’ on the internet, it’s often very hard to find out what is ‘really’ true and when you do, you don’t have to dig a lot further to find contradicting opinions and ‘facts’. It might also happen that the disagreement isn’t a dispute about facts, but simple a difference of opinion.   

You might, for example, think that:

  • your material is interesting, ground breaking or life changing and someone in the audience might not.
  • ‘everyone’ is OK to wait another 20 minutes before a break, and someone might disagree.
  • ‘anger’ is a ‘negative emotion’ and someone one might think that’s it’s a valuable emotion to let us know when someone has crossed a boundary.

ARROGANCE OR DEFENSIVENESS MIGHT GET YOU SOMEWHERE, IT JUST WON’T MAKE YOU AN EFFECTIVE SPEAKER

The only thing that is true is that there is no absolute truth about anything (and that’s true, ha-ha).

Even if there were absolute truths about what you’re presenting about, it would be very arrogant to think that your ‘truth’ is the only correct view between the billions of us on the planet, don’t you think? Furthermore, the more you attack them or defend your position, the more you up the ante and when it goes too far, there’s no coming back.

HOW TO DEAL WITH A DIFFERENT OPINION, OR A STRAIGHT-FORWARD CHALLENGE

When you present and someone in your audience has a different point of view yours (what they’d call ‘fact’), simply accept it for what it is (someone stating their ‘truth’), as gracefully as you can – especially when they’re not being graceful about it.  (Most people are, and some, well, they just seem to have a bee in their bonnet!)

When I present and someone puts forward a different opinion, I would say something like “Oh wow, I’d never heard that before, thanks!  Would it be OK if we continued and I’d like to catch up with you afterwards to find out more?”  [The key to this, of course, is to mean it when you say it!]

When appreciated and treated with respect and kindness and without a hint of defensiveness (instead of shut  up, shut down or made wrong) most people are graceful in return, without the need to attack you.  Think about it, if you are not attacking them nor defending yourself,there is no reason for them to become defensive or attack you.

A BIT OF HUMBLE PIE HAS NEVER KILLED ANYONE

If it turns out you were ‘wrong’, like I was in Auckland, so what?  (What, you’re the only person in the world who can NEVER get anything wrong?)

If you’re open to it, you might even end up grateful (as I did) for learning something new.  In that particular case I was also able to correct the incorrect information I’d been teaching for years (because my teachers taught me that way).

The #FILWP Tips series

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