You want your kids to be successful. Fortunately, there are many roads to success.
Oprah Winfrey feels that success requires learning which bridges you should cross and which bridges you should burn. Steve Jobs believed that asking for help often separated those who succeeded from those who did not. Jeff Bezos believes time spent deliberating over decisions that are easily reversible is time wasted.
But all of these people all have one thing in common. They weren't born successful. They learned how to be leaders. They learned how to build businesses. They learned how to be successful.
And so can your kids.
How can you teach your kids to be successful -- and more important, live happy and fulfilled lives?
1. Teach them to seek small wins first.
According to research, gaining agreement has an effect -- even if only over the short term.
Teach your kids that, instead of jumping to the end of their argument, they should start with statements or premises they know their audience will agree with. Teach them to build a foundation for further agreement.
A body in motion tends to remain in motion, and that also applies to a head that nods in agreement.
2. Teach them to focus on positive outcomes.
While it's tempting to use scare tactics, positive-outcome statements tend to be more persuasive. (Researchers hypothesize that most people respond negatively to feeling bullied into changing a behavior.)
So if your kids are trying to create a change, tell them to focus on sharing the positives of that change. They want to take their audience to a better place, not tell their audience what to avoid.
3. Teach them to dare to take a stand.
You would assume data and reasoning always win the day, right? Nope. Research shows humans prefer cockiness to expertise. We naturally assume confidence equates with skill.
Even the most skeptical people tend to be at least partly persuaded by a confident speaker. In fact, we prefer advice from a confident source, even to the point that we will forgive a poor track record.
So teach your kids to be bold. Teach them to stop saying "I think" or "I believe." Teach them to stop adding qualifiers to their speech. Tell them, "If you think something will work, just say it will work. If you believe something will work, just say it will work."
Teach your kids to stand behind their opinions -- even if they are just opinions -- and to let their enthusiasm show. People will naturally gravitate to their side.
4. Teach them to understand the way others prefer to process information.
A fellow supervisor used to frustrate the crap out of me. (Read the next paragraph to see how that swearing thing works.)
I was young and enthusiastic and would burst into his office with an awesome idea, lay out all my facts and figures, wait breathlessly for him to agree with me -- and he would disagree.
Finally -- it took way longer than it should have -- I realized that he wasn't the problem. My approach was the problem.
Not to go all Myers-Briggs on you, but he was an "I." He instinctively wanted time to think. He liked to process. By demanding an immediate answer, I put him on the defensive, which led him to fall back on the safe choice: Saying "no."
So I tried a different approach. "I have an idea that I think makes sense," I said, "but I feel sure there are things I'm missing. If I run it by you, could you think about it for a day or two and then tell me what you think?"
He loved that. One, I implicitly showed I valued his wisdom and experience. Two, I implicitly showed I didn't just want him to agree. I really did wanted his opinion.
And most important, I gave him time to process my idea his way.
Teach your kids not to push for instant agreement when an individual's information-processing preference makes that unlikely.
And teach them not to ask for thought and reflection if their audience loves to make quick decisions.
5. Teach them not to be afraid to show a little emotion.
Cursing for no reason is just cursing. But say a team needs to pull together immediately pull together.
Tossing in an occasional -- and heartfelt -- curse word can actually help instill a sense of urgency because it shows you care. (And of course it never hurts when a leader lets a little frustration or anger show, too.)
In short, teach your kids to be themselves. Authenticity is always more persuasive. If your teenager feels strongly enough to slip in a mild curse word, he or she should feel free (in the right setting, of course). Research shows they're likely to be a little more persuasive.
(And don't tell me your teenagers never curse. Didn't you?)
6. Teach them to share the bad with the good.
According to University of Illinois professor Daniel O'Keefe, sharing an opposing viewpoint or two is more persuasive than sticking solely to your argument.
Why? Very few ideas or proposals are perfect. Your audience knows that. They know there are other perspectives and potential outcomes.
So teach your kids to meet objections head on. Tell them to talk about the things their audience may already be considering. Teach them to discuss potential negatives and show how they will mitigate or overcome those problems.
Teach your kids to talk about the other side of the argument -- and then do their best to show why they're still right.
7. Teach them to not just say they're right. Teach them to be right.
Persuasive people understand how to frame and deliver their messages, but most important, they embrace the fact that the message is what matters most.
Teach your kids to be clear, concise, and to the point. Teach them to win the day because their data, reasoning, and conclusions are beyond reproach.
What's true for your kids applies to all of us: The art of persuasion should always be the icing on a logical cake.