In the United States, we are entering the final stage to the 2018 elections.    Many years ago, Donna spent six years in the Oregon State Legislature and was her party’s nominee for Secretary of State, so the political campaign season brings back memories of her time in partisan politics.

She recalls as a young woman feeling the need to appear strong and decisive.  To accomplish this, she developed her persuasive skills to convince other people of her point of view.  Then someone posed to her a powerful and life-impacting question: “Do you want to connect with people or do you want to convince them you are right?”

This was a “choice point” moment for Donna. Pondering the question asked by a person supporting her as a Coach from a TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)® perspective, she realized she wanted to connect more than convince, which eventually put her on a different professional path.

Politics today, unfortunately, is a great example of the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT).  Many citizens feel victimized by the state of the world and persecuted by politicians they don’t agree with.  Consequently, there is a longing for a new heroic leader that will be a Rescuer from the political drama and put things on the right path.

The DDT is everywhere—not just in politics.  It’s in our movies, TV programs, advertising, religions, fairy tales, family relationships, and much more.  We see the DDT everywhere because these roles are universal human strategies to manage uncertainty.  They are the outward manifestation of the fight, flight, or freeze strategies (and we include a fourth one—the need to appease—which is aligned with the Rescuer role).

There is a paradox embedded in our need to convince.  The more we demand that others agree with us, the more we reduce our sphere of influence to only those that agree with us, and instead, we limit our ability to learn and grow.

The antidote to the DDT roles is found in TED*.  Instead of feeling the need to convince and win and almost surely be seen by others as a Persecutor; a Creator wants to connect deeply with others as Co-Creators.  Disagreements are an opportunity to expand our horizons—especially when Co-Creators see the other person as a Challenger that opens them to learning and considering other perspectives.

This isn’t Pollyannaish stuff.   Whether in politics, business, or our families, transformed leaders have an ability to connect by “owning” their vulnerabilities and openness, which invites others to do the same.

Here are a few tips to shift from “convincing” to “connecting:”

  • Notice how often you judge others—not just their ideas, but also how often you judge even the smallest details about someone’s dress, lifestyle, or hairstyle, etc. Becoming more aware of what triggers your judgments will help you redirect and moderate your opinions.
  • When you are in the judging mode, ask yourself, “What am I trying to control?” This will help you pull back the curtain and look at what is behind your need to be right and control the situation.
  • When you notice your critical side arising (which is a symptom driven by your need to control), give yourself a break and ask yourself, “What might be here for me to learn? What am I resisting that I could open to?  What is it that I don’t know that I don’t know?”

Wise people, whether political or otherwise, have learned that disagreements are an opportunity to learn—not a time to dig-in, hoping to convince and win.

Do you want to connect or convince?  Which do you choose?