Old Ben Franklin knew how to persuade by being certain not to caret any resistance to his proposals through the use of words that trigger negative responses. There are other words. Let me give you the example of one ever present three letter word – but. Used unconsciously and automatically, it can be one of the most destructive words in our language. If someone says, ‘That’s true, but …. What is he saying? He’s saying it’s not true, or it’s irrelevant’. The word but has negated everything said before it. How do you feel if someone says to you that they agree with you, but … ? What if you simply substitute the word and instead? What if you say, That is true, and here is something else that is also true? Or, That is an interesting idea, and here is another way to think about it. In both cases, you start with agreement. Instead of creating resistance, you have created an avenue of redirection.
Remember, there are no resistant people, only inflexible communicators. Just as there are phrases and words that automatically trigger feelings or states of resistance, there are also ways to communicate that keep people involved and open.
For example, what would happen if you had a communication tool you could use to communicate exactly how you felt about an issue, without compromising your integrity in any way, and yet you never had to disagree with the person either? Would that be fairly powerful tool? Well, here it is. It is called the agreement frame. It consists of three phrases you can use in any communication to respect the person you are communicating with, maintain rapport with him, share with him what you feel is true, and yet never resist his opinion in any way. Without resistance there is no conflict.
Here are the three phrases:
I appreciate and ….
I respect and ….
I agree and ….
In each case, you are doing three things. You are building rapport by entering the other person’s world and acknowledging his communication rather than ignoring or denigrating it with words like but or however. You are creating a frame of agreement that bonds you together. And you are opening the door to redirecting something without creating resistance.
Let me give you an example. Someone says to you, you are absolutely wrong about something. If you say, No I’m not wrong, just as strongly, are you going to remain in rapport? No, there will be a conflict, and there will be resistance. Instead, say to that person, ‘I respect the intensity of your feelings about this, and I think if you were to hear my side of it you might feel differently’. Notice, you do not have to agree with the content of the person’s communication. You can always appreciate, respect, or agree with someone’s feeling about something. You can appreciate his feelings because if you were in the same physiology, if you had the perception you would feel the same way.
You can also appreciate someone else’s intent. For example, many times two people on opposite sides of an issue don’t appreciate each other’s points of view. So they don’t even hear each other. But if you use the agreement frame, you will find yourself listening more intently to what the other person is saying and discovering new ways to appreciate people as a result. Let us assume you are having a discussion with someone on the nuclear issue. He is for a buildup of nuclear arms, while you are for a nuclear freeze. The two of you might see yourselves as rivals, yet you may have the same intent – more security for your families and yourselves, and a world with peace. So if the other person says, ‘the only way to take care of this nuclear problem is to nuke the Russians’. Rather than arguing with him, you could enter his world and say, ‘I really appreciate your commitment and desire to create security for our children, and I think there may be a more effective way than nuking the Russians that will accomplish this. What about the possibility of …’. When you communicate in this way, the other person feels respected. He feels heard, and he has no fight. There is no disagreement, yet new possibilities are also simultaneously introduced. This formula can be used with anyone – no matter what the other person says, you can find something to appreciate, respect, and agree with. You are impossible to fight, because you will not fight.