You want something. The thing you want is so important that it has become a need. That need must be fulfilled, but, the question is, “How?”.
Let’s say that you have had the same job, with the same pay, for the last ten years. You were just getting started in life, living comfortably, and all was right with the world.
Then, things got better. You met that special someone and drifted into a beautiful marriage. You were even happier when you had your first child. And then your second.
Your family means the world to you, so it doesn’t bother you that your daughter needs braces, or your son wants to play hockey, or your significant other wants a bigger house. Yet, suddenly, you’re not so comfortable with your job. You need help. You need a raise. How do you get it?
In his acclaimed book, Win Your Case, Gerry Spence, America’s winningest trial lawyer, reveals that his methods in the courtroom could be used to succeed in any life situation –court, the boardroom, dealing with your boss, etc. His philosophy is to use the strengths that you already possess in the most effective way possible to convince the person in control -like your boss- to give you what you want and need.
This article interprets ideas from Win Your Case into 10 tips on how to win your “case” in any life situation.
1. Know yourself.
"Credibility is the key to winning." You cannot be credible unless you are honest with yourself, first.
We all build walls in our minds: four-sided walls. They are surrounded by pain, suffering, trauma, and fear. We build these walls to "protect" us from difficult experiences. Unfortunately, they also cage us in, and prevent us from realizing our full potential. BRAKE THE WALLS DOWN.
Confronting your own pain gives you the power to tap into a whole new world of creativity. It also allows you to understand and empathize with others. If you are open with yourself, you can step into someone else's shoes and be open with them. They will know you are telling the truth. That's credibility.
2. You are unique, so, be unique.
Your power comes from your uniqueness. Yet, so many times, the image that we have of ourselves comes from ideas that others put in our heads. Negative views of you could carry on for years and stop you from reaching your true potential. Statements like, "You'll never be a lawyer," or, "You have a squeaky voice," or, "You're not athletic at all," have the power to stop you in your tracks, if you let them.
You can become the person of your dreams, the perfect you, if you realize that your uniqueness is your best quality and you use it. Mr. Spence gives the example of a physically small lawyer that he once watched in court. This lawyer had a pot-belly and was balding on the top of his head. He didn't have a powerful voice. But he was comfortable in his own skin. He cared about his client and the argument he was making, and his power came from his caring. The jury was not threatened by him, they liked him and sided with him. He won his case.
Show them that you care.
Caring is contagious. It comes from appreciating who you are. A person with a powerful, Darth Vader-like voice can be defeated by you if you stand before the decision-maker and be yourself. Be the person with real-life fears, humility, and caring. Shake off any attempts to act like someone else. Be genuine, for a genuine person is believable, and others will want to side with you.
3. Allow yourself to feel.
"To move others, we must first be moved. To persuade others, we must first be credible. To be credible, we must tell the truth, and the truth always begins with our feelings."
Since childhood, we have been taught to focus on our intellect and suppress our feelings. Our natural feelings have been so rejected that we have forgotten how to use them to show the truth, for the truth is usually a feeling.
If you think back to your childhood, you always showed your emotions. If your dad came home after a long day of work, you went running to the door, full of excitement; if you scraped your knee, you cried; if you were scared, you said, "I'm scared." People automatically believe kids when they show these feelings, because the feelings are honest. By learning that it is okay to feel scared, sad or alone, you learn that the people around you have the same feelings.
What about my boss?
Your boss has these feelings. So do jurors and boardroom members. No matter how robotic and cold a person may appear, their decisions are based on feelings, first. If it is an unpopular decision, they will not reveal it until they use cold, hard logic to justify it. But the decision was already made. If you want the decision-maker to relate to you, to side with you, you have to be honest with your feelings.
Who's your favorite actor?
Think of an actor that you love to watch, even though this particular actor is the same in every movie. Why do you cheer for them? They are not chameleons, like some other actors. They haven't disappeared behind someone else's skin... BINGO. It is because they are NOT hiding, and you find them believable. When they cry, you cry, when they're mad, you think it's justified, and when they're happy, you jump out of your seat and cheer. They have honestly portrayed their character and you love them for it.
Don't hide your feelings, embrace them.
If you hide your feelings, the decision-maker will be able to tell. They may not be able to put their finger on it, but they will sense that you are hiding something. How can you trust someone that has something to hide? If you want people to see you as credible, you actually have to be credible.
Do you ever listen to yourself when you're talking? Not to what you are saying out loud, but what you are silently saying within?
If you listen to yourself, you will hear ideas. They are silent, of course, but you will hear them in your mind. These ideas may give you the perfect metaphor to use or signal you to pause and let the audience breath in your words.
"Spontaneous" is the key word.
Speaking the words of your inner-voice will likely captivate your audience, because the words are your mind's reaction to what is happening in the moment. It is honest and comes off as such, because your words are real.
However, you have to use the ideas as they come to you. It's like an image on Snapchat. You have a small window of opportunity to take the image in, but once it's gone, it's gone. The ideas that you hear with your "third ear" (your inner voice/ideas) must be used spontaneously, because the conversation is going to move on. That is what makes listening to your third ear so powerful: the spontaneity makes what you say natural and real (dare we say it again, "credible".)
What about memorization?
There are some people that stick to a script, even if they are not using notes. They have memorized what they want to say. However, memorizing everything and failing to allow room for spur-of-the-moment ideas will restrict your creativity and come off as less-genuine.
Plan, prepare, and practice, but be real.
5. Be afraid -and use it to your advantage.
"The greatest risk of all is doing nothing when something needs doing."
Whenever you confront power, head-on, you are taking a risk, and it is natural to feel fear. You fear losing your job, your livelihood, or your good reputation. You may look bad in front of a lot of people that you know. Or, maybe none of those things happen, and your worst fear of all is realized: that you are not worth anybody's time.
Fear is a painful human experience. Your chest gets tight, your stomach is in shambles, your voice gets high-pitched, and you may even hate yourself for having the feeling in the first place. Nevertheless, you cannot be brave without first feeling fear. Fools that love jumping into dangerous situations without feeling fear are, well...fools. Embrace the feelings of fear, which you cannot control, and use them to your advantage. Fear warns you, protects you, and prepares you for "battle". The only way to deal with fear is to own it.
Is the other guy afraid?
Your opponent is afraid, too. What is interesting about the fear you feel is that you can use it to measure your opponent's. It makes sense, doesn't it? You are both in the same battle, with the same stakes, aren't you? If you bravely take a moment to acknowledge and understand your fear, you can begin to understand the fear your opponent feels. The more fear your opponent feels, the harder he/she fights back and the more difficult it is to defeat them.
So, do not intentionally frighten your opponent. When a person is afraid, their instincts tell them to either fight or run. Get in or get out. But if either you or the decision-maker reacts this way, you are not likely to get what you want. Control fear. Yours and your opponents.
You are only truly defeated when you give your opponent permission to defeat you.
6. Do NOT get angry!
Anger can be a weapon in your arsenal. The effects of its power are felt within you and by every person that you come into contact with. Most often, this weapon has the effects of a bomb, destroying everything in its way, without discrimination, including you.
Your anger is usually a response to hurt. When someone's words/actions hurt you, you respond with anger. Here is the problem: you get hurt, you respond to the person that hurt you with anger of your own, he/she gets hurt, they respond to your hurt with more anger, you get hurt again...the cycle goes on and on. Families are torn apart and wars are waged due to such scenarios. If you let your anger off it's leash, you are unlikely to get what you want. Worse, you will probably do serious damage.
However, if you understand that anger is usually a secondary emotion -a response to your hurt- then you will realize that you have to address the real problem -the hurt, itself.
An easy example:
Let's say somebody says something that insults you and you feel hurt. One response is to get angry. The other person feels threatened/hurt and they get angry too. Congratulations, you've made things worse. Another response would be to say nothing, but store the anger up. That is not a good idea, because then your bomb becomes a time bomb, and, without a productive way to diffuse it, it's only a matter of time before it goes off. The third response is to address the hurt. "That hurt me." The other person is likely to respond that they didn't mean it. POOF. You may have just averted World War III.
Is there a time/place for anger?
This is not to say that you shouldn't feel angry. Indeed, we have already discussed the importance of addressing your feelings, and anger is included. We are discussing the appropriate time to show your anger. The answer is: when your anger is against injustice. Injustice causes anger and that anger motivates you to fight against the unjust person or act.
In general, people do not like angry people. However, they do not trust people that should be angry, but are not. Appropriate anger is okay. When it comes to persuading the power person, here is the trick: Do not show your anger until the moment that you have demonstrated it is appropriate; the moment the power person agrees that it is okay to be angry.
For example, your boss is listening to a dispute between you and a co-worker. The co-worker is telling lies about you, but your boss does not know that. Your boss values the coworker as an expert in his field. Though you feel anger, do not show it until you have exposed the coworker for the liar that he/she is. Do not attack the coworker until your boss sees the injustice. At that moment, your boss will want the coworker to be attacked. Go for it. With class, of course.
7. Understand power.
"The power that others wield over us is only the power we have given them."
People or groups that seem, and, indeed, are, powerful have their limitations built into them. Often times, various departments of large companies step on each other's toes. The right hand does not know what the left is doing; actions cannot be taken without the approval of a supervisor. The big machine is slowed down. Simply put, power gets in the way of itself. Normal people, like you and me, can often step in and get more accomplished than those in power, because the powerhouse is busy being its own worst enemy.
So, what stops us? "Well," you may be thinking, "they are in power. They could hurt me." Remember that people are in power because YOU put them there. WE put them there, on pedestals. Put a black robe on a mediocre lawyer and suddenly he's the judge, the most powerful person in the room. Take a farmer off his farm and place him in the oval office; suddenly he's the President of the United States.
The sooner you see people in power as flesh and blood, just like you, the sooner you can step up to them and accomplish your goals. Do not give them permission to defeat you.
8. Help yourself.
Ironically, controlling your fear and accepting yourself for who you are may result in a feeling of fearlessness. Not bad, huh? Just remember not to take this feeling to the extreme: carelessness. Most of the tips, thus far, have dealt with your mental state, which is of the utmost importance. But there is no substitute for preparation. Hard work. To use a cliche, "practice makes perfect."
Help yourself by collecting all of the background information you need and researching whatever needs to be researched. You are living in a time when you have a wealth of information at your fingertips. Shame on you, if you refuse to use it.
9. Tell your story.
Everybody loves a good story. We don't have to explain why, you know it's true. It is more engaging and memorable for someone to tell you the story of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," than to have them waive their finger in your face and lecture, "Don't lie!" A well-told story allows the listener to step into your skin and feel what you feel.
What is your story? Is it that you are a veteran employee, entitled to make more money? Or are you a person that has woken up at dawn every morning for the last ten years to chase your dreams and aspirations of raising your children in a home that is bigger than the two-bedroom apartment you and your siblings were raised in, alongside the love of your life? A good story, coupled with all the positive things you have done for your boss and an understanding of his/her point of view, could go a long way towards getting you the raise you deserve.
10. WIN: Use what you have learned and close the deal.
Here is where you use the previous skills that we have gone through. Follow these steps to open the listener to your ideas:
Step 1: Identify the issue you're afraid of.
There is an issue that is bothering you. If you are trying to ask your boss for a raise, you may fear, in addition to not getting it, that your boss will resent you and there will be repercussions down the line. Maybe you just received a raise a few months ago. Identify your fear and move to Step 2.
Step 2: Experience the feeling of the issue in Step 1 within yourself.
Here is a tough pill to swallow: If you were your boss, would you, yourself, resent an employee who asks for a raise under your circumstances? Your boss is worried that you will resent his decision if he says "no," and he will lose a valued employee, but he also is trying to maintain a budget, probably with higher job aspirations of his own. Money is the issue. If you can experience such feelings yourself, you will have access to the feelings of the decision-maker. Those feelings could be used to show your understanding.
Step 3: Share your feeling(s) with the decision-maker.
The easiest part of telling the truth is that you don't have to make anything up. Be straight with your boss. "Asking for a promotion isn't easy for me. I have to admit, if I were in your position, I would probably resent an employee for coming in here and asking for another raise, especially when you have so much on your mind. But I also know that you are a fair person..." Let them know what "fair" is.
Step 4: Invite the decision maker to share their feelings.
This can often come in the form of a pause. You have been honest and respectful, now give the decision-maker a chance to chime in. You have acknowledged that they are fair and they now feel they have to live up to that. Listen.
Step 5: Accept the decision-maker's response as a gift.
Whatever response you receive, honor it and show gratitude to the person that gave it to you. It took courage for him/her to open up to you and be honest. He/she trusted you enough to tell you. Show them your appreciation. No matter what happens, it sets a good stage for the future.
Step 6: Repeat the previous steps as necessary.
Continue sharing your feelings with the decision-maker and invite them to share theirs. It is a conversation, act naturally.
Following these steps, feeling what the decision-maker feels, closes the barriers between you and them. It makes you feel that this boss/board/jury is yours.
"Such is the environment of winning."