Winning Without Intimidation: Belief Concepts

How can belief systems prevent you from persuading people effectively? It has a lot to do with ego. (Part two of a seven-part series.)

In his first article, Bob Burg introduced us to the concept of positive persuasion. Now we will begin to learn how to put this powerful tool into action.

The Winning Without Intimidation mission statement is: "To raise the consciousness level of the world in the arena of human interactions. To show people how to get what they want while helping others to feel good about themselves."

In order to do this effectively, we must learn how to be in control of ourselves and our own emotions. Understand that there are people and situations in life that are going to elicit our becoming angry, resentful, frustrated, etc. That's just the way life is.

Understand that I didn't say they "make" us angry. Nobody can "make" another person angry. They can only do certain actions to elicit those feelings. However, it is up to us to maintain control of the situation by maintaining control over ourselves and our emotions; thus living in the solution instead of the problem, and helping the other person to do the same.

Why do people seem to almost go out of their way to be unhelpful, miserable or rude? There are numerous reasons, with not enough space to cover them. But if we keep in mind that most of the time it has something to do with the person’s ego, we are about ninety percent of the way to making practically every situation workable.

By and large, here is the driving factor when difficult people (or even typically nice and well-meaning people) act difficult: People have a strong — an overwhelming — desire to feel good about themselves, and not be made to feel badly about themselves. While this is not a problem from which John Galt, Dagny Taggart, or Howard Roark would suffer, most of the rest of the world does; most likely including you and me. I know it includes me!

So, when approaching a person with that premise in mind, in addition to the methods we are discussing, we are in a strong position to help that person to work within the framework of a solution, instead of a problem.

In this column, let’s look at several principles of Winning Without Intimidation we can and should keep in mind at the outset of any potential inter-personal conflict.

Truth vs. Belief Systems

Summed up quickly, “Truth is an absolute.” Example: Gravity works. This Universal Law — or Truth — is indisputable and not subject to anyone’s personal opinion or belief. Should one choose to challenge the Law of Gravity by walking off an eight-story building, they will discover the immutability of this Law. A “Truth” was, is, and always will be.

A “Belief”, on the other hand, can best be defined as a subjective truth. In other words, it’s the truth, as “you” believe the truth to be. Or, as I believe the truth to be. A current popular word for this is “paradigm,” or model of the world.

Our personal belief system is handed to us very early by our parents, other human beings and early environment. It includes everything from how mommies and daddies relate to each other, to their children, and to all other people, to the “goodness or badness” of money, to just about everything in between. It includes religious beliefs, beliefs about the role of government in our lives, and a thousand other things.

Example: If one grows up in an argumentative environment where both parents yell, scream, accuse, and otherwise put down the other, the child grows up with the “belief system” that that is just how marriages are. It doesn’t mean they are happy about it; it’s just — according to their belief system; their model — how marriages are. This is why the chances are always better than average that those are the types of relationships in which that child will eventually be involved as they grow and mature into adulthood. And, far too often, that’s what their children will come to believe, and so on and so on.

It gets really interesting when we realize that our belief system affects just about everything we think, say, and do, and that, by and large, we have absolutely no conscious awareness that this is happening.

Here’s one more thing to consider: Although belief systems are individual, we all instinctively believe that our belief system is the same as everyone else’s, and that theirs is the same as ours. This is why we simply cannot understand why others don’t see things the way we do. Or, as my friend, Judith Piani, author of the excellent book, Trait Secrets says, “Normal is what I am.”

So please realize that the person you find difficult is simply acting out of his own beliefs, thoughts, ideas, and view of the world. Often, two people argue or debate about a concept not realizing their definitions of the two concepts are actually miles apart.

Thus, a very helpful idea and excellent first start is, when in confrontation with a person you may be finding difficult, ask yourself four questions:

1) How is my personal belief system distorting the actual truth of the situation?
2) How is his/her personal belief system distorting the actual truth of the situation?
3) What questions can I ask this person that will clarify my understanding of his/her version of the truth (his/her belief system)?
4)What information can I give that will help them clarify their understanding of my version of the truth (my belief system)?

As the saying goes, within conflict between two or more people, there are generally three truths — your truth, their truth, and the real truth. Through gentle questioning, as well as a caring exchange of information, the real truth can usually be discovered, generating understanding, peace, and respect. This leads to results in alignment with the Winning Without Intimidation belief system in which "Both people win."

People Do Things for Their Reasons, Not Yours,
So Make Your Reason Their Reason

In the classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie tells us people do things for their reasons — not ours. If they are going to do something, it's because they perceive that there is a benefit to doing it. Oh, I know, people wake up early every morning to go to work even though they don't want to. But they get up every morning to go to work because they want something more than the great feeling of staying in bed — mainly, a paycheck at the end of the week.

What about people doing charity work for others? They aren’t deriving a benefit from it, are they?

Sure they are! That benefit is the good feeling that comes along with doing good, with benevolence. Mr. Carnegie was right; people do things for their own reasons even if that reason is simply to feel better about themselves — better than the feeling they would have had if they didn't do that good deed.

If there's something you need someone to do for you that they don't have to do, then you’d better be prepared to provide a personal benefit so that he or she feels better about doing for you than about not doing for you.

Quick example: If you desire a raise, the chances are excellent that your boss does not care that the variable rate on your mortgage has just gone up, that you want a new car, or that you want to send your son to private school. What will more likely effect her decision is that your performance over the past year has saved the company X amount of dollars, and you can show her how that figure will rise even higher in the coming year.


Tact is a key — possibly the key — concept at the very heart of Winning Without Intimidation.

My Dad, the best positive persuader I’ve ever known, defines tact as "the language of strength."

Tact is simply the ability to teach someone; in essence, to critique, criticize, or correct someone in such a way that he or she is not offended. Not only is the other person not offended, but they are actually appreciative. Easier said than done, right? After all, referring back to “ego,” do you know of anyone who truly enjoys being criticized or corrected?

Fortunately, with focus (and practice), tact can become, for you, a natural way of communication. Practice by pretending that everyone with whom you speak is your most important “customer” — the “million-dollar buyer” — a person to whom you must be able to communicate your idea without being offensive.

For example, when someone mentions an idea that, in your opinion, is ridiculous, instead of telling them so, ask yourself how you would answer your most important customer. Perhaps you would say, “That’s an interesting thought. I’m not sure I quite grasp the concept. Would you mind explaining in more detail?”

Answering in this manner, by the way, is not only tactful; it’s actually a far more effective way of opening up this person to your point of view than simply pointing out the “error of his ways.” Why? Because, instead of attacking him (i.e., his ego) you are honoring him by asking him to explain further.

Responding vs. Reacting

I first learned this concept from acclaimed author and speaker Zig Ziglar.

According to Ziglar: To respond is positive; to react is negative.

For example, when going to the doctor after taking some medication that worked, the doctor might say, "Ahh, you responded well to the medication."

On the other hand, if you return with your face broken out in bumps and hives, the doctor will probably say something like, "It seems as though the medication has caused a bad reaction."

It's the same in any relationship, transaction with another human being, or situation in life:

If you respond to it, you've thought it out and acted in a mature, positive fashion. You are in control of yourself and the situation.

If you react to it, you've let it (the situation or person) be in control and get the best of you.

For example, recently I was pulling into a parking space. Being too hurried, and not paying attention as I should have, I didn’t notice that the car parked in the next space had a man coming out of it. I braked in plenty of time, but it gave the man a start. He looked at me with that look that said, “You (insert nasty name here)!"

He reacted. Who could blame him? Now, I had a choice: Would I react to his reaction? Or would I respond, thereby diffusing an otherwise uncomfortable (and potentially nasty) situation, and hopefully turn a potential enemy into a friend? I chose to respond. I immediately raised my hand with a sincere smile and mouthed, “Sorry, my fault.”

He then responded with a smile and a wave of his own. Funny thing is, when I got out of my car, his words to me were actually, “Sorry, I should have looked before getting out of my car.” Can you believe that??!!

I see two results to that situation: First, a potential (and too typical) argument turned into a friendly exchange. Second, the next time he is in a similar situation, there’s a good chance he will respond instead of react, turn a potential enemy into a friend, and begin his own chain reaction of kindness and friendship.

The “I Message”

This “I Message” is where we put the onus of a challenge or misunderstanding upon ourselves, taking the other person “off the hook,” disarming him, and making him more receptive to finding a solution to the challenge.

The "You message" would put the blame on that person, making him defensive and less receptive to a win/win outcome. The “I Message” is one of the most important Winning Without Intimidation principles to master.

For example, you're in a discussion where the other person is not speaking to you with the appropriate consideration and respect. Instead of saying, "You're talking down to me and not showing me respect," (which of course is a "You message," as in "You are wrong), you might say, "Sam, I feel upset. It might just be how I'm taking it but it feels as though I'm being put down and not being shown the respect I feel I'm entitled to."

What you've done is put the responsibility on yourself so Sam doesn't have to react defensively while still getting your point across — loud and clear — that the appropriate behavior is not being shown and that it bothers you.

Let's look at another example: You're trying to get the bank manager to let you cash an out of town check without a waiting period. You feel you've been a customer long enough to be given that privilege but the manager — who has the power to grant your request — is being stubborn and not showing appreciation for your being a loyal customer.

If you send her a "You message" by saying, "You're being totally unreasonable. Don't you appreciate the fact that I've been a loyal customer?" you're insulting her. You've also painted her into a corner where, if she gives in, she "loses." Instead, send an "I message," such as, "I really feel that after years of loyalty to this bank possibly I'm not appreciated as a customer of value. I've always enjoyed banking here. It might just be my interpretation but it is very disturbing to me. Could we work this out?"

Diplomacy and tact through an "I message" will nearly always help you Win Without Intimidation.

While the principles we’ve discussed in this article take practice and awareness, the results will be more than worth it.

Bob Burg speaks on the topics of positive persuasion and business networking. His books, Endless Referrals: Network Your Everyday Contacts Into Sales and Winning Without Intimidation: How to Master the Art of Positive Persuasion have each sold well over 100,000 copies. He maintains a web site which includes the expanded e-book version of Winning Without Intimidation.

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To post comments, please log in first. The Atlasphere is a social networking site for admirers of Ayn Rand's novels, most notably The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In addition to our online magazine, we offer a member directory and a dating service. If you share our enjoyment of Ayn Rand's novels, please sign up or log in to post comments.