— Jedi Mind Tricks and Other Sleights of Hand

These are not the droids you’re looking for…

A classic line from a classic movie. Obi-wan Kenobi used his jedi mind control and power of suggestion to manipulate the thoughts of a couple of Imperial Guards. They thought they had discovered the runaway droids, Obi-wan convinced them they had not.

When we want someone to change their mind – to switch their beliefs about something from theirs to ours – we can’t simply wave our hand and say, “This is not the project you’re looking for…” while wearing a cool-looking hoodie.

If I could only teach Jedi mind tricks… Alas, no such luck.

Assuming no one here is a member of a galactic rebel force charged with overthrowing the dark lord and defeating a death star (though work sometimes feels eerily similar), how do we convince someone to do what we’re asking when they’ve clearly let us know that’s not what they want to do?

First, remember that you cannot actually change someone’s mind for them, unless you are a no-shit jedi knight. You can only convince or influence them to change their mind themselves.

Great, got it. Now, how do we do it?

So, the best way is always just using a classical negotiation approach. Here’s where we provide some logic – facts and evidence to support our position – throw in a smidgeon of emotion (gotta get the buy-in), and a heaping spoonful of WIIFM… What’s In It For Me??

Done correctly, using demonstrable empathy with an otherwise reasonable opponent person, this generally works. It takes some skill to get good at it, but a little convincing, some negotiating, and viola! We can usually get there.

But what if it doesn’t work? What if the good, well-thought classical approach fails to provide enough influence for someone to change their mind? Well, since we’ve already determined you can’t be a jedi knight (and inserting my tongue firmly in my cheek), you’ll need to become someone else, like:

The Orthodontist. Here, we apply slow, consistent pressure over time. We meet, discuss, agree on very little, then agree to meet again.

Each time, we get a small amount of agreement until eventually, the consistent application of pressure convinces someone that either (a) your way is, in fact, a better way, or (b) it’s simply too much effort to deal with you, so I’ll do it your way in hopes you’ll go away.

The Senator. This is the politician approach, where you make a lot of promises that benefit the other person; you seldom deliver, but always have a plausible reason for your failure. Someone interfered, a meteor struck Dubuque, the dog ate my homework… you get the idea. It’s the promises that matter, so keep repeating ‘em ad nauseum, and eventually people will come around to your way of thinking.

And when you never deliver? No worries – as P.T. Barnum allegedly said,” there’s a sucker born every minute.” Just keep making new promises.

The Nurse-Dad. You know the type, where “suck it up, buttercup” is the go-to phrase for anything that hurts. This is the “Just rip off that band-aid in one motion” sort of approach where you simply say “We’re doing it this way. Thanks for your inputs,” and walk away.

Gets the job done, kills the relationship; also, never forget that “because I said so” kills discretionary effort while promoting malicious compliance. That’s on you.

Finally, if you’re trusted and trusting enough, and you have the right people around you, you can be Burger King, where as long as you get your desired result, they can “have it their way,” and do it any way they like.

Great for proven, empowered people, catastrophic for those undeveloped and unaccustomed to being trusted.

All of this just to say – if you really need someone to see things your way when they clearly do not, realize that anything less than a trusting relationship will make the going difficult. If trust exists between the two, and our egos allow us to focus on results versus process, it just becomes a simple conversation between adults.

Piece o’cake.