Does Fairness Play A Part In The Art Of Persuasion?
Does Fairness Play A Part In The Art Of Persuasion? To be fair, yes. And persuasive people are fair minded and even handed.
There are obvious and not-so obvious differences between people. Some people are smarter than others, and some are dumber, too. Some are gifted, some are lacking in gifts. Some have great connections to share, and some have no connections to speak of. But to be able to persuade all kinds of people, you’ll find it a valuable habit to treat all people as your equals. This doesn’t mean you have to treat everyone the same, because we aren’t the same. Just that you treat everyone fairly, as fairly as you want to be treated.
The question of fairness revolves around the practical ideal that all of us are created equal. No, we’re not all the same, but we’re all the same in some essential ways. We’re all born and we all die. We all have needs and wants. No matter how good we are at something, there is always someone better at it, and someone worse at it. And we’ve all fallen short, too. We are not lesser for our failures and disappointments, they help us become who we are. We have all of this in common with each other. When you connect with people, it is because you are able to find your commonality with others in yourself. Connected people are receptive people.
Equal to all, and each equal to you, you can give as good as you get. Not blinded by job titles, social status, or places in the pecking order, you recognize that a relationship between equals is likely to produce a superior result to a relationship between someone who acts superior and someone who believes they are inferior. You have the uncommon ability to acknowledge when someone else’s idea is as good as your own, and this wins you great favor with many. You don’t play favorites, and you don’t play politics with your relationships, pitting one person against another for personal gain. So people come to know that they’ll get a fair shake from you. Where there are differences, you show respect.
When you are fair minded and even handed, you don’t have to have all the answers, and you assume that no one else has all the answers either. Even the simple questions may prove worth your time and consideration. The unfair person divides the world into three kinds of people – smart/agrees with me; stupid/disagrees with me; everyone else/their opinions don’t matter. But not you. Rather than judging one person smarter than the other, you recognize that everyone knows what they know, and what they know must certainly have some value somewhere. Not just on good days, but on bad days as well, you know that everyone is doing the best they know how. In moments of insight and moments of dumb, you show respect to everyone.
When you treat people fairly, you treat them as you want to be treated, and don’t do to them what you don’t want them to do to you. And whenever someone does to you what you would not do to them, you treat them as you would want to be treated, and deal with it the way you would want it to be dealt with if if were you who’d done it. This translates into an uncommon ability to put yourself in others’ shoes. You hear what people tell you in terms of what it means to them, and you consider what you want to say in terms of how it will come across to them.
I’ve known, interviewed, and worked closely with plenty of successful people. I’ve met CEOs and Presidents, royalty and prodigies. I’m not naming names here, but I think it fair to say that the more successful people are, the less likely they are to put on airs, drop names, and otherwise show off. They are successful because they don’t waste time trying to impress. They prefer to have influence. They know there is more to gain in life through connection and positive relationship than they can ever discover on their own. Whether it’s the Queen of England or the Vice President of Toyota, whether it’s the person opening the door or sweeping the floor, people are people, and just like you, they need people to succeed.
So what do you, as a fair minded person, do with the condescending person, the one who seems to think he or she is better than you, who tries to impress you, who wants you to agree that they are your better in order to feel better about themselves? You have a choice. You can take their condescension as an insult, or you can put yourself in their shoes and realize they puff themselves up because they feel insecure. To interact fairly with such people, no matter how condescending they are, you can know the truth and the truth will set you free. When dealing with condescension, that’s the time to practice humility, to be big enough on the inside to humble yourself a little on the outside and, if you can find the humor in it, to humor their fantasy. Because the important thing is that you know what the truth is…that people are people no matter the title, no matter the behavior, no matter the situation.
A wonderful side effect of treating people as equals is what happens inside of you. Practice equality and you’ll learn equanimity, that mental and emotional composure that keeps you steady in tense situations. Human relationships often have their share of tensions, and the ability to see yourself as equal with others will help you find and keep your balance and calm no matter what’s going on.
To develop your fair mindedness, pay heed to your judgments. When you come across less fortunate souls, think “There but for fortune go I.” When you cross paths with people doing better than you, admire them for their success. Because people are people. You have no idea what people have to go through to make it in their lives. But you can know that both you, and they, are no more or less deserving than anyone else.
I’d love to hear your comments on fairness, and how it effects your openness to influence, and the openness of others to your influence.