This is the eighth of the blog posts based on the top ten most read Straight Talk Tips that go to my clients each month. The tips are free and you can sign up for them here

How to use facts in conversations

When you open a conversation by putting the facts on the table you create a solid foundation for the discussion. By themselves, facts are not accusing or blaming. They’re just facts. If you describe them clearly and simply, the better they will be. If you can substantiate them with computer records, registers or other documentary evidence, even better.

Once the facts are on the table, people can give their different interpretations and opinions, without changing the facts themselves. Without facts, conversations can become slanging matches where the person with the loudest voice and the most strongly voiced opinion wins.

If you want to improve the quality of conversations in which you are trying to exert influence or be persuasive, start by working on the way you handle facts.  It will make more difference, more quickly, than anything else. We commonly say, ‘Just give me the facts’, or ‘Let’s get the facts on the table’, but in practice we tend to handle the facts rather badly in conversations.

  • We delay talking about things we find upsetting or frustrating to the point where our emotions take over and drown out the facts. We are so choked up that we cannot be rational or speak clearly and whatever facts we do have are lost. IT’s better to speak up sooner, before you get choked up and unable to speak competently and rationally.
  • Presenting your own opinions as if they were facts may fool some of the people some of the time but is more often the basis for an argument than a rational conversation. Remember that feeling strongly about something does not make your opinion anything more than just an opinion. When you plan a conversation, take time to distinguish the facts from your opinions, then be sure to present the facts first.
  • Facts that are vague or irrelevant do not help make a case. Facts should provide a rational foundation for a conversation. Select your facts with care so they support your view of the situation. Use the best facts you have and only enough to make your case. Too many facts come across as accusation and lead to argument. At the very least, they weaken and confuse the issue. Select just the strongest facts that support your case and use no more than are necessary.

A few minutes of thoughtful planning around the facts of the matter that you are dealing with, before you go into a conversation, can make all the difference to the outcome you achieve.

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