This review first ran in the June 6 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.
By Dave Kerpen
Supporters of Hamilton’s billion dollar light rail transit (LRT) project deserve full marks for doing their homework.
They’re a fount of knowledge on all things LRT.
It’s now time to show us how it’s done when it comes to community engagement, starting with an immutable truth.
People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.
Giving us the gift of more internet memes, blog posts, op-eds and parody accounts on Twitter is one way to show how much you care.
Or you can heed the advice of Dave Kerpen, author of The Art of People, founder of Likeable Local and cofounder of Likeable Media.
Shut up and listen, says Kerpen. Everyone wants to be heard. Ignore, dismiss or belittle us and we’re unlikely to get on board no matter how transformational and beneficial the project.
“You have to actively listen and authentically care about the person who is talking to you. You have to genuinely focus. But if you can do this (and it takes practice), it will help you curry favour with and strengthen relationships with people every single time.”
Show your friendship first is an essential life lesson Kerpen learned from his father-in-law. “You should show the other party you’re there to help him, that you care, before you even consider asking something of him in return. There’s no better way to show that you care about the person you’re meeting with than to genuinely, authentically ask her what you can do to help. By establishing that you care and that you’re there to help, you’ll gain trust and eventually influence.”
Also remember that your passions are not universally shared. You need to start with what other people care about and then move to common ground. “People inherently care a lot more about themselves and their families than they care about you, and certainly if you are a relative stranger, they care way more about themselves than they care about you or anything you have to say.”
And resist the urge to always be right, relentless and righteous with your arguments, counter-arguments and retorts. It’s better to be happy, says Kerpen. “It’s nearly impossible to change someone’s mind. Arguing usually just helps the other person solidify their opposition to you. It’s much easier to state your case and then change your own mindset – to choose happiness – and let the other party sit with the situation until she comes around to your position on her own.”
Mastering the art of people is essential to building support at work or in the community. It’s your people skills – your ability to listen, connect, lead, teach, influence and inspire others- that will decide whether you get what you want or come up empty.
“The days of forcing or bullying your way to the top are over,” says Kerpen. “The loudest, most aggressive, most assertive people are no longer the winners in business and in life. The needy, whiny, pushy people might have been successful in the past and might even be successful in the short term today, but they won’t be the winners in the future. Instead, the winners will be the people who know how to understand themselves and connect with and work well with others. The key to wielding influence and getting what we want is to be the person others like, respect and trust.”