Should you share your struggles, your weaknesses your mistakes? I was doing an online leadership course and one of the questions asked, was “should leaders reveal their weaknesses”? The majority of responses stated that good leaders must appear strong, knowledgeable, experienced and they must not show or reveal any weakness. Of course I disagreed and argued that weakness, or struggle or failure on the journey to leadership are great lessons and assets that can be used to be persuasive.
Every argument, every proposition, every point of view has two sides. One of the keys to being persuasive is to be able to understand both sides of the argument and be able to support and rebut various ideas surrounding the argument. According to University of Illinois professor Daniel O’Keefe, sharing an opposing viewpoint or two is more persuasive than sticking solely to your argument. And it is very rare for an idea or proposition to be 100% right, with no viable alternatives or variations. So understanding all sides of the argument and being able to articulate your position convincingly from both sides is stronger than being one sided, one eyed and closed to possibility.
A great way to discuss the alternative view point or the other side, is if you have been there and you have struggled and you have come through and can now see the best way forward. This struggle gives you credibility and experience on the opposing side. A simple example. My view is that the only way to overcome fear of public speaking is to go out and do it and do lots of it. For 35 years as a person who stutters I avoided and hid from public speaking. I know what it is like to struggle with public speaking. But I say to you, if you want to overcome your fear of public speaking, you must go out and do it. I now teach and inspire people to do public speaking.
So is my stutter, my avoidance, my 35 year struggle a weakness or a failure and lessens my persuasiveness? No, on the contrary, my struggle allows me to demonstrate and persuade people to have a go and to face their fears and do public speaking.
So the next time you have to be persuasive, convince people to adopt your idea or embrace change, don’t be afraid to reveal your own struggle, and your own failures that have led you to your current thinking. Your struggle can be a very persuasive and credible argument.