1: “Stabilize the patient” is good advice in the Emergency Room and in any situation where our goal is to persuade a person or group to take action.
For example, mediators are taught to acknowledge each party at the start of the mediation process. Just as “patients need to be stabilized immediately, before any diagnostic or treatment procedures,” writes Esther Choy in Let the Story Do the Work, “likewise, what mediators need to do before anything else is to acknowledge each party’s desired outcome, however unreasonable or unrealistic.
“When people are in emotionally charged situations, feeling heard can disarm resistance to change,” she writes.
Acknowledgment is the invisible ingredient that keeps people engaged and motivated in many settings and circumstances. To acknowledge is not the same as to agree with. Instead, it is about letting our audience feel heard, understood, and validated. Acknowledgment is defined as:
1. To accept the existence of;
2. To recognize the fact or importance of; and/or
3. To show that one has noticed.
Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project, believes: “To feel valued (and valuable) is almost as compelling a need as food.”
When we acknowledge what someone is thinking and feeling, we create a bond with them. “How do we make people perceive us as being like them?” Esther asks. “By telling stories that accentuate our similarities in a strategic, authentic way.”
2: This principle also applies when we are giving a presentation or trying to persuade someone. The “Acknowledge-Inspire-Aspire” framework, or AIA, helps us put this concept into action.
Glenn Hollister was charged with getting 400 frontline sales executives from one of the top four US airlines excited about using a new sales dashboard.
“Let’s face it: no one loves big changes,” Esther writes. “That’s why executives and consultants have such a hard time making change happen in their organizations.”
Glenn understood there would be resistance to the change. So, he began with the first A in the AIA framework: acknowledging his audience. He started by describing in great detail “the life of an airline executive, literally minute by minute,” writes Esther. “Wouldn’t the audience be bored by that, [we] might ask. Not at all. The executives he spoke to were not only paying close attention to Glenn’s presentation, but they were giggling, clapping, and cheering.”
Once an audience feels acknowledged, they are much more likely to listen to what we offer.
After gaining his audience’s trust and attention, Glenn moved on to the I in AIA: Inspire. He “inspired his audience to envision a much more efficient way to spend their workdays by unveiling the new dashboard and all its features. He walked them through the major functionalities and benefits.
“Then by comparing and contrasting their current day in a life (current state) with the state of affairs once the new dashboard went live (desired state), Glenn enabled his audience to picture vividly how much easier their lives would be with the new dashboard,” writes Esther.
He concluded by getting the executives to aspire, the second A in the AIA framework, to “perform at a higher level: spending much less time on emails and prep work and more time engaging with their customers,” notes Esther.
3: We can use the AIA model for any presentation or pitch.
Step 1: Acknowledge our audiences by telling stories from their perspective.
Step 2: Inspire them to feel good about the proposed change, idea, product, or service.
Step 3: Motivate them to aspire to a better future with concrete details about our idea, product, service, or solution.
Reflection: Consider a time when I was persuaded by someone to change my mind or take action. What role did acknowledgment play?
Action: Identify an upcoming opportunity to experiment with the AIA framework. Do it.