If you are facing roadblocks from a client (or a supervisor) when attempting to address and/or implement sustainability efforts, there are a few moves you can make to work toward a more productive outcome.
The key is communicating the importance of your proposed changes to individuals who may not agree with you or fully understand what is at stake if adjustments aren’t made.
When using persuasion, you need to remember not to get bogged down in convincing people that climate change is real or sustainability is the most important part of the business. However, if you can help people understand more about what an impact small changes can make to the bottom line, as well as risks to the business by ignoring sustainability, the larger picture will hopefully become clearer over time.
When people feel like they are being heard, they are more likely to be open to hearing your suggestions.
We previously discussed some tips for working to encourage positive movement in the direction of sustainability, but here are the basics:
Develop counter-arguments to their strongest held positions, try to shift your thinking from convincing to learning. Consciously shifting into a learning mode can help you gain insight in order to be creative, collaborate, and move the conversation forward.
Increase exposure to supporting evidence for the new belief, such as presenting case studies from similar companies that show successful results.
Provide information from multiple sources and try to include evidence from the sources that the individual builds their belief system from.
Address the emotional attachment, but remember not to make your argument personal or push the individual too hard or fast in your direction.
When you are making efforts toward sustainability remember to have conversations about where your clients or managers believe the company is going and what risks it might face in the future.
With this information you can better frame sustainability efforts as solutions to the risks they could face. Then be prepared to listen, listen, and listen some more.
In 8 Ways to Get a Difficult Conversation Back on Track, Monique Valcour examines why you need to be open and curious about opposing perspectives. When people feel like they are being heard, they are more likely to be open to hearing your suggestions.
Try to think of these challenging communication efforts in terms of shifting your relationship from opposition to partnership. Remember you want to help your team focus on small wins that contribute to a larger strategy, while doing your best not to get caught up in broad policy arguments or differences of opinion on scientific findings during the implementation phases.
Just keep moving forward and encouraging the team to do the same!
This article first appeared on Strategic Sustainability Consulting
Jennifer Woofter is the founder and president of Strategic Sustainability Consulting, a boutique firm specializing in helping rapidly growing mid-size businesses integrate sustainability into their business model, and providing coaching and training to sustainability professionals. She tweets at@jenniferwoofter.