The Macho Test
One of the most irritating aspects of workplace politics is trying to convince someone who takes a Macho attitude. Everyone knows how hard it is to develop and share ideas with someone who knows it all or has to be the center of attention.
When a person is running what we call a Macho Pattern they operate as if they believe the following:
- They already know everything there is to know
- They do not have any problems; they and everything connected with them are perfect
- If there are problems, they are of someone else’s making
- They are better, higher, more important, and more knowledgeable than anyone else
How many times have major decisions been made to assuage someone’s ego or to prevent someone from losing face? Just listen to media interviews. When the interviewer asks if someone was surprised by the turn of events, rarely if ever will the person admit to being surprised. That would be saying that they did not already know everything there is to know. Once I sold a sales training program with optional follow-up coaching. No one took up the coaching offer because that would have meant conceding they needed help. Now the coaching is just part of the training program.
All of us become Macho at times. Notice your reaction when one of your parents tells you what to do!
To make sure that even someone who has become Macho will consider your ideas, you could use the Macho Test as an editing technique. While I have formalized the Macho Test, you probably have already done something like this yourself to make sure your important messages get through.
Write a draft of the document or prepare what you are going to say. Then look it over and ask yourself the following questions about what you have prepared:
Is it anywhere stated or implied that:
- There is something they don’t already know,
- I am telling them what to do,
- They have a problem and I have the solution,
- They are not perfect in some way, and/or
- I am better than they are in some way.
If any of the above are stated or implied, it does not pass the Macho Test! You may wish to rephrase as follows:
- As you probably know… (then state the thing you suspect they do not know)
- Use the language of suggestion: You may wish to consider….
- I understand that other organizations have had this issue and what some of them have done is….. How have you solved this problem? (implies they have already solved all the problems)
- With your experience and knowledge in this area…
- Your role is… My role is… (establishing different yet equal roles)
Next time you sense if you present a ‘new’ idea, the person will deny it’s actually new, try suggesting that it may be something they have already considered. You probably already know exactly who the Machos are in your life. I find that once I rephrase to pass the Macho Test, the people I’m addressing stop being Macho and become more willing to participate in the free flow of ideas.
I published an article entitled: “Ten Tips for Surviving the Health Care System.” The title passes the Macho Test as “tips” are only suggestions. It would not have received nearly as much attention had I entitled it: “Ten Rules for Getting Through the Health Care System.”
From my years helping people solve communication problems, I have learned that most of the effort is in getting someone into a mental and emotional state of openness, where they will be able to hear what I am saying. When we are successful at getting people to listen and take us seriously, it is because we have pried open enough mental space in the other person for our words to go in.
Don’t believe me? Try it out for yourself!
Have you seen my learning resources on influencing and persuasion?
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