- Terry R. Bacon
How to Be More Effective at Stating
Updated: Jun 30, 2021
Stating means to make a declaration, to assert what you want, think, or believe. You are not using logic, presenting facts, negotiating an agreement, or appealing to authority. You are simply saying, “This is what I want,” “This is what I believe,” “This is what I’m going to do,” or other variations of an assertion you expect others to accept. Here are some examples of stating:
I disagree. That is not the right way to do this.
I would rather go to the movies on Friday.
We should really start with the second step, not the first.
I propose a moratorium on further discussion at this time.
I thought the prelude was too long.
I am flying to Berlin next week if you want to join me.
I cannot vote or that candidate.
You should read te book first.
Stating or asserting your views or positions is the simplest and most direct way to try to influence people. In effect, you are making an assertion based on your own authority and self-confidence—and those are two keys to stating effectively. Be self-confident and state your position with as much authority as the situation requires.
Tips for Using Stating
The key to stating is confidence. You have the right to express your views and state what you want or believe. Do not worry if others disagree or push back. In most cases, with most people, stating is natural and acceptable.
Stating becomes more difficult if there is a power differential between you and the people you are trying to influence. When the other person has more power or legitimate authority, then stating may not be the right influence technique to use. Consider your alternatives, such as consulting, alliance building, exchanging, or logical persuading.
Another word for stating is asserting, which means “to state with assurance, confidence, or force; to state strongly or positively; to affirm.” Some people are naturally assertive; others not so much so. If you are not assertive by nature, then practice being more assertive in situations where there is little risk—with friends, for instance. Practice saying no when you really do not want to do something someone else has suggested. Practice stating what you want and persist if someone pushes back. With practice, your confidence will grow, and you will learn that it is okay if others disagree.
In business or formal settings, dress one level above what the situation calls for. Research shows that the better-dressed people in these situations command more respect and are more apt to be influential.
Use confident nonverbals. You cannot be thinking about the following tips while you are in the moment with someone. But you can practice them and learn to adopt them unconsciously once you become comfortable with them.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. It makes you look like you are on firmer footing. Try this in front of a mirror, first with your feet together and then with them shoulder-width apart. See the difference.
Do not fidget, wring your hands, shift your weight from one foot to the other, or do anything else that projects anxiety. Practice this in front of a mirror. Look for any visual indicators of anxiety and eliminate them.
If you are sitting, sit asymmetrically—that is, with your torso shifted left or right. Put one of your arms out (along the top of a sofa, for instance) and take up more space. Allow your body to “flow” into other people’s space in a non-threatening but commanding way. Lean back. Look and be relaxed, as though you are in command and feel totally cool and confident.
Use gestures to emphasize key points or otherwise reinforce what you are saying. Avoid pointing a hand or finger at people, which is considered aggressive in most cultures. But be more animated, as though you are speaking with your whole body. Motion draws attention.
Maintain eye contact when you are speaking. Hold your head steady. Keep your eyes focused on the person you are speaking to while making an important point or emphasizing something. However, when they are speaking to you, allow your eyes to wander at least part of the time. Do not be disrespectful, but also do not give the impression that they are commanding all your attention.
Remember that people recall best what they hear first and last. In psychology, this is referred to as the primacy effect (what they hear first) and the recency effect (what they hear last). People tend to retain those ideas more than what they hear in the middle. So lead by stating what you want and close by repeating it.
When you are being assertive, do not allow others to interrupt you or cut you off. If you do, you are giving them control of the conversation and allowing them to dominate. If someone tries to interrupt you, hold up a hand to stop them or say something like, “Just a moment, please,” or “Let me finish.” Or just keep talking over them. If you continue talking, the other person will probably stop. Competing voices are uncomfortable for most people.
Stay calm, especially when others are agitated or anxious. In emotionally charged situations, do not react to personal attacks or insults, and do your best not to become emotional or crack under pressure. Confidence under fire signals that you are in charge and are not concerned about what might happen.
Use a presumptive close rather than asking for permission or agreement. A presumptive close assumes that the agreement has already been reached. Here are some examples:
I have already made the reservations.
I can have my crew here on Monday.
I brought the contract with me. Let’s go over the details.
I have thought about the next steps and outlined them here.
Once you are finished with Part A, we can discuss the options.
As stated earlier, the key to effective stating is confidence. To project confidence, you must feel confident inside, and admittedly this is not always easy. The most confident people believe in themselves and are willing to walk away, believing that, no matter what, they will be okay. To the extent that you can adopt this attitude, you will become far more effective at influencing others by stating.
Avoid overstating or being so assertive that you become aggressive, threatening, or demanding. Stating is asserting yourself with confidence, but you will create resistance and opposition if you carry it too far. If you sense the other person feeling overwhelmed or bullied, then back off.
How to Resist Stating
Normally, when another person uses stating with you, it is a simple matter of deciding whether you want to go along with them or not, and most of us do this unconsciously. A friend states his point of view, and that is fine with you, even if you disagree. Your friend is entitled to his opinion. A colleague asserts that she would rather work on Task A than Task B. You are okay with that, so you agree to tackle Task B.
If you do not want to accept what someone else is asserting, then you can use stating or some other influence technique in response: I am no expert in Task B. In fact, I know little about it. So I would prefer Task A. To resolve this impasse, you may want to shift to exchanging, logical persuading, or another influence technique. What is important is your willingness to push back if you do not agree with the other person’s position or do not want to give them what they want.
In some cases, you may experience overstating, where the other person is pushing very hard, appears to be inflexible, and may even become aggressive. Resisting high pressure can be challenging, and you may need to consider how much your relationship with the other person matters to you.
If the person matters, and if your relationship can withstand this momentary impasse, then decide whether to accept the person’s assertions or find a gentle way to disagree and push back.
If the person does not matter to you or if the outcome is critically important and you think you are right, then stand your ground. Remain calm but resolute. You may be able to use the consulting influence technique and resolve the matter by asking questions like these:
If we move ahead as you want, what is the worst that could happen? Would that be an acceptable outcome?
You are assuming XYZ. What if XYZ is not true?
Where is there room for compromise here? (Get the person to join you in problem solving.)
What if we are both wrong? What are some alternatives?
In the worst case, the other person may be aggressive to the point of trying to intimidate you or threaten you. For guidance on those situations, see two other articles on this site: How to Defend Against Intimidating and How to Defend Against Threatening.
For a more in-depth discussion of stating as an influence technique, see Chapter 4 in Elements of Influence (AMACOM Press, 2012). This book is available at Amazon.com and other online retailers.
Photo credits: Self-confident woman standing with arms crossed: Photo 78197341 © Innervisionpro | Dreamstime.com; Man sitting arm on sofa: Photo 57330828 © Wavebreakmedia Ltd | Dreamstime.com; Five business people at table: Photo 155751405 © Fizkes | Dreamstime.com