Now that I have your attention...
An old speaking adage states that 'you should always avoid controversial subjects.
Which leaves me with one burning question...
If you are a leader, salesperson, or speaker, you will at times be placed in a position of taking a stand about a subject that not everyone agrees on.
If you don't provide a specific point of view, or avoid the issue altogether, how does this make you look?
The most successful people accept this challenge and share their opinions.
Which still leaves the question "why do most people avoid the tough topics?"
I believe it's born from the need of most people to be liked. As a rule, we don't like it when someone is mad at us or disagrees strongly with our point of view.
This need to be liked creates a problem for leaders, salespeople and speakers.
If you're not willing to let others know your thoughts about a difficult subject, you will be either ineffective or quickly forgotten.
How do you feel when you listen to someone talk on a subject that is somewhat 'safe' or even mundane?
You might agree with that person, but do you remember the message, or are you challenged to think?
If you are given the privilege to stand in front of a group and talk, and your inclination is to say what everyone else is saying, take my advice... don't.
The purpose of a presentation should be to change the way an audience thinks, feels or acts. If you are parroting what's been said ad nauseum, what's the point?
Think about the speakers who've impacted you the most. Did they talk about a subject that could upset people, or cause some in the audience to not like them? Most likely, yes.
Were they remembered long after the talk? Did they challenge you to think? Most likely, yes! And that's good.
One critical point to consider when you choose to discuss a controversial topic - do it with respect and in good taste.
The three topics highlighted in the title of this article have been discussed - many times - often with poor results because speakers have either been preachy or even insulting with their comments.
Five keys to discussing touchy subjects:
- State [and re-state] "this is my opinion" and avoid absolute statements of fact
- Acknowledge that this is a controversial topic and that others may disagree
- Ask them to suspend their beliefs long enough to hear your perspective
- Focus on points that support your belief
- Keep Q&A periods short, but offer to be available after to talk further
One other point to consider before tackling a difficult topic - don't do controversy for controversy's sake. There are some people who like to argue just for the sake of arguing. This doesn't respect the audience or their time.
Controversial subjects can be intimidating. They can also present an opportunity to voice your thoughts in a confident and respectful manner. Simply taking the chance to do this can help you stand out from the crowd.
Go ahead - take a stand! You just might end up owning the stage.