The Harmful Allure of Point-Making

Influence matters a great deal in the achievement of fundraising goals. The more influence an institutional leader, a gift officer, or a volunteer has with a donor or prospect, the greater the opportunity to encourage generous responses from that donor or prospect.

People give to people.

But the process of enhancing one’s interpersonal influence is generally misunderstood. For many – especially those in leadership positions – the myth is that point-making is the most efficient way to increase influence with others.

The thinking goes like this:

“Influential people are those who are experts, those who have clear and concise answers. Therefore, the more clearly and concisely I communicate my points, the more influence I will accrue with others.  I will be viewed as the expert.”

And so, a habit forms.  A habit of point-making.  Of talking more than listening.  Of stating more than asking.  Of telling more than understanding.

In addition to elevating a sense of personal influence, point-making also makes us feels good emotionally – at least in the moment. For many people, there is a rooted sense of discontented satisfaction in communicating one’s perspective and point.  (If you do not believe this to be a wide-spread truth, simply look at the ubiquitous use of social media.  Regardless of claims to the contrary, social media has not “increased connectivity” among people nearly as much as it has provided a platform for people to make their points known to the world.)

But point-making rarely gets us what we claim we want – which is more influence.

Instead, the habit of point-making creates the opposite impulses in others.  The habitual point-maker is viewed as imperious, arrogant, overly-dramatic, disrespectful, condescending, and even, ignorant. Perpetual point-makers cause people to view them as less influential over time.  People avoid point-makers if they can.

What has proven over time to enhance an individual’s influence is the opposite of expert point-making.  True influencers are curious.  They ask questions about others.  They listen and respond. They position themselves in the minds (and hearts) of others as being interested learners.

If, in 2021 and beyond you want to become more influential (and, thus, more efficacious) – with donors, with prospective donors, with colleagues, with your supervisor, with your Board – then become a skilled, open-ended questioner.  Adopt a more curious disposition when it comes to the stories of others.  Pursue more understanding not more point-making.

To reinforce the impotence of point-making vs. the power of understanding, take some time to watch Daryl Davis talk about his experience as a black man with Ku Klux Klan leaders.

There is an easily accessible and beneficent way to influence others for good.  And as advancement and development leaders, we should be leading the way.

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