Scientists tell us that solid planets form when tiny particles attract each other by means of their own gravity and stick together in a process known as accretion. I believed it, but it was difficult for me to imagine it happening.

A few days ago, I washed a dark blue afghan, which produced lots of little tufts of lint clinging to the washer tub and the afghan itself. So I took the afghan to my balcony and shook it. Now I had little tufts of blue lint all over the balcony. Making a mental note to clean them up later, I went inside and put the afghan in the dryer.

When I returned to the balcony, I found that all those little tufts of lint, some of which had lain several feet apart, had collected themselves into a little blue ball. Seeing this allowed me to believe in accretion in a way simply knowing the scientific explanation never had.

Persuasion, consensus building and related communication skills can be like that. Have you read about a skill in one of my books or blog posts and thought, “Well, OK if she says so, but somehow I can’t imagine it working that way for me”?

Maybe you questioned the insights that come from preparing in writing for a consensus-seeking conversation. [Love on the Rocks with a Twist, pp. 4-9 and 22-35; Bridges to Consensus, pp. 56 et seq and Appendix A] Or perhaps you doubted that you could use open questions to uncover people’s interests and find mutually agreeable solutions. [Love, pp. 44-46; Bridges, Chapters 5-7, 10]

I challenge you to actually try the skill in question and let me know how you do?

Your coworker asks you to cover for him while he takes a long lunch. Instead of either (1) saying, “Sorry. I need a long lunch myself,” or (2) scrapping your plans in order to accommodate him, you tell him your interest, “I’d like to help you and also get a flash drive I was going to pick up at lunch,” and ask an open question to learn his interest. “What’s going on with you today?

If he says, “I need to buy supplies for my son’s poster contest,” you might reply, “What if I get your son’s stuff for you while I’m out getting my flash drive?” Nobody needs to compromise.

Or if he says, “Doctor appointment,” you might reply, “What if I cover for you, and you pick up the flash drive for me?” Again, nobody needs to compromise.

And even if no win-win solution results (maybe you both had doctor appointments), by asking the open question to understand his interests and seek a mutually agreeable solution, you reduce the chance that your coworker will resent you for refusing, or that you will resent him for “making” you change your plans.

Only by trying the skills, seeing for yourself how they work, can you truly appreciate their power. And if your first efforts, just like your first time at any new skill, are less than brilliant, just contact me for a bit of coaching.

I want these skills to change my readers’ and clients’ lives as much as they have changed mine.