If a stranger walked up to you and, for no obvious reason, demanded that you move a few feet from where you’re standing, your reaction would be the same as that of virtually all human beings on the planet. You would be inclined to stand firm and not move. This feeling is called psychological reactance, and it occurs anytime someone takes an action to restrict your freedom or choice.
The unpleasant emotion experienced when people attempt to prohibit an activity or thought generates a flood of negative statements internally and externally. It also usually produces the opposite result of what others are asking of us. Interestingly, this idea applies when leaders give speeches and presentations, as well.
If you want to be rejected by any audience or in any conversation, just do this: Tell people what they believe. We react any time someone presumes what we believe. Even if it’s true.
We’re told the key to a successful presentation is knowing your audience, what they care about, and what they know; however, some things are best left unsaid. What an audience believes is a prime example. We just don’t like being told what we believe by others. We hear it as condescending and pretentious. Most of all, we hear it as restricting our freedom to think differently.
Our first response is to say with our inner voice: “How do you know what I believe?” Or, we say loudly in our heads, “No I don’t!” Not the start most presenters are looking for.
Bottom line: Don’t tell people what they believe. You will produce a negative reaction without even knowing it. Tell them what you believe instead.