Dealing with skeptics and cynics

It is a futile effort to try to please everybody. Everyone will have his/her opinions and experiences that will affect how each person deals with everyday life. Cynics are those who are distrustful of humanity. They do not believe in the concept of altruism and for them, at the end of the day, humans will almost always uphold his/her self interests. Cynics commonly believe that motivational speakers only do what they do because of money, claim to fame or for some hidden agenda. They also have a tendency to frown upon positive emotions. Skeptics, on the other hand, question the truth upon everything especially those facts that are commonly accepted. Most of these people could have spent a great time reading or are experts on their own respective field. Both types of audience members present a challenge to motivational speakers. Here are ways in which you can deal with them without losing your cool:

Be open and understand them.

speakerIf your enemy is using fire, do not try to fight him/her with fire or both of you will end up destroying each other. If a cynic or skeptic tries to ask question or to voice out his/her opinions, be open and listen to what the person has to say. Understand that sometimes, people (particularly cynics) have bad experiences that led them to adopt a negative approach to life and speaking up and challenging you is a way to voice out their frustrations. Being fortunate to be blessed with positivity, you must be open and you should try to find a common ground between the person’s ideals and your beliefs.

Do not try too hard to be defensive.

This might sound as counter intuitive, but this is true. Welcoming intrusions and questions is the more positive way of doing things. Instead of trying to block whatever is a cynic or skeptic is trying to say, demonstrate a genuine interest on the other person’s view, and treat it as an opportunity to reflect on your belief systems and to grow. Being welcoming to other ideas works well with skeptics as these people think they know more (and most of the time they are!) so they have a tendency to feel as if they need to be respected and listened to. Aspiring motivational speakers should remember that life is not about proving others wrong or proving that they are right. Life is about living and practicing your beliefs the best way you can.

Do your homework.

This applies more for the skeptics. You should always discuss both the positive and negative sides of your material. If there are scientific studies that support your methods, it is wise to also present some studies that say otherwise. In this way, a skeptic would know that you are not entirely unschooled and you do not just prefer studying materials that would support your beliefs. Losing to a skeptic might lead to losing the whole audience especially if the skeptic is a known expert. Mastery of your material is key!

Make your audience list their issues regarding your topic.

Doing this beforehand will allow you to identify the skeptics and cynics in the room. You are not doing this to single them out and kick them out of the room! You are doing this so that you can anticipate their issues and later questions. Skilled motivational speakers can easily adapt the way they discuss their materials such that they can deter debates regardingthe issues listed by skeptics and cynics.

Engage the audience

This will work more for the cynic. When a cynic asks a provocative question, they may sound as if they are trying to lure you into a debate. Do not fall for that. Instead, engage the audience by asking questions likes: “Who among you shares the same sentiment?” or “If you are in his/her situation, what would you do?”

Bring the boss.

This is obviously applies on company workshops and seminars. Requesting for the presence of a higher-up may temper heckling tendencies of some audience members. This is not a guarantee but this may help prevent any disruptive behavior.

Motivational speaker should remember to objectify the comments, criticisms or sometimes even the heckling tendencies of skeptics and cynics. Most of the time, skeptics and cynics hold nothing personal against you and your work in general. Acknowledge the fact that they may just know something that you do not know or they may have just experienced something that you have not experienced. In case of the former, knowing your topic or material well and preparing for any negative comments is key.