How to Speak to Someone in Authority

Need a raise? A loan? What about mediation or legal representation? Trying to pitch an idea to your company? Have an plan you want to share with leaders in your community?

Situations like these can be so stressful, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and powerless. 

Nevertheless, these are the BEST type of opportunities to learn and to grow as a speaker and leader. 

Consider how the following Biblical story might improve your chances for success: 

We have a great example of an orphan girl from an impoverished war-torn nation, who through amazing circumstances is able to persuade a tyrant king to reverse her death-sentence, restore her condemned people, and offer her half of his kingdom.

The girl is Esther, the king is Xerxes, their true story is found in the book of Esther in the Bible. Her victory, commemorated as Purim, is still celebrated every spring by Jews around the world. 

The Problem:  There was a plot by her political enemies to eliminate the entire nation of Jews. When the plot was revealed to Esther, who had become Queen, she knew she had to do something—even though stepping in could cost her own life. 

Against all odds, here’s what she did, and how her example inspires us to push ahead.

The Preparation Phase: 

  • Do your homework, get all the facts and proper documentation, know who the players are. Understand what your role is and the part you play in the problem, the process and the solution.  (Esther 4:4-14)  
  • Discuss the situation with wise and trusted counselors (4:9, 13) and enlist the aid of people who will support you. (4:15-17)
  • Set aside time to think and pray until your thoughts are clear, your plan is reasonable, your heart is at rest, and your resolve is firm. (4:16)
  • Make the effort. Prepare your presentation. Dress appropriately. (5:1)
  • Be willing to meet them on their turf. (5:1)

Announcing your intent to others you trust before you present provides support and important accountability to help align motives in a healthy direction.  In addition, saying the words out loud is a powerful motivator, and increases the likelihood that you’ll follow through, no matter how difficult it gets or how high the cost. (4:17)

The Presentation Phase: 

  • Let your reputation precede you. Good character will open doors for you. (5:2-3)
  • Find something you have in common. Know the person well enough to know the circumstances in which you will get the most favorable response. Dinner? Golf? Weekend retreat? Alone? In a crowd? (5:4)
  • Set the table for good conversation. Be personable, gracious, kind, hospitable. Set their minds at ease, and let them know that you are not coming after them. (5:4)
  • Be humble, polite and respectful. (7:3)
  • Get to the point. (7:3-4)
  • Make them care. Explain what’s at stake, and how the desired outcome benefits them. (7:4)
  • Tell your story, specifically how this decision impacts you. Well-told stories evoke emotions and enhance personal connections, which boost people’s confidence in you and in the decisions you’re asking them to make. (7:4)
  • Tell the truth, even when it feels risky, awkward or uncomfortable. (7:3-4, 6)
  • Be prepared to answer hard questions. This is where your homework pays off! (7:5-6)
  • When appropriate, offer a solution and tell how you’d work to do to get the job done. This makes it easier for the decision-maker to say yes. The decision-maker might say no if it means more work for him or her. (8:1-2)
  • Keep the decision-maker as involved in the outcome as he or she is willing to be, and adjust the plan as necessary, within the agreed upon framework, until the desired result is accomplished. (8:3-14)

Finally, Celebrate the victory. Allow the decision-maker and those who worked under his/her direction to enjoy the success and adulation their contributions deserve. This not only affirms that the right decision was made, but it also paves the way for future opportunities and successes. (Esther 8:15-17).  


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