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Add Some Punch to Your Voice

Boxing champion Daniel Mendoza could really throw a punch. Despite his relatively small size for a heavyweight -- barely five feet seven and 160 pounds -- he dominated the British prize-fighting scene in the late 1700s. But it wasn't simply the power behind Mendoza's slugging that allowed him to dispatch his larger opponents. In fact, the timing of his punches gave him a unique advantage.

As a pioneer of the scientific approach to boxing, Mendoza figured out a seemingly obvious way to defeat his challengers: throwing the first punch. While his bigger and stronger competitors expected the diminutive fighter to play defense, Mendoza caught them off guard with his audacity to land the first blow. Mendoza's hit-first technique is credited as the inspiration for the idiom, beating them to the punch.

As it turns out, Mendoza's boxing strategy can help you win the verbal skirmishes waged against your creativity on a daily basis.

Perhaps you've noticed when offering a suggestion that someone is always eager to shoot down your idea. A well-meaning boss, for example, might dismiss your recommendation with the helpful recollection, "We tried that once, and it didn't work." Or a coworker might admonish, "Management will never go along with that idea." If you're like most people, you get weary of the constant jabs at your innovation and stop making suggestions.

Why not employ Mendoza"s fighting style when selling your ideas? The champ knew his opponents were going to punch him, so he punched them first. No, I'm not saying you should physically hit people who assail your ideas. But if you expect their arguments, you can beat them to the persuasive punch.

Here's an example: In his speech to the 1948 Democratic National Convention, Hubert Humphrey called for civil rights reform. The way it would normally work is that Humphrey would make his remarks and, the following day, the opposing opinions of his political rivals would appear in the media. Humphrey would have to answer his opponents the next day, but by then his argument would have lost steam.

But rather than waiting for the other side to voice its contrary view, Humphrey stated it for them, and in the same sentence he provided his follow-up response. "To those who say that we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say to them we are 172 years late." In other words, Humphrey anticipated his opponents' attack, and he beat them to the punch.

Know that there will always be people with good reasons why your ideas are bad ones. When preparing your case, stop and consider their most likely arguments. Then, like Humphrey, build your counterattack into your sales pitch. "To those who say we've tried this before without success, I say our previous experience has shown us the obstacles we can overcome."

When demonstrating your creativity, never go down without a fight.

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