One simple tip for becoming more persuasive

Today I’ll give you one very simple insight for how to become much more persuasive, and that is to wait. “Wait for what Filip?” Well, wait for your message to persuade!

Let me explain. When I try to persuade you, you are likely to put up a number of barriers. Perhaps most noteworthy is that your defences will go into overdrive the moment you get even the slightest whiff that I’m trying to persuade you. How many of us like to be persuaded? Let’s just say I don’t think anyone has ever heard the sentence: “Hi I’m Michelle/Bob/Karen/Tim, I’m a Capricorn, and in my spare time I enjoy travel, long walks, hanging out with friends, and being persuaded”.

Once your guard is up it is often pointless for me to continue with my arguments. Chances are that you aren’t even listening because you are now preoccupied with crafting your counter-argument to persuade me. And if you are not listening then I might as well stop talking… and instead start listening to you!

Now, the logic in my argument was not necessarily bad, but the problem is that you aren’t taking it on board. From behind your defences everything I say will be muffled and tainted with the label “wrong”. But give it a few days… weeks… or even months. The idea will still be in your head, but you will start to lose track of where it came from. If you can’t find an external source then it must be your idea. Specifically, if it is a good idea, then it is definitely your idea! 😉

So to persuade you I give you just what the doctor ordered… I give you time… time to persuade yourself!

This approach will not work in every instance – particularly not if my arguments weren’t solid. But then my approach of bombarding you with even more such arguments would have failed as well.

But when this technique does work it produces an extremely attractive by-product, and that is commitment. Because you believe the idea is yours you won’t have the option of blaming anyone else if it fails. So your best option is to make it work.

Being right is not important, but it can be dangerous

(This is a repost from Filip’s original blog)

Negotiation is often discussed in the context of business transactions. And in that context the approach that most of us follow intuitively centers around trying to win by getting the biggest chunk of (what we perceive to be) the available value. (This may be a good time to ready my previous blog on: Why we don’t know what we want.)

But most of our negotiations are not large monetary transactions with similarly groomed executives in high-rise boardrooms. They are simply interactions with others. These interactions may have little to do with money, and everything to do with something much more important to us; being right! Actually, simply being right is not enough – we want the other party to concede that we are right and that they are wrong.

This is a predictable pattern of behaviour. Negotiators love predictability because it gives us greater control of the negotiation. Specifically, if we realize that it is hugely important for the other party to feel that they are right, then we may simply let them be right.

E.g., if I propose a solution to something, e.g. gun control in a previous blog, then I’m not married to the specific recommendation. What I do care about is an outcome that works for everyone, regardless of who came up with that outcome. So if the other party I negotiate with doesn’t like my idea then I simply invite them to help me out: “If you didn’t like my proposal, then how do you recommend we improve it so that it does a better job of catering to all stakeholders’ needs?”

As long as the solution the other party comes up with is better for all, then the only drawback of this approach is that I don’t get credit for the outcome. Unfortunately, this is one major reason why “the skilled negotiator” is such a rare breed – because few of us are prepared to give up credit and recognition! (As described in my upcoming book, having a sensitive ego and being a skilled negotiator are not compatible.) 

Ok, so letting the other party believe that they are right can be beneficial. But can it ever be dangerous? Unfortunately, yes.

If parties don’t look for outcomes that work for all, but rather pursue self-serving outcomes at the expense of others, then suddenly believing that one is right becomes a very dangerous ingredient. Some of the worst atrocities in history have occurred as a direct result of one or more parties justifying their (often greedy, unethical, illegal or inhumane) actions with self-serving beliefs such as “We are the good guys”, “We are right”, or “God is on our side”. In these circumstances, logic and rational thinking effectively get switched off, and we need different tools to resolve the situation than those covered today.