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The power of persuasion

The power of persuasion

Oh yes, this blog post will get into the nitty-gritty of persuasion. The inspiration? I could say that in my student years when I was working in retail to afford my college tuition, much of my income was based on my own power to persuade (oh damn the days where I got a bonus for every deal I closed). However, that is not the inspiration of this blog post at all. Nope, homegirl is moving in together with the boyfriend in a matter of weeks now and I just need to convince the guy that we NEED new furniture. Yes, motives behind blog posts come from such self-centered places sometimes. Also, curious how to increase the chances of getting your way? Make sure to read on!

Okay, people, before you get worried I am turning into a devious girlfriend, it is really not about getting my way. Learning to become more persuasive is also a beneficial skill to further your career as natural prevalence is related to good leadership. But that intro wouldn’t have grabbed your attention as much, would it?

Understanding the concept of persuasion

As Tim Urban advises, I started off looking up about the concept of persuasion on Wikipedia. There, persuasion is defined as follows: “Persuasion is an umbrella term of influence. Persuasion can attempt to influence a person’s beliefs, attitudes, intentions, motivations or behaviors.”

There are two main types of usages that we also cover in this blog post:

  1. In business: Persuasion is a process aimed at changing a person’s or group’s attitude towards an idea/event/other person/information etc.
  2. In the pursuit of personal gain.

Now, let’s get into the tools and tactics I like to use to persuade.

Pick your battles

Like with everything, try to persuade in moderation. To actually achieve your goal, the trick isn’t to do more. Actually, it is to do less. Be selective in what you are trying to convince other people of. This way, when you are persuading to make a certain point, it will be perceived as more power.

Perform a little inception

Have you seen the movie Inception with Leonardo DiCaprio? In that movie, a team tries to persuade a villain to change his decision, as this has huge consequences. For the villain to be actually making the decision, he needs to be convinced the decision is his instead of the teams’ (which it is). The team goes through deep layers of lucid dreaming to plant, and thus incept, the idea in his mind. The villain will think that the idea has always been there in his unconscious mind and voila! The villain decides what the team wanted him to while thinking the decision was made by himself all the way. The takeaway for us here: deliver your message in such a way, the receiver will think it’s his idea, to begin with! People are more likely to agree when they seem to have come up with the idea themselves.

In the fall, I am making a little road trip to Florida when it is my goal to not only visit Harry Potter’s Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. I also would love to swim with manatees (or at least spot them in the wild). Now, here’s a silly little example of how I performed some inception when I knew I couldn’t also pick the manatees: I know my boyfriend is more into nature than cities when it comes to holidays, so I showed him a really nice picture of swimming manatees in Florida. The only thing I said there was: “Look how cool! I thought you might like this.” The image has been floating around in his mind for a few days and he suggests that we should try to visit the manatees while we’re there! Mission accomplished (in the end he figured out that it was actually my wish to visit the manatees as my giggle ruined my cool attitude towards it).

Pyramid your principles

Besides the little psychological tricks one can do to persuade, there’s obviously a more business-related tactic for the workplace. Enter Barbara Minto’s Pyramid Principle. This principle can be seen as a method of systematic persuasion where attitudes and beliefs are leveraged by appeals to logic and reason. The concept of this method is explained as follows: The Minto Pyramid Principle refers to a process for organizing your thinking so that it jumps easily off the page to lodge in a reader's mind. It notes that people ideally work out their thinking by creating pyramids of ideas:

  • Grouping together low-level facts they see as similar
  • Drawing an insight from having seen the similarity
  • Forming a new grouping of related insights, etc.

Extended thinking eventually ends in a single pyramid of ideas, at many levels, obeying logical rules, and held together by a single thought. Communicating the thinking requires only that you guide the reader down the pyramid. The Pyramid Principe is used in big strategy consulting firms like McKinsey for structured communication.

I personally like to use it whenever I need to give an advice on a certain business decision. My audience usually consists of decision makers that aren’t interested in all the details about how I’ve come to the advice. They just want to hear what I think they should decide on and why. Here, I point out my conclusion first (the action call). All the hard work that I’ve put into analyses I have done in advance is input for the arguments to structure and emphasize the conclusion. I make sure to have that ready for grabs, but do not lead the conversation with it. This also works when you are making a slide deck. Be sure to plan your setup, emphasize the main message and put analyses in the appendix.

And now you’ve learned how you can persuade into getting the specific furniture pieces and extra closet space from the boyfriend (Luuk, if you’re reading this, I threw out 20% of my wardrobe, no worries <3). What are your tips and tactics into persuasion? Let us know in the comments below!

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