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The Subtle Science of Getting Your Way
By Mark Rodgers
AMACOMCopyright © 2015 Mark Rodgers
All rights reserved.
The Basics You Need to Know, and Why You Need to Know Them
"Will you do it?"
The surrounding offices were still and dark. Even the up-and-comers had gone home for the evening. An ancient vacuum's tortured whine pierced the quiet as the nighttime custodial crew worked its way down the hall. The hum of the cheap fluorescent lights overhead added an interrogation-room quality to the discussion.
Sally Matheson, the marketing vice president in charge of the project, waited patiently, her calmness masking the fact that a multimillion-dollar project's deadline hung on the answer to the question she'd asked just minutes ago. IT Vice President Peter Simmons—the best in the organization, maybe the business—had heard Sally ask for help countless times during the past five years; he knew her well.
Sally faced one of the toughest persuasion challenges: peer to peer. She had no ability to reward or punish. No desire to threaten or cajole. Everything boiled down to this relationship and her ability to persuade.
* * *
Has your success ever hinged on someone agreeing with your initiative? Have you ever watched a project fail due to lack of buy-in? Stood dumbfounded as someone else was handed the promotion you coveted? Watched a potential client pass on your proposal in favor of a more charismatic competitor?
Whether you are in the executive suite, in middle management, or on the front lines, persuasion skills are crucial to ensuring that you have the best chance of career success. If you internalize the concepts in this book, you will be able to ethically convince more people to get on board with your ideas, more quickly and more effectively than you ever imagined. You'll be able to generate organizational "buzz" for your initiatives, your results, and you, creating professional evangelists who will sing your praises.
In meeting rooms, hall chats, and off-site gatherings, the word will be: "You can't move on that project until you talk to her." Or "Don't even try to launch that product without consulting him." Not because you hold some hierarchical power or budget (although that may be the case), but rather because you have such professional gravitas.
In order to reach that point in your workplace environment, though, you need to start somewhere. Let's begin with key definitions.
WHAT IS PERSUASION?
To the uninitiated, the term persuasion has negative connotations. "You're not going to persuade me!" they say defiantly. Or the well-intentioned person may proclaim, "I would never try to persuade someone."
Persuasion is not coercive, conniving, or devious. Drop that inaccurate psychological baggage right now. No one can be persuaded to do something he or she doesn't want to do. The person may have second thoughts or buyer's remorse, but that's another subject entirely.
I define persuasion as "ethically winning the heart and mind of your target." Let's take a moment to examine this definition word by word. Ethically means simply doing something honestly and without trickery or deceit. Winning means gaining agreement with your suggestion, idea, or position. Heart refers to gaining emotional buy-in, mind refers to logical buy-in, and target represents the specific person you are attempting to persuade. (To make the ideas presented here more accessible, the first seven chapters will look at persuasion through a one-on-one lens; Chapter 8 will cover how to apply persuasion in group settings.)
A term often used in conjunction with persuasion is influence. Influence is the capacity to become a compelling force that produces effects on the opinions, actions, and behavior of others. Occasionally, I'll use the term influence as an effect that "nudges" a target toward thinking positively about my request. But I'd like for you to primarily think of influence as your professional and personal credibility, your organizational and political capital, your corporate "sway." Persuasion is an action; influence is a state or condition.
I'll say this again: One thing persuasion is not? Manipulation. Nor is it underhanded or self-serving. Could you use the tactics in this book in a manipulative and self-serving manner? Sure. Will you reach agreement? Absolutely!
After that, your persuasive powers with that particular person will be all but finished. Manipulation does not help build long and lucrative careers. Whether you're attempting to persuade or dissuade, you have to be doing it for the right reasons and in the right manner. Here and there, I'll point out how some people use persuasive tactics in ways that are clearly manipulative (such as the real "Wolf of Wall Street"), while some companies and brands skate the fine line between ethical and manipulative persuasion. However, my underlying assumption, as author, is that you, as reader, will always be operating with the best interests of your target, your clients, and your organization in mind.
TWO PRIMARY ROLES OF PERSUASION
To understand what persuasion can do for you and your career, we must begin by clarifying the two fundamental roles of persuasion. The first involves getting someone to say yes to your offer or request—to buy your product, agree to your idea, or take you up on your suggestion. Persuasion helps you get someone to willingly do something. You may want that person to:
Approve a higher head count: "Will you sign off on my four new field sales positions?"
Enter into a business relationship: "Do we have a deal?"
Support your initiative: "Will you back my proposal at the board meeting?"
The second role of persuasion—and one that many people overlook—is getting someone not to do something, to dissuade him or her from taking action you feel might be harmful, such as using a particular supplier or launching a particular product. For example, you may want that person to:
Not go ahead with a new business partnership: "That firm is just bouncing back from bankruptcy; do you think we should partner with it?"
Discontinue, or at least rethink, an existing initiative: "Our East Coast teams aren't seeing much client interest."
Change a decision, or at least continue due diligence: "Do you think he is the right person for the job? If we keep looking, we might be able to find a better fit."
Law enforcement officers in San Francisco use the power of dissuasion very effectively. Bicycle thefts are so widespread that a special task force uses GPS-tagged bait bikes to catch would-be thieves, which forces small-time criminals to ask themselves one significant question before they steal: Is this a bait bike?
If you're going to thrive in the eat-or-be-eaten contemporary workplace, you must be able to effectively use both roles. This book provides you with a competitive advantage, because your competitors are more than likely not focusing on their own persuasion skills. Why? Consider a condition I call the "Persuasion Paradox."
THE PERSUASION PARADOX
In a nutshell the Persuasion Paradox can be summarized thus: Although persuasion is crucial to people's success for many reasons, they actually spend very little time and effort improving their persuasion skills. In fact, at best, many professionals take a mindless approach to persuasion. At worst, they abhor the practice of persuasion, striving to avoid it. The mindless ones, either consciously or subconsciously, assume that just because they've heard people say yes to them—and they've given the same response to others—they understand the complexities of attaining agreement. This supposition couldn't be further from the truth. The act of persuasion remains a significant obstacle for many professionals, and they might not even be aware of it. However, like failing to check your blind spot before darting out into the oncoming lane on a narrow highway to pass a slow-moving vehicle, ignoring this obstacle can lead to disastrous results.
The ones who abhor persuasion treat it like a dead rodent. They want nothing to do with it, think it smacks of the dreaded word sales and conjures images of white shoes, plaid jackets, and glad-handing used-car salesmen. But successful people, who are neither mindless nor abhorrent, don't see persuasion that way. Professionals at the top of their game understand not only that it is okay for them to promote their ideas and issues, but that it is incumbent on them to do so.
Having someone say yes to your ideas, offers, and suggestions ranks among the greatest achievements in the business world. It represents validation, respect, and acceptance among your peers and others. In author Daniel Pink's survey of American workers, "What Do You Do at Work?" for his book, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others (New York: Riverhead Books, 2012), he discovered full-time, non-sales workers spent 24 out of every 60 minutes involved in persuasion efforts. To say effective persuasion is merely important is to make an extreme understatement.
Persuasion requires intellectual heavy lifting. Understanding your target, knowing how to increase the value of your offering (or, conversely, decrease the resistance of your target), choosing the right words, and determining the timing of your persuasive efforts all are prerequisites of effective persuasion. The fact that you are reading this book means you're willing to take steps to break out of the Persuasion Paradox. No approach or technique can guarantee persuasion success, but if you put into practice the ideas and advice found on these pages, you will dramatically increase your chances.
So, let's talk about you and yes.
SETTING YOUR PERSUASION PRIORITY
Let's consider your career. If, in your professional endeavors, you could flick a switch and convince one person to do just one thing, what would that be? Do you want to get the assignment? Bring a new product to market? Overhaul the Customer Service Department? Win the promotion? Land a big-name client? Secure a budget increase?
Each of these is what I call a "persuasion priority." To get to the heart of the matter, ask yourself this: Who is the one person you want to say yes, and to what? Note: When setting persuasion priorities, it's often more effective to state them in the affirmative, even if you're attempting to dissuade someone. For example, if you want your target to not choose a particular vendor, phrase your priority along these lines: "I would like Steve to weigh other options before choosing his vendor." Before you answer the above persuasion priority question, consider the four persuasion priority criteria. Your persuasion priority must be:
1. Meaningful: Important to you and your organization
2. Significant: Large enough to make a difference in your life and workplace
3. Realistic: But not so large a request that it's unattainable
4. Others-Oriented: Because you get ahead by improving the condition of others
Be specific, too. Avoid generalizing with a statement such as, "I'd like my boss to give me more responsibility." That's too imprecise. To increase your chances of persuasion success, specificity is crucial: "I want my boss to give me responsibility for the Latin American project." Don't say: "I want my senior vice president to add some people to my staff." Instead, say: "I want my senior vice president to approve five key new hires for my department next quarter."
Stop reading right now and write down your persuasion priority, which you will keep in mind as you work your way through this book:
I want _____________________________ to ___________________________
Of course, at any given time, you'll have multiple issues and objectives for which you seek agreement. But if you'd like to receive the biggest return on your investment of time and money in this book, keep your persuasion priority top of mind. As you move through these pages, strategies and approaches will emerge to significantly increase your chances of getting to yes. And if you've chosen your objective carefully, achieving it will have a dramatic and overwhelmingly positive impact on your career—and perhaps your life.
SELF-TEST: ARE YOU MADE TO PERSUADE?
Behavior is how you conduct yourself in a given situation. In professional settings, wildly persuasive people balance the following attributes:
Assertive: Inclined to be bold and self-assured
Empathetic: Possess the ability to see the world from another person's perspective
Communicative: Adept at applying verbal and nonverbal communication
Tenacious: Extremely persistent when adhering to or accomplishing something
Resilient: Possess the ability to recover quickly after hearing no
Evaluating Your Skill Sets
Now it is time for you to evaluate your natural persuasive abilities. Rank yourself in each of the five areas based on the descriptions above. A word to the wise: Doing "well" on this self-test isn't about scoring 10 in each area; it's about possessing the right blend of these key behaviors. After all, a strength overdone is a weakness. (Let's say you have great voice inflection and people find you an engaging and persuasive public speaker. Go too far with that voice inflection, though, and you'll sound like a crazy—and not-at-all-convincing—late-night infomercial host.)
So be honest in your self-critique. And try to resist the temptation to peek at the scoring while you're doing this. This self-test will be most useful to you if you have honest results.
Low: You rarely ever raise a new or contentious issue with others. Medium: You regularly speak out in meetings and present cases for your statements.
High: Others might describe you as hardheaded or strongly opinionated.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Low: You rarely consider another person's perspective.
Medium: You easily determine when others want or don't want to continue a conversation.
High: You've cried tears of joy at another's success.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Low: You tell everyone the same thing, the same way; you also send a lot of group emails.
Medium: You can explain most things to most people.
High: You intentionally vary both verbal and nonverbal approaches to suit your audience.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Low: You try to convince people of an idea, but you're not going to force them to agree with you.
Medium: When you want something, you'll keep trying to get it for a good long time.
High: You hold on to your positions and objectives forever.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Low: When people say no to you, you feel personally rejected and depressed for days or weeks.
Medium: When rejected, you feel down, reflect on what happened, then move on.
High: Nobody likes to hear no, but you quickly shrug it off and move forward.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Interpreting Your Results
Here's my take on the optimum score for each essential behavior:
Assertive: Ideally, you should score around a 7 here. You certainly can't be devoid of assertiveness and be considered persuasive; at the same time, if you gave yourself a 10, you might have already crossed the line from assertive to aggressive.
Empathetic: An 8 is great. You can't be tone-deaf to the other person's needs, but you also shouldn't make your objectives completely subservient to your target's every whim. You want to put yourself in the other person's shoes temporarily—not live there.
Communicative: This is where you want to hit the persuasive ball out of the park. Communication skills are crucial. What you say, how you say it, where you say it, when you say it, and what you're wearing all count. You want to be at your best, using both verbal and nonverbal communication to suit the message needs of your audience in much the same way a chameleon changes colors depending on mood and circumstances.
Tenacious: This one might surprise you. To be a persuasive professional, you should score only about a 5 or 6 on the tenacity scale. If you hold on to your ideas too tightly, you may quickly establish the reputation of someone who is unreasonable or obstinate. The key to knowing when you've gone too far is having the ability to decode corporate-speak. When people start telling you they "like your passion," that's code for "We think you've lost your mind." When you hear that, ease off the throttle.
Excerpted from Persuasion Equation by Mark Rodgers. Copyright © 2015 Mark Rodgers. Excerpted by permission of AMACOM.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsForeword by Alan Weiss, vii,
1 Persuasion Fundamentals The Basics You Need to Know, and Why You Need to Know Them, 5,
2 Decision Making The Surprising Reasons People Say Yes and No, 25,
3 Targets, Technology, and Tactics Because It's Not About You, It's About Them, 46,
4 Building Your Business Case Creating the Logical and Emotional Foundations of Your Argument, 65,
5 The Credibility Crucible How You Get It, Why You Lose It, and How You Win It Back, 92,
6 Power Language Verbal and Nonverbal Communication Tools to Skyrocket Your Success, 106,
7 Persuasive Processes A Five-Step Sequence to Yes, 128,
8 Persuasion 360 How to Get Agreement, Up, Down, and All Around, 145,
9 Persuasion 911 What to Do When Your Persuasion Attempts Go Awry, 162,
10 Yes Success What to Do When Your Target Agrees (and Why Most People Don't Get This Right), 175,
11 Your Persuasion Action Plan How to Get a 10,000:1 Return on Your Investment in This Book, 189,
12 The Psychology of Self-Persuasion The First Person Who Needs to Say Yes ... Is You, 203,
About the Author, 230,
Free Sample Chapter from Just Listen by Mark Goulston, 232,