Today I finished reading the book “Thank you for Arguing” by Jay Heinrichs. Heinrichs uses historical figures like Cicero and Homer Simpson from fact and fiction to illuminate the art of argument.
The book is written in a hilarious tone with lots of asides for pro tips on how to argue more effectively.
I had a hard time deciding what to post because there’s so much good content in this book. Today I want to focus on the topic of persuasion.
“Persuasion can attempt to influence a person’s beliefs, attitudes, intentions, motivations, or behaviors. In business, persuasion is a process aimed at changing a person’s attitude or behaviour toward some event, idea, object, or other person, by using written, spoken words or visual tools to convey information, feelings, or reasoning, or a combination thereof.” – Wikipedia
Persuasion gets a bad rap because of all the negative attention it receives. Books like The Hidden Persuaders and Influence shine a negative light on persuasion. They talk about how it can be used to compel people to do things they don’t want to do or that could even harm them.
Each of us uses persuasion on a daily basis. We need to use persuasion to communicate our needs, assess the needs of others, and work together to create win win situations like Stephen R. Covey talks about in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
In order to persuade someone, you need to sound like him.
“You persuade a man only insofar as you can talk his language by speech, gesture, tonality, order, image, attitude, idea, identifying your ways with his.” – Heinrichs
The audience only cares about three things. Have you prepared? Do you know what you’re talking about? And what do you have to offer me?
“Persuasion doesn’t depend on being true to yourself. It depends on being true to your audience.” – Heinrichs
Heinrich encourages readers to keep the three parts of the proposal firmly in mind as you are persuading:
“Every proposal should have three parts – payoffs, doability, superiority. Describe the benefits of the choice, make it seem easy to do, and show how to it beats the other options. You might even keep your audience in suspense, not telling them your choice until you have dealt with the alternatives. Rhetoric is most effective when it leads an audience to make up their own minds.” – Heinrichs
Don’t think you’re getting through to the person you’re trying to persuade? Are they expressionless in the face of your crystal clear valid points? You might need to change up your strategy.
“When you want to change someone’s mood, tell a story.” – Heinrichs
Finally here’s one of the pro-tips Heirichs shares in the sidebar of the book. The idea is to show the audience that you are just like them. It’s called the Pratfall effect:
“Reveal a weakness that wins sympathy or shows the sacrifice you have made for the audience.” – Heinrichs
How do you persuade in your work and life? Have any horror stories of taking persuasion too far? Contact me I’d love to hear about it!