How can you be unique, but persuaded in predictable ways?

Prepare and prevent, don’t repair and repent.
— Unknown

You are different, there’s nobody just like you. So, how can we be persuaded in predictable ways? Well, there’s a one word answer: process. We can all be persuaded in predictable ways by using a process. This process needs to be based on understanding the psychology of persuasion.

A process means following a set of steps to prepare to persuade faster. Ideally, we would follow this full process every time. But we know managers are busy, so let me give you a first aid kit for persuasion. Reach for these three questions when you need to persuade and you will avoid some common problems.

1.      Ask: Who?
2.      Ask: What?
3.    Ask: What are the consequences for doing nothing?

Begin by asking who?

What’s the name of the person you are trying to persuade? Don’t stop there. Write down what they like and dislike. Write down their interests: what do they care about? What have they said or written? 

A common mistake is just thinking about what you want, “I need Barry to fund this project”. To persuade in predictable ways you must understand what the person you are persuading cares about. For example, if Barry wants to avoid risks and wants proven ideas or Barry wants to take risks and wants fresh ideas, then to persuade we should try to connect with his interests. 

Too often, we know what we want and don’t know what they care about.

Next ask what?

What specifically do we want the person to do? Avoid talking about changing attitudes, ask what do you want them to start doing, or stop doing? Limiting this to behaviours – what you can see –will sharpen the persuasion. At home, don’t ask your teenage son to be cheerful, ask them to empty the dishwasher or clean their room or eat dinner with you.

In business, when we coach teams pitching for business, we always ask: what do you want them to do? Someone always jokes, “give us the order”.  This is unlikely because there are several steps before they get an order. So, we ask the team for a list of possible next steps to move towards them getting the order. Typically, this will take the team 15 minutes because they have not considered some next steps they could ask for. These next steps could be a financial meeting to discuss financing options or a technical meeting to discuss technical queries. All the options involve the client committing more of their resources to the next step. Getting the client to commit more resources to the next step, moves them one step closer to giving the order to you. By tailoring our persuasion to these next steps, it’s a small and easier decision for the client to move forward, and the persuasion becomes more predictable. (So, we are more likely to persuade them.)

Too often we don’t know specifically what we want the person to do or to stop doing. As Lewis Carroll once said: "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there."

Finally, ask: what are the consequences of doing nothing?

Simply, if there are no consequences for doing nothing, then guess what will happen: nothing.

When we say ‘nothing’ that could be saying no to your persuasion or more likely just not responding.

Not responding:                              “Leave it with me ”
                                                           “I will get back to you”
                                                           “I need more time to think about it”

To be clear, no consequences for doing nothing equals they will do nothing. Too many business people and too many parents omit this from their persuasion.  So how can you change the consequences? Look at your answers to question 1. What are the unique likes and dislikes, what are their interests?   How could you change the consequences—to make them more effective for this person?

For teenagers, their interests may be tickets to a Taylor Swift concert or tickets to a Kanye West concert. Or using Netflix or using the X-box. In business, consequences could be unhappy customers, unhappy staff or higher costs or risking losing business.

Too often, we don’t have any consequences for the person we are trying to persuade.

For fast first aid for your persuasion, ask three questions. Persuade unique people in predictable ways.