01 May 2018

The Persuader's Tool Box

"Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion."


Creating a persuader's toolbox is one way of addressing a variety of leadership styles, settings, and topics. Doing so reminds me of my dad's toolboxes filled with hammers, pliers, screwdrivers, wrenches, and tape measures.       

A tool that's often overlooked is a question. Whether it's a formal presentation or conversation, what will make the listener want to agree with you? And in your situation, what's the best way to make that happen?

In addition to a legitimate proposition and asking the right questions, what else should be in the persuader's toolbox?

o  A persuasive theory

A persuasive theory seeks a favorable response from the audience. It begins with "why."    

Carefully chosen language becomes a motivating argument that causes others to want to decide in favor of (fill in the blank). The theory, or reason to believe you, should be communicated succinctly in a few sentences. Offering too much information is likely to overwhelm an audience.  

Image result for images for "word"
(C) Oxford Dictionary
Think about how preparation in the early stages might improve the chances for success. The presenter's job, not the audience, is to sort through information in advance.

As Robert Louis Stevenson once said, "All speech is a dead language until it finds a willing hearer." 

o  Stories and themes

We were asked to arrange a mock jury. The law firm and jury consultant put the package together. After that, recruiting participants was up to us. That engagement prompted a closer examination of how lawyers try to persuade juries. 

What did we learn?

Experienced courtroom practitioners attempt to know their juries (or judges) while rolling out what they hope is a persuasive theory of the case (See United States Government v. Microsoft Corp., 2001)
Image result for images for microsoft logo
(C) Microsoft
"A skillful trial attorney knows how important it is to join a series of facts with a unifying theme as jurors deliberate and rely on themes to sort out the evidence. If attorneys don't provide the theme, jurors will do it for themselves," according to University of Washington law professor William S. Bailey. 

Employees, customers, voters, and even congregational members, are juries of their own making and require context by which to make decisions.  

In his autobiography, prominent litigation attorney David Boies writes: "There is much to be said for staying on message, but when you seek to persuade, you must address the concerns of the people you are trying to convince."  

Image result for images for coca cola
(C) Coca-Cola
What's the difference between a story (Coca-Cola's history) and a theme ("More Than a Soda Company")?  

"Stories are about the growth of character. They provide the mythic and emotional skeleton. Themes are the development of ideas and conceptual coherence," says Tristine Rainer. Powerful themes are those that resonate with ordinary human beings. A good theme acts like glue, enabling a few details to stick.    

Ask yourself--do you need a story or theme to persuade? Likely both.   

o  Rule of 3  

In Forbes Magazine, Carmine Gallo makes a strong case for staying close to the "Rule of 3" when presenting ideas. Gallo begins by quoting the U.S. Declaration of Independence, which celebrates three inalienable rights:

-And the pursuit of happiness

Image result for images declaration of independence
Public Domain
He reminds us that those three powerful ideas inspired France to arrange its freedoms into three groups: "Liberty, equality, and fraternity."

Gallo says Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs, loved threes. Macintosh, iPod, and iPhone. The iPad came in three models:  16, 32, and 64 GB of flash storage. The iPad was "thinner, lighter, and faster than the original."  

While our April Strategist Post reported that attention spans have much to do with the person and context, using only three pieces of information (or words) increases the likelihood of some retention on the listener's part.

Maybe that's why preachers are trained to prepare three-point sermons.  

The longer the list, the more challenging the recall.  

You get the idea.

o  Five persuasive words

Gregory Ciotti is a gifted copywriter. I came across his "copy blogger" website and found his wordsmithing approach to persuasion intriguing.   

Here are his five persuasive words:  

1. You     

Using someone's name is even better.

2. Free   

But used only when it makes sense and only in the proper context.

3. Because   

People simply like to have a reason for doing what they do (Dr. Cialdini). 

4. Instantly  

We wanted things yesterday. This idea is showing up everywhere.

5. New

New fixes to old problems. New features and improvements. New designs.

o The 3-6-9 principle

Something worth considering is the 3-6-9 principle from Robert Dilenschneider.  Mr. Dilenschneider is a professional acquaintance who, fifteen years ago, conducted a seminar for a board retreat that featured this multiplication formula:  

3x:   Number of times it takes to make an impression.

6x:   Number of times it takes to be reached.

9x:   Number of times it takes to be believed.  

Image result for images for the word repetition
(C) dreamsOin1digital
This reinforcing matrix is a reminder that one time is not enough when attempting to deliver persuasive-type messages.    

o  Who you are

Content and context are vital to persuading--including the right platforms. But nothing is as important as your own character.  

A lot of what it takes to get and hold someone's attention, to be persuasive, rests with the individual doing the persuading. So Aristotle reminded us of a robust causal relationship between character and convincing others.  

The toolbox may help, but successful persuasion is up to you.


(C) Bredholt & Co.