I’ve read a few persuasion books and, in my opinion, they all have the wrong idea about what persuasion is. Persuading doesn’t mean manipulating someone into doing what you want. If you do this, you might get what you want once but you’ll be burning bridges left and right until nobody trusts you again. Persuading means showing people the benefit of choosing what you want them to choose and letting them make the choice. Nobody likes to be “sold” on an idea; people like being in control of their actions.
The Problem
Although it’s pretty obvious that in order to persuade someone you need to present a solid case and let them decide, most people fail at this. This is because they build their cases assuming that others have the same criteria for making decisions. Let me give you a few examples:

  • One of your employees is unhappy and she wants to leave your company. To get her to stay you offer her more money. She leaves anyway because she was happy with the salary she was getting; she just couldn’t bear working Saturdays and on holidays. You never took the time to ask her what was important to her in order to build a compelling case to get her to stay.
  • A potential customer walks into your store and he seems interested in your car tires. You spend 10 minutes explaining that your tires are the cheapest in the market and come in different colors. However, your potential customer is rich and doesn’t care about low prices or color selection; he wants the safest tires in the market and you didn’t even talk about safety because you didn’t know that was important to him.
  • My wife was once mad at me because I used to leave my clothes on the floor. I was mad at her because her workstation was a mess. She thought that clean floors was important but a clean desk wasn’t. I thought the complete opposite. Once we could understand how important those things were for each other, we decided to keep the floors and desk clean.

The Takeaways

  • Different people care about different things.
  • Find out what the person you want to persuade wants.
  • Give it to them.
  • Every time there’s a conflict, it’s likely that you’re not understanding what’s important to the other person. Don’t just assume; ask.