“Persuasion is the art of getting someone to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.” – Aristotle, Greek philosopher.
Although Antonio Meucci is credited with inventing the first basic phone, Alexander Graham Bell won the first patent for the device in 1876. In 150 years, we have come a long way. So far, in fact, that many millennials and younger struggle to communicate effectively unless they speak through some sort of technology.
In 1973, Motorola released the first handheld mobile phone. Since then, we have had worldwide access to the internet, smartphones and all of the benefits (and detriments) that come with them. Apple (my favourite tech) produce unique technology that benefits all that choose to use it.
But all of this fantastic technology has completely changed the way we communicate. Not better or worse, just different. Adapting to such a fast-moving landscape will mean certain qualities that we have relied on in the past begin to diminish, and others will be born.
The art of influence and persuasion is one of these being slowly eroded, as there is less need for face to face meetings. Why meet in the office when you can email one another? Strategic body language, tonality and persuasive language patterns are becoming a thing of the past.
But whether you are writing emails, text messages, FB messages or speaking face to face; the human brain doesn’t adapt that quickly. Moving towards your desired destination in dialogue is an art form. I have spent nearly 10 years learning from master communicators, both studying and on the field in a business environment.
Why Would You Want To Direct Communication?
Nikola Tesla was a genius and is to be highly revered in the scientific community for his phenomenal work. However, his communication and business skills were not as sharp. He was primarily funded by a gentleman by the name of George Westinghouse who was in the process of a takeover by JP Morgan. As part of the deal, JP Morgan told Westinghouse that he must rescind a royalty contract that he had with Tesla with regards to his patents. Westinghouse managed to persuade Tesla to accept a buyout of his patents for $216,000 when, in reality, they were worth around $12 million.
Tesla essentially got ripped off of his patents, financiers and the credit he for the greatest invention of his career – The AC system, which is still the standard today.
Had Tesla been as sharp with his communication, negotiation and business skills as he was with his science, he would probably be known as the greatest scientist to have ever lived. And he would not have died penniless in a hotel room.
Being able to persuade people to your desired outcome allows you to create and manifest in the world. This can happen on a micro level – in a single conversation, or on a macro level – a huge enterprise (think Tesla the company)
Is It Ethical?
Yes. Just suppose you held the key for free energy; would you feel it necessary to persuade the world to use it? If you didn’t, I’d suggest your lack of effort in trying to convince the consumer is unethical.
In the same way as a knife can be used to butter your bread or kill someone. The intention is what’s important.
In 2014 I met one of mentors, Rick Otton. He ran seminars on Real Estate across the world and taught me a lot about business. However, his primary skill, in my opinion, was his communication skills. I spent a week with him in London, learning how to influence and persuade using verbal language and body language. His new book has been released recently.
“You can’t solve today’s new problems with yesterday’s old processes”.
― Rick Otton
One of the most profound things that Rick introduced was the make-up of the brain.
He split the brain into two sections. ‘The front bit’ and ‘the back bit’ (one of his primary teachings was to speak to people as if they are 12 years old because ‘no one ever asked anybody to explain something more difficult for them’)
The front bit (frontal lobe) being used for motor function, problem solving, spontaneity, language, initiation, judgement etc. Essentially that which makes us a Human over another animal.
The back bit (temporal lobe), in particular the Amygdala, is responsible for our fight or flight response and embedding processes, which create our habits. Think of it as a cache on a computer.
Once you have a basic understanding of what is going on between a person’s ears, you can see where they are operating from as they communicate.
As an example:-
‘How are you doing today?’
‘Not bad thanks, how are you?’
‘Darling, I love you’.
‘I love you too’.
They are patterns that are embedded in the ‘back bit’. We hold these patterns in an array of areas.
Imagine for a second trying to grab your partners attention:-
‘Darling, I love you’.
‘Thanks, honey. Fancy going to get the dinner ready?’
The above would create something called a ‘pattern break’, which would shock the person into actually listening to you and breaking their pattern for a second.
Obviously, if you want to study the brain in more depth, you can find thousands of studies and science all over the internet. It isn’t necessary to become a brain specialist to understand a conversation, language and communication.
Similarity and Rapport
People crave comfort.
Knowing this, you can strategically create an environment that makes the other parties feel comfortable. This could be speaking with a similar tonality, or using similar language. This is simple rapport building.
At this point, the whole purpose of a conversation is to persuade people to move towards your end goal. In a business environment, this could be a negotiation with set figures to close a deal. Or maybe speaking to a spouse about where to go on holiday.
Persuasion starts with intention
Without intention, where are you leading to?
The same with life and strategy. If you don’t know where you need a conversation to go, you will not know how close you are to your ideal outcome and will probably have no boundaries either.
Before any interaction, know the destination before your arrival.
“Self-esteem is the reputation we acquire with ourselves.”
― Nathaniel Branden, Six Pillars of Self-Esteem
I believe that the quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their level of self-esteem. Whatever a person thinks about Self is what they will bring into the world. And therefore, it may be worthwhile beginning to work on the beliefs you hold about yourself before you consciously attempt to influence and persuade. It will be far easier to persuade others if you have learnt how to persuade yourself.
Having confidence in yourself to be able to express, lead, and influence will inevitably lead to more success than if you are not confident in yourself. The majority of people have minimal self-worth and self-esteem and are, therefore, easily led. This is why the governments and ‘powers that be’ can influence the masses into doing more or less anything they want and direct the group mind towards their own nefarious ends.
A grounded person, who has integrated self-esteem will be able to influence, persuade and communicate effectively. They will also not be able to be manipulated towards other people’s (and the crowds) negative agendas.
Emotion or Logic?
“When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.” – Dale Carnegie
The average person makes decisions with their emotions and little rationality. They will then back up this decision with logic. This is why women can have 100 pairs of shoes and still feel the need to get another pair; justifying the purchase by telling their partner that she didn’t have any to go with her new dress.
So how can this be used in a conversation? What questions can move people into an emotional state?
1.By using time as a tool – Moving people into the future.
Where do you see yourself in 12 months?
2. By asking people what is important to them
Is that important?
Why is that important?
(You will go a couple of layers deep with by following these questions in order)
3. By encouraging their imagination to run wild
What is your ideal scenario?
Describe what that would look like?
Getting others to own the idea
The pinnacle of influence and persuasion it to get the person you are speaking to believe that they have created the idea.
People will believe 100% of what they say. They’ll believe 5% of what you say. Who do you think should be doing all the talking?” – Rick Otton
If the idea comes from their mouth, it must be true. If it comes from your mouth, they’ll more than likely have resistance to it.
For example. Instead of the following…
“I want Indian food tonight from Spices”.
“Nah, I fancy Chinese”.
“We always go where you want to go” etc
Ending in friction and a possible argument.
“Do you want to go out this evening?”
“Yes, where are you thinking”?
“I was thinking of somewhere with some spice… where do you think?”
“How about an Indian at spices? You like it there, don’t you”?
“Yes, great idea. I’ll book it for 8.”
A simplistic overview but one that will make the point.
6 Critical Elements of Influence – Robert Cialdini
Robert Cialdini is a psychologist and professor at Stanford University. In his book’ Influence: The Science of Persuasion’ he said there were 6 key elements to the art of influence.
We are obliged to give if we have been given something.
If it’s scarce, we want it more. Use this by highlighting the benefits, uniqueness and possible loss.
We are more likely to comply with a request if it is coming from a perceived authority/expert.
We want to be consistent with our past commitments, even if the initial commitment is much smaller.
We like people who are similar, who give us compliments and who co-operate with us.
If others (particularly people similar to ourselves) are doing it, then we are more likely to do it ourselves.
Take a look at his Cialdini’s work for an in-depth scientific explanation.
Milton Erikson could be described as the godfather of modern hypnosis. His life is a fascinating story, and one I’d invite you to explore.
Amongst his vast array of incredible work, he created what has now become known as ‘Milton Model Language Patterns’.
Take a look at these patterns and how they can be utilised.
Entrepreneurialism and the use of Persuasion
I believe we are all entrepreneurs in the sense that we can create and bring forth our individuality should we gain the skills and knowledge to do so. I struggle to think of a more critical skill than being able to communicate your message effectively as we grow into entrepreneurship.
The world is evolving at such a phenomenal rate that many jobs will be lost (many created too) and entrepreneurship is going to be the choice of vocation for millions who have never started a business before. To add to this, they have never needed to sell, negotiate and close business transactions. For these people, learning how to persuade and influence will not only create their new living but give them a sense of fulfilment.
Imagine Steve Jobs, one of the greatest entrepreneurs of recent history, building Apple without being able to influence others. Of course, this involves much more than language and communication, it requires a vision that moves the hearts and minds people. Yet, Steve Jobs was a master communicator; check out the speech he did at Stanford University in 2005.
As we move into a world with a completely different dynamic, one of the fundamental skills to master is communication. Both face to face and digitally. The content may shift; in the form of technology, but the context will not change. Human beings have been influenced by one another forever, and this won’t change.