Elizabethkuhnke's Blog

Putting Together A Compelling Case

Posted on: April 18, 2011

  • Getting into the other person’s head
  • Confirming your thinking
  • Making your position enticing

When you want to persuade someone, your proposition has to make sense to them.  No matter how compelling your proposal is to you, if it fails to ignite your audience with passion, or at least a modicum of interest, your efforts to bring them on board will be wasted.

People are only interested in how your request applies to them. Sad, but true. So, when you want to persuade someone you need to understand them and then position your proposal in a way that’s compelling to them.  Find out about their beliefs, values, and motivators. Turn to others who know them to learn about the issues they’re facing.  The more you know about your audience’s desires, needs, and concerns the better you’re able to prepare and present a convincing argument.

Having figured out the points you’re going to address, you need to present your position in terms that inspire and  resonate with your listener.  Language that is vibrant, appealing, and tangible is infinitely more persuasive than words and phrases that are dull, dry, and dreary.

Make sense to the other person. While you may find this difficult to live with, persuasion requires time and effort.  The best persuaders take the time to learn about the people they want  to influence and come to mutually satisfying shared solutions.

Today’s business environment is filled with authority adverse baby boomers and their Generation X offspring working in cross-functional teams of equals.  The days of command-and-control leadership are long gone.  Except in traditional hierarchical organisations like law and medicine, instant communication and globalisation have eroded the customary pecking order, with people and ideas flowing around the organisation and decisions being made closer to the markets.  The outcome is that people no longer simply ask what they should do, they want to know the reasons why. This is where the process of persuasion comes into play.

While persuasion does entail moving people from where they are to where you want them to be, the process is more complex than simply cajoling or demanding.  Unless you’re plausible, unless you connect at an emotional level and find a common ground with the people you want to influence, and unless you can provide vivid evidence for your proposal, you don’t stand a chance of getting people to come on board with you and your proposals.

Appeal to their values. More than 2,300 years ago, the Greek philosopher Aristotle pointed out that demonstrating a shared set of values with people you want to persuade would win you more points than basing your arguments on logic alone.  Sharing similar values leads to trust and understanding and with those two components in place, you stand a better chance of persuading someone than if your value systems are in opposition.

People hold values in different categories and the more values you share with them, the more  likely they’ll trust and relate to you. When others believe you relate to and care about what’s important to them they’re going to respond more positively to your suggestions than if they thought you were only out for yourself.

Provide proof. When you’re putting together a compelling case, remember that human beings are social animals and social animals like to belong to groups.  While you may find an occasional dissenter to this proposition, research shows that because people value the sense of belonging, they’ll find an idea, a product, or a trend more appealing or correct when other people do, too. 

Even if someone doesn’t originally subscribe to a proposition, if the majority of the people in your group do, chances are more likely than not that they’ll change their thinking to go along with the norm.  Other people’s actions and opinions serve as proof that a particular way of thinking and behaving is in their best interests.

This blog is adapted from Elizabeth Kuhnke’s upcoming Persuasion and Influence for Dummies – due for Autumn 2011 publication.

For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

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