Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ben Franklin's Rules of Persuasion

Benjamin Franklin was a very good persuader. His style was to win people over slowly and, often, indirectly. Franklin would say that, if you don't win the bargain today, go after it again tomorrow. His advice on bargaining included:

  1. Be clear, in your own mind, about exactly what you are after.

  2. Do your homework, so that you are fully prepared to discuss every aspect and respond to every question and comment.

  3. Be persistent. Don't expect to "win" the first time. Your first goal is to start the other person's thinking.

  4. Make friends with the person with whom you are bargaining. Put the bargain in terms of their needs and benefits.

  5. Keep your sense of humor.

It is clear that Franklin's model covers many important points. One must have a clear purpose in their business communications, and it is not only prudent but respectful to do sufficient homework so that you understand, believe, and can fully and honestly communicate the merits of the facts as you understand them.

Further we agree that, when one is trying to shift another's ideas, it is best to be patient and persistent. After all, when was the last time you changed YOUR values or beliefs the first time someone challenged them? In those instances in which facilitating change is part of the communication's goal, Ben's ideas are right on target. We might add that the important thing is to get all the information the group has out in the open so that the decisions are well-informed by all available data. The idea is to collaboratively arrive at the "winning" idea.

Franklin's observation about "making friends" is interesting. One of the ways that statement can be read would lead one to think that "making friends" so you can find out what the person values, and then use that knowledge to persuade them is what Franklin had in mind. We would hope that is a misinterpretation of his message. We would hope that the correct interpretation would be to understand what the other person values in order to assure that their needs are considered and embodied in any decisions because we want the best possible outcome for all involved.

Keeping your sense of humor is important, and even MORE important is your sense of curiosity, your openness, and your humility. In a collaborative discussion where the desired outcome will require someone changing their mind, it is important to be as willing to be persuaded as you are willing to persuade. One of the 13 key principles regarding collaborative problem solving developed by Aristotle is the principle of fallibility which states that "in an argument, it is likely that there is only one correct position and there is a possibility that NONE of the positions presented are correct." Yours may be one of those incorrect positions, so stay humble and speak tentatively. Think back to a conversation in which you were SURE you were right, and then one piece of information was shared that changed everything.

Insist on great business results! Go to Pathfinder Communication

No comments: