Monday, July 6, 2009


I recently wrote a newspaper article in which I made the point that the most important factor in being persuasive is your personal credibility. Those of you subscribing to this newsletter for a while know that I speak of the importance of credibility often and I will just recap it here. Over the next few newsletters I will discuss the OTHER components of persuasion.

Credibility is about two things - THE PERSON (you or someone you are listening to) and THE MESSAGE. As a skilled persuader, you need to be able to separate the two and offer them for analysis so that they are easy to understand and accept. As a listener, you need to be able to decompose your counterpart’s perspective into these two categories and analyze them as to their clarity and weight.

- Does the persuader have a track record for being knowledgeable and well-informed? Make sure that if you are trying to persuade someone, you make it easy for them to feel at ease with your track record. Let them know in a humble manner of your credentials, your familiarity, your history, and your access to the information that supports what you are saying.
-Is the persuader sincere? By sincere, I mean that they have put in the required diligence to arrive at their position. If they have not put in what seems like a reasonable effort, it is unlikely that the effort is deserving of much weight.
- Is the persuader open to discussing other possible perspectives? A person that is not open to being persuaded is easily cast as “argumentative” or “closed-minded” and is NOT considered as persuasive as one that openly listens to other perspectives and then can still supply facts that support their point of view. Secondly, someone that is closed-off to other’s viewpoints but can’t refute them is often viewed as having a “personal agenda” and therefore NOT supportive of a mutual goal.

Consider a statement something like this:

“I have been working with a really great team on this project for a number of months. We feel that this analysis is as complete and accurate as we can provide and feel confident in our conclusion. We were fortunate to have access to critical information that allowed us to develop such a complete analysis. I know that the work the team has done and our willingness to stand behind it will reflect well on all of our reputations.”

The statement speaks to confidence, but not to the degree of skill with which the work was done. I might ask “How was the analysis performed? Is that how it is typically done? What has been your success in the past using that method? Who on the team has done this work before? Were there a lot of unique issues on this project, or was it more ‘run-of-the-mill’? What was special about the information you needed and how did you get access?” These kinds of questions probe at the “knowledge-ability” and diligence of the speaker. How these are answered reflects a great deal on the persuasiveness of the speaker.

- Is there sufficient evidence to support the message presented?

In order to determine sufficiency, consider the following:
*Is it easy to follow the reasoning, step by step, or does it seem convoluted or overly complex? Even the reasoning for complicated technical issues can be reduced to simple steps in most cases.
*Is there enough evidence and is it from reputable sources? Evidence is most persuasive if it is gathered firsthand, has some expert backing, and can be independently verified.

Consider that you are proposing a new customer service process, for instance. It is persuasive if you can point to a simple experiment that you conducted to prove it out in principle and get a few endorsements regarding the results from some people that are known for having expertise in customer service.

Credibility is one of four components of persuasiveness. Next time, we’ll talk about another – Demonstrating Common Ground

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