Perhaps the greatest challenge in the art of persuasion is to persuade oneself.
I don’t mean that you need to be convinced that you’re right about the great issues that face us today. But you may need to be convinced that you really can persuade people.
After years of frustration, and even of ruptured relationships, who could blame you for giving up, and getting aggressive? It’s reasonable to think that if you can’t really persuade someone, then at least you can tell him “the truth,” and put the burden on him for his failure to change his mind.
I’m convinced on principle, and from experience, that people can and do change their thinking as a result of effective persuasion. I’ve seen it in the workplace, and on the street. Believing this in your core may constitute the hardest part of the battle.
There’s a strange phenomenon in life: When you actually believe something can happen, you radically increase the chances of it happening. If you don’t believe, your negative perspective can serve as a self-fulfilling prophesy. I’m not being mystical about this. Your expectations have a lot to do with your results. They guide your actions and attitude, often in subtle, even subconscious ways.
So, after years of getting rejected and beaten down by friends and strangers alike, how can you believe that people are going change their minds as a result of your influence?
The first step is entertaining the possibility that the problem is not the stupidity or the evil motives of other people, but rather the persuasion strategy which you have thusfar, perhaps unwittingly, employed.
In other words, it’s not all or nothing — not “my way or the highway.”
Over time, with WinSome you actually grow your circle of friends — and therefore your circle of influence. Practically speaking, you can almost forget about your mission to change minds if you’ll merely focus on winning hearts. As people come to like and respect you, you’ll find they naturally gravitate to the animating principles of your life.
Do you find it difficult to imagine having a friend who disagrees with you politically or theologically? That’s a major barrier to your progress.
How you can ever hope to influence a person if she doesn’t like and respect you?
Years ago, I read a true story about a world-champion bass fisherman. He competed against others who had all of the same gear, experience, and knowledge he had, and yet he consistently beat all comers in bass fishing tournaments. Asked how he was able to do that, the champion fisher said, “You can’t be afraid to get your boat scuffed up.” He added, “You can’t be afraid of losing a lure.”
Professional bass fishers typically have expensive equipment. The champ suggested that if you’re more concerned about scraping the finish off the hull of the boat than you are about catching a lot of big bass, you got your priorities wrong.
One more thing he said stuck with me for more than 25 years: “If you want to catch more bass, you have to go where the bass are.”
You see, many people of passionate principles do most of their fishing in an aquarium. We devote most of our days — particularly on social media — fishing for compliments from our comrades. We say that our ideas matter, and we vocally celebrate them, but we do so in a way designed to elicit “attaboys” from folks who already see the world the way we do.
Spending too much time among this insular circle of like-minded people gives us a distorted view of the world, and creates in our minds caricatures of outsiders.
Bass fishing makes a fine analogy for our purposes. I need to go where the bass are. I can’t be afraid to get my boat scuffed up. And I need to lure people with what appeals to them, not necessarily with what appeals to me.
I love my smartphone. It’s cool, and beautiful, and does amazing things. But if I were bass fishing, I wouldn’t drag my smartphone through the lake on a string. Bass don’t care about smartphones. They eat other fish. If I want to catch a bass, the lure I use simulates the look and movement of a small fish.
It’s common sense that to appeal to someone who is different than me, I need to understand that person’s thinking, his desires, and his preferred communication style.
Try a Little Romance
A smart husband doesn’t buy his wife what he really wants for Christmas. He appeals to her desire, even though he might think it silly, or useless. His purpose is to strengthen the relationship, not to reinforce his own preferences, nor to prove to her what she should.
What does romance have to do with political persuasion? Much.
At root, it’s about putting the needs of the other person above your own. Actually, it’s deeper than that. It’s about finding your joy in delighting another person.
When you can thoroughly enjoy giving someone else your full attention, speaking to her in terms she understands about things that matter to her, and treating her with the kind of dignity with which you also wish to be treated, then you’ll find that persuasion happens almost as a matter of course.
At the heart of WinSome strategy is the heart. When you put your heart into it, others will sense your sincerity, and connect with you emotionally.
At this point you’ll discover what most great salespeople already understand. The vast majority of people make emotional decisions, and later justify them rationally. Even a hyper-rational customer oftens follows his heart, and then constructs a plausible rational defense for his emotional decision.
Elsewhere in this primer on WinSome strategy, I talk about the idea of “heart-thinking.”
While people like me entertain ourselves with the notion that we are serious thinkers who stoically employ strict logic, if truth be told, we’re not that heartless. We can’t be. Our emotion runs faster than our reason.
To short-circuit the lightning-speed responses of our emotional minds takes more discipline than most folks care to exert. Gut-level intuition may, upon further review, be rejected by our cold rationality, but the heart is still a gateway to the mind. It’s the best way to connect to most people.
The good news is that you already know how to do this if you have a spouse, a child, a beloved sibling, parent, grandparent or pet. Because you know how to love, to respect and to connect with another in the way she most appreciates, you can apply those same skills to the art of persuasion.
This is the mindset WinSome strategy requires.
People will change if I give them affection, respect, and some time. If you believe this, you actions and attitude will come into alignment with your purpose, and the results will surprise and delight both you and your new friends.