There’s one thing getting the way of the vast majority of messaging: The Persuader’s Paradox.
What is that, you ask? Well, it’s like the opposite of the Golden Rule. Instead of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” the Persuader’s Paradox goes something like, “do unto others what you’d never want done to you.” The result: in the pursuit of trying to persuade someone (or a lot of them), you make them less likely to act or change.
I see this all. the. time. Often, when someone goes into “persuasion mode,” they seem to forget that they’re a human, speaking to humans. So they:
- Lead with their solution or answer, or
- Never connect their solution to what their audience cares about, or
- Use language the audience doesn’t recognize or understand, or
- Don’t ever make an actual case for their idea beyond just “you should do this because you’re not doing it now”, they just focus on features and benefits
Sounds familiar, right? I’d guess we can all think of a time when someone “sold too hard,” or was “pushy,” or something similar.
But what about those times when <gasp> you’ve done the same thing? Because, you know what? We all have at one time or another.
And I get it. You want to get your point across. You want to sell your products and services. You want to make an impact with your ideas. Those are all great goals. For your message to be successful it needs to be tied to a specific outcome.
If you’re suffering from the Persuader’s Paradox, though, it’s likely that you’re so focused on what you want to say (and why) that you forget what people need to hear to be persuaded in the first place.
One of my workshop participants recently read me this quote from mathematician Blaise Pascal:
“The art of persuading is as much that of agreeing as that of convincing.“
Isn’t that great? And I don’t love it just because it’s a great pair to my other favorite Pascal quote (“People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they themselves have discovered than by those which have come into the minds of others.”). No, I love it because held within that quote is the antidote to the Persuader’s Paradox: focus on what you would say yes to, if you were the audience.
Make no exceptions. Don’t say, “Well, that person does it!,” or worse, “My audience is different,” (they’re not; they’re still humans).
Instead, ask yourself, “Would I want this said or done to me? Would this work on me if I didn’t know anything about this before?”
In other words, remember that you’re human. And so are they.Focus on what you would say yes to, if you were the audience. Click To Tweet
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