Is there a persuasion formula, a simple way to think about it so we can be better at it? Yes. There are three predictable things you’ll need to address in order to persuade an audience: goals, perspectives, and truths. When we change someone’s mind, we’re changing one of those three things. It’s not easy, however, to change what someone wants or what someone believes.
The one thing you can shift in the moment, though, is someone’s perspective. How do you do that? Remember the phrase, “when two truths fight only one lives.” The other name for that is cognitive dissonance. It’s a psychological term that explains how our brains process conflicting information. Getting that battle of truths to happen in our audience is where persuasion happens.
The persuasion formula, then, starts with figuring out your audience’s goal— what they want. Next, understand how they’re currently looking at achieving that goal and then contrast that with your own perspective. Finally, find something your audience believes to be true that will conflict with their previous perspective. When you have all three parts, they add up to a shift in thinking, and the persuasion formula you’re looking for.
– In everything we do, day in, day out, personal, professional, there’s this big question. How do we persuade people to see things a different way? It’s true whether in marketing or sales or speaking or presenting.
Everything we do comes down to if we’re trying to drive action, how can we persuade people but is there a persuasion formula? Is there a simple way to think about persuasion so that we can get better at it? I say yes. I’m Tamsen Webster of tamsenwebster.com and that’s what we’re talking about this week on Find the Red Thread. Do me a favor, like and subscribe.
It makes sense why we’d want a persuasion formula. After all, a formula makes things easy. It uses predictable parts in a predictable way to produce fairly predictable results. We need to persuade people or we need to change people’s minds on a regular basis. whether about big things or small things and we want to make that as easy as possible.
The good news is that there are predictable parts and you can use them in a predictable way. So what are those predictable parts? Well, the predictable parts are goals. What people want. Perspectives. How they’re looking at the situation and truths, things that they know or believe to be true about the world and the way it works.
Now, how do you use them in a predictable way? Before we get there, we need to understand what is it that’s really changing when we change somebody’s mind. When we’re changing somebody’s mind, we are changing one of those three things. We’re changing what they want, we’re changing how they see, and we’re changing what they believe.
But it’s not easy to change what somebody wants or what they believe. I mean, think about it. If there’s something that you want, how likely is it that you’re suddenly going to unwant it particularly if you want it really, really bad?
Same thing about something you believe. If you believe in the golden rule that you should do unto others as you would have them do unto you, it’s unlikely that you’re going to suddenly change that belief. When it comes to a formula for persuasion that produces fairly predictable results, which is the goal, we want to make sure that we are shifting the perspective. We need to think about how people are looking at things. That’s the only thing that we have a chance of shifting in the moment.
Now, when it comes to how to use these, we need to understand how these things work together. At the core of this is one phrase that I want you to remember. When two truths fight, only one lives. When two things that we believe to be true come in conflict with each other, only one will reign supreme. One of them always wins out.
Now, that’s my simple way of saying what cognitive dissonance is, which is a fancier term for the same concept. Cognitive dissonance is a concept in psychology that talks about the cognitive (thinking) dissonance (disagreement). That happens when we try to wrestle with two things that we believe to be true that seemingly oppose each other. But we can create cognitive dissonance in people’s minds and when we do, we can get that battle of truths to happen. That’s where persuasion happens, in that battle for truth.
So when it comes to creating a formula for persuasion, we just need to figure out those pieces. The first is the Goal. The want, the thing that the person we’re talking to really wants. And importantly, the thing that they’re unlikely to un-want because we don’t want that Goal to move.
We want them to continue to want something. It’s the easiest way for us to get them to think differently about how they get it.
Now, the second thing is to realize what their current perspective on getting that thing is. How are they currently looking at achieving that Goal? Then we need to add the other component which is how we look at that same thing. They may be looking at a path to the Goal as a series of pieces and parts. We may see those same pieces and parts, however, as part of a process.
Now, the third thing that we need to identify is something else they believe to be true about the world that is going to make it impossible for them to maintain that previous perspective?
I like to use the example, we’ve talked about it before, of De Beers. For somebody who wants to give a ring as a symbol of their commitment when they’re getting engaged then once they believe that diamonds are forever, it becomes pretty impossible for them to maintain the previous perspective that only the ring matters. They have to start thinking about the kind of ring.
When those three things, that Goal, that Problem of Perspective and that Truth come into play, well, then they’re ready to hear what an alternative action might be. An alternative way of thinking.
For De Beers and diamond rings, that was to see the stone as the symbol which ultimately would lead to an action of buying diamond engagement rings. But we can see this pattern happen over and over and over again with all sorts of different kinds of persuasion. I’ve even used it with my kids.
There was one time when my son was really upset with one of his friends at school because she was trying to butt in on a private conversation. So she got upset and she went running off to go talk to a friend of hers. Guess what my son wanted to do? Butt into that private conversation in order to find out what she was talking about. But of course, when he talked to me, he was saying, “It’s just not fair that she wouldn’t let me talk to her friend or find out what they were talking about.”
So if we back up and say, well, what does he want, what did my son want? What my son wanted was to make sure that he was maintaining his friendship with his friend. How could he make sure that they could see the world and keep going on being friends?
The problem was that he saw what he did as being able to be judged by the intent. He wasn’t trying to keep her excluded from a private conversation. He just didn’t see why she needed to be involved. But he was judging her on the action, not the same intent. She had the same intent but she was doing something different.
So I pointed out to him that he was asking her to judge him on his intent but he was judging her on her actions. Now, that may not have been a problem for him until I pointed out something I know is really, really important to him and that’s fairness. That one rule should apply to everybody. Now, not everybody would agree with that but that definitely is how my son sees the world.
So when I said, “But don’t you believe that we should all be treated equally, that if we judge somebody one way, we should judge everybody that way?” And when he agreed with that, he understood that there was no possible way that he could continue being mad at her for doing the same thing. I mean, he could emotionally. But intellectually, he could understand why the situation wasn’t how he was seeing it originally. And then he went and apologized to her the next day.
So that’s the components and how to use them of the persuasion formula. We need to put what somebody wants, how they’re looking at it and something they believe to be true in conflict with each other. And set it up in such a way that it’s what they’re looking at, that perspective, that’s most likely to shift. When you do that, you can use those predictable parts in a predictable way to get fairly predictable results.
My only ask of you is to use the formula well. I’m Tamsen Webster of tamsenwebster.com. That’s been the topic for this week’s episode. If you want to see certain topics or specific topics, make sure to comment wherever you’re watching this video and that might be helpful if you subscribed first. Anyway, whatever you’re looking for, please reach out to me. Tamsenwebster.com/contact and find out more about how I can help you persuade the people you most want to persuade.