58 - The young professional’s guide to persuasion

12-05-2023

decision-making

You’re probably going to scroll past this but if you ever have found getting alignment at work challenging, my Persuasion framework is just for you.

When you’re pushing for something, those around you will have their guards up. This is something called ‘psychological reactance’–we tend to react against whatever we perceive as being sold to us. And that’s pretty much all the time: a cross-functional change, a salary negotiation, a product launch.

This happens because people see any information you present, however legit, as part of the trap of persuasion. You’re trying to tie their hands. So they try and break free. There’s a way around this.

Imagine a 2X2 matrix with Low-High and Reluctance-Acceptance as the two axes. Your goal is to stay in the High Acceptance and Low Reluctance quadrants, and avoid the rest.

High Reluctance: Leading with benefits. ‘Here’s why you should do X’. This is what most of us do. We make sure we present a strong case for. But our audience sees this as arm-twisting. Clients fake excitement and promise to get back. They seldom do. Ditch this tactic.

Low Reactance: Making the choice clear and predicting a no. ‘But you’re free to decline’ OR ‘You’re probably going to decline, but…’ The first phrasing reduces reluctance against yes, while the second increases reluctance against no. Both tactics work–cold emails, requests for donations, mentorship, etc. I opened this post with the second phrasing. If you’ve reached this far, I did good :)

High Acceptance: Leading with problems. ‘Here’s why you should not do X’ This makes people trust you because you’re giving them a choice. It also moves them from self-defense to co-solving mode. Works best in client pitches.

Low Acceptance: Highlighting what’s to be gained. ‘All you have to do is X and we have a deal’. The desired outcome here is something to be gained. But what matters more (twice as much) to people is what they can lose. Loss aversion is powerful. Use it. Switch to High Acceptance with a simple change: ‘We have a deal. All you have to do is X.’ You’re telling them the deal’s theirs to lose. Hard to ignore in negotiations.

A CEO has to convince their board, a CXO has to convince the leadership group, a young manager has to persuade her boss, and so on. If you think you’re in a unique situation, you’re not. So get out of that mindset and start learning how to influence without authority.

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