Where Did It Come From?
Bickering, With Style
Although Persuasion Under Pressure is designed to help you breeze cleverly through all manner of arguments, disputes, and differences of opinion, it as actually borne of almost 20 years experience in negotiation training and consulting. In preparing people for upcoming negotiations, an odd thing became clear. Even after high-level training, most people were approaching their negotiations as a kind of refined bickering. The postures they'd adopt tended to be either defensive or overly aggressive.
Accordingly, in the real world, we found ourselves spending far less time on the strategies and tactics one might learn in typical sales or negotiation training. And far more time encouraging our clients to step back, learn more, and to phrase what needs to be said in a fashion most likely to be compelling to the other person. We'd say, "If you could persuade them of that point, you wouldn't have to fight so hard."
And the answer would come back, "Okay. How do I do that? In a short period of time? To someone who doesn't really seem to be listening?"
That's a helluva good question. There is a good answer. Read on.
Unprepared and Inefficient
People couldn't understand why the other side couldn't understand, which frustrated them. The problem was, they didn't know how much they didn't know about the other side. Worse, they didn't really know how to go about finding out. So in the end, there was no way for them to take the absolutely necessary next step: to re-compose their ideas in ways that are most likely to move the other person.
Further, they weren't being strategic. They hadn't thought clearly about their desired endpoint, about the far end of what was realistically possible. They hadn't planned how to deal with the resistance they were likely to face. And they hadn't fully mastered their own Big Idea; that's the one you have to bring that is so large and so compelling - and so beautifully articulated - that the other person willingly gives up their own. And they hadn't put it together - the understanding and the expression - into a step-by-step, practical persuasive process.
Most importantly, though, they didn't understand the (human) nature of conflict. So that when things got tough, they'd often become their own worst enemies. In the name of self-defense, or self-righteousness, they would make self-limiting, inefficient decisions, ones they might regret or even be baffled by later (or blame the other side for). In the heat of the moment, the mind offers only a limited range of options. Without an intellectual framework to clarify the nature of human decision-making under pressurized, partisan situations, there's nothing for you to leverage to get clear, to respond differently and more productively than the next person. We're trapped by self-interest. And that keeps us from innovating, from outperforming.
In negotiation, as in business generally - and in your personal life - the good ideas are hard to find. They're more likely to be uncovered when you help position the other person to look, too. In the typical negotiation, with everyone so focused on not being taken advantage of, we've found that good ideas are being left behind.
How is it that trained, experienced negotiators - salespeople, entrepreneurs, managers - weren't more aware of the drivers, or more in control of the process? How could we as professionals be so... inefficient?
To bring some clarity, and to provide some new options, we looked first to science. In recent work in Cognitive Science we uncovered some findings that - once translated to human language - will give you a clarity about how people make decisions under pressure that simply hasn't been available before. Once mastered, you'll calmly give yourself options that others won't even think of.
Next, we looked to the behaviors of particularly persuasive people. We uncovered that the most efficiently persuasive stance you can adopt is almost entirely counter-intuitive. We include this remarkable finding: charm is a thing, and it can be replicated to good effect, even by the (relatively) charmless.
We learned to ask questions instead of lecturing, a most difficult discipline. When done correctly, the right questions generate trust, build understanding, uncover truth, gently undermine currently held ideas, and help the other person to convince themselves of the value of what you've brought with you.
Most of us don't apply the same dedication and professionalism of our work lives to the process of persuasion. Turns out, even in the smallest of interpersonal dealings, clearheaded professionalism wins out, and wins people over. Read on.