25 Sep

Issue 181 - Editorial

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Issue 181 - Editorial

Power of Persuasion

Generally in life, and even more in business relationships, the ability to persuade another person or group is the most important quality for success and peace. Everyone talks about leadership, innovation, inventiveness, imagination, problem solving, conflict management etc. While all these attributes have their own importance, the least emphasized quality is the art of persuasion.

Written by Dale Carnegie and first published in 1936, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” has been an all time best-selling self-help book ever published. The ability to persuade constitutes the last mile in your journey to success and peace. Peace is purposely being mentioned along with success since at the end of the day we all aim at the ultimate goal called peace of mind.

Persuasion becomes necessary when the persuader Tom finds that his idea, proposal or opinion is not readily acceptable to the responder Jerry. If Tom and Jerry are on the same page, harmony results and persuasion is not needed. Power of persuasion does not depend only on the charm of Tom. It very much depends on Jerry who has to respond in the manner desired by Tom. Tom may use all the tricks in his bag

to persuade and convince Jerry. But it is entirely up to Jerry to accept or reject the proposition. It takes two to tango, right?  Hence no single formula or ‘one size fits all’ approach to persuasion will work.

A norm Tom must sincerely subscribe to before trying to persuade anyone else is his own position. He must be capable of communicating his position clearly to another person. Moreover he needs to be patient, assertive, willing to listen to Jerry and avoid aggression and bamboozling tactics. Instead he has to sound and be simple, sweet and reasonable at all times.

In addition to all the above requirements, effective persuasion requires Tom to estimate/perceive Jerry’s attitude and play his own role accordingly. Generally Jerry will display one of the following behavioural patterns:

Jerry may turn out to be a defensive person, driven by fear and cling to his stance and guard himself against being influenced. He will come to the table with a defensive shield that is difficult to penetrate. In such cases Tom should be prepared for several rounds of persuasion and break the defence by appearing to be in agreement with the Jerry’s own sacredly held position, without losing sight of his own ultimate goal.

Next Jerry may be prejudiced against Tom due to some historical differences. In that event it is futile for Tom to spend too much time persuading Jerry. That approach will only harden Jerry’s stance. The good news is that it may not take too much time for Tom to size up Jerry’s hostility. Tom should promptly delegate the job of persuasion to another person Mickey to whom Jerry is not unfavourably disposed.

Jerry may be an aggressive person by nature, but not prejudiced against Tom. He may shock Tom by being dismissive and try to impose his own views on Tom by taking Tom’s role himself. In this case, Tom should not get demoralised or intimidated but try to win over Jerry by presenting his case assertively but not aggressively. This will pay rich dividends if Tom manages to get Jerry’s ear after allowing Jerry to exhaust his initial aggression.

In some situations, a shrewd Tom may discover that Jerry is actually secretly in agreement with him but is merely holding out to strike a bargain before yielding. This is where persuasion is somewhat a tricky game.

Occasionally Tom may discover that he is trying in the matter to persuade an inconsequential person called Jerry, who may seem to shake his head in agreement readily. In reality this Jerry may lack any authority to agree. In that event Tom should not waste his breath on Jerry, but find out the authorised adversary who has to be persuaded.

Finally Jerry may be a thinking person who has an open mind. It is then a delightful and stimulating challenge for Tom to persuade Jerry through sound reasoning. The final outcome will be satisfying for both Tom and Jerry. Tom may be a gainer even if his mission to persuade Jerry is not wholly successfully.

Occasionally Tom may try to act smart by hoping to persuade Jerry after the critical moment has passed, hoping that fait accompli may force Jerry to fall in line. The consequences may end up being disastrous.


Persuasion is often more effectual than force.