Covert Persuasion Toolbox, Part 1

Mastering covert persuasion is not just about memorizing language patterns and improving your body language – it’s also about understanding how people think and behave during social interactions. People are generally more likely to refuse than to say yes because that is the human brain works.

Agreeing to something may cause change and people don’t like change because it disturbs the existing equilibrium. Any disruption of the equilibrium may result in loss of different kinds of resources. It doesn’t matter if a person isn’t sure if he is right in refusing an offer.

He will think of refusing before trying to justify his decision to do so. In this light, you will begin to see just how irrational humans are. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing. There is essentially nothing wrong with following one’s imagination and emotions.

It just so happens that when a person is trying to influence or persuade someone, he turns to logic/rationalism. Do you see the dissonance between how people think and how influencers generally approach the problem of persuading others?

In today’s discussion, we are going to address a number of pressing issues that may affect your ability to persuade others. Sometimes, even the smartest people are unable to persuade others for the simple reason that they don’t know how to get into that persuasive zone where people are more likely to agree than to resist.

Tool # 1: Questions

I have mentioned this countless times before but I am going to repeat it here because it’s so important to the whole persuasive process: learn the fine art of asking questions! The problem I see with most people is that they don’t like the idea of asking questions.

Sure, you can prepare all you want before a conversation but you cannot possibly know everything that you need to know about your subject. It’s easy to hypothesize but in the end, the most accurate source of information would still be the subject.

So before you shy away from asking questions, ask yourself this: how confident are you about your knowledge of your own subject? If your answer to this question is “not very confident” then I invite you to just ask questions.

Try to discover how your subject thinks and what he values most in his work or life. This is pure influence gold – because once you discover what matters the most to a person, you will be able to modify your arguments based on this new information.

Tool # 2: Attitude Counts

Attitude is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as the “organismic readiness to respond to a certain stimulus”. A person’s attitude is his pre-configured manner of reacting to specific events in his life.

When you are talking to someone about something that you need, that person would already have a preset attitude and response to what you are requesting. It is your job to determine what this attitude is and you have to break the mental trance that allows this attitude to work during the conversation.

It’s also important to evaluate your own attitude toward the subject and your goal so the subject can emulate your attitude. A mental state can easily be broken by interjecting specific emotional triggers.

You must be able to change the subject’s perception of the object (your goal). Ideally, he should end up taking your goal as his own goal because he will eventually get a benefit/advantage.

Tool # 3: Mental Images

We all know that a person’s imagination is his most powerful thinking tool.  A person makes use of his creative imagination more than his logic center because this region of the mind is more malleable and therefore easier to use.

People imagine events that have happened and events that have yet to transpire based on input given by the environment and by other people. If you want your subject to imagine something, avoid using statements “visualize yourself getting A, B, C…”

This approach barely works and people generally don’t want to be told to visualize anything. People like to imagine things but they don’t want to be told to use their imagination to arrive at conclusions.

To avoid this sticky situation, what you can do is to simply ask a series of questions that will trigger an imaginative response from your subject. Let your subject reach his own conclusions. Of course, you will be leading him to these conclusions yourself, by merely asking questions. Let his imagination do the rest.

Tool # 4: Discover What He Wants

People often know what they do not want to get from a given situation but are often reluctant to say what they do want. It might sound strange but this does happen a lot so we just have to deal with this tendency.

One way around this elusiveness trap is by asking questions like “I know that you are not sure about what you want right now, but if you did know what you like, can you describe it to me?”

To a person who is not involved in the conversation, this question will seem redundant and pointless, but to a subject who doesn’t want to share all of his thoughts to another person, this question is a safe way out. But little will your subject know that when he does answer this question, he is allowing the influencer to look inside his mind.

And when you get that glimpse of what the other person might want to get out of the interaction, you can devise alternative solutions to get him to say yes to you.

Sometimes, indirect questions are more helpful than direct questions especially when the subject is clear that he does not want to fully cooperate with the influencer.

After gaining insight as to what kind of benefit your subject wants to get from the interaction, you can then lead him to accept the type of benefit you are offering. Make your subject want the advantage that you are offering. You can tie it up with his goals or you can just say that your offer will make him achieve a different kind of goal.

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