Most people think lawyers are trained persuaders. They aren’t. Truth is, we don’t learn persuasion or rhetoric in law school. Instead, law school teaches us rules and ways of thinking. So most lawyers aren’t very good at persuasion.
Persuasion is a critical skill. Always has been, always will be. You cannot be effective in your work or interpersonal relationships unless you learn some basic persuasion strategies and practice using them.
I have spent the better part of my (almost) 20 years as a lawyer studying persuasion and how the human mind operates. It is a fascinating field of study, mainly because a lot of things you think are true aren’t true.
Here are a few general, overarching principles you must understand and accept if you want to learn how to persuade people.
- Logical arguments don’t work. The human brain is irrational. Evidence, facts, and logic don’t convince people. Never have, never will. The human brain doesn’t work by purely logical rules. The brain works by a set of rules that you need to understand if you want to use them in your persuasion strategy.
- Seek common ground first. If you are trying to persuade someone to change their mind, you cannot launch a direct assault on their ideas. Tell someone they are wrong and you are have already lost the persuasion battle. Start off any persuasion strategy by seeking common ground. In fact, take whatever position your target has in their mind and make it your own, even more strongly. Once your target thinks you and he are on the same page, their brain naturally loosens up and is open to persuasion.
- People want to feel like they are in control. We are biologically wired to seek control. It makes us happier and healthier in a number of different areas of our lives. When you want to persuade, don’t bark orders, don’t issue directives, and don’t insist on doing things your way. Instead, give options. Guide people gently where you want them to do.
- Ask powerful questions. It’s hard to overstate the importance of powerful questions. When you ask someone a powerful question, you actually take over their minds! That’s right – Science has proven that when you ask someone a question, the brain circuitry lights up, overriding what they were thinking about and switching to what YOU want it to think about.
Pretty cool, eh?
Can you imagine how neat it would be to be able to take over someone’s mind temporarily and make it do your bidding?
Well, you can. Just ask powerful questions.
Persuasion is a super-skill. (A “super-skill” is the phrase I use to define skills that everyone should have, and that help everyone everywhere no matter their age, job, etc.)
But persuasion is about a lot more than logical arguments or appeals to reason. Persuasion is about understanding how the human mind truly works and using that knowledge to your advantage.