Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pressuring and Persuasion

Part 2: Not pressuring and persuading
We all want things. In many cases, other people do not want the things we want. So we want them to want what we want.

You might have noticed that in my last entry, I posted an ellipsis.

While it may have seemed that I was simply slacking off, it really wasn't[1]. It actually was the first lesson in persuading people.

I am an enthusiastic person, and often over-eager when it comes to introducing friends to books, foods, philosophy and the like. However, I've learned that if I take a moment to pause, I can gauge my friends' interest in the conversation. Do they lean forward? Do they question and comment? Or do they move on to a different topic? That evaluation informs me of my audience's state, and allows the curious mind to anticipate rather than react, which is a key to learning well.

So last week was a chance for people to respond, to either inquire about my promised post or to breath a sigh of relief. And the verdict was: Sufficient Interest.

And so we continue with our question: how to persuade others. How do we get them to want what we want? Let's start with a more passive method in this post, and go proactive in the next.

Personal choice is powerful: Give them a chance to come to you.

This is counter-intuitive, but sometimes you can let them do the hardest part of persuading themselves. You can let them open up. When done correctly, this means merely pointing out an open door, another way of thinking or living, and letting their own curiosity bring them through[2]. Closed minds are impenetrable to any attack, and the fiercer the assault, the stronger the resistance. To open up a person to an idea, you might mention things that appeal to their curiosity, their desire for knowledge, novelty, fun, or any other motivator, and let it work[3]. Only they can open their minds. There's a reason Christ only explained his parables to those who came to him afterward asking about them. Invite all, carry on with the few who are willing.

Strange as it may seem, this oft-ignored tool, when it works, is incredibly effective.

The reason it is oft-ignored is because it's inconvenient. It's not fast, it's not sure, and it's not under your control.  Which is another phrase for "excruciatingly frustrating".  I've found it most useful in the very short term and the very long term.  Short term because I can round up the initially interested without putting people on the defensive or scaring anyone off. Long term because it takes very little effort to quietly leave a door open, and you never know when some curious soul will step through. The real challenge is to set up everything just right, like a well-set fire pit, so when you see the slightest spark of interest, you have a place to catch and fuel it into a full-fledged bonfire. Despite its inconvenience, this can be a very powerful method of persuasion.

How powerful?

Hard to gauge objectively, but when I reflect, most of my real passions and hobbies are things that I came upon myself, or at most, was introduced to. Rarely have things which were explicitly foisted on me set down deep roots.

Remember, Your job is not to make them do X. It's to make them want to do X.

Cats are fickle creatures, but Curious

A useful analogy might be cats. Storm through your house yelling for your cat, the feline will dash into its nearest bolt-bole.  It doesn't matter if you're waving a steak or a new toy, that cat is gone. If however, you call its name once, lay out the toy in an open place where it is sure to walk by, sooner or later your curious cat will saunter up in it's own good time and begin to investigate on its own[4]

So maybe you should back off. Give them some time to investigate in their own.

But if they don't, Part 3 is coming up!

[1] The first time I missed, at least. The second was totally me being behind on writing.
[2] With you as a helpful tour guide, of course.
[4] Think Tom Sawyer and the fence-style.
[4]And if it doesn't, there's literally nothing you can do. I mean, it's a cat. There are alternative methods for humans, but cats... man.

[5] I found today's post quite a bit vaguer and fluffier than I'd like. But not so much that I'd go a week without posting something. 


  1. Re: [5] Even though the rest of us are all very judgmental and rigorously academic in our own blog posts (cough, cough), I don't think you have to worry about fluffiness factor too much. Most of us are willing to let it slide. :)

  2. I for one quite enjoyed the fluffy, vague nature of your post, like a soft pillow inviting the reader to lay his or her head down to rest. Consequently, I found it to be the perfect style in which to convey the message of invitation and persuasion.

    Ok, so I honestly didn't think it was at all fluffy or vague. I would have described is as "reflective."

  3. Yes, it was nice. I liked "Your job is not to make them do X. It's to make them want to do X." Very true my brother-friend