You might have observed one or more smart people who work alone. A small number of them do this by choice. Most others have no choice—although they may not admit it. They do it because they couldn't persuade others to work with them on their ideas.
The first reason may be that these smart people may not be brilliant enough to communicate their ideas to other people. The second reason may be because they might have slightly misunderstood what persuasion is.
Persuasion is both an interesting and misunderstood phenomenon. It is interesting because if you don’t know the craft, you might not even know the cost of being blind to it. It is misunderstood because some people have a temptation to think that persuading someone is getting them to do what you want.
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Let’s get to the core of why smart people fail to persuade others. Almost all smart people believe in themselves and their ideas. They might also present their ideas well to others. What they might miss is understanding how the idea will fit into the life someone else. If it fits well with the other person they might have a match.
Of course, all problems begin when they don’t get the match. The quick reaction is to defend their idea and make a better case. At this stage, the smart people are not worried about the other person anymore. Their world is revolving around their idea and it’s important for them to get the other person to buy-in—at this point they start trying to persuade.
Getting someone to do what you want may be fine but it fails miserably if they are missing out on opportunities in front of them right now. You might have made them believe that what you want is the best alternative they have but in reality you created an opportunity cost for them—you won at their expense.
Here is a better approach to persuasion.
1. Get to know where the other person wants to go and how badly they want to get there.
The more you know about a person’s destination for the future, you will get to know what he or she cares about now. How badly the person wants to reach the destination will determine how much effort is involved in persuading.
2. Understand where the other person is.
You need to know where the person is their journey. This will establish the gap between where the person is today and where the person wants to be tomorrow.
3. Design your alternative to be a stepping stone towards the person’s destination.
This is the core of your persuasion. Your goal is here is simple—to tweak the design of what you want the person to do so that it becomes a stepping stone towards his or her final destination.
4. Tell a great story.
Whether you like it or not, the other person is telling a story about the opportunity you presented. If you don’t tell a good story, you are leaving it to chance and you don’t have any control on what story the other person is telling himself or herself.
This is the implementation phase of all the hard work that you have done to persuade. Your story has to translate to another story that a person tells to himself or herself that the action you are asking him to take will be a stepping stone towards realizing his or her own dream.
Image credit: Jholbo