Secrets of Persuasion Meet Connected Influence


Do you ever feel frustrated trying to convince others to take action, even when that action is beneficial to them?  I know I do!

The hardest seems to be convincing people to invest their time in activities that will strengthen the core of their character and personality, helping them become more effective in all areas of their life.

What can be done to move from connection – a worthy and sometimes challenging pursuit in itself – to connected influence?  It may be worthwhile to learn a bit from the science of persuasion.

Secrets from the Science of Persuasion


The video describes six “secrets” from the science of persuasion:

  • reciprocation
  • consistency
  • consensus
  • liking
  • authority
  • scarcity

I think it important to note the video talks about the ethical application of these “secrets.”  I know we can all think of someone who has used one or more of these tools to manipulate and guilt us into taking action we didn’t want to take.  However, it’s equally important to see these as tools, not inherently good or bad on their own.

Two sides of the coin

On one side, we have become a society of savvy consumers.  Simply being aware of these persuasion techniques puts people on their guard, ourselves included.  It is important to watch your reactions and question decisions that come too quickly or easily.

Photo by Tasha M. Troy

Photo by Tasha M. Troy

For example, I haven’t bought address labels since I moved into my current home almost 5 years ago.  Shortly after I moved in, three or four different charities sent me address labels, hoping that I would send them a contribution.  They were depending on the principle of reciprocation.  I know it might not sound good, but I broke the reciprocation principle; I choose carefully where I donate funds and which causes I support, and none of these organizations represented a cause I support.  And, no, I don’t feel guilty for using the labels that were freely and unsolicitedly sent.

However, it is equally possible to miss a genuinely good opportunity simply because you are reacting the way we are hardwired to react!  It is possible to be overly suspicious.  For example, on occasion I might have a student in my class make a suggestion.  I have to be cautious that I don’t accept or reject the suggestion based on how diligent (or not) the student is.  I can not base my decision on how likable the person is, but rather on the merits of the suggestion itself.  (Yes, this happened again today.)

Personal application

If you are in the position of feeling frustrated by a lack of cooperation from others, an insufficient amount of influence with people who matter most, it would be good to examine your requests and behavior in light of these “secrets.”  One thing that really struck me from the video is the idea that small tweaks of language or behavior made big differences in the outcome.

I know I will be examining my own attempts at persuasion.



The type of self-examination I suggest doesn’t come easily to most.  If you are looking for a thinking partner in evaluating your current attempts to persuade and influence those around you, I would love to help!  Contact me to schedule a conversation at; please put “Bridging the Divide” in the subject line.

Join the intentional living movement!  Click here to get started with a free 7-day experiment with John Maxwell!


The Journey from “Their There”


Have you ever felt like you just haven’t connected with someone and wondered why?  I recently experienced a serious disconnect with a friend.

Photo by Tasha M. Troy

Photo by Tasha M. Troy

She was explaining something that she was very interested in, going into great detail about how her solution would benefit me, too.  However, while her solution is perfect for her and her season of life, it is totally unsuitable for my situation.  I chose to let her talk instead of cutting her short, primarily because I wanted to let her express her enthusiasm.  The sad result, though, was feeling a major disconnect from my friend, which is likely to damage my willingness to be open with her unless I take some deliberate steps to change the situation.

She did not meet me in “my here” when she was trying to influence me.

The third step in the connected influence model is to meet the other person in “their there.”  This step must come after connected listening; because you now understand the other person’s perspective, you can start there and take them on a journey to help them see your perspective.

To define “their there,” Mark Goulston and John Ullmen talk about the “three gets of engage”:

  1. You get “it” – you have taken the time to truly understand their perspective and their unique situation.
  2. You get “them” – you see them for who they are, with all their strengths and weaknesses, hopes and struggles.
  3. You get their path to progress – you understand the steps they can take to move in the direction of their goals, taking into consideration their values and concerns.

To go back to my situation with my friend, it was clear after just a few minutes that she didn’t get “it” – she did not understand my situation and my priorities.  Even though she gets “me,” without “it” she can’t get my path to progress.

In order for our friendship to move forward, I will have to have a conversation with her when we are not rushed for time.  I will have to meet her in “her there” by digging deeper into her situation, then step-by-step I may be able to help her see my perspective more clearly.  If she is ready for that small journey, then perhaps we will still be able to have an open friendship.


Links and Resources:

Previous posts on this topic

What if you’re wrong?


A few years ago I experienced a misunderstanding and miscommunication with a student.  I worked with her for a few months but couldn’t understand why she was resistant to my instruction and feedback.  It wasn’t until the mid-term that I realized my own misperceptions regarding this student.

photo-1I work hard to build a connection with my students, but not all students respond to my efforts, which I usually attribute to personality differences.  However, in this case it turned out that she had gotten the impression that I disliked her on a personal level, which quite upset me.  As the instructor, it was my responsibility to correct the situation, and once I did, the final few months were very positive with this student.  If I had maintained my perception of myself as concerned about my students and hadn’t been open to discovering and correcting the misconceptions, the outcome for this student would not have been as positive.

Kathryn Schulz, in her TED Talk “On being wrong,” points out that being wrong feels like being right – until we realize our mistake.  We often get so wrapped up in our own perspective that we don’t consider the possibility that a different perspective might give a clearer picture of the situation.  It is my observation that most disagreements seem to be over a question of perspective or priorities, and these are subjective.  You can only comprehend the bigger picture by listening to others, by understanding other perspectives.

Mark Goulston and John Ullmen, in their book Real Influence, argue that, in order to exert influence, you must also be influenceable, which means hearing out others’ perspectives and ideas.  They describe four levels of listening, in order of degree of connection:

  1. avoidance listening, or listening without giving your attention to the speaker
  2. defensive listening, or listening to respond
  3. problem-solving listening, or listening to accomplish a task
  4. connective listening, or listening to understand and build relationship

Goulston and Ullmen point out that if you are not willing to engage in connective (or conscious) listening, to hear others’ ideas and keep an open mind, your listeners are not likely to afford that consideration to you.  This doesn’t mean that you need to abandon your own ideas; according to Goulston and Ullmen, “it involves not surrendering our judgment, but suspending it.”  You cannot properly evaluate an idea before you’ve truly understood it, and this requires attentive, conscious, connective listening followed by the weighing of ideas to see to what extent, if any, you should adopt the new ideas.

In Acts 15, we have a Biblical example of this when the early church came together to decide a controversial issue – whether gentile Christians should keep the law of Moses.  To us today, this seems like an obvious issue – we are saved by grace, not by keeping the law (Eph. 2:8).  However, at the time, Christianity was considered to be a Jewish sect, not a separate religion, so the call to keep the law made sense to many of the Jewish Christians.  In Acts 15:6, “the apostles and elders came together to consider the matter.”  After much dispute, first Peter, then Barnabas and Paul spoke and testified to how they had seen God move among the gentiles.

The result was a decision by the church in Jerusalem not to require gentiles to follow the entire law but to only follow a few foundational restrictions.  If the early church had not listened to these three respected leaders with open minds and the intent to understand and maintain relationships, Christianity would likely have remained a sect of Judaism, but by being influenceable, the early church was able to come to the decision to honor the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law.

Goulston and Ullmen say that connective listening “transforms conflicts into fertile ground where new ideas can take root.”  Doesn’t this sound like what happened in the early church?  Isn’t this what we need to see happen in our communities and country today?  I encourage you to begin practicing conscious, connective listening with the people around you today.


Links and Resources:

Kathryn Schulz: On being wrong

Communication Fundamentals course on, taught by John Ullmen

Website for Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing and Gain without Giving In

Series of blog posts by Mark Goulston and John Ullmen based on the concepts in Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing and Gain without Giving In

72 Bible verses about listening

51 Bible verses about conflict resolution

64 Bible verses about reconciliation




Persuasion through Selflessness


As an instructor who works with adults, I am often in the position of trying to convince a student to buy in to the goals of the course or of a particular assignment.  A few years ago, I experienced a particularly stubborn student who was determined to do assignments his own way and not in a way that I could give him credit for.  Basically, he wanted me to edit articles he intended to have published instead of doing the coursework.  IMG_6470This put him in danger of failing not only my course but the entire 8-month program he was enrolled in.  In order to convince him to complete assignments so that he could pass the course and the program, I asked him to meet with me in person, to which he agreed.  At first, I tried to reason with him, describing the consequences of non-compliance and the benefits of simply following instructions, all to no avail.  It seemed as if he were determined to fail the program, and I was getting more and more frustrated by his refusal to accept my limitations as his instructor.  Finally, I made an offer I had held in reserve: in return for his completing the assignments, I would also review his articles intended for publication.  Immediately his stubbornness dissipated.

I often tell my students that if you have more than one person in the room, you will have disagreement, and this case was no exception.  How can you persuade someone who seems determined, even to his own detriment, to hold to his own position?   I have found that negotiation studies provide many tools for dealing with such situations, as well as others less severe.  One tool that I think is particularly relevant to interpersonal relationships is the Five Core Concerns of negotiation.  As described by Dan Shapiro, the associate director of the Harvard Negotiation Project, the Five Core Concerns zero in on the five emotional needs of any person you come in contact with:

1.  Appreciation – each person wants their efforts and experience to be recognized and appreciated.

2.  Autonomy – God made us with free will, and people tend to resent anyone who uses force, coercion, or manipulation to make them choose a course of action that they don’t want to choose.

3.  Affiliation – we are social creatures and all have a need to belong, to be a member of a group.

4.  Status – we all want to be treated with respect, no matter our position in the hierarchy

5.  Role – humanity is purpose-driven; we all want to know that our efforts are working towards a greater goal; we all want to have a part to play in whatever project is being pursued

In the encounter with my student recounted at the beginning of this post, I had to tap into each of these points.  I had to show understanding of and appreciation for his desires and goals.  I had to respect his autonomy; I couldn’t force him to complete his assignments. I had to demonstrate that we were on the same team.  I had to be respectful of his identity as an experienced and knowledgeable professional.  I had to define, and expand, our roles as teacher and student.

By tapping into these Five Cs, I was able to provide the student with what Stuart Diamond in his book Getting More calls an “emotional payoff,” which is recognizing the emotional needs of the person you are trying to persuade and meeting them in some way, by offering to go above and beyond my responsibilities as an instructor in order to help him achieve his goals.  Another element that came into play was in line with Simon Sinek’s point in his TED Talk “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe”; the solution ultimately required me to at least offer to sacrifice my own time to further his goals so that he would be able to accept my goals for him.

In the end, my student said he did not want to create more work for me, so he wouldn’t ask me to review both assignments and articles.  Instead, he agreed to simply complete his assignments, and he successfully completed the course and program.  If I had insisted on my position as his instructor, we would have had a very different outcome.


Links and Resources

Dan Shapiro: 5 core concerns

Stuart Diamond speaking at Google about the concepts in his book Getting More.

Simon Sinek: Why good leaders make you feel safe

100 Bible verses about selflessness


The Power of Gentleness


By Tasha M. Troy

In 2004, I began a new phase of my teaching career by joining the teaching staff at a multinational corporation based in South Korea.  Our students were mid-level managers and mid-career professionals, and I quickly learned a new set of classroom management strategies that incorporated respect for their positions and experience while still giving constructive feedback.  Busan, South KoreaIn 2010, the necessity for giving gentle and diplomatic instruction was intensified as I joined a program in the US teaching professional communication skills to naturalized US citizens.  Not only were these experienced professionals, but they had also been in the United States for several years and had developed sophisticated compensation strategies that led many of them to overestimate their English proficiency.  Several of these accomplished adults experienced an identity crisis when faced with the reality of their language weaknesses, and only a gentle approach could reach them.

One key to treating people with gentleness is having personal humility and vulnerability. Brené Brown, in her TED Talk ”The power of vulnerability,” describes how the people who are best able to connect with others have embraced vulnerability, have owned their imperfections, and have developed a humility that enables them to approach others with kindness and gentleness.  I would venture that true vulnerability is only possible through a deep trust in the love and acceptance we receive from God.  Once we have turned to God as our source of love, it becomes so much easier to treat others gently.

I believe another key to treating people gently is to understand the other’s perspective. In his book Getting More: How You Can Negotiate to Succeed in Work and Life, Professor Stuart Diamond describes how important it is to connect with people you are attempting to work with, not on the basis of cold reason but through truly understanding what is important to them.  He explains that when attempting to persuade someone, “you have to understand the pictures in their heads: their perceptions and feelings, how they view you and the rest of the world.” He encourages his students (and readers) to ask a lot of questions when they are dealing with people they would like to persuade.  He goes on to list fourteen elements of effective communication, most of which relate to showing the other side that you value and respect them.

Of course, not all communication is created equal.  In my classes, we spend some time talking about the value of “diplomatic language” – speaking in such a way as to soften statements and to express value for the other person through polite language.  The more tense the situation, the more “diplomatic” you need to be.  This is not so much about how you feel; you may be very upset, but raising your voice and using overly direct language will not enable you to connect with the other person.  However, “a gentle answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1).

Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in California defines gentleness as “strength under control” and describes eight benefits to developing gentleness in your life:

  1. Gentleness defuses conflict, which I have mentioned above.
  2. Gentleness disarms critics; someone looking for a strong reaction will be surprised by a gentle response.
  3. Gentleness is persuasive, which I have mentioned above.
  4. Gentleness is attractive; gentle people are pleasant to be around, and others enjoy spending time with them.
  5. Gentleness communicates love; gentleness flows from humility and putting others first.
  6. Gentleness earns respect, which again comes from personal humility.
  7. Gentleness witnesses to unbelievers; consistently living an other-centered lifestyle is counter-cultural and only truly possible with God’s help.
  8. Gentleness makes us like Jesus (Matthew 11:29).

If we want to connect with people with different perspectives, we must approach them with gentleness.  Otherwise, we risk coming across as harsh and judgmental.  I highly encourage you to begin practicing gentleness in all your communications.

Take It Deeper

If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions on Fridays.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net

Links and Resources:

Basic components of effective communication:

  1. always communicate
  2. listen and ask questions
  3. value, don’t blame them
  4. summarize often
  5. do role reversal
  6. be dispassionate
  7. articulate goals
  8. be firm without damaging the relationship
  9. look for small signals
  10. discuss perceptual differences
  11. find out how they make commitments
  12. consult before deciding
  13. focus on what you can control
  14. avoid debating who is right

(Getting More Chapter 3).

Stuart Diamond speaking at Google about the concepts in his book Getting More.

5 Tips for Polite and Diplomatic Language

Saddleback Church:  The Strength of Gentleness

97 Bible verses about gentleness