They just won’t listen to me…

Why is it so hard to get others to listen so you can persuade them to cooperate? Maybe it is because WE need to listen more and try to persuade less. Think about the last time you changed your mind. Did the other person actually persuade you or did you actually persuade yourself that a different point of view or plan of action made sense? Others are more likely to be “persuaded” if our conversations truly reflect the interests and needs they need addressed.

The Art of Persuasion

Persuasion is hard because everyone thinks they are a good listener and that they understand what the other person is saying.

Try an experiment that I run with my high potential MBA students. Watch three conversations each day for 2-3 days. Note how many times people interrupt the person who is speaking before that other person finishes her/his thought or sentence.

Note whether the “listener’s” response to the speaker probes the speaker’s point for more clarification and encourages the speaker to elaborate. Or instead do they inject their own information and cease hearing the speaker? (e.g. “Oh yeah that happened to me! I was…” or “I think that happens a lot, probably because…”?)

On average my MBA classes report that these disconnects happen in 85-90% percent of conversations they observe!

Listen Then Listen Again

It is hard to discipline ourselves to listen intently. The average person talks at a rate of about 125-175 words per minute and listens at a rate of up to 450 words per minute. We fill that gap with our own thoughts and cease listening for key clues from the speaker.

Make it a goal to not “persuade” the other person until you have uncovered the following information:

  • What are their views on the issue in general?
  • What are their concerns?
  • What factors contribute to those concerns?
  • Have they considered other approaches and what do they see as the potential consequences (pro or con) of taking a different approach?

When you finally make your persuasion attempt weave this information into the conversation and LISTEN AGAIN! By listening again the person will give you vital clues to fine tune your points to the 1-2 key things they need to hear back in order to persuade themselves that it is time to change their minds.