Conversational Persuasion Part One

Sometimes when we are communicating a message, even when we have prepared and delivered our inoculations, unexpected objections can pop up and we have to deal with them in the moment, without preparation.

These objections can be in the form of beliefs about the way the world is or pre-conceived ideas about the concept you are attempting to describe.

One way to deal with these types of objections is to use what I like to refer to as conversational turn ‘a’ rounds.

The right word or words said at the right time, in the right way can make a profound impact on the way a person views the world and hence how they feel and behave.

You may have heard of the law of requisite variety. That, in any system the part that has the greatest variety of actions available to it will generally control the overall system and hence be more likely to consistently achieve a particular goal.

There is also the story about Albert Einstein when he was asked by a local university to design a set of questions for an up and coming exam. After much thought he wrote down a list of questions and presented them to the head of the school. The head of the school took one look at them and, with a confused look on his face, said ‘Mr Einstein, Mr Einstein…these questions…they are exactly the same as they were last year!’ to this Einstein replied, ‘Yes, Yes, Yes you have noticed…the questions are, in fact, the same….but…the answers have changed!’

We live in a world where the only thing that remains constant is the fact that everything is changing and, in order to consistently achieve our outcomes we have to have a degree of flexibility in how we respond.

When it comes to dealing with unexpected objections or beliefs that people have about your message, the law of requisite variety has particular relevance. By possessing many different ways to re-frame or turn ‘a’ round objections that people present it offers you greater flexibility and hence gives you a greater chance of consistently achieving your desired outcome.

Examples of Unexpected Objections/Beliefs/Pre-Conceived Ideas

Unexpected objections, beliefs or pre-conceived ideas can take all kinds of shapes and forms. They will also obviously change from situation to situation. The following are examples that I or colleagues of mine have encountered at various points in their life.

  • Because you are late means you don’t care about me.
  • Because he doesn’t talk to me means he doesn’t like me!
  • Not more change! Change isn’t good because it means I feel insecure.
  • Being bored means I have to overeat!
  • You’re just saying that to make me feel happy!
  • Our government’s immigration policy means that I can’t get a job!
  • Because you are a salesmen that means you are just out to get my money!

Now you may be looking at some of these beliefs and thinking, ‘but Steve, they are true!” and to a certain extent you would be right.

They are, however, when you really think about it, gross generalizations and distortions about the way the world is. If you were to challenge these beliefs with a few simple questions they would eventually re-arrange themselves to present a more accurate and useful view of the situation they are describing.

Now this is an incredibly important point when it comes to turning round a belief or objection conversationally. By adopting the viewpoint that the world is infinitely richer than it first seems it will give you the flexibility to be able to enrich the person’s perspective on the situation they are describing and give them a refined and more useful way of looking at it.

Step one: Open up with a frame of agreement

If you haven’t read the lesson on how to set up a frame of agreement then check it out first.

Step two: Enrich the way they see the belief using a conversational turn ‘a’ rounds

Once you have created a frame of agreement and provided a cushion for the person begin to enrich the way they view the belief/objection by using a conversational turn ‘a’ round. There are many different ways to conversationally turn things round. Here’s one to get you started:

Conversational Turn 'a' round: Direct them to a more useful outcome

When you are using this turn ‘a’ round what you are essentially doing is re-directing the person’s attention to an outcome that is more useful for both of you. For example, if someone were to say to you:

‘Being bored means I have to overeat’

Rather than blaming boredom for overeating a more useful outcome would be to find as many ways as possible to enjoy life so that it doesn’t even occur to them to over eat. Therefore you could direct them to this outcome by saying the following:

“Don’t you think the real issue here is how you can make it so that you’re enjoying yourself in these times and places so much that it doesn’t even occur to you to go back to those old eating habits?”

If we were to add in our frame of agreement to this turn ‘a’ round the complete response would be:

“I know that sometimes it appears as though boredom means that you have to eat and you’re not the only one who thinks that. When you really examine it, though, don’t you think the real issue here is how we can make it so that you’re enjoying yourself in these times and places so much that it doesn’t even occur to you to go back to these old eating habits.”

Let’s take a look at an example from the corporate world.

If you have ever worked in the corporate environment you will know that the one thing that always remains constant is the fact that change happens regularly. That in order to keep up with competitors and an ever changing market there is a continual need to change and improve.

This desire to improve inevitably leads to a flurry of new ideas and concepts that have to be integrated into many different levels of an organisation, from senior management all the way down to the shop floor. As this integration process occurs there are often objections to the changes in working practice these new ideas bring. One common objection is the belief that ‘change is bad’ or that it leads to a sense of insecurity and uncertainty.

Now, obviously from time to time change can have a negative impact on people’s lives but most of the time it does not. It is just a necessary process as an organisation continues to growth.

In this situation it is therefore important to re-direct an employee’s attention so that they are focused on a more useful goal rather than being locked into thinking that change is bad and causes uncertainty.

To achieve this you can use the following question:

“Don’t you think the real issue here is not that change is happening, but the importance of organising your resources so that you can integrate these changes as smoothly and as quickly as possible?”

So the full conversational turn ‘a’ round could look like this:

“I know that sometimes it can appear as if change brings insecurity and uncertainty and, I know a lot of people see it this way. At the same time, though, what I’d like to invite you to consider is that the real issue here is not that change is happening, but the importance of organising your resources so that you can integrate these changes as smoothly and as quickly as possible?”

By using a question in this way, you are effectively re-directing the person’s attention to the more useful goal of organising their resources so that they can integrate the change as smoothly and as quickly as possible.

I’m going to be adding a full range of conversational turn ‘a’ rounds to the Guide to Social Confidence Virtual Boot camp so that you can be linguistically ready for anything that comes your way. Keep an eye out by checking back later.

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