What’s Your Persuasion Style?
Some acts of persuasion are specially tailored to appeal to specific audiences, while others are more akin to blunt announcements of the speaker’s point of view.The former are called other-oriented persuasion and the latter are called self-oriented persuasion.
When you are working from the audience’s point of view, you are focused more on social considerations –– existing relationships, political environment, other people’s interests.You then harness these insights to make your message especially appealing to that target audience.
By contrast, when you are working from your own frame of reference, you focus on your internal perspective –– the authority you want to assert, the need you want to express or the evidence you want to demonstrate. Then you put your message out there with less attention to “spinning” it for a particular audience.
Of course, persuasion events often consist of a seamless combination of moves that are both internally and externally focused. But if your preferences run strongly toward one of these orientations, that can define your overall communication style.
An important variable that goes into the persuasion styles people display is the “volume” they give to their message.At work, you may also have noticed people who speak up right away and those who prefer to listen and quietly give their views when asked.
One of the more important variables in how you come across to others in persuasion moments is the rapidity and ease with which you can escalate from a normal conversational tone to a tough or enthusiastic insistence on your point of view. Some people find this quite a natural transition. Others prefer to maintain a more even tone and are not as prone to wide swings in emphasis. Such people are no less passionate about their ideas, but they are quieter by disposition. If you have a strong inclination toward communicating one way or the other, this will affect your choice of persuasion roles.
What’s Your Personal Style?
Five persuasive styles factor into the self-oriented versus other-oriented dimensions.The more other-oriented roles are the Promoter and the Chess Player.The more self-oriented roles are the Driver and the Commander.The Advocate role is a balance of both and a moderate tone or “volume.”
The Driver:Andy Grove
Drivers are fond of saying things like “Do this my way or hit the highway.” In an ineffective persuader, this comes across as overbearing. But by conveying a sense of selfawareness and showing true dedication to the organization’s mission, this strong style can be effectively persuasive.
As head of Intel,Andy Grove was notorious for his blunt style of communication. But he knew this about himself and compensated by making his style the cultural norm within Intel.An example of how this culture worked comes from an incident between Grove and his secretary, Sue McFarland. During McFarland’s first performance review, Grove told her she lacked ambition and deserved no raise. She went home that night and put together an airtight case refuting each of Grove’s charges.The next day she confronted Grove, and walked out of his office with not only a raise but permission to hire an assistant.
The Commander: J.P. Morgan
You don’t have to be aggressive like the Driver when you want people to know exactly what you think.A quiet, understated demeanor can often be much more effective. People listen when you speak your mind from a position of quiet confidence and credibility.
In 1895,a financial panic set off a run on the gold reserves that served as the basis of the U.S. currency. President Grover Cleveland called a meeting of advisers, including the nation’s most powerful financier, J.P. Morgan, to address the crisis. Morgan sat silently as leaders from Congress and Cleveland’s cabinet offered plans that Morgan knew would fail.When asked for his suggestion, Morgan laid out a plan to save the Treasury.He offered to repatriate 3.5 million ounces of gold he controlled in Europe and agreed to take, in return, $65 million worth of 30-year government bonds. Morgan then produced a legal memorandum showing that the government had authority to act as he proposed based on a littleknown emergency law passed just after the CivilWar.
Morgan’s proposal was adopted. His message gained power from the quiet way he communicated both his authority and expertise. Playing the Commander with finesse, he saved both the American and his own financial empire from a fiscal catastrophe.
The Promoter:Andrew Carnegie
When played ineffectively, the Promoter is all glad-handing and no substance. But when played well, this role features an outfront style and a gift for gaining and maintaining a wide circle of relationships.
In 1883, steel mogul Andrew Carnegie faced one of his first labor crises. He adopted a politically sophisticated negotiation strategy designed for delivery on the Rationality, Interest and Relationship channels. He and his management team prepared a document that displayed the trade-offs between forcing layoffs and reducing wages. This analysis demonstrated that if wages were reduced 13 percent, the plant could remain in operation without layoffs –– a key interest of the unions. He offered to open his books so union leaders could see the financial constraints the steel market was forcing on the business. He mobilized them as his allies.The union leaders accepted the deal and sold it to their members.
The Chess Player: John D. Rockefeller
In 1865,John D. Rockefeller found himself trapped in a partnership with four other men:Maurice,James and Richard Clark (all brothers) and Samuel Andrews. Rockefeller favored leveraging the partnership’s assets to invest in the oil business, but the Clarks repeatedly vetoed his ideas. Rockefeller wanted to end the partnership, but the firm could be dissolved only if all partners consented.Therefore, Rockefeller went to work behind the scenes, lining up support from some banks,and then he provoked another quarrel over an oil industry investment.Maurice Clark barked,“If that’s the way you want to do business, we’d better dissolve.” Catching his partners in their bluff, Rockefeller placed a formal notice in the morning paper stating that he and his partners had unanimously agreed to part ways.
By communicating in a moderate tone and appearing to play to his partners’ interests, Rockefeller arranged the situation so that his partners gave him exactly what he wanted.
The Advocate: Sam Walton
As Wal-Mart’s founder, Sam Walton could have ordered people to do what he wanted. But part of his genius was that he rarely forced an idea. By protecting the selfesteem and autonomy of his executives, he was able to win their cooperation.
Take the idea of using “greeters.”Walton got this idea when visiting a Wal-Mart in Louisiana. He was met by an elderly man who said,“Hi! How are ya? Glad you’re here.” He discovered the store had experienced a shoplifting problem. Rather than offend the 99 percent of customers who were honest by posting a guard to check bags, the manager placed a friendly-looking older man out front to put shoplifters on notice that someone was watching.
Walton went back to Bentonville and told everyone about placing greeters in every store.A lot of people thought he’d lost his mind.Walton immediately gave credit for the greeters program to the people in the field who conceived it.Through his skilled advocacy, the greeters program has become an enduring, signature part of the Wal-Mart shopping experience.
The Problem of Authenticity
The need in persuasion to adapt to audiences raises an important ethical issue: authenticity.Your personal credibility provides the foundation for influence.The authenticity paradox diminishes when you see that you cannot help being a somewhat “different person” depending on who you are interacting with.And your awareness of these various roles gives you a range of “authentic selves” to display in persuasion.