Monday, December 17, 2012

Persuade first. Convince last.

Seth Godin recently wrote about Persuade vs. convince. Seth says,
"Marketers don't convince. Engineers convince. Marketers persuade. Persuasion appeals to the emotions and to fear and to the imagination. Convincing requires a spreadsheet or some other rational device."
What is the difference between being convinced and persuaded? In the context that Seth is using the terms, they mean the following:
A person is convinced by evidence or arguments made to the intellect. 
A person is persuaded by appeals made to the will, moral sense, or emotions.
I previously described why the western intellectual tradition is not effective for leaders to drive change. The problem with this approach is that it relies on reason to convince someone of your new idea. It isn't enough to get someone to change their mind. You want them to change their behavior. In order to drive change, you need to persuade them first and then convince them later.

A more compelling way to drive change

A more compelling way to get someone to change is offered by Stephen Denning in his book, The Secret Language of Leadership, and in an article by the same name. He says that successful leaders will first get their attention, second stimulate desire, and only then do they reinforce with reasons.



Excite the lizard brain, persuade the animal brain, and convince the human brain

Going back to the Triune Brain Theory, behavior is driven by the lizard and animal brains. So if you want to drive change, you must appeal to these areas of the brain. Excite the lizard brain into action by talking about the pain that your idea will alleviate. Then persuade the animal brain with a positive emotional story that supports your idea. Last, convince the human brain with reason.


The most important step is to stimulate desire. It isn't enough to simply inform others about your idea and to let them reach their own conclusions through reason. You want to elicit a desire for change. The animal brain is where emotional connections and decisions are made. If you aren't stimulating desire, then you are not driving a change in behavior.

This approach turns confirmation bias around to act in your favor. Denning says that reasons should come after an emotional connection has been made with the new idea. Your listener is now actively searching for reasons to support a decision that they have in principle already taken.

You can't avoid the reasoning step. This is a must and it is very important. What is also very important is at which point you introduce the reasoning into the conversation.


What is the most effective way to stimulate desire?