Hearing “yes” is largely about appealing to the other person’s enlightened self-interest. And one of the ways to effectively appeal to that is through the use of language, specifically a figure of speech called “chiasmus.”
A chiasmus is a verbal pattern in which the second half of a phrase is balanced against the first, with key elements being reversed. While you may not be familiar with the term, chances are you’ve encountered it.
For example, even the most challenged U.S. history high school student has more than likely heard references to John F. Kennedy’s iconic 1961 inaugural address, where he stated that people should, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
Or, if you’re a fan of advertising jingles, “I am stuck on Band-Aid, ’cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me.” Not as profound as JFK, but it nonetheless provides a memorable chiasmus example.
Want to improve the likelihood of a co-worker getting on board with your initiative? Use a chiasmus.
“Steve, it isn’t so much what you can do for the project – although that’s substantial. You really need to consider what the project can do for you.”
Here’s why that approach is so effective: What you’re really “selling” is transformation. You’re showing Steve how, by participating in this project, he’s actually signing up for an improved skill set, greater visibility in the company and perhaps a starring role in a career-making project.
This works, because it appeals to the other person’s enlightened self-interest – potentially creating a newer, more interesting, more skilled, more visible, more respected and more marketable … him.