Why Consensus Is Overrated

Sometimes the most compelling path to persuasion isn’t via group buy-in. In fact, dissension in the ranks can establish you as a bolder leader.

Leaders are paid to achieve results. Period. They often, therefore, must make tough decisions — decisions that others might shy away from or try to drown in a group setting. U.S. Army General Dwight D. Eisenhower didn’t call a meeting before launching the D-Day invasion of Europe, and US Airways pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III didn’t ask permission from the control tower prior to landing Flight 1549 in the Hudson River after geese disabled engine power.

In other words, leadership doesn’t happen by committee. When the situation warrants, you need to make the tough call. So the next time you’re in a meeting and consensus regarding your ask seems unforthcoming, be the voice of reason for the group and render a decision that you know will result in the right outcome.

You lead by creating results from which the majority will benefit — even if the majority doesn’t agree with you at that moment.


Why It’s OK To Use Literary License in Persuasion

Everybody embellishes stories, at least a little bit. Like that time you told your colleagues who weren’t at the new-client meeting that everyone applauded after your presentation.

I’m here to tell you it’s okay to use literary license in the persuasive stories you tell your prospects. Slight exaggerations, the blending of separate events and the changing of particular details can be done for the benefit of a good cause: your pursuit of getting to “yes” faster.

Now, I’m not recommending you resort to outright lying. There’s a term we use for making up stories, and it’s called “fiction.” Don’t dabble in fiction, but remember that the term “literary license” grants you permission to stretch the truth. Use drama and emphasis to prove your points and make your case. You’ve no doubt heard the phrase, “If this isn’t a true story, it should be.” Make the stories you tell that good.

Here’s an example: “I remember one female customer who came into the store bathed in perfume, with makeup straight from a fashion runway and a leather jacket shinier than chrome.” (The woman may, indeed, have been dressed stylishly and appeared out of place in your store, but isn’t the way I describe her above immensely more memorable?)

No harm, no foul.

(Photo by Patrick Tomasso)

Power Language: How the Proper Words Will Skyrocket Your Persuasive Success

Contrary to popular belief, the word “verbal” does not only mean “spoken”; it also means “utilizing words.” What you say and how you say it are often equally important when it comes to convincing others.

Albert Mehrabian, a professor emeritus of psychology at UCLA and author of Nonverbal Communication, tested the effects of such social interactions as cutting into a crowded line and determining whether a smile or a quick excuse would lead to greater acceptance of the transgression. Both did.

But Mehrabian’s research became distorted over the years.

His work is now characterized as proving that words simply don’t matter. Some people who misinterpret Mehrabian’s teachings even use a false statistic — suggesting that words are only seven percent of the power of communication, with style accounting for the other 93 percent. That’s nonsense, and you know it.


Here are some vivid business metaphors and analogies you can begin using immediately to “power up” your own language skills:

• “That guy is the LeBron James of R&D. Put the ball in his hands, and watch what happens next.”

• “The proposed region is the Siberia of markets: hard to reach, intolerable climate, excessive regulation, poor communication. Why would we want to go there?”

• “Selling our product is like playing shortstop in the Majors — it looks easy until you try it.”

• “Entering that market would be like exploring a funhouse: Just when you think you’ve seen everything, the floor collapses.”


Also consider unpacking your trunk of adjectives to amp up your power quotient. Instead of simply declaring that your team has to make a decision, try describing it as a crucial decision, or perhaps a far-reaching decision, or a key decision. Be descriptive in your perception of another person’s perspective by using such terms as enlightened, critical, or well-informed.

Remember, a strength overdone is a weakness. But judiciously used, well-chosen adjectives can work tremendously in your persuasion efforts.

Persuasion 360: How to Get Agreement Up, Down and All Around

How do you persuade more than one person at a time? You need to acknowledge group decisions don’t get made in group settings.

Think about that: It’s counterintuitive but inescapably true. Groups hear and discuss, sometimes debate and argue, but they seldom decide as a unit. Rarely will you find a single decision maker. Rather, multiple decision makers — often including but not limited to the budget manager, a hierarchical leader and an informal leader — are involved in the final decision.

Thus, you need to appeal to fiscal prudence, leadership responsibility, charisma or all of the above. Group meetings must be augmented by one‐on‐one meetings to gain support and woo true decision makers. Consider yourself a congressional lobbyist, but one with scruples and a good cause.

You don’t need unanimity or an overwhelming mandate to generate group agreement; you need critical mass. Consensus is something everyone can live with, not something everyone would die for. With that in mind, focus on the pragmatism of the numbers. That means “being right” in your own mind isn’t good enough.

Men, Women and the Truth: What You Need To Know To Hear ‘Yes’ From Both

Men and Women

Remember that old “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” shtick? What did that really mean?

Here are 10 ways, based on real science, to help you break down gender differences in everything from networking to negotiating:

1. Men often overstate their abilities; women understate them.

Do your best to find the truth somewhere in the middle.

2. To men, “help” is a four-letter word.

Don’t give it to them unless they ask.

3. Men buy; women shop.

Keep that in mind when determining how slow or fast you should move.

4. Gender behavior is based on brain structure and body chemistry.

Differences in estrogen, testosterone and oxytocin affect moods, behaviors and decisions.

5. Gender behavior changes with age.

As men and women get older, testosterone and estrogen levels decrease respectively. This results in women becoming more assertive and men more accommodating.

6. Men decide; women ruminate.

After making a decision, the male brain shuts off. Female brains, however, continue to worry and second-guess. So when a female colleague says, “I’ll have to think about it,” that usually means she does need to think about it.

7. Women are better at negotiating for a group; men are better at negotiating for themselves.

Think about this when appointing project leaders.

8. Women tend to avoid conflict situations; men tend to avoid emotional scenes.

Again, this is an important consideration when assigning tasks.

9. Women respond better to stories than facts.

It may take you longer to state your case, but that’s not the point.

10. Women have better peripheral vision and will most likely notice that family photo on your desk.

What better way to get to know your new boss than having her ask about your spouse and kids!

(Photo by flashcurd via

How (Not) to Ask for a Raise

How many times have you been tempted — or actually attempted — to finagle a raise by either using other people as a measuring stick for why you’re underpaid, focusing your attention on annual reviews or just outright asking for more money?

That doesn’t work, does it?

My best advice for getting a raise: Don’t ask at all.

Rather, determine which factors or objectives your boss — the person who has the power to approve or deny a raise — values the most. Is it a stated mission to improve market share? Or is it a subtle desire to be promoted to company vice president?

Then, on a consistent basis, produce results that support your boss’s high overt or covert priorities. Continually develop ideas that help your organization conquer emerging markets, for example, or arrange for your boss to regularly look good in front of his boss by maintaining strong sales numbers, landing a major client or creating a new program.

In other words: Make his priority your priority, and good things will happen for both of you.

Remember, your boss has company money that can be moved around, and although he’s unable to print money, he can redistribute existing funds. You want to prove yourself to be of such personally vital value that you become a higher priority — and, as a result, dollars are shifted to you from somewhere (or someone) else.

Apply the law of the farm: Plant, nurture, and voila, you will reap what you sow. It’s all about performance — not begging or whining.

Use Your Eyes to Hear ‘Yes’ More Often

Considering how many scientific studies have been devoted to eyes over the past three decades, perhaps they truly are the windows to our souls.

As far back as the 1980s, researchers have claimed that people perceive individuals who engage in eye contact as more trustworthy and likable than those who don’t. When you’re in the process of persuading someone, making eye contact with that person helps him or her better process your sales pitch, your terrific idea or your request for more time off.

Research reported by The New York Times and Psychology Today suggests other reasons why, when it comes to persuasion, the eyes have it:

  • A genuine smile can be detected by the narrowing of the eyes, creating lines at the outside corners. People who “fake smile” don’t have crow’s feet.
  • Dilated pupils indicate interest. When dilation happens in the person your attempting to persuade, you’ll know you’re closer to hearing “yes.”
  • Eye contact clears the path to enhanced and more meaningful conversation, because the two of you are now connecting on a stronger level.

Two caveats:

  • Some scientists claim the use of smiley faces and other emoticons in email and text messages is an attempt by the sender to make “eye contact” with the recipient. Scientists also say that approach doesn’t work.
  • Sometimes when engaged in the process of lying, people try too hard to deceive and make too much eye contact. When telling the truth — which should be all the time, especially when in the act of persuading — look but don’t stare.

Remember: The eyes really do have it.

Let’s Get Serious About Humor in the Workplace

Have you — or, worse, do you — work in an environment void of humor? That’s too bad, because the right kind of funny business can keep your business sharp, creative and, well, fun.

Here are three tasks that humor in the workplace can accomplish:

1. Humor can aid in problem solving.

Humor relieves some of the tension and tendency to assign blame. Instead, it places an issue in perspective. When you laugh, you’re under less pressure and more likely to consider facts and opinions in the absence of prejudice.

2. Humor can lower stress levels.

Reducing stress, especially in tense work environments, is invaluable, because stress inhibits talent, accentuates emotionalism over logic and limits empathy. (For your consideration: The largest expense for organizations is absenteeism, the largest cause of absenteeism is illness and the largest cause of illness is stress.)

3. Humor can generate interest in you and your ideas.

Most healthy people like to laugh and are attracted to people who make them laugh. The more people you can draw to you in a positive dynamic, the more people who will be open to your ideas and more likely to consider them.

What won’t humor do? Well, it will not accomplish these three things:

1. Humor will not overcome polarized opinions.

The Hatfields and McCoys were not about to be calmed down with some ironic banter or shrewd displays of sarcasm. Note how political campaigns have become increasingly and disturbingly vicious and personal, and humor is employed to degrade, embarrass and undermine opponents. Bullying, in person or in writing, often uses humor to savagely attack the victim.

2. Humor will not create value where none exists.

If you don’t have a sound business case, value proposition, mission statement, beliefs set or message, humor will not serve as a substitute.

3. Humor will not enhance credibility.

You’re not credible because you’re funny; you’re funny because you’re credible. People who think they’re funny but aren’t engage in loud and profane behavior, are stuck on one issue or perform tired gags, and we don’t like them.

Bottom line: The more credibility you have, the more likely your style of humor will be accepted in the workplace.

(Photo by Ryan McGuire via Gratisography)

Persuasion Destination

What Is Your Persuasion Destination?

Has your success ever hinged on someone agreeing with your initiative? Have you ever watched a project fail because of a lack of buy-in? Stood dumbfounded as someone else was handed the promotion you coveted? Watched a potential client pass on your proposal in favor of a more charismatic competitor?

Whether you are in the executive suite, in middle management or on the front lines, persuasion skills are crucial to ensuring that you have the best chance of career success.

To the uninitiated, the term “persuasion” has negative connotations: “You’re not going to persuade me!” someone argues defiantly. Or the well-intentioned person may proclaim, “I would never try to persuade someone.”

Persuasion is not coercive, conniving or devious. No one can be persuaded to do something they don’t want to do. They may have second thoughts or buyer’s remorse, but I’m not here to talk about that.

What is persuasion?

I define persuasion as ethically winning the heart and mind of your target.

“Ethically” means simply doing something honestly and without trickery or deceit. “Winning” means gaining agreement with your suggestion, idea or position. “Heart” refers to gaining emotional buy-in, “mind” refers to logical buy-in, and “target” represents the specific person you are attempting to persuade.

A term often used in conjunction with persuasion is “influence.” Influence is the capacity to become a compelling force that produces effects on the opinions, actions and behavior of others. Consider influence to be your professional and personal credibility, your organizational and political capital, your corporate “sway.”

Remember: Persuasion is an action; influence is a state or condition.

One thing persuasion is not? Manipulation. Nor is it underhanded or self-serving. Once you go down that road, your persuasive powers with that particular person are all but finished. Manipulation does not help build long and lucrative careers. Whether you’re attempting to persuade or dissuade, you have to be doing it for the right reasons and in the right manner.

Think about the last time you tried to persuade someone. Were you successful? Or did your attempt lead you and the other person down the wrong road?

(Photo by Ryan McGuire via Gratisography)