How to Set Your Persuasion Priority

Let’s consider your career. If, in your professional endeavors, you could flick a switch and convince one person to do just one thing, what would that be?

Do you want to get the cool assignment? Bring a new product to market? Overhaul the customer service department? Win the promotion? Land a big-name client? Secure a budget increase? Each of these is what I call a “persuasion priority.”

Once you’ve determined the answer to that question, ask yourself this question: Who is the one person you want to say yes to what?

(When setting persuasion priorities, it’s often more effective to state them in the affirmative, even if you’re attempting to dissuade someone. For example, if you want your target to not choose a particular vendor, phrase your priority in the affirmative: “I would like Steve to weigh other options before choosing his vendor.”)

Before you answer the above persuasion priority question, consider the four persuasion priority criteria. Your persuasion priority must be:

  • Meaningful: Important to you and your organization
  • Significant: Large enough to make a difference in your life and workplace
  • Realistic: But not so large that it’s unattainable
  • “Others” Oriented: Because you get ahead by improving the condition of others

Be specific, too. You don’t want to generalize with a statement such as, “I’d like my boss to give me more responsibility.” That’s too imprecise. To increase your chances of persuasion success, specificity is crucial: “I want my boss to give me responsibility for the Latin American project.” 

Don’t say this: “I want my senior vice president to add some people to my staff.” Instead, say this: “I want my senior vice president to approve five key new hires for my department next quarter.” 

Stop reading right now and write down your persuasion priority. Who is the one person you want to do what?

Of course, at any given time, you’ll have multiple issues and objectives for which you seek agreement. But keeping your persuasion priority top of mind will significantly increase your chances of getting to “yes.” And if you’ve chosen your objective carefully, achieving it will have a dramatic and overwhelmingly positive impact on your career — and perhaps your life.

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