Losing Control of Your Persuasion Case? Find Something Positive to Take Away

Staring straight ahead, firmly gripping the wheel, the driver fixated on the snowy road in front of him. His jaw clenched, he steadily — subconsciously, perhaps — pressed harder on the gas pedal as he and his vehicle pushed onward through the driving snow. But he wasn’t thinking about the road; instead, the driver’s mind was on everything else: his job, his finances, tomorrow’s schedule.

Then, as a toy car is at the mercy of a child’s hands, his vehicle began to hydroplane, sending it into three terrifying 360-degree spins before finally smashing into the snow-covered median. Heart pounding, eyes wide open and still gripping the steering wheel, the driver quickly and repeatedly thanked his Creator, and vowed from that moment forward to be more in control behind the wheel.

That driver was me.

If you’ve ever lost control while driving, as I did that frightful winter night, you know how harrowing the experience can be. Losing control can happen so fast, and for so many reasons: driver inattention, road conditions, other motorists’ actions. But to arrive safely at a given destination, you must either be able to retain focus or be skilled enough to drive through any type of conditions.

And so it goes with so many other aspects our lives: relationships, sales and, yes, persuasion. Hopefully your persuasion situations don’t involve live-or-die scenarios (even though at times they may feel that way). Remember, each persuasion attempt can be valuable, even if you ultimately don’t hear “yes.”

Find something positive to take away from each one, and I bet you’ll wind up hearing “no” less frequently.

Persuasion Power: Building a Strong Business Case

Building your business case can achieve skyrocketing persuasion results.

It all begins with such quantitative actions as doing due diligence, then measuring return on investment and knowing how much you need to sell. Then, you must create positive emotional links.

Finally, put everything together to create both real and hypothetical case studies to make your point. To best convince others that your business case is relevant and powerful, consider these six techniques:

1. Draw from other industries.

Demonstrate how and when your idea has worked elsewhere and why it’s likely to work in this situation. In other words, show precedence.

2. Provide relevant examples.

They should that either support why quick action is necessary or why a more measured approach is appropriate.

3. Create “positional critical mass.”

This means that you’ve focused your early arguments on the movers and shakers — people who can champion your cause and best rally support. It also helps when formal (hierarchical) and informal (popular colleagues) individuals support the position you espouse.

4. Cite and utilize experts (living and deceased).

They can be leveraged to help cut through uncertainty. If I were attempting to persuade about technology, I’d likely cite Walt Mossberg, former Wall Street Journal columnist and co-founder of the AllThingsD, Recode, D & Code Conferences. But if my persuasion priority involved organizational strategy, I’d reference the late management consultant Peter Drucker.

5. Provide validation and verification.

Citing the right metrics (quantitative help) will justify and validate your persuasion priority. For example, if you have 20 percent more clients six months from now than you do today, you’ll know your organization’s referral initiative will have been successful.

6. Argue against yourself.

People routinely write books on both sides of an issue. Academic debating requires the ability to take either side of an issue and prove or disprove it. Make the anticipated arguments against your own case and rebut them, so that you’re prepared for the crucible.

Remember: There are quantitative and qualitative aspects to any persuasive argument. Not only can’t you afford to omit either dynamic, but you must appreciate the supporting role they play for each other.

Mastering that synthesis is the key to becoming a powerful persuader.

My Holiday Selling Advice: Keep It Clean

As the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear, retail professionals will be busier than ever. Whether you sell motorcycles, jewelry or consumer electronics, your job is to persuade holiday shoppers to buy what you’re selling.

My advice during this critically important but potentially lucrative and exciting time? Don’t be one of those brands, companies or individuals that skate the fine line between ethical and manipulative persuasion.

Whenever I talk about persuasion — on my website, at speaking engagements and even when out with friends (hey, it’s what I do!) — I define “persuasion” as “ethically winning the heart and mind of your customer.”

“Ethically” means simply doing something honestly and without trickery or deceit. “Winning” means making the sale. “Heart” refers to gaining emotional buy-in, “mind” refers to logical buy-in and “customer” is the specific person you are attempting to persuade.

Turning to manipulative methods is tempting — especially when there are sales quota to meet, and consumers have many other purchasing options.

To keep sales professionals from engaging in questionable tactics when they hear “no,” I suggest following my “ART of Persuasion” model. Even though you may be familiar with this, it’s worth a reminder during the holiday shopping season.

1. ACKNOWLEDGE the objection.

Doing so psychologically prepares the buyer to hear what you have to say: “I understand and can see what you’re saying, but may I share with you some information that might change your mind?”

2. RESPOND in a substantive and compelling manner.

Do so by using three key pieces of information: “If you’re looking for a lower price, you’ll find it somewhere else. But if you’re looking for great buying experience, you’re in the right place.”

And then give three reasons why the customer should buy from you and your store — not from someone else and not online.

3. TRANSITION to the next step.

Remember to remain respectful of the buyer’s objections:

“What else would you like to know?”

“Another thing to consider is …”

“Do you have other questions I can answer?”

“What do you think?”

If the response is still negative, you have more work to do. Communication and objection handling are true art forms, and you’ll be like Picasso when you master the ART of this form of rebuttal.

Like any useful model, the ART of persuasive communication can be applied to just about any situation.

You won’t hear “yes” every time, but you’ll be shocked at how often you do.

Enjoy the holiday selling season!

Chipping Away at the Blocks to Persuasion Success

In a recent post, I wrote about common blocks to hearing yes.

Expanding on that, I’ve identified four specific target blocks: personal details, personalities, preferences and parameters. Each block includes sub-points that will help you chip away at a particular block to get to “yes.” Think of your persuasion priority: Who do you want to say “yes” to what?

Keeping that priority in mind, carefully review each of the four areas and identify what is a block, what isn’t a block and how you know. (This is an exercise you should repeat every time you have a major persuasion priority on your hands.)

You won’t need to provide detail for all areas here, but the more information you have, the better your chances of persuasion success. If it helps, create a worksheet to keep track of what is a block, what isn’t a block and how you know. You’ll also be amazed at what you’ll learn.

Let’s begin: What do you know about your target?

Personal Details

Professional objectives: These goals are important to a person’s business or career, which may involve status in a hierarchical structure, entrepreneurship or business ownership.

Personal agendas: These goals involve family, friends, hobbies, travel, recreation, civic and service involvement, religious commitments and self-development.

Emotional intensity: This comes into play if a persuasion situation also involves a personal relationship, a belief that goes beyond intellectual evaluations or commitment over compliance. Think of emotional intensity as the volume knob on a Marshall half stack, not the on/off switch. You can turn it up or down, depending on your needs.


⇒ Gender or generational differences: Are there behavior tendencies influenced by gender where you two are potentially out of synch? Are there generational differences creating a stone wall in front of you?

⇒ Organizational influence: What is your target’s organizational horsepower?

⇒ Publicly stated perspective on a given issue: This can include conversations, written communication, the championing of or opposition to similar issues, role as a stakeholder, and experience with the given situation.

⇒ Trust level: What is the degree of trust shared between you and your target? Think of your personal history with the target, respect given and shown, mutual obligations, favors supplied and reciprocal support.


⇒ Idiosyncratic communication preferences: Does your target prefer to communicate with you and others via email, phone or text message?

⇒ Data preferences: Some people want all the information; others just want the executive summary. Some people like to study the stats, others want the story. How does your target prefer his information?

⇒ Target’s tendencies: Do he approach problem solving in a particular way? Does she have a go-to person? Does he often resort to cutting expenses or sales promotions? Do they exhibit behaviors that may impede your path to yes?

⇒ Relationships: This involves examination of advisors, peers, past sources of influence, probability of independent actions (or actions dictated by others), and reactions to peer pressure. Does your target have any exceptionally positive or unusually strained relationships?


⇒ Approval authority: This is usually related to economics, budgets and the ability to secure funding by attracting donors or underwriters. (This also is crucial when dealing with nonprofit organizations.)

⇒ Budget parameters: These relate to the ability to make unilateral decisions, timing in the budget process, ROI considerations, changing priorities and non-allocated discretionary funds.

⇒ Time constraints: Consider the deadlines you and your target are under, the magnitude of what needs to be accomplished once agreement is reached, and the hours/days/months/years it will take to make the ask’s concept a reality.

⇒ Issue expertise: This may involve credibility, history in this and similar circumstances, researching and studying the issue, and public statements.


You may wish to add or amend categories. My point is that in order to define your target and the likelihood of persuasion, you need intelligence — not brain smarts, but what the government would call “intel.”

I choose not to think of this as “competitive intelligence,” because the target isn’t necessarily in a competitive position (at least we should hope not). But the target is in a questionable position, insofar as how amenable that individual might be to your persuasive charms.

Remember: The most effective and impressive persuaders know exactly who they’re persuading and how to tailor messages specifically to them.

Persuasion Success: Identifying Personality Differences

In their timeless book, Personal Styles & Effective Performance, David W. Merrill and Roger H. Reid explain that all people have a particular social style created by the conclusions others draw about them and based on what they do and say. The very definition of “behavior” is “what we say and do, and how we say and do it.”

Many behavioral preferences developed when we were young, in our desire to avoid tension and seek comfort. Thus, people don’t change their behavior as much they change their circumstances, just like a chameleon. When you can accurately assess another person’s behavioral preferences, you’re able to predict how he or she will respond in certain circumstances. For example, when your colleague receives a critique, does he redouble his efforts to prove the critic wrong? Or does he argue and rationalize his position? Chances are good that whatever the resulting behavior is, it’s typical of that person.

On the other hand, a person who behaves assertively can assist you in your persuasion efforts, a level-headed co-worker can help you sort through the clutter of your ask and the office peacemaker can negotiate differences and provide a supportive pep talk.

Merrill and Reid suggest that three measures of personality exist: assertiveness, responsiveness and versatility. Our concern here is assertiveness and responsiveness.

Assertiveness measures how forceful a person is in his approach: Does he ask or does he tell?

Responsiveness is the emotional dimension of personality: Does she express her feelings or are they contained?

Four Social Styles

Merrill and Reid developed four social styles based on assertiveness and responsiveness: Driving, Expressive, Amiable, and Analytical.

Driving Behavior

“Results.” “Action.” “Get it done now.” These terms describe people, ahem, driven by driving behavior. They are fast decision-makers and work best with those who respond in kind and move just as quickly. Driving personalities seek power and autonomy via facts and information. If these people encounter a roadblock, they will go through it and not around it.

Expressive Behavior

“Communicative” and “competitive” best describe expressive behavior. These individuals freely talk about their thoughts and emotions, and like to involve others. They don’t like to surround themselves with competitors, and they crave personal recognition. Like Drivers, Expressives act quickly. Their primary concern is the future, and they’ve been known to change direction midstream, demonstrating impatience. Expressives heavily weigh personal opinions — theirs and select others — when making decisions.

Amiable Behavior

Relationships and cooperation are important to Amiables. They are warm, likable and even prone to sentimentality. They have a tendency to take things personally, power doesn’t interest them and acceptance is paramount. Often slow movers, they will talk and consider decisions carefully with their confidants before saying “yes” or “no.” Amiables seek to minimize risk at all costs.

Analytical Behavior

Show me the logic. Show me the principles. Show me the data. Show me the objective third-party analysis. Analyticals want to know not only if something works, but how and why and who says. Others may see them as lacking energy or aloof, but don’t be fooled: They are using their energy for mental processing and consideration of all angles of a given topic. Analyticals don’t make friends easily or quickly, but once they do, relationships are important. Like Amiables, they avoid risk, because their desire to be right is almost all consuming.

Adapting Your Social Style for Agreement

How can you use the above information to hear “yes” more often? Cater to the other person’s preferences. Don’t treat others the way you would like to be treated; treat them the way they want to be treated.

  • Don’t small talk a Driver. Also: Share facts, not feelings, and use concision to get the decision.
  • Make the Expressive the star. Also: Resonate fun and high energy, and allow for digressions and stories.
  • Form bonds with Amiables. Also: Take a personal interest in them, and ask for their opinion.
  • Bring out your research arsenal for Analytics. Also: Use unqualified expert opinions, and leave no question unanswered.

The real challenge comes when your personality style matches that of your persuasion target. You’d think this would be a match made in heaven, but it isn’t.

A Driver working to persuade a Driver needs to not only move quickly but double-check the details.

An Expressive convincing an Expressive must be friendly and receptive while continuing to nudge the target toward the objective.

A pair of Amiables will require lots and lots of coffee.

And if you’re an Analytic attempting to persuade an Analytic, prepare for an exploration of the subatomic particles of your persuasion priority.

Identifying and catering to personality traits are key to when — and whether — you hear “yes.”

Persuasion Success: Navigating the Gender Gap

If you like to watch fireworks, just bring up the subject of gender differences at your next friendly neighborhood cookout. Chances are the grill won’t be the only thing on fire.

The moment you take an absolutist stand on gender differences, you find yourself in a proverbial gender La Brea Tar Pit. Every individual — man or woman — has unique education backgrounds, experiences and frames of reference. (Please keep that in mind before you send me irate emails.) That said, there is real science behind the differences between men and women when it comes to decision-making and persuasion. Consider these findings:

Men often overstate their abilities; women understate them.

“In studies, men overestimate their abilities and performance, and women underestimate both. Their performances do not differ in quality,” wrote Katty Kay and Claire Shipman in a lengthy article for The Atlantic magazine’s website in 2014. The authors of Womenomics and authorities on gender differences in business found that women working at Hewlett-Packard applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100 percent of the job qualifications. On the other hand, men were happy to apply when they thought they could meet 60 percent of the job requirements.

Bottom line: Persuasion is about taking risk. You can’t get the job if you don’t apply.

A four-letter word for men: help.

In her book, Why She Buys: The New Strategy for Reaching the World’s Most Powerful Consumers, gender expert Bridget Brennan claims women love asking for and receiving help. For men, “help” is a four-letter word.

Bottom line: When persuading women, offer assistance in some form. This gender preference will do wonders for you and your persuasion priority. If you’re persuading men, try something like this: “I did find a report that talks about what you were researching. I’ll leave it here.”

Men buy, women shop.

Shopping behavior mirrors gender differences throughout many aspects of life. Women consider shopping an interpersonal activity, according to Wharton marketing professor Stephen J. Hoch. Men treat is as something that must be done.

Bottom line: Pair this idea with personality behaviors to give you strong indications of how fast or slow you should move with your request.

Perfectionism is a confidence killer.

“Women feel confident only when they are perfect,” Kay and Shipman wrote for The Atlantic. “Study after study confirms that [this] is largely a female issue, one that extends through women’s entire lives. We don’t answer questions until we are totally sure of the answer, we don’t submit a report until we’ve edited it ad nauseam, and we don’t sign up for that triathlon unless we know we are faster and fitter than is required. We watch our male colleagues take risks, while we hold back until we’re sure we are perfectly ready and perfectly qualified.”

Bottom line: No one needs to be at 100 percent all the time. In fact, few are. Leverage that reality in your persuasion efforts.

Gender behavior is based on brain structure and body chemistry.

In 2007, neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine released The Female Brain, a book that generated major debate by claiming that women’s brains “are so deeply affected by hormones that their influence can be said to create a woman’s reality. They can shape a woman’s values and desires, and tell her, day to day, what’s important.” Brizendine then released The Male Brain in 2010, in which she states that “a man will use his analytical brain structures, not his emotional ones, to find a solution.” She also notes that the male brain thrives on competition and is obsessed with rank and hierarchy.

Bottom Line: Differences in estrogen, testosterone and oxytocin affect moods, behaviors and decisions. Everything is situational, especially this guidance. Identify the mercurial targets from the more static and approach accordingly.

Gender behavior changes with age.

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

Bottom line: Take into consideration the age of your target.

Women don’t ask.

While researching their book Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation — and Positive Strategies for Change, economics professor and negotiation specialist Linda Babcock and co-author Sara Laschever found that only about 7 percent of female MBAs attempted to negotiate their salaries when hired, compared to 57 percent of men. Those who did negotiate increased their salary by more than 7 percent.

Bottom line: You’ll never get the promotion, the assignment, the budget or the career you want if you don’t ask. The worst thing your target can say is no.

Women make great personal evangelists.

Women focus on details, researchers say, and are more likely than men to talk to their colleagues about their experiences with you.

Bottom line: If you want personal evangelists — people willing to sing your praises — identify women with whom you’ve exceeded their expectations.

Men decide; women ruminate.

Scientists Colin Camerer and Read Montague imaged the brains of men and women to determine the neural roots of fidelity and betrayal. After making a decision, the male brain turned off. Female brains, however, continued to display activity in parts that regulate worry and error-detection.

Bottom line: When she says, “I’ll have to think about it,” that doesn’t mean “no.” It usually means she actually does need to think about it.

Here are more gender differences to keep in mind:

  • Women are better at negotiating for a group.
  • Men are better at negotiating for themselves.
  • Women tend to avoid conflict situations.
  • Men tend to avoid emotional scenes.
  • Women respond more to stories than facts.
  • Women have better peripheral vision and will notice that family photo on your desk.

Some women — and men — might be highly offended right now and argue against any generalizations like the ones listed above. Others may be nodding in agreement. Regardless, keeping these ideas in mind will help you stay out of the muck as you seek to achieve your persuasion priority.

Persuasion Success: How to Appeal to Different Age Groups

“What’s Omaha Beach?”

The twentysomething looked at me expectantly. I frequently tell people that not every persuasion priority should be as difficult as taking Omaha Beach. I’ve said it thousands of times. But this was a first. I realized I had crossed into The Twilight Zone. (Wait, this guy wouldn’t know that reference, either!)

Yes, it seems that a mention of World War II’s D-Day no longer resonates with my audiences. I’ve adjusted my presentations accordingly, which is what you’ll need to do in your persuasion efforts. Whether you are in the cohort known as “Mature” or the one called “Millennial,” it doesn’t matter what your frame of reference is. You need to know your target’s frame of reference.

Although the names and date ranges fluctuate among experts, here are some common generation parameters:

  • Matures were born between 1909 and 1945.
  • Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964.
  • Xers were born between 1965 and 1981.
  • Millennials were born between 1982 and 1996 (and later, according to some observers).

Rocking the Ages: The Yankelovich Report on Generational Marketing summarizes  some of the key differences among age groups exceptionally well.

• Matures often are described as both the Silent Generation and the Greatest Generation, as they are defined by the idea of answering a call to duty. They celebrated victory after hard-fought battles (like the one waged on Omaha Beach) and needed to be team players. Education to Matures was a privilege. Living example: Betty White

• For Boomers, individuality reigned supreme. Youth was valued and self-absorption rampant. They were rewarded because they deserved it, and leisure was the primary reason for living.  Education was an entitlement, “now” is more important than “later” and money is meant to be spent. Living examples: Bill Gates, Demi Moore, and Jerry Seinfeld.

• For Xers, success usually means two jobs. And if you really want to get ahead in the world, you must be an entrepreneur. After all, “the man” exists to bring you down. Mention a “program” to Xers, and they’ll wonder if you’re referring to Microsoft Word or Outlook Express. Living examples: Jennifer Aniston and David Beckham.

• Millennials grew up in what some call the “era of the child.” Where in previous generations children were seen and not heard, this generation of kids was put on a pedestal. They typically work well with friends and on teams because they grew up with play dates and other organized social outings. They believe everyone should be rewarded for their efforts and do something not because the boss said so but because it makes sense. Millennials often are called “digital natives” because they are members of the first generation to not know what it’s like to live without the Internet. Living examples: Mark Zuckerberg, LeBron James and Kate Upton.

One generation always seems to like to mock the others. Matures pick on Boomers. Boomers make fun of Xers, and everyone snipes at Millennials. It’s like living in Wisconsin and making fun of people from Illinois. Easy.

Here are the decision-making triggers that drive each generation to act:

  • Matures: It’s the right thing to do.
  • Boomers: It feels good.
  • Xers: You’ll get ahead if you do it.
  • Millennials: It’s just smart to do.

You can learn the age of your targets by asking where and when they went to high school. (I can work that into just about any conversation.) After you receive the answers, tuck that info away for a future generationally appropriate reference. Here are some examples:

  • Class of 1970s: “Man, that idea is going to be the Sony Walkman of your industry.”
  • Class of 1980s: “This project is going to make you look like Tom Cruise in Top Gun.”
  • Class of 1990s: “This idea could be bigger than Nirvana.”
  • Class of 2000s: “It’s important we keep the new product under wraps until the introduction. We don’t want to be accused of spreading fake news.”

Of course, these examples won’t always resonate, but when they do, you’ll see a spark in your target’s eye. Besides, you don’t have to be a 1994 grad to understand the Nirvana reference.

Generational differences matter. One Harley-Davidson dealer I know casually asks customers during their purchase experience for the name of their favorite song in high school. Then when the customer takes delivery of the motorcycle, guess what song is booming through the store’s sound system? The music creates strong, positive feelings about the experience and improves the dealership’s customer satisfaction scores.

Just remember: Every generation has a different frame of reference. For example, to Millennials, a “45” has always been a gun and never a record, and Elton John was never a rock star.

How to Give an Honest Self-Assessment

In two previous posts, I shared 12 keys to self-persuasion success.

Now, I’d like to add one more: Create an honest self-assessment.

Begin by developing a document for your eyes only. No one else will ever see it, so make a list of your strengths (how well you deal with people, perhaps, or your ability to solve problems) and your weaknesses (your dislike for conflict or disdain for details). Then, add either a piece of positive evidence or a potential solution after each one. Some examples might look like this:

  • “I keep my promises and am excellent at maintaining long-term relationships, as evidenced by my 10-year relationship with our firm’s top client.”
  • “I am independent and can get myself out of most jams. Many people have contributed to my success, for which I am thankful. At the same time, I need to recognize and admire the nature of my accomplishments.”
  • “When meeting new clients, I get nervous and need to recognize this is a natural and normal reaction. (They’re probably nervous, too!) I will go into these situations with some prepared conversation items and questions, and I will concentrate on being interested in what clients are saying.”
  • “Although I am typically calm and relaxed in social situations, I sometimes make a social blunder, say the wrong thing or use a word incorrectly. But so does everyone else. Going forward, I’ll just make a joke and say, ‘Am I having a senior moment already?’ ”

Remember that nobody is either all right or all wrong. (Even Gandhi probably had a bad habit or two.) But with an honest assessment and a frequent review of what you do well, what you don’t and what actions you can take, you’ll be on your way to destroying that pathological critic.

The psychology of self-persuasion is all about consistency. You never want to get too high when you hear “yes” or too low when you get a “no.”

Mark Rodgers’ Ultimate Guide to Self-Persuasion Success — Part 1

Living with low self-esteem, self-efficacy and self-confidence steals your energy and ability to cope with anxiety, problems, challenges and risks. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that attaining high self-esteem, solid self-efficacy and weapons-grade self-confidence does exactly the opposite. It enables you to solve problems rather than worry about them, find ways to win people over, and work directly and purposefully to address interpersonal issues.

Many of the following ideas could fall under a category of psychology referred to as cognitive therapy. That is, participating in activities, exercises and conversations that improve your “self-talk” or ongoing internal dialogue, and therefore impacting everything from your emotional state to your persuasive performance. For some, this is the purview of incense-burning, beard-wearing types who wouldn’t be caught dead without their yoga mats. If you can break through that bias, though, you’ll discover that it’s powerful stuff.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Vanderbilt University studied 240 depressed patients who were randomly placed in groups. Some received anti-depressant medication, others participated in cognitive therapy, and still others received a placebo. After 16 weeks, both the anti-depressant group and the cognitive therapy group had improved at about the same rate. The real difference was that the cognitive therapy group was found less likely to relapse during the two years following therapy. Why? They had acquired the skills and behaviors to think more positively.

This example illustrates the key to becoming more resilient. Just like the body needs air, nutrition and regular exercise, your mind needs a fitness regimen, too. You must regularly stretch, feed, work, coach and rest your mind, so consider what follows as your all-access, lifetime membership to Mark’s Self-Persuasion World Gym.

1. Be cognitively aware of your internal dialogue.

When you make a mistake and find yourself thinking, “I always mess up!” or “Stupid. Stupid. Stupid,” hit “stop.” Don’t keep running the video clip on a loop in your head. Stop and reframe your negative thoughts.

2. Reframe negative thoughts.

Don’t scold. Fix. You don’t always mess up. It’s not that you’ll never get anything right. You did land the job in the first place. And you’ve done many things well and achieved success. You simply have some aspect of a project or relationship that is giving you a hard time. Break it down and troubleshoot. Maybe it’s not the entire board presentation that’s giving you fits; it’s only the intro or anticipating resistance. Identify and fix. If you don’t currently possess the skills to make a fix, acquire them. If you don’t have the information you need, find the data.

3. Use success ranges.

Don’t turn every situation into an all-or-nothing case. In other words, don’t enter every client meeting thinking you need to come out with new business or else it wasn’t a successful meeting.

4. Understand the physical side of self-persuasion.

Get enough sleep and rest, because “fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Williams Shakespeare said that first, but U.S. Army Gen. George S. Patton and football coach Vince Lombardi also picked up on it. Regardless, it still rings true today. Without enough rest, you won’t be able to form your arguments, look your best and articulate your positions to the best of your abilities. Ask me how I know: I’ve worked myself into a state of almost mental incoherence, and subsequently lost business.

5. Too much caffeine hurts your persuasion attempts.

Caffeine makes you seem nervous and uncertain, even if you don’t have a visible case of the jitters. So much for oozing self-confidence. You might, however, want to hope that your target has downed a few cups of coffee or cans of Mountain Dew. Australian researchers several years ago determined that people who drank two cups of strong coffee were much more easily swayed to change their minds than test subjects who were given a placebo instead.

Look for more self-persuasion tips next time.

Stop Twisting Reality into Negative Knots

“Cognitive distortions” is a fancy way of describing the way we twist reality in our own minds. Below are five examples of cognitive distortions that prove problematic for people seeking to improve their persuasion skills:

1. You take one event or incident and apply it globally to any given situation. For example, you make one mistake in a presentation and now tell yourself that you’re a terrible public speaker.

2. You listen to your pathological critic. That critic might be using absolute terminology such as “always,” “every” and “everybody” and “never,” “none” and “nobody.” It’s easy to fall prey to consistent thoughts containing words like those.

3. Your mind is trained to only see and hear certain things. And those things are typically negative: a critique, a look of displeasure, an injustice.

4. You focus too much on your external critics. Madonna once stated that there was a period in her career when all she could perceive was the negative. She’d perform a killer show, with the crowd on its feet all night, but Madonna’s eyes would always find the handful of people who looked like they weren’t having the time of their lives. And that’s, unfortunately, where her focus would lie.

5. You dwell on complaints. For example, although the majority of respondents to a user survey might appear to have gone out of their way to be complimentary about your company’s products, services and customer relations, the few complaints are the ones you can’t stop thinking about.

Sure, it makes sound business sense to be aware of the negatives and evaluate how you can do better. But concentrating the majority of your energy on them without celebrating your accomplishments can seriously derail the self-esteem train.

So this week, focus on the positive and see if you a notice a shift in your persuasive effectiveness.