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The what, Wand how Qi persuasion

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We are in the business of persuasion. Most lawyers believe that the nature of persuasion is to present facts and that “the best argument will win.” When you have finished this article, you will realize that the nature of persuasion is really quite different. Why should you read this article? Do you need business lawyer free consultation? Do you need Lawyers? Because you will learn the shocking truth about how people make decisions that will forever change the way you approach the task of influencing others, whether it is a jury, a spouse, an employee, a boss or your children. In short, you will realize that before there can be persuasion, the listener must be willing to accept information.

Therefore, persuasion is the art of preparing the listener to be receptive, and then presenting the information in a context that is so memorable that it sticks. And, by “information” I mean the facts that will form the basis of the conclusions you want your audience to reach.

We will begin our journey with a recollection of what most of us recall about miniature golfing (and what probably influenced me not to become a golfer): the windmill, the drawbridge and the clown’s mouth. The task was to putt the ball down the path before the windmill blade got in the way, the drawbridge went up, or the clown's mouth closed. (Just thinking about it still makes me anxious.) What does that have to do with persuasion? Everything! You must insert your information at the precise moment that your listener’s brain is most open to receiving it. If you present the same information at the wrong moment, it might be ignored, forgotten, or worse, rejected.

The goal of persuasion is acceptance. And, like a combination lock, acceptance happens when everything lines up. The idea here is that a listener will not accept information when the circumstances, context or timing are wrong. Hence the expression: “This is not the time or place." David Ball's treatise, Damages 3, describes the importance of “sequencing” in the presentation of information.1 He deals with what to present and how to do it. "What” and "how” are important in every presentation, but perhaps more important is “why.”

The why of persuasion

There are two elements that most companies will present to market their product or service: what and how. What the product is and how it is made or rendered. For example: “We sell baby food (what) that we make by using the best ingredients (how).” And, as lawyers, we present what happened and how it happened. For example: the plaintiff was injured (what) when the defendant drove through a red light (how). But what is missing from both examples is why. Why should a customer buy the advertised brand instead of another brand, and why should a jury want to find in favor of plaintiff and award damages?

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