you"), are seen as more genuine and are more effective than
compliments based on assumed abilities ("I just know you must be
real smart"). Likewise, compliments based on your feelings ("I love the
way you dance") are more effective than positive evaluations ("You are
a good dancer"). Obvious flattery doesn't work. We don't like to be
STEP TWO: Consider the circumstances and the listener's needs
before planning your approach. Know your audience.
Study the circumstances and the kind of people you are trying to
persuade before stating your arguments. Be sure you understand the
other person's motives and interests. Obviously, your reasons for a
proposal must emphasize how the other person's needs will be met.
An example is President Reagan's speeches. Ronald Reagan used
"freedom" and "liberty" 20 times more often than he used "equality" or
"equal rights" (Ball-Rokeach, Rokeach, & Grube, 1984). Reagan didn't
have to say (or even be aware) that he was against equal rights for
women or blacks; he just needed to say he was for free enterprise,
freedom, and reduced governmental intervention which favors the
already powerful. People get this message without Reagan ever
putting down women or minorities. Even presidents play to the
people's needs; he says what people want to hear.
Find out how well informed the listeners are. If the audience is not
well informed or already agrees with you, your message can be simple
and one-sided. If the audience is not involved, it will take someone
with some status and expertise to arouse and influence them. If the
audience is well informed and/or opposed to your views, you need a
two-sided message that clearly states the opposing viewpoints and
refutes them. An involved audience listens to the quality of your
arguments and isn't very swayed by the prestige of the speaker. An
intelligent listener is turned off by an over-simplified message.
Also, be sure you understand your goals, e.g. do you hope to
merely implant an idea, to make a good impression on others, to
"shake up" others' thinking, or to totally convince others? You aren't
likely to get there if you don't know where you are going.
STEP THREE: Find the key decision-makers or change agents and
work on them.
Sociologists have found that many communities or organizations
have key individuals who spearhead any change. These change agents
are often not the official leaders or administrators; they are usually
progressive, respected group members. For example, doctors may
only change their medical practices after a highly regarded colleague
has tried a new method and recommended it to them. So, it may be
much more efficient for you to seek out the "pace setters" and
influence them, rather than trying to persuade the whole group or
individuals who are not change agents.