2/1/2001 | 2 MINUTE READ

What You Want

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Although there are people whose vocation is “sales,” in point of fact, any of us who wants to accomplish anything through the agency of other people is involved if not in outright sales, then at least in the act of persuasion. And our facility in that activity is an index to whether we will get what we want. No matter if it is a green light on a project, a raise, a new job, a date. . .or something else that we want, we have to sell to get it. But most of us who haven’t taken that vocation don’t really have a good understanding of how to go about persuading people in the most efficient manner. In point of fact, we probably do a lousy job.

According to Gene Bedell, there are three “laws of persuasion.” He’s not talking physics, but there is a certain Newtonian aspect to them:

Every persuasive force causes an opposite resisting force.
People will let you get your way if they believe doing so will fulfill their personal needs.
The other guy talks first.
Which means, in effect, that (1) if you push, you can count on resistance; (2) those whom you are trying to get to do something are more interested in what’s in it for them than what’s in it for you (note well that this is always about “personal need”: even something that may seem purely technical, like your wanting to convince a supervisor that your team needs a computer-aided engineering analysis package, will ultimately be decided on whether the supervisor thinks it will have an advantage in it somewhere for her); (3) really an amplification of the second point, in that it is first important to determine what the other person wants in relation to what you want.

3 Steps to Yes: The Gentle Art of Getting Your Way, (Crown Business, 241 pp.) a book by Bedell, explains in an engaging manner how you can persuade people to do things: not manipulate them to do everything you want, for Bedell points out that there is often a need to compromise on things: “Agree to a lower base salary if you’ll be given an opportunity for a higher bonus; be happy if your kid eats half his vegetables; agree to vacation in Florida in winter if your spouse will mountain bike with you in Moab this spring.” You don’t always get your way; other people want to win, too. It is a matter of picking the important points and learning how to accomplish them. The methods by which these can be achieved are described by Bedell in a way that is grounded in the day-to-day activities that plenty of people participate in; this is not a book that is for people who are going to shill used cars to rubes or swamp. . .er, vacation land in Florida.

Yes, there are three steps laid out:

Fulfill personal needs.
Be credible.
Communicate persuasively.
Briefly stated: if you want to get what you want (1), then you’ve got to be able to convince someone else that there is something in it for them (2, 3). 3 Steps to Yes can help. And what more could you want?

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