No battle plan survives contact with the enemy

There’s a saying in the military that’s
attributed to Helmuth von Moltke, a German Field Marshall in the 1800s – “No
battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” Why plan for battle then?
The late Bill Walsh, former pro football head
coach of the San Francisco 49ers and Hall of Famer, was known for scripting out
the first 15 plays his offense would run to start the game. Quite often the
script was out the window depending on what happened during the first few downs
of the game so why prepare a script?
In many martial arts, practitioners go through
forms or katas that simulate fight sequences against multiple opponents. It’s
highly unlikely that any fight ever unfolded as laid out in a kata so why
practice such sequences?
In each case it seems as if the best
preparation is a gamble, a potential waste of time and effort, so why go
through the motions? Because there’s value in planning beyond the plan. Things
may not unfold as planned but soldiers, athletes and martial artists are more
prepared for different eventualities than if they never trained and planned at
How confident would you be in your country’s
ability to defend your homeland if they didn’t train and plan? How confident
would you be about victory if your favorite sports team had no game plan? How
confident would a martial artist be if they never thought about and practiced defending
against multiple opponents and then found themselves facing several attackers?
The same thought process applies in
persuasion. Many of the concepts I teach in the two-day Principles of
Persuasion workshop® take time and preparation. You see, being an effective persuader
isn’t about being a silver-tonged devil in the moment any more than success on
the battle field is just about weapons, or being a good athlete on the football
field, or kicking high in martial arts. All of those things are helpful but the
best in each succeed because they prepare and train.
So what does preparation look like in
persuasion? It starts with learning the science of influence. With more than 60
years of research in this field we can turn to studies that clearly tell us
which principles of influence to use and when. This understanding will lead to
more consistent success than relying on someone’s good advice, what worked for
them or your best hunch.
Another way preparation leads to success comes
with homework; learning as much as you can about the person you’re trying to
persuade. The more you know about someone before you meet with them the easier the
persuasion process will be for a couple of reasons.
You can invoke the principle of liking by
connecting on what you have in common or offering up genuine compliments. Scanning
Facebook, reviewing a LinkedIn profile, or a quick Google search might be all
it takes to find the commonalities or things to genuinely compliment.
To effectively utilize the principle of consistency you want to tie your request to what someone has said or done in
the past, what they believe, their values, attitudes, etc., because people like
to remain consistent in those areas. Again, many of these can be uncovered
simply by doing a little research in advance of your meeting.
Will your next attempt at persuasion go as planned?
Probably not. Will you be better off having done some planning and preparation?
Almost assuredly! So here’s my advice – next time you have something important
you want someone to say “Yes” to, do a little homework beforehand and then allow
yourself to see the situation unfold in your mind’s eye in different ways.
These seemingly small things could have a big impact on the outcome.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.


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