A theme for Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign was, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Have you ever paused to consider what skills you need the most in daily life? Which will get you ahead at work? Which ones you use more than others? This post is intended to open your eyes to one that’s used every day but seldom studied and practiced even less. No, I’m not talking about listening skills, although that would be a good guess. I’m talking about the ability to persuade; to move people to action, to change hearts and minds, to ultimately hear “Yes!” I would argue it’s a persuasion economy but I won’t call you stupid to make my point.
Every day, all day long, you engage with others and quite often you’re hoping to persuade them in some way. Aristotle said persuasion was the art of getting someone to do something they would not normally do if you didn’t ask. Getting people to do what you want can be challenging because it involves behavior change. On top of that, they can’t read your mind, don’t know what you want and, oh by the way, they have their own priorities.
But learning how to ethically persuade people is worth the time and effort, especially if you want to have more professional success and personal happiness.
Deirdre McCloskey, Professor of Economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, researched persuasion’s impact on the U.S. economy in the 1990s. In Knowledge and Persuasion in Economics she built the case that this one skill is responsible for 25% of our national income. More than 20 years since her book came out, with the proliferation of the internet and all the changes that came along with it, some estimate that figure at closer to 30% now.
If that’s not enough to convince you, consider what Daniel Pink, author of To Sell is Human, has to say. In his book he cites a survey of more than 7,000 businesspeople in non-sales roles. He wrote, “People are now spending about 40 percent of their time at work engaged in non-sales selling – persuading, influencing, and convincing others in ways that don’t involve anyone making a purchase.” If you’re reading this and happen to be in sales I’d venture to guess that percentage is probably greater than 70% for you. What this means is the typical worker spends anywhere from three to six hours a day using persuasion skills.
As society places less emphasis on manual labor and more on knowledge and idea generation it’s no wonder Carmine Gallo, author of Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great, says, “Mastering the ancient art of persuasion—combining words and ideas to move people to action—is no longer a ‘soft’ skill. It is the fundamental skill to get from good to great in the age of ideas.”
Listening is a skill and, hearing impaired aside, we all come with the same equipment. However, I’m sure you know people who are very good listeners and others who are very bad. Persuasion is similar in that it’s something we all do starting at birth (babies cry to be fed, burped, held, changed, etc.) but while some people become very good at it, others are very bad. If you take the time to study persuasion then thoughtfully consider how to ethically put your knowledge to use you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much easier it will be to hear “Yes!”, change hearts and minds, and to move people to action.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed nearly 150,000 times! If you’ve not watched it yet click here to see what you’ve been missing. The course will teach you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.