YOU AND I STARTED LEARNING how to get what
we want from other people as soon as we were born. And all those
crucial years of learning were before we had the cerebral capability
to persuade by giving good sound reasons why it was in the person's
best interests to do what we asked.
During these formative years, we formed
the habit of getting what we want by non-reason-giving methods:
By wheedling, by being sneaky or charming, by making people feel
guilty, by subtle suggestion or obvious hinting, by nonverbally
threatening to get angry, by asking again and again until people
give in just to shut us up, and so on. The habits we formed,
the methods of persuasion you and I learned to use were almost
never a simple straightforward explanation of why the other person
will be glad to do what we ask. And yet that is the best way
to get what you want from people, and I'll tell you why.
To begin with, to use this method, you
have to think about it. And in order to answer the question,
How is this in their best interests? you have to discover
if it is, in fact, in their best interests. If it isn't, you
have no right to ask it. If it's not in their best interests,
the person should refuse you. It is immoral of you to ask someone
to do something that isn't good for them.
Even if the reason you give is simply it'll
make me want to do you a favor when you need one, as long
as that's true, it's a good reason. So the first reason I think
you should use this principle is that it'll weed out any immoral
requests you have.
Second, it's honest, so you'll be happier
getting what you want using this method. When you're honest,
you don't have to do things that make you unhappy things
like lying, being sneaky, throwing a fit, getting angry, making
someone feel bad, being subtle or indirect these things
are unpleasant, uncomfortable, and don't produce enjoyment or
satisfaction, even when they succeed. Honest methods produce
And the third reason this is a good way
to get what you want is because it works better in the long run
than any other method. You will get more of what you want, over
time, with this method than with any other.
People respect honesty, and if you're honest
and straightforward with people, they will learn to trust you.
Then when you say I think you ought to do this because it's
in your best interests, they will not shut you off like they
do the tricky and underhanded persuaders (as soon as they catch
onto the game). When you speak, your words will carry more weight.
The people who know you will listen to you.
Also, we have a tendency to use all the
indirect, roundabout ways to persuade, not because it's better
than being direct, but because we've been in the habit of it
since we were two years old. When you stop and pay attention
to it, I'll bet you're surprised at how often you know good reasons
that someone should do something, and you've been "trying
to get" them to do it for a long time, but you've never
actually told them why you think they should. It's kind of funny,
really. It would be a lot funnier if it weren't so tragic.
You don't even have to "be persuasive"
for this to be effective. In other words, you don't have to be
charming or coy or clever. You can simply think it through and
then say it simply: "I've read a lot of studies, and there
seem to be more every day, that show people live longer and have
less cancer and heart disease when they eat lots of vegetables.
I want you to live a long time, so I think you ought to eat more
Imagine someone saying that to you. Wouldn't
it carry some weight, if only because of it's simplicity and
directness? Now, of course, there are some people who would respond
with "Yeah, whatever." They won't be persuaded. This
method won't get you everything you want. It isn't perfectly
effective, it is only more effective than any other method.
Let me be clear about this, in case you
think more manipulative methods may work better. Yes, a more
manipulative method may get this one thing with this one
person better this one time. But your life is an ecology.
Dishonesty to another person or sneakiness or phoniness effects
your life beyond that one encounter. It's like the difference
between a salesman who wants repeat business, and a salesman
who comes into town to sell as many of his shabby doohickies
as he can before he moves on to the next town. Sneaky, manipulative,
dishonest methods will not create repeat business. It will ruin
the reputation of the salesman.
If you are in a close relationship, the
dishonesty will gradually erode your feelings of affection for
each other and you'll grow more and more distant. This is a major
cause of "falling out of love:" people are manipulating
each other in dishonest or phony ways. Being something other
than what you are is a form of lying, and when you lie, the other
person doesn't know you as well, and so they are more distant
from you, less intimate, less close. Same goes for you. You're
not as much in love because you're not as open. You're somewhat
closed off (to prevent a discovery of what you are really up
Honest, straightforward ways of dealing
with people prevent you from feeling anxious about what others
would think if they found you out, or anxiety about what you
feel you are doing to someone when you take advantage of them,
or negative feelings in general that these childish, emotionally-manipulating
methods produce in everyone involved.
Practice this in your head beforehand.
Think of something you want from someone else. Think of something
you want them to do. Then imagine telling them straightforwardly
why you think it's in their best interests to do it. Think of
as many good reasons good from the point of view of the
other person as you can, and imagine telling that
person directly, without any coyness, game-playing, or emotional
Now think of something else you want someone
to do. And go through it again. Think up all the reasons the
other person would want to do it. And imagine telling them.
You'll need to practice because you're
not in the habit of it. You've got other habits that will tend
to get in the way. Practice it with every little request you
have for people. Make it a habit, and it will make a difference
to you for the rest of your life.
To persuade people, honestly
why it is in their best interests.