Assess Your Degree of Difficulty

There are lots of ways to think about persuasion. And our team always advocates an approach that is based on preparation and a thorough understanding of the audience. But there’s one fundamental and additional element that can never be forgotten. In addition to a thorough understanding of your audience, you also need a thorough understanding of “your ask.” And in particular, you need to be well aware of how significant an ask it is, and the “degree of difficulty” in getting your audience to “yes.”

Persuasion is a two-way street. Looking at things through your own perspective is important… after all, you need to know what you want and what your goals are. But a thorough understanding of how your message will be received is equally important. So, you have to ask yourself a few key questions, so that you can accurately assess how “big” your ask will feel to the audience.

Are you proposing a huge change or just a minimal one? Are you asking a lot of your audience or just a little? Knowing these variables — degree of change and degree of involvement will allow you to allocate adequate time and resources to the challenge ahead. And once you understand how big your ask will feel, and how your audience might receive it, you are now well on your way to success.

First, think about the level of change you are advocating for. Are you recommending a change of direction in your audience’s work? How big? Are you proposing a major new initiative (one that will perhaps require a significant budget)? Will there be additions to payroll or will people lose their jobs? Significant changes like these require a sensitive, comprehensive message that acknowledges and proactively addresses the inevitable questions and concerns. Will the change you are advocating for feel significant? Or not so much?

Second, consider the level of involvement you are asking of your audience. Is this particular audience lending support and approval for your recommendation? Will they have to implement some of the changes, or manage those who will? Or are you asking for a commitment of resources, time and risk? Are you asking for their active involvement? Or just passive involvement? The more “active” your ask of the audience is, the more they need to believe in you and your message.

When you break down your communication into these variables, it isn’t difficult to analyze this matrix: If the challenge ahead is high-change and high-involvement, the time and resources you’ll need to allocate to preparation must be much greater. Perhaps you’ll enlist more support and feedback from your colleagues, perhaps you’ll seek outside coaching. Just by adequately preparing yourself, you will be much more likely to gain success.

There are lots of elements to outstanding communication. And assessing the degree of difficulty in front of you is a big part of it.

Don’t skip this step.

Have a great day.

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Brett Slater

A book about change

The Latimer Corporation’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.