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? In other words, what is your “degree of change”? And are you asking your audience for some big involvement in that change, or just a little? In other words, what is your “degree of involvement”? Knowing these variables — degree of change and degree of involvement — will allow you to make good choices about how much time and effort you need to put into your preparation. 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.

Let’s dive a little deeper, and first discuss your degree of change. 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 degree of involvement you are asking of your audience. Is this particular audience simply lending support and approval for your recommendation? Are you asking for passive or implicit support of some kind? Or rather are you asking for something bigger, like a commitment of resources, time or the addition of some form of risk? Are you asking for their active or explicit involvement?

The more “active” your ask of the audience is, the more they need to believe in you and your message, and the more persuasive your argument will need to be.

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.

Good outcomes start with a strong assessment of the landscape in front of you. 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.

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’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.