Last week, during a series of workshops with one of our best clients, a fascinating topic came up for discussion. As we were reviewing the themes of The Latimer Group’s Model for Persuasion, one of the participants commented that “this seems more art than science.” The conversation paused for a few moments, we all thought about it, and then I broke the silence with agreement. I had never really thought about articulating it that way, but I had to agree. And then as I thought about it on the plane ride home, I realized that persuasion is BOTH art AND science.
In our work, all good executive coaches and trainers want to systematize things as much as possible. All firms like ours want to put in place their system — a method that clients can easily execute over and over and over. That is how you create mind share and make yourself indispensable to your clients.
But when teaching persuasive communication, and while trying to put in place your repeatable system, you also have to acknowledge that great communication is not a science. Each situation is unique, each person you are trying to persuade is unique, and the best communicators do not treat every single situation or person the same way. The best communicators listen, and have a high level of awareness of what is going on around them. They can adjust a message based on changing variables.
We believe firmly in the power and value of having a plan, and being prepared. But while we will always encourage the people we work with to be systematic in their level of preparation and effort, it is also important to realize that being systematic in effort does not mean you should treat every communication exactly the same way.
There should be an element of science to your preparation, but you should never forget the uniqueness of the people you are speaking to, and the situations you will need to deal with. Your thoroughness of your preparation can be treated as science. But the mindset of knowing your audience and being aware should be treated as art.
Have a great day.
The last two paragraphs remind me of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s quote:
“In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” Like a battlefield, the engagement with your audience is dynamic and will never be exactly as you planned. So you have to adjust (“art”) as you engage. But the process of preparation (planning/science) will ensure you are successful in adapting to the realities of the present situation.