Persuasion is Not a Jedi Mind Trick

I recently had a conversation with a person I am coaching, and he recounted a story to me. He recently had led a really hard meeting with colleagues, where he made a presentation on a challenging, divisive topic. He was trying to build alignment within the business unit on how to handle a significant business issue.

And the outcome that he ultimately got was not the outcome that he really wanted. He was frustrated, almost flummoxed about how he was not able to get what he wanted. 

But I did all the right things… I really prepared… I practiced… I knew my message… his frustration was high.

This person is a big baseball fan, as am I, so I used a tried-and-true cliché to make my point. If you hit .300 in the major leagues, you are probably going to the Hall of Fame. Which means even the best hitters fail about 70% of the time. Small solace for him, at first, because he really put his heart and his soul into this presentation, and he had convinced himself that success was certain.

So, as I tried to do with the star of today’s story, let me prepare you for the inevitable. No matter how much you prepare… no matter how much you practice… no matter how strong you think your message is… there is still a pretty good chance that you will not get the outcome that you seek in that next important presentation. Success is never certain. 

No one gets what they want all the time. Not even the most persuasive speakers are always able to build the consensus that they want, or get the outcome that they seek. Being a persuasive speaker does not mean that you have unlocked the door to the magic kingdom, that you now know the ways of The Force and can use Jedi mind tricks to get the outcome that you want all the time. No. Being persuasive and prepared means that over time your success rate, or your “batting average,” will go up. When you do the right things, you will get the outcome that you seek more often.

But not always. 

Why? Because there are too many variables involved in building consensus among a group. Everyone in that conversation has their own pressure points, their own goals, their own perspective. Everyone in that conversation will make decisions based on a variety of factors, some of which you can learn and anticipate (when you are well prepared). But some of which you may not be able to learn or anticipate, no matter how hard you prepare.

Now, it may sound like I am making the case for NOT preparing, because there are too many variables. Why should I prepare if I can’t guarantee the outcome? Well, I certainly hope this is not your conclusion from today’s piece. Just because we can’t guarantee the outcome, does not mean we shouldn’t still choose to do the right things. In most aspects of our lives, doing the right things usually means that our chances for success are increased. But nothing is ever certain.

So, as you continue on your journey towards being a more persuasive communicator, know this… there is huge value in your ability to improve over time. If you learn how to build a process for preparation, where you factor in a healthy amount of effort to learn about your audience and sharpen your message, then you will see an increase in good outcomes. Over time, when you show up prepared meeting after meeting after meeting, you will see results. 

But those results will not always be the exact outcome that you are looking for. Your success rate will go up. I can guarantee you that. But there will be times when you are disappointed. I can also guarantee you that.

My colleagues and I are huge believers in preparation and practice, of following a methodology. But we also are realistic. As the song says, “you can’t always get what you want.”

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?

We transform teams and individuals with repeatable toolsets for persuasive communication.
Explore training, coaching, and consulting services from The Latimer Group.

Looking for more from The Latimer Group?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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.