Are you misunderstanding what persuades people?

heartPay-off: influence people to make smart decisions
Investment: < 4 mins

Do you want to be able to influence people to make better, more rewarding decisions for themselves?

This should help, and it’s really quite simple but may conflict with your current thinking.

Unfortunately many people miss this point, at a significant cost (if you’ve ever said “you try to talk to him – he just won’t listen to me!” you’ve just qualified yourself in).

And it affects people in sales related roles, learning related roles, and frankly, any role. It affects you! It makes the difference between helping others to get what they want, and also you getting what you really want too.

Let’s get clear:

Businesses, sales people, learning professionals, (and parents!) frequently talk needs:

  • “Business needs”
  • “Learning needs”
  • “Learning needs analysis”
  • “Training needs”
  • “Customer needs”
  • “Child development needs”

…and so on.

But in reality, needs rarely persuade people to act. Needs get trodden all over, by..


You know that:

  • you need to exercise more. But you want to get other things done.
  • you need to eat less. But you want another portion.
  • your people need to learn more about the business. Or is it that you want them to? And do they want to? Or do they just want to get on and do their job?
  • your customers need your solution. But does the decision maker – the human being holding the purse strings – want it? And does she want it from you? What does she want right now in her career most of all? Are you getting in her way from getting what she wants?
  • children need to learn to read. But do they always want to put the practice in?

You may think that needs drive our decisions, but 99.9% (75% of statistics are made up) of those apparent needs require that you wade through the overgrown jungle of wants first.

And you’ve got to handle wants differently.

Which is something that most people (especially logical people) who crave an increased perception of control on things, tend to struggle with.

Because ‘wants’ aren’t usually logical. And you can’t easily transfer your own ‘wants’ on to someone else. The other person has their own living and breathing wants (no matter how irrational they appear to you). You’d better respect those wants, because they’re powerful, and they are what you’re actually dealing with.

Put away the logic

So put away the logic for a bit (I know it’s hard when you cling on to it – look just pop it aside for a bit and we’ll reunite you with it later) and get closer to what’s actually going on…

Switch your thinking

Try looking at things differently:

Your business needs vs the stakeholder’s wants

Understand your own business needs, but consider how individual stakeholder wants connect to this (what pictures are really flickering through their minds, driving their decisions? How can you help them get what they want, or help them realise that they might want something else too? Business logic is important but not all stakeholders actually have it at the top of their list…some for example, just don’t want to look a fool, or damage their career…)

Your career needs vs your career and lifestyle wants

Understand the difference between what you think you need in your career vs what you actually want. Better to be clear what’s really driving you rather than getting frustrated with yourself when your wants appear to sabotage your needs. Also worth considering what else you might actually want. New unconventional options keep appearing.

Your customer needs vs the decision maker’s wants

Understand the needs of your customers businesses or lives, but understand even more so the wants of the decision makers and how to help them achieve those. When people put their necks on the line, they do it because they want something to happen. Can you make that happen?

Are they sure?

Your employees’ learning needs vs their career wants

Understand the learning needs of your people but please don’t communicate this as the reason for the learning program! I see this happen all too often, and it often shuts learning down. Instead consider the career wants of your people. Help them consider their own career wants too. Then help them consider their learning wants that align with this. Explore with them longer term impacts of their learning decisions. How can you help them align so that everyone gets what they want?

Your children’s learning needs vs lifestyle wants

And the previous paragraph applies to your children too. My little boy needs to learn how to read – sorry, I want him to learn how to read. But this morning he didn’t want to do his reading practice. He didn’t ‘want’ to learn to read.

But he confirmed that he did ‘want’ to understand what Iron Man was saying to his enemy on the comic strip, and what his enemy was saying back. And when I told him that writing was basically a secret code that you had to learn to decipher (like secret agents do), he definitely wanted to do it, and I promised to help him.

This idea like many is all very well to ‘get’ on paper. But how well can you implement it? And can you do it consistently by habit? If not, and if you ‘want’ to, you can ask me for help here.

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