Timing is everything when you’re trying to persuade someone. If you pitch your idea right after your manager wraps up her remarks in a staff meeting, you’re at an instant disadvantage.
Why? Researchers point to the next-in-line effect: Just before or after people speak, they are preoccupied with their performance.
Just before they speak, they tend to mentally rehearse what they want to say. Just after, they rehash what they said and critique it in their head.
Say you attend a team meeting led by Jen, the manager. If you’re next in line to speak after Jen, you probably won’t get her full attention. That’s because she’s internally reviewing her just-concluded comments.
If you speak just before Jen, that’s equally problematic. She may be mentally preparing what she’s about to say, preventing her from truly listening to you.
Your best strategy is to seat yourself directly across the room from Jen so that she can see you the whole meeting. If you’re in her line of sight, you reinforce your presence and make a greater impression on her.
Better yet, you won’t be in danger of speaking just before or after she does (assuming the protocol is to go around the room). You want to speak sufficiently distant from her remarks to exert the most influence on her.
On the other hand, if you hope Jen won’t notice your half-baked proposal, it makes sense to try to speak just before or after her. That way, she may be too preoccupied to detect your lack of preparation.
—Adapted from Pre-Suasion, Robert Cialdini, Simon & Schuster.