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Persuasion as simple as 1-2-3

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in Office Communication,Workplace Communication

To sway your audience to buy into your proposal, you regale them with all the wondrous benefits your idea offers. Bad move.

The more you pontificate about the greatness of your plan, the more you risk alienating people. There’s a danger of overselling—of testing the patience of your listeners by blabbing too much.

To stop yourself from gabbing as you enumerate dozens of reasons that support your proposal, limit what you say. Highlight the most compelling points so that you don’t drive away potential allies.

Consider the technique that Michael Sheehan, a speech coach, taught Joe Biden to adopt in preparing to debate Sarah Palin during the 2008 campaign. As reported in the book Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, Sheehan used the “Arthur Murray pattern” to help Biden deliver concise, tightly structured comments.

“Describe the situation; explain how it will be worse under McCain; describe how it’ll be better under us. One-two-three, one-two-three, one-two-three,” the authors write. (Arthur Murray was a well-known dance instructor.)

By breaking your comments into three distinct parts—describe the situation, explain how it will be worse if your ideas are rejected, stipulate what’s to gain if your ideas are implemented—you heighten your persuasive power. Listeners can assess the cost of the status quo and the benefits of enacting your proposal.

Best of all, this three-part strategy is easy for both speaker and audience to follow. You avoid rambling and the audience avoids fidgeting in boredom.

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