We’ve all been there. Perhaps you need to negotiate more time for your team. Perhaps you’re trying to convince your teammates to buy-in to your idea. Perhaps you disagree with your roadmaps’ priorities.
You’re trying to get people to agree with you and you know they’re apprehensive. You can see it in their body language. You can hear it in their tone. What can you do to subtly convince others to buy into your thinking?
Here are a few techniques to help you.
Give ownership of decision-making
This simple technique can double the chances of someone saying yes and is particularly effective when dealing with senior decision-makers.
It’s a simple technique: don’t appear to be pushing a particular agenda. Instead, lay out the options available – taking care to highlight the benefits of your preferred option – and hand the choice back to the person you’re trying to convince.
This technique makes people feel they’re in control of decision-making and so are more likely to back your proposed option.
Ask for something unreasonable, then scale back to what you actually want
Known as the “door-in-the-face” technique, this technique will see you up to 3x more likely to get a yes.
The name comes from door-to-door sales people. They may use the tactic of asking for something big so you slam the door in their face. They knock again, but this time they scale down their request so it seems reasonable in comparison.
They use the original request to anchor their new request, to make it seem more reasonable.
If you need to quote costs, timelines or a delivery date, always start with the worst-case scenario. For example, let’s assume your team needs to refactor some code and you estimate it will take 2-4 weeks. If you say that you’ll hopefully get it done in 2 weeks, you’re planting ‘2 weeks’ into the mind of the other person. .
Instead, use the door-in-the-face technique and start by saying that you need 4 weeks (or even 5 weeks!). During the conversation, you can then mention that you might be able to get it done in in 3 or even 2 weeks,.
If you need to quote costs, timelines or a delivery date, always start with the worst-case scenario.
Start small, then scale up
The “foot-in-the-door” principle means that prior to asking for a large request, you ask for a smaller one. By asking for something small, you’re getting the other person committed to helping you. The larger request is then simply seen as a continuation of something they’ve already committed to.
If you work in design, you’re likely already familiar with this technique. Think about processes that ask you to “Just leave your email address” before asking for a larger request.
This technique can be particularly effective when wanting to explore a new initiative. Rather than asking for the whole budget/team/time upfront, instead start with a small request and then – once underway – ask for a bit more.
Encourage people to take an extreme version of their viewpoint
This is a great technique to use when you’re in disagreement. Rather than pushing for what you want, instead ask the other person to take an extreme view of their position.
For example, you might feel that your product would benefit from some user research and a stakeholder is not convinced. You could encourage them to take an extreme version of their viewpoint by saying: “So, you don’t think we’ll ever need any user research?”. This can encourage the other person to move away from their viewpoint.
For example, in this scenario, the stakeholder may respond by saying “No, I’m not saying we’ll never need any research – I don’t think we need it in this instance.” You can then try to get commitment on when you will get user research, and how they see you getting the insights you need now. Of course, this might also end up with a research requirement!
You might feel that your product would benefit from some user research and a stakeholder is not convinced. You could encourage them to take an extreme version of their viewpoint by saying: “So, you don’t think we’ll ever need any user research?”
Persuasion vs manipulation
Remember that we’re not using these techniques for Machiavellian purpose. There’s no inappropriate manipulation being used – both parties are aiming for the same overall outcome.
Adding some basic persuasion techniques to your arsenal can smooth decision-making and avoid unnecessary loss of time due to internal conflicts.
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