Book Review of HBR’s 10 Must Reads On Communication by Blake Martin

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Book Review on HBR's 10 Must Reads on Communication
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Genre: Business & Personal Finance
Author: Compiled by Harvard Business Review
Title:  HBR’s 10 Must Reads On Communication (Buy the Book)

Executive Summary

In HBR’s 10 Must Reads On Communication, Harvard Business Review has compiled a collection of the ten articles that best illustrate how to express ideas with clarity and impact, in any situation.  Throughout the collection, the articles cite a wide breadth of research and present different approaches to help the reader: pitch a brilliant idea successfully, connect with their audience, establish credibility, inspire others to carry out their vision, adapt to stakeholders’ decision-making styles, frame goals around common interests, and build consensus and win support. 

Each article offers important lessons and perspectives, but the articles by Cialdini, Tannen, and Conger provide the most comprehensive and impactful approach to communication and are the focus of this brief.

Harnessing the Science of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

Cialdini focuses on the way certain interactions lead people to concede, comply, or change by appealing to a limited set of deeply rooted human drives and needs. He then breaks the research down into six fundamental principles of persuasion that can be taught, learned, and applied by any leader, regardless of natural ability.

  • The Principle of Liking: people like those who like them. Application: Uncover real similarities and offer genuine praise.
  • The Principle of Reciprocity: people repay in kind. Application: Give what you want to receive.
  • The Principle of Social Proof: people follow the lead of similar others. Application: use peer power whenever it is available.
  • The Principle of Consistency: people align with their clear commitments. Application: make their commitments, active, public, and voluntary.
  • The Principle of Authority: people defer to experts. Application: expose your expertise; don’t assume it is self-evident.
  • The Principle of Scarcity: people want more of what they can have less of.  Application: highlight unique benefits and exclusive information.

The Power of Talk by Deborah Tannen

Communication is rarely as simple as saying what you mean. How you characteristically say something, or your linguistic style, is crucial and influences both how you talk and listen.  All children, and later adults, find ways of using language styles and conversational rituals to create rapport and negotiate status.

However, the research shows that girls predominately learn conversational rituals that focus on rapport, while boys focus on status. Given the two differing focuses of rapport and status, many situations arise in the workplace where a certain style of talking, and the assumptions created in the way that style is received, can have unintended and negative consequences for a company. The following are some of the most common misunderstandings.

One Up, One Down

Speakers more sensitive to the status will use language that puts them in a one up position and avoid language that might put them in a one-down position. Speakers more sensitive to the rapport dynamic of interactions will use language in ways that save face for others and buffer criticisms in order to avoid putting another in a one-down position.

Men tend to be more the first type of speaker and women the second. The differences are most often seen in the way speakers portray and perceive sharing credit, acting modest, and asking questions.

Conversational Rituals

Cultures conventionalize the way people speak and create expectations of certain types of responses. For example, in America “How are you?” is seen more of a greeting than a literal request for information.  When speaking with people from other cultures, this greeting often comes across as shallow or hypocritical.

The same thing can happen in the work place, often between men and women, who have different conversation rituals and bring different response expectations. The differences are most often seen in the way speakers apologize, give feedback, offer compliments, and avoid verbal opposition.

Negotiating Authority

In the workplace and most organizations, there is a difference between the formal authority that comes with a title and actual authority. Actual authority must be negotiated daily, and the subtle hierarchy shifts signaled by linguistic style can impact a manager’s effectiveness. The differences are most often seen in the way speakers emphasize their achievements with higher ups and their level of directness when speaking with subordinates.

The Necessary Art of Persuasion by Jay A. Conger

With the recent erosion of traditional workplace hierarchy, persuasion is even more critical for managers as they must seek to provide employees not only with the answer to what they should be doing at work, but why they are doing it.

Effective persuasion is a learning and negotiating process that involves three main phases of discovery, preparation, and dialogue. Within these three phases, Conger has identified four steps for effective persuasion, and four common pitfalls.

The Four Essential Steps of Persuasion

  1. Establish credibility through expertise and relationships
  2. Frame goals on common ground by pointing out shared advantages.
  3. Vividly reinforce your position with stories and metaphors that have an emotional impact.
  4. Connect emotionally with your audience.

Four Ways Managers Fail to Persuade

  1. They attempt to make their case with an up-front, hard sell.
  2. They resist compromise.
  3. They think the secret of persuasion lies in presenting great arguments.
  4. They assume persuasion is a one-shot effort.

Introduction

In HBR’s 10 Must Reads On Communication, Harvard Business Review has compiled a collection of the ten articles that best illustrate how to express ideas with clarity and impact in any situation. 

The collection was previously published as “Harvard Business Review on Communicating Effectively,” but was moved into the 10 Must Reads series after its initial celebrated reception and an increasing acknowledgement of the importance of communication at every level of an organization and across all mediums.

Throughout the collection, the articles cite a wide breadth of research and present different approaches to help the reader: pitch a brilliant idea successfully, connect with their audience, establish credibility, inspire others to carry out their vision, adapt to stakeholders’ decision- making styles, frame goals around common interests, and build consensus and win support. 

The following ten articles are the must-read for any manager or leader wanting to improve their ability to communicate effectively.

  • Change the Way You Persuade by Gary A. Williams and Robert B. Miller
  • Harnessing the Science of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
  • The Power of Talk by Deborah Tannen
  • The Necessary Art of Persuasion by Jay A. Conger
  • Is Silence Killing Your Company? by Leslie Perlow and Stephanie Williams
  • How to Become an Authentic Speaker by Nick Morgan
  • Telling Tales by Stephen Denning
  • How to Pitch a Brilliant Idea by Kimberly D. Elsbach
  • The Five Messages Leaders Must Manage by John Hamm
  • Taking the Stress Out of Stressful Conversations by Holly Weeks

While all the articles offer important lessons and perspectives, the articles by Cialdini, Tannen, and Conger provide the most comprehensive and impactful approaches to communication and are the focus of this brief.

Harnessing the Science of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

Robert B. Cialdini is the president of Influence at Work and a professor emeritus of marketing at Arizona State University.

We have all encountered at least one of those gifted naturals that seem to be able to capture the hearts and minds of an audience the second they walk in the room. A master of persuasion that can charmingly convert the opposition and convince others to eagerly do as they ask.

Someone who likely struggles to explain their magic hold over groups, because it’s always something they’ve just instinctually known how to do. While getting things done through others is the fundamental challenge of leadership, most leaders and managers are not one of these born masters.

What then are the vast majority of leaders, who aren’t born with these persuasion skills, to do? Look to science and the past five decades of research done by behavioral scientists who have broken down what the naturals struggle to explain.

This research focuses on the way certain interactions lead people to concede, comply, or change by appealing to a limited set of deeply rooted human drives and needs. Cialdini breaks the research down into six fundamental principles of persuasion that can be taught, learned, and applied by any leader, regardless of natural ability.

1)  The Principle of Liking: people like those who like them.

Application: Uncover real similarities and offer genuine praise.

This principle explains the phenomenon of the Tupperware Party. Recent research found that a guest’s fondness for their hostess weighed twice as heavily in their decision to purchase as their feelings about the product they bought. The popular hostess that cashes in on her likeability is supported by broader research that shows the best way to influence people is to win friends. This research also shows that the two most compelling factors in winning friends is similarity and praise.

Similarity can be established by discovering at least one common form of enjoyment, such as a shared hobby or favorite TV show. While the similarity need not be a deep or defining characteristic, it is important to establish the bond with people early in the relationship. The bond of similarity creates a presumption of goodwill and trustworthiness that builds in every subsequent encounter.

Praise generates affection by both charming and disarming. One study showed positive remarks about a person’s traits, attitude, or performance reliably generated reciprocal feelings of goodwill and a willingness to comply with the wishes of the person giving the praise.

The research shows that praise, along with similarity, is an effective means of establishing new friendships, but that praise is also a very effective means of repairing damaged relationships.

2)  The Principle of Reciprocity: people repay in kind.

Application: Give what you want to receive.

This principle explains the dramatic increase in donations charities see when they enclose a small gift in their solicitation mailings. While reciprocal gift-giving is certainly a rudimentary example of this principle, it also follows for more complex behaviors such as a sense of trust, a spirit of cooperation, or a pleasant demeanor. Bottom line, leaders should model the behavior they want to see from others.

3)  The Principle of Social Proof: people follow the lead of similar others.

Application: use peer power whenever it is available.

We know intuitively, and through research, that as social creatures, humans rely heavily on the people around them for signals on how to think, feel, and act. This principle explains the rise in participation researchers saw when charity solicitors showed respondents a list of their friends and neighbors that had already donated. The longer the donor list, the more likely those solicited would be to donate as well.

Leaders can effectively utilize this principle in organizations by seeking out an established member of a sub-group or department to champion a new initiative, rather than trying to do the persuading from a top-down position. Essentially, the research shows that influence is often more effective when exerted horizontally rather than vertically.

4)  The Principle of Consistency: people align with their clear commitments.

Application: make their commitments, active, public, and voluntary.

This principle bears out the research that once most people take a stand or go on record in favor of a position, they prefer to follow through with it. One research experiment had three groups of college students estimate the length of a line projected on a screen. One group wrote their estimates on a piece of paper and handed it in, one group wrote their estimates on an erase board and then erased them, and the final group kept the estimates in their heads.

Later, when presented with conflicting evidence, the group that had written their estimates down and turned them in were by far the most likely to stick with their original estimate. The experiment highlights people’s deep seeded desire to appear consistent to others. Leaders can utilize this principle by framing requests and projects in ways that allow people to take ownership of their commitment to complete them.

Those commitments should ideally be written down and sent to others so that the person will strive to comply with their own commitment in order to appear consistent to their colleagues and peers.

5)  The Principle of Authority: people defer to experts.

Application: expose your expertise; don’t assume it is self-evident.

This principle draws on research that shows people are inclined to be persuaded by experts, but that many leaders and experts assume that their expertise is already known and established when it is not.  Cialdini draws on a story from his consulting practice to further illustrate the point. A physical therapy clinic was struggling to get patients to follow through on their prescribed at home exercises. 

After assessing the situation, Cialdini’s team recommended displaying all the diplomas, awards, and certifications of the staff in a prominent place in clinic. Compliance with at home regimens rose thirty-four percent once the patients understood the training and expertise required to become a physical therapist. The patients had been informed into compliance instead of being guilted or coerced.

Leaders and managers should also not assume that their expertise is known or understood and should work to establish their expertise before attempting to exert influence. While establishing expertise can be a tricky path to navigate in social settings where participants aren’t handing out copies of their diplomas or resumes, something as simple as sharing an anecdote about successfully dealing with a similar problem can be enough to establish a baseline of expertise.

6)  The Principle of Scarcity: people want more of what they can have less of.

Application: highlight unique benefits and exclusive information.

Numerous studies show that items and opportunities appear to be more valuable as they become less available.  Leaders and managers can utilize this principle in three main ways. First, emphasizing a closing window of opportunity with organizational equivalents of limited-time, limited-supply offers can mobilize action dramatically. Second, using the power of “loss language” as people are more motivated by avoiding potential losses than achieving potential gains. Last, managers can leverage the fact that exclusive information is more persuasive than widely available data.

If there is a key group that needs to buy into a project, Cialdini advises that this group will pay more attention and be more invested in reports that are released to them in an “exclusive” first offering than if the entire company gets the reports at once.

In conclusion, Cialdini recommends that all six principles be applied in combination to compound their impact. Furthermore, that attempting to use the principles to trick or trap others into assent is ethically wrong and will only achieve short terms results, if that. The principles are most effective when applied in an organization that has a bedrock level of trust and cooperation.

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The Power of Talk by Deborah Tannen

Deborah Tannen is a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University.

Communication is rarely as simple as saying what you mean. How you characteristically say something, or your linguistic style, is crucial and influences both how you talk and listen. Given that linguistic style is a learned social behavior heavily influenced by cultural experience, it differs from person to person.

After twenty years of research into linguistic style, Tannen has concluded that ways of speaking learned in childhood affect judgments of competence and confidence, as well as who gets heard, who gets credit, and what gets done.

Furthermore, her research supports the finding that not only do people raised in different cultures have distinct and wide ranging linguistic styles, men and women raised in the same culture usually have very different linguistic styles as well.

Every utterance we make functions on two levels. Language communicates ideas, but it also negotiates relationships. Linguistic style plays an especially prominent role in the second function. 

Each feature of a person’s linguistic style, such as directness or indirectness, pacing and pausing, word choice, and the use of elements such as jokes, stories, questions, and apologies, can significantly influence the relationship and relative status of the speakers. While there are certainly many exceptions, Tannen’s research into the American workplace finds that men and women often exhibit very different features of linguistic style.

Tannen draws on the research of sociologists, anthropologists, and psychologists regarding American children at play to further understand the linguistic style differences between men and women in the workplace. The fact that young children tend to play mostly with other children of the same sex means that they are most often picking up and reinforcing ways of speaking from their own gender.

All children, and later adults, find ways of using language and conversational rituals to create rapport and negotiate status. However, the research shows that girls predominately learn conversational rituals that focus on rapport, while boys focus on status.

Girls tend to play with a single best friend or in small groups that focus on using language to negotiate how close they are with one another. With closeness as the ultimate goal, girls learn to downplay ways in which one is better than the others and highlight ways in which they are all the same.

In many instances, this leads to girls ostracizing anyone that sounds too sure of themselves or draws attention to their own superiority.  Girls learn to communicate in ways that perpetually balance their own needs with those of the group, focusing on saving face for one another in the broadest sense of the term.

Boys, on the other hand, usually play in larger groups where more boys can be included, but where not everyone is treated equally. A hierarchy quickly develops and boys with high status are expected to emphasize rather than downplay their status and abilities in order to justify their position as a leader.

Leaders are expected to tell lower status boys what to do, whereas with girls playing in their smaller groups this is seen as bossy or controlling.  With establishing status as the ultimate goal, boys learn to use language in ways that display their abilities and knowledge, and that challenge others and resist challenges by others.

Given the two differing focuses of rapport and status, many situations arise in the workplace where a certain style of talking and the assumptions created in the way that style is received, can have unintended and negative consequences for a company. The following are some of the most common situations that Tannen found in her research.

One Up, One Down

Speakers more sensitive to the power dynamics of interaction will use language that puts them in a one up position and avoid language that might open them up to being in a one down position. Speakers more sensitive to the rapport dynamic of interactions will use language in ways that save face for others and buffer criticisms in order to avoid putting another in a one down position. While there are certainly exceptions, men tend to be more the first type of speaker and women the second.

Sharing Credit. A speaker that uses “we” rather than “I” to describe accomplishments because using “I” seems too self-promoting. The unintended consequence may be that the speaker doesn’t get credit for accomplishments leading to a cycle that makes them hesitate to offer promising ideas in the future. Furthermore, if managers are failing to give credit to the people coming up with the best ideas, they are likely not promoting their best people.

Acting Modest. A speaker may downplay their certainty, rather than minimizing doubts, about future performance or ideas because confident behavior seems too boastful. The unintended consequence of this is that the speaker appears to lack confidence, and therefore competence, leading others to reject the speaker’s good idea.

Asking Questions. A speaker may ask questions freely in order to generate needed knowledge.

The unintended consequence may be that the speaker appears ignorant on the issue, but if discouraged from asking questions valuable information can remain buried.

Conversational Rituals

Cultures conventionalize the way people speak and create expectations of certain types of responses. For example, in America “How are you?” is seen more of a greeting than a literal request for information.  When speaking with people from other cultures, this greeting often comes across as shallow or hypocritical, when the speaker believed they were just offering a kind hello of sorts. 

The same thing can happen in the work place, often between men and women, who have different conversation rituals and bring different response expectations.

Apologizing. A speaker may apologize freely as a way to express concern for others. The unintended consequence may be that the speaker appears to lack authority or is causing more problems than is actually the case.

Giving Feedback.  When giving feedback, a speaker may address weaknesses only after first citing strengths to buffer the criticism and save face for the individual receiving the feedback. The unintended consequence may be that the person receiving feedback puts more emphasis on the strengths presented first and misapprehends the seriousness or urgency of the criticisms presented second.

Complimenting.  A speaker may compliment the performance of another as part of an assumed, automatic conversational ritual between friendly colleagues. The unintended consequence may be that the colleague mistakes it as substantive feedback or adoration, in turn interpreting it as an increase in relational status between the two colleagues.

Avoiding Verbal Opposition. The speaker may avoid challenging others’ ideas and hedge their own ideas out of a belief that verbal opposition signals destructive fighting. The unintended consequence may be that others conclude that the speaker has weak ideas that he or she does not view as worth fighting for.

Negotiating Authority

In the workplace and most organizations, there is a difference between the formal authority that comes with a given role or title and actual authority. Actual authority must be negotiated daily, and the subtle hierarchy shifts signaled by linguistic style can impact a manager’s effectiveness and determine if others reinforce or undercut their efforts.

Managing Up. The speaker may avoid talking up their achievements with higher ups due to a belief that emphasizing one’s own achievements constitutes distasteful boasting. The unintended consequence may be that managers are less aware of the speaker’s achievements relative to his or her co-workers, leading the manager to assume the speaker hasn’t achieved much and doesn’t deserve recognition or promotion.

Being Indirect. The speaker takes an indirect approach, rather than being blunt, when telling subordinates what to do in order to not appear bossy. The unintended consequence may be that subordinates conclude that the manager lacks assertiveness or clear thinking, or judge that the directives are unimportant.

Tannen emphasizes that one linguistic style is not better than another and that the “right” linguistic style will depend heavily on the specific situation, the culture of the company, the linguistic styles of the other speakers involved, and the relative hierarchy of the people in the group.  Managers that are aware of the workings and power of linguistic style will be better equipped to make sure that people with something valuable to contribute get heard.

Once aware of the different dynamics involved, managers can alter the structure of meetings and performance evaluations to ensure the organization is getting the best ideas and the generators of those ideas get credit and continue moving up to positions of greater responsibility and influence.

The Necessary Art of Persuasion by Jay A. Conger

Jay A. Conger is the Henry R. Kravis Research Chair in Leadership Studies at Claremont McKenna College.

The work environment has changed immensely in the last fifty years. Electronic communication and globalization have increased the flow of ideas and people between and inside organizations. This increased flow has more or less eroded the traditional hierarchy.

In the past people looked to supervisors to tell them what they should be doing in their jobs. Today, people don’t just ask what their tasks are, but why should they be doing any of this in the first place? Effectively answering this why question is the key to being persuasive.

Despite the increased importance of persuasion in the workplace, many still see it as a form of devious manipulation reserved for selling products and closing deals. While it can be these things, truly effective persuasion is actually a negotiating and learning process to lead colleagues to a problem’s shared solution. Yes, it is still about moving people to a position that they don’t currently hold, but not through deception, cajoling, or begging.

Instead, it revolves around careful preparation, the proper framing of arguments, the presentation of vivid supporting evidence, and striking the correct emotional match with one’s audience.  Although some old school managers might lament the end of the simpler times of the past, AlliedSignal’s CEO Lawrence Bossidy sees the potential in taking the time to effectively persuade employees.

“The day when you could yell and scream and beat people into good performance is over. Today you have to appeal to them by helping them see how they can get from here to there, by establishing some credibility, and by giving them some reason to get there. Do all these things, and they’ll knock down doors.”

Effective persuasion is a learning and negotiating process that involves three main phases of discovery, preparation, and dialogue. Discovery involves learning about your audience and the position you intend to take. Preparation can take weeks or months and involves considering the position from every angle, anticipating any major questions that might arise.

Important questions to consider are, “What resources will this require?”, “Is my supporting evidence weak in any way?”, and “Are there any alternative positions I need to examine?” The dialogue step happens before and during the persuasion process and is most effective when undertaken with an open mind, looking for potential compromises. Within these three phases, Conger has identified four distinct steps that are required for effective persuasion.

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The Four Essential Steps of Persuasion

The importance of these steps is supported by a quote from one of the most effective executives Conger observed in his research. The executive commented,

“The most valuable lesion I’ve learned about persuasion over the years is that there’s just as much strategy in how your present your position as in the position itself. In fact, I’d say the strategy of the presentation is the more critical.”

1) Establish credibility through expertise and relationships.

It is human nature that most people asses the credibility of the person talking to them before assessing the credibility of the idea being presented. Therefore, establishing yourself as someone whose perspectives and opinions can be trusted is an essential step is creating credibility for your idea or position.

While this may be one of the more obvious steps, it is often the most overlooked because people feel they have already accomplished it. Conger’s research shows that most managers overestimate their own credibility by a considerable amount, so it is best to not use your own perception of your credibility as the only benchmark.

In the workplace, credibility is established through expertise and relationships. A strong track record or history of success in a given area is the best way to establish and demonstrate expertise.

A history and reputation of being someone that can be trusted to listen and work in the best interests of others is the best way to establish credibility through relationships. People are more trusting of managers who are known to be honest, steady and reliable.

The first step in growing in credibility is an honest assessment, through both self-reflection and feedback from colleagues, of where you stand in expertise and relationships.

To improve expertise, pursue formal and informal education opportunities, request new projects that will provide relevant experience, hire a consultant to bolster your experience, or launch a pilot project to demonstrate on a small scale your expertise.

To improve relationships, you should try to meet one-on-one with everyone you plan to persuade. Another option is to bring in a like- minded colleague who already has strong relationships with those you plan on persuading.

One compelling example is of a newly hired bank COO who hired an outside consultant to help him define the issues and obstacles in a new plan. He then took the time to visit with each branch manager to get feedback and garner buy-in on the idea before rolling it out as an official initiative.

2) Frame goals on common ground by pointing out shared advantages.

This step requires managers to be very familiar both with the people they are persuading and the position they are advocating. How can your position help the person you are talking to? A manager must be able to answer this question before attempting to persuade. Answering this question requires knowing the issues that matter to the audience and being intimately aware of how the proposed position will impact those issues.

If the position has inherent mutual benefits, this only requires adjusting the presentation to better highlight the benefits for this particular audience. In other situations, it can involve shifting the initial position until mutual benefits actually exist.

Either way, this process of understanding important issues for the audience is a key step in creating sustainable shared solutions.

3) Vividly reinforce your position with stories and metaphors that have an emotional impact.

Once credibility has been established and a common frame identified, people will be more open to hearing your evidence, but it still must be presented in a convincing way. This is the step where communication and language can be most effectively utilized, supplementing quantitative data with stories, metaphors, and analogies that bring the problem and proposed solution to life. Conger’s research shows that the more vivid the language used, the higher the buy in from the audience.

One captivating example is of two Microsoft engineers pitching a new project to their colleagues. Even though their audience was extremely tech literate and would have understood a literal description of the project’s processes and advantages, the team chose to present a vivid analogy of cooking a meal from scratch. 

They used vivid language to describe the annoyancesof grocery store shopping and the difficulties faced by novice chefs. The audience was easily able to relate to the frustrating problems described and the proposed solution in a way that the dense technical data (that was later provided in a binder) would not have produced.

4) Connect emotionally with your audience.

While the movie portrayal of business professionals is often of cold suits making decisions with blind reason and quantitative analysis, below the surface emotions are always at play. Effective persuaders are aware of the primacy of emotions and respond to them in two important ways. First, they show their own emotional connection and commitment to the idea they are proposing.

This is a bit of a Goldilocks exercise, in that too little emotion conveys that you don’t actually believe in the idea and too much emotion may cause people to doubt your clear headedness. Yet another reason why it is smart to test drive presentations with trusted colleagues before presenting to your ultimate audience.

The most important part of emotional connection requires gaining a strong and accurate sense of your audience’s emotional state and adjusting the tone of your argument accordingly. Part of the preparation for this step includes canvassing key individuals and drawing from informal “water cooler” conversations where people are less guarded.

Being prepared to truly listen to colleagues and read their body language is just as important as the final delivery.  The key point to remember is to match the emotions of the audience.

Four Ways Managers Fail to Persuade

Conger focused his research for building the Four Essential Steps of Persuasion based largely on twelve years of observing 23 executives known for their persuasive abilities, and four years observing 18 low and middle level managers with an established history of leading successful cross functional teams.

However, Conger points out that these forty-one leaders he focused on are largely the exception. Most managers in the workplace find themselves falling into one or more of the following traps that prevent them from being effective persuaders.

1) They attempt to make their case with an up-front, hard sell.

Conger refers to this as the John Wayne method of strongly stating their position at the outset and pushing the idea to a close. In reality, this approach often gives potential opponents something to grab onto and fight against. Presenting ideas slowly and with finesse at the outset, and then working through a process to get buy in and address concerns is much more effective.

2) They resist compromise.

Oftentimes, before people can fully buy into a proposal, they need to see that the persuader is flexible enough to respond to their concerns. Compromises reached by addressing these concerns can often lead to better, more sustainable shared solutions.

3) They think the secret of persuasion lies in presenting great arguments.

Great arguments matter but are only one part of the equation. Presentation of the “great argument” matters even more and depends on the presenter’s credibility, their ability to create a proper, mutually beneficial framework, and to connect effectively with their audience.

4) They assume persuasion is a one-shot effort.

Persuasion is a process that often involves some amount of trial and error, seeking input and feedback from the group. While this does frequently mean the process is slow and difficult, the shared solution reached at the end is almost always worth the effort.

Persuasion can be a force for enormous good in an organization but can also be dangerous if leaders use it to deceive or manipulate. Managers using it for good purposes understand that it is not about convincing and selling, but a process of learning and negotiating. They know that the process of learning and negotiating requires commitment and practice to produce sustainable shared solutions that benefit everyone.

Conclusion

Due to a changing work environment of less hierarchy and more collaboration, communicating effectively is increasingly essential to creating employee buy-in and creating an environment supportive of innovation.

While the articles touch on each, effective communication is so much more than being able to pitch a brilliant idea successfully, connect with your audience, establish credibility, inspire others to carry out your vision, adapt to stakeholders’ decision-making styles, frame goals around common interests, or build consensus and win support.

Effective communication involves doing all of these steps after truly putting in the time and effort to understand yourself, your colleagues, your audience, and how the position you are advocating impacts everyone involved. The clear dialogue and shared solutions that result from this effort are well worth the time and practice.

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