Why Everyone Listens To Him When We Say The Same Thing: Tricks To Reverse The Situation

You and your colleague are presenting your respective proposals to the director in the meeting room. You’re confident that your proposal will be accepted. Because you find many loopholes in what your colleague says.

But the strange thing is…

The director keeps nodding his head when your colleague presents his idea. He seems to feel entertained and intrigued by your colleague’s performance.

Finally, the proposal from your colleague, instead of yours, is accepted.

The director is a smart guy. He should be able to identify that your arguments are more solid, and accept your proposal for the sake of company’s development.

But why is he more convinced by what your colleague says?

Validity of Argument is Insufficient

We, as human beings, are always proud of being able to think logically. We weigh the cost and benefits carefully to make sure we make the most reasonable decision.

This is how our brain works, isn’t it? Oh, but wait…

In reality, we are not as rational as we think.

Actually, our minds are full of biases. External factors such as rational arguments can hardly outweigh the influence of our deep-rooted biases.

A study showed that people who supported death penalty after learning about the anti-death penalty turned out to be surprisingly more supportive to death penalty. The same happened to the opposing side.[1]

The researcher concluded that an effect known as ‘biased assimilation effect’ was found – we only believe evidence that stands on our side. This effect is universal in every aspect.

In other words, our minds are made up. We are not easily swayed by arguments.

Validity of argument does not sufficiently win us a debate.

So what’s lacking?

3 Components of Effective Persuasion

Aristotle, an influential philosopher, suggested three components of effective persuasion in his work Rhetoric.

Validity of arguments, listeners’ emotions and speakers’ personal images.

All the three collectively affect our persuasiveness. Missing any one of the components can render the persuasion ineffective.

Listeners’ emotions affect persuasiveness by their willingness to listen to arguments. In moody state, even the most convincing argument won’t be entertained. In delighted times, even an under-developed idea will be well supported.

Speakers’ personal images affect persuasiveness by the listeners’ tendency to entrust them with. It can be the impression ‘he/she has been responsible and diligent’ or ‘he/she looks trustworthy’. The validity of argument is irrelevant in this case.

Certainly, we still need a functioning argument for us to persuade others. Yet, validity alone is far from enough to persuade others.

How to Make Everyone Listen to Me?

After learning what might be lacking in our consideration during persuasion, we now have to know exactly what we can do to incorporate the tips in our daily usage.

Be aware of the listeners’ state of emotion

Pick an appropriate time to do the persuasion, when the listeners are calm and ready to listen.

It is never wise to start an argument with anyone who is emotionally unstable. It will always end badly. Either we get frustrating explaining or the listener is more triggered.

Pay attention to the listeners’ body language and facial expressions. Sometimes their bodies give signals displaying unwillingness to listen or tiredness. Then it is improper to continue because it is effort-wasting.

Build up a positive image

From time to time, we categorize people as trustworthy or not. Building up a trustworthy impression makes persuasive work less harder. Be responsible for our words. Before making judgement or giving conclusion, test the validity ourselves.

Improve the delivery

Even if you have a strong argument, you need to properly convey the message in a neat and convincing manner.

Having sufficient eye contact during delivery boosts self-confidence and sound more convincing.

Avoid abrupt stops within sentences. It is difficult to grasp the gist in ‘broken’ sentence.

Properly segment your delivery in a point-to-point way. People can only buy your ideas if they can get your point.

Seek concrete arguments

Last but not least, the validity does matter. Though it alone is not adequate to convince others. Having a solid and fully developed argument is always important.

Look for adequate supporting evidence. Is your argument groundless or is it supported by trustworthy evidence?

Sometimes one or two evidence is inadequate. Then you have to look for other way to strength your point.

Is there any similar arguments available? If yes, are they applicable to this situation? Fully develop your argument before presentation.

Personal virtue and catering to listeners’ emotions are complementary to validity. Given two persons with comparably convincing arguments, people will opt for the one who have better personal image, cater to their emotions and deliver their ideas more clearly.

Keep in mind that validity of the argument is never unimportant. It is just that mere validity is insufficient to be persuasive.

If we manage to balance all the three components of effective persuasion, soon we will find everyone listen to us.

Featured photo credit: Tim’s Free English Lesson Plans via maybusch.com


[1] American Psychological Association: Biased assimilation and attitude polarization: The effects of prior theories on subsequently considered evidence

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