Friendly persuasion

NLP techniques

The secret of friendly persuasion is to begin as you mean to go on.  By that, I mean find out what you have in common with the other party and talk about things with which you agree.  

The more you agree about at the outset, the more you will agree about later on.

The art of pleasing consists in being pleased

William Hazlitt

Saying Yes

Do all you can in your early discussions to get the other person to say Yes because the word No is difficult to get past.  

Your chances of achieving that will be much greater if you talk, and keep talking, on the same wavelength.

Body language

Being careful all the time not to stare, observe carefully his body language.  Watch particularly in which direction his eyes go.  

All the time you are talking, you are each making pictures in your mind.  So if he is agreeing with you, he is making good pictures. 

Where is he looking?  Is it up to the right, down to the left, sideways?  

If you are skilful enough to obtain a Yes answer on several occasions, you will observe consistency in both the body language and where he sees his pictures.

Friendly persuasion – the difficulty with No

The principal difficulty with a No answer is that once it has been delivered it is difficult to retreat from.  Pride starts to get in the way.  

It is as if the feet get stuck in the mud and to attempt to extract them at this stage would be far too difficult.

A Yes answer, on the other hand, has a forward movement to it.  When cross-examining a witness whose main testimony is disputed, it is always best to start off by verifying undisputed facts and start to move subtly into the disputed territory: 

(Q) “It is right, isn’t it, that you have known the defendant since you were children?  (A) “Yes."  (Q) “And it is also true to say that you started work together at the same engineering firm when you were 18 years old?” (A) "Yes." (Q) “So you are very familiar with his general character?”  (A) “Yes.”  (Q) “It would be out of character, wouldn’t it, for him to have committed the sort of dishonest crime that is now alleged against him?”  (A) “Yes, I suppose it would.” 

Friendly persuasion – avoiding the blunderbuss

That simple demonstration shows how powerful this technique can be. The blunderbuss approach is much too unsophisticated.  

If the advocate had gone straight in with the question:  “This defendant just wouldn’t have stolen the goods you now allege he took?” what sort of response do you think he would have received? The more softly you tread, the further you are likely to get.

Now it may be that you believe the person you are trying to persuade is talking tommyrot.  Don’t interrupt him.  Don’t ridicule or condemn him.  

Instead, try to understand the approach he is taking.  However misguided or inaccurate he may be, he is (like you) trying to do the best for himself. 

So listen to him carefully  and treat him with respect.  When you can, steer him onto a topic you know you can agree about so that you can gain his trust.

Friendly persuasion – advance consideration

If you know you are going to enter into a negotiation or you have some persuading to do in a family or business situation, you would do well to think carefully about it in advance.  

I don’t mean by that  that you should think only about what you are going to say and the arguments you may wish to make in support of your own case; consider what the other person is likely to say in response.

Perhaps you are saying to yourself now, “How can I possibly know what is in his or her mind?”  

Of course, you cannot take the top off someone else’s head and look inside, but you will probably know something about the situation you wish to discuss already.  

You must have an idea of the sort of arguments the other person is likely to make.

It is another mark of a good advocate to know what the opposition is likely to say.  

When I am reading the witness statements in a case I am about to prosecute, as I do so I am constantly asking myself, “If I were to defend this person what would I be likely to ask this witness?  How would I challenge this evidence?  

"How would I try to diminish it in the eyes of the court?” 

Friendly persuasion – knowing the arguments

When I have finished reading the witness statements, reviewing the charges against the defendant and checking the applicable law, I next ask myself:  “What legal arguments would I present to obtain an acquittal for this defendant?  

"What legal submissions might I make in the course of the case to get certain evidence excluded?  What might I say in my final speech to the court or jury?”

If you bother to take that approach, you are much less likely to be surprised on the day.  You have also thought about the responses you will make when you are challenged? 

Furthermore, you learn in advance to be sympathetic and responsive to the other side’s point of view even if you don’t actually agree with it.  

It enables you not only to give advance consideration to the debate but also to reconsider your own position and determine if you are really coming from a position of strength.

It enables you not only to give advance consideration to the debate but also to reconsider your own position and determine if you are really coming from a position of strength.

Friendly persuasion – the third way

As a court advocate I am able to say to my opponent when I meet him prior to trial, “I have looked at the interviews, and it seems to me that some of the questions and answers are not only prejudicial to your client but arguably inadmissible.  

I am happy to agree to omit them at this stage.”  That prevents me losing a silly argument before the judge and giving my opponent an early advantage.

In any other negotiation or argument, I suggest you adopt the late Dr Stephen Covey’s third way:  work together for a solution which will have no winner and no loser; work for a solution which does not benefit you at the expense of the other party, or that benefits the other party at your expense;  work instead for a solution that benefits you both.  In that way you are both winners.

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