I’ve always started my persuasion classes with this comment — No Idea stands on its own. That is more true today than in years past. There are so many forms of competition for attention, often with the most inane taking up huge amounts of time and space. In fact, you have to wonder how superb ideas reach the light of day in a world so enamored with junk. For some people, sometimes, an idea occurs at the right time. The world is primed to receive it because it is relevant to our needs and concerns. Other ideas “grab” our attention because they’re novel. But, for most of us on most days, ideas need a lot of help. They need persuasion.
I meet so many people who expect others to read their minds — to get what they’re thinking and love it as they do. That’s simply not how persuasion works. When a seemingly great idea is introduced, it’s usually new to those hearing it. The action is like planting a beautiful flower in the wrong kind of bed, absent fertilizer and adequate water. The flower withers and dies.
Persuasion is not something we do to people. It’s something we do with them. It involves preparing the ground for the delivery of our thoughts at a time propitious to their fruition. It also involves knowing what the recipient’s objections will be or why disinterest might result. Then comes knowing how to overcome such obstacles. While it’s not possible to provide a persuasion course here, I’ve written about it in books, articles and on this site if you’d like to learn more.
In any case, the next time you have what you think is a great idea, don’t squander it. Consider who should receive it first, in what way, with what support. Keep in mind that the germination process involved in your coming to love the idea took time. It’s your idea, not theirs. They may not love it right away for those reasons and others. Persuasion is work. It’s a skill. It’s often incremental. Impulsive people are usually not persuasive. They may grab our attention, but they don’t keep it. That’s why the most skillful persuaders are excellent listeners. They won’t send out a cherished idea until they know the ground on which it will land is fertile and prepared. This doesn’t mean being slow. It means being smart.