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"I think the power of persuasion would be the greatest superpower of all time." - Jenny Mollen

Successful persuasion is truly an art form. When negotiating or attempting to get buy-in from your team, how do you plan your attack? Do you go for their hearts or their minds? In a recent article on Harvard Business Review, author Lisa Lai examines when to use each tactic to your advantage.

Winning Hearts: The Emotional Approach To Successful Persuasion

Winning hearts is about appealing to the emotions of a particular person in order to persuade them to your point or position. According to Lai, appealing to hearts can be effective when you are attempting to:

  • Pitch a new idea
  • Achieve buy-in for a new process
  • Positively impact performance and output
  • Getting a team to pull together in the face of conflict
  • Work with creative-minded colleagues (marketing team, art department, writers)

You can win hearts by connecting on a personal level. Tactics like showing the person or group how a decision or process will have a positive impact on them, using creative, personal metaphors; or sharing personal stories helps achieve the emotional response you're looking for.

Winning Minds: The Logical Approach To Successful Persuasion

Winning minds requires to you to appeal to your audience's logical side. A well-planned, analytical position can help others see the logic of your pitch. Appealing to minds can be effective in situations such as:

  • Changing direction on something already planned or in process
  • Pulling people to your side in an either-or decision
  • Managing complex and technical problems
  • Working with analytical colleagues (finance, accounting, IT)

When attempting to win minds, "proof" of your expertise is critical. You may need to highlight your past experience with such problems and you should always come armed with hard facts and data that support your position. As you frame the benefits of agreeing with you, always cite tangible outcomes like exact time frames, dollar figures and percentages.

Hearts And Minds Are More Complicated Than They Seem

While Lai is right in her assessments, I believe that the question of hearts or minds isn't exactly as black-and-white as it may seem because it fails to consider one very important aspect of successful persuasion: the personalities and thinking styles of the people involved.

The best practice is not so much in the technique itself as understanding the way your audience thinks and prefers to absorb information. As a leader, you will encounter logical, mind-oriented folks and emotional, heart-oriented folks. You can break it down even further into the "whole brain" approach of the Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) that classifies four quadrants: analytical thinkers, sequential thinkers, interpersonal thinkers, and imaginative thinkers.

It can take time to get to know your audience on this level, but it is critical to understand your team so that you can craft your messages to reach the people with whom you are talking in any given situation. If you don't speak to them based on their thinking model, your points could be lost on them.

So is it better to win hearts or minds? It really depends upon the audience to whom you are speaking. If you can crack their preferences and methods of thinking, you'll be on your way to successful persuasion.


Larry Hart

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