Hiding the ‘aha’


The most effective persuasion happens when we persuade ourselves.

The purpose of the memo or the table or the graph or the presentation is to create the conditions for someone to make up their own minds. Because it’s almost impossible to make up their mind for them.

The aha is actually a chemical reaction, a rewiring of our brain, the moment when we see what we hadn’t seen before and make a new decision based on what we believe to be new information.

Causing an aha requires insight and elegance, and there are three ways we avoid it.

Sometimes, we are entranced by our own insight, or impressed with our communication tools. We let facts, formatting and filigree get in the way of a good story.

And sometimes, we’re afraid of our power, so we bury the lede too far, letting ourselves off the hook by not influencing someone else.

Once in a while, we do the opposite. We say what we mean so clearly and so directly that the story disappears and the facts bounce off the inertia and self esteem of the person encountering them.

Persuasion works best when it’s actually self-persuasion. But you already knew that.


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