The 7 Secrets of Power Persuasion for Writers
How to bypass resistance and win over readers
Last year I decided I wanted to go full-time as a writer.
It’s an appealing dream, isn’t it? Picture yourself on the deck of your beach house, your laptop on a picnic table in front of you, as you feel the gentle sea breeze blow through your hair. You can get up when you want, work as long as you want, and never worry about whether you can pay the bills.
Because you are making a living from your words.
Why This Seems Impossible
You may be sitting there saying, “This guy has drifted off into fantasy land. Nobody makes enough from writing to do it all the time.”
There are lots of people who do. Some you know:
- Stephen King
- J.K. Rowling
- John Grisham
And some you may not, like:
Okay. If it’s possible then, what’s the secret to getting there?
You’ve got to master the power of persuasion.
There’s Something Standing in the Way
About 10 years ago, I tried my hand at selling life insurance.
I was a dismal failure at it.
Deep down, I didn’t believe in the product. I was required to convince people to buy the product that was at the top of the company agenda rather than match the customer with the product that fit her best.
It’s nearly impossible to convince anyone to believe something you don’t believe yourself.
Here’s something that will change your life if you’ll remember it every time you need to persuade someone.
People sometimes believe what they are told, but they never doubt what they conclude. — Blair Warren
What keeps people from believing what you say?
Steven Pressfield talked about resistance in his excellent book The War of Art.
Seth Godin refers to resistance as your lizard brain in his iconic bestseller, Linchpin.
Resistance is inside us, working all the time to sabotage everything big we want to do.
It’s also working in your readers. It raises red flags at new ideas. It flashes warning signals when things are out of the ordinary. Resistance is what keeps us in the ruts we’ve so carefully and persistently hollowed out for ourselves. They may not be practical pathways, but they are familiar, so we keep traveling down them without a second thought.
Now that you know what you’re up against, let’s look at how you can write messages that bypass resistance and get readers to do whatever you ask.
7 Secrets of Power Persuasion for Writers
Secret #1 — Never tell people they’re wrong.
If you want to put up a wall right off the bat, tell someone she’s wrong.
We all want to know we’re right. We all need something to cling to that will keep us alive in the worst of storms. When someone attacks your beliefs, you feel like they’ve stuck a knife in your chest.
When you tell someone she’s wrong, her ears close. Your arguments, no matter how solid, won’t matter because they won’t be heard.
Telling someone she is wrong is to insult her. And when you insult someone, it’s nearly impossible to recover from it.
But what if she is wrong?
You’ve got to point it out indirectly if you want a shot at persuading her to change. Pay attention to the keys that follow for some powerful ways to change someone’s mind.
Secret #2 — See the world from your reader’s perspective.
The biggest mistake we make when we try to persuade someone is that we look at things from our perspective, not hers.
Other people’s behavior makes no sense from your perspective. Ask yourself a few questions to get outside yourself:
- What frustrates her and keeps her up at night?
- What makes her jump with joy?
- What does she feel is right and wrong?
People do things for their reasons, not yours. Learn what they are, and you’ll understand why they do what they do. Then you’ll have a much better chance of persuading them to your point of view.
Secret #3- Tell stories first.
It’s tempting to impress people with lots of numbers, facts, and statistics.
There’s a place for that, but not at the beginning.
Stories are powerful. They allow people to picture themselves doing things they may never have thought they could otherwise. When we have something in common with the hero, we feel like heroes.
That’s why movies make millions of dollars. It’s why the top books on Amazon week after week are fiction books. We love stories.
When I decided to become a writer, I was inspired by seeing what other writers had done. I’ve interviewed a number of them and what really impresses me most is the story behind the accomplishment. Was she like me when she started? Did she face a similar challenge and overcome it? How can I do something like she did?
We’ve been telling stories for all of recorded history. Use them in your writing and you’ll win over the world.
Secret #4- Use emotional appeals.
LIke or not, we are all emotional creatures.
Even apathy is an emotion.
We are stirred emotionally, not logically.
- You buy a car because of the way you feel when you’re behind the wheel.
- You buy a book because the future it promises makes you feel good.
- You choose your friends because they make you feel important.
We make a decision emotionally. It’s driven by one of two things. Pleasure or pain. Pleasure can be as simple as the comfort of staying in your rut. Pain can show up as embarrassment, inconvenience, or full-blown hatred for something.
My dad, my son, and I recently went fishing. If you’re familiar with fishing, you know what fish like isn’t necessarily what you like. If I hang a bag of peanuts on the hook, I might catch myself. But if I want to catch a fish, I better put a worm or a cricket on there.
That’s why advertisers and storytellers play with our emotions. They know that emotional appeals are the bait that hooks the viewer. If you want people to read your writing, you’ve got to do this, too.
Secret #5 — Prove it with facts.
Facts work when they come in the right place.
If I tell you that one cigarette cuts off 14 minutes from the end of your life, you might not be persuaded. But if I tell you the story of my neighbor who died at 74 after smoking 4 packs of cigarettes a day for over 50 years, those facts take on a whole new meaning, don’t they?
Everything is more personal when you can put a face on it.
A big idea seems possible when someone real makes it reality.
And statistics have gravity when we apply them to our day to day lives.
Sell emotionally. Confirm with facts, figures, and stats.
Secret #6- Justify with logic.
After we’ve made a decision, we will listen to logic.
Logic is the stuff of arguments. It’s the fuel that leads us to try to get one up on our conversation partner. If I’m right, I’m logical. Anything you say that disagrees with that is illogical.
How logical is that?
But if you wan’t to persuade anyone, you can’t afford to ignore this.
Remember secret #1? You can’t get anywhere telling someone she’s wrong because deep inside we all have a need to be right. That need isn’t based on objective truth — it’s based on our interpretation of the truth.
Justify someone’s decision to agree with you with logic.
- “You did this because it is the right thing to do.”
- “You made this choice because you knew it was a good investment.”
- “You believe this because you know it’s irresponsible to do otherwise.”
You read this far because you believed you’d get some useful information that would make you more persuasive. Now that’s an excellent way to spend your time, don’t you think?
Secret #7 — Paint a brighter future with your reader in it.
We’re all dreamers.
Ask anyone what she would do with her life if money was no object. Her answer will reveal her dreams of what can be, what she wishes was true.
As a persuasive writer, you want to help people dream big. You want to connect them with ideas that will bring a brighter future — one where they are making the most of the genius inside.
If you can do that, you’ll sell your ideas, your books, your courses, and your coaching.
Put These Secrets to Work
Persuasion is the most powerful tool in any writer’s toolbox.
Now you know how to bypass the resistance that lives inside us all. When you can do that, you’ll have more opportunities to persuade than you ever dreamed possible.
Tools are only valuable when they’re used. What will you do differently in your next blog post?
- Tell stories to illustrate your points, your data, and your statistics.
- Use emotional trigger words and phrases to keep your reader hooked.
- Save the logic for after you’ve made your case emotionally.
Now go use your powers to positively change the world!
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