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Author's profile photo Jason Cao

Coach’s Corner – Why Persuasion is Better Than Force (Part 2)

Force is like a hammer. When leaders only use force, everything looks like a nail. As I pointed out in “Part 1 – Why Persuasion is Better Than Force,” using force may get the job done, while damaging the most prized possession in the process. That prized possession is our people!

What’s at stake?

The cost of using force with others is the creation of fear, the lack of trust, and the lack of safety due to impending punishment and repercussion. When people live with a constant expectation that the hammer will fall, fighting or fleeing for survival is the most you can hope for, while the least will passively give-up and give-in. That’s not a very desirable person to have on your team and in your organization.

To me, force creates a Do-Think-Do state of mind (even the addition of “think” might be too optimistic). Whereas persuasion can lead others to Think-Do-Think. What you inspire through persuasion is planning, creativity, reflection and learning in people. What you have is a person who becomes an engaged and productive member of your team and society.

So how do we persuade and inspire our people?
According to Chris Voss, FBI hostage negotiator and author, the objective is not forcing but persuading others that it is in their best interest to help you, to volunteer, or to solve the problem. This begins with having self-awareness and self-control over our own emotions, so that we don’t provoke or escalate any negative reactions in those we want to persuade. He also advocates asking questions to increase our understanding of others’ positions. Specifically he speaks of asking “calibrated questions” that are open-ended questions strategically designed to shift control or ownership over to others.

I love how relevant and applicable this approach is for many scenarios in our lives. I doubt I will be negotiating a hostage-release any time soon. However, with some practice, I’m confident I’ll be able to convince my son to clean up his room.

Here’s how Stephen Covey illustrates the power of persuasion:


Some more practical tips I’ve gathered from servant leaders who advocate persuasion over force:

  • Instead of talking, listen.
  • Instead of telling, ask.
  • Instead of close-end questions, open (how? or what?).
  • Instead of criticizing, encourage.
  • Instead of controlling, believe.
  • Instead of going solo, partner.

Leaders need to make a deeper commitment beyond simply understanding why persuasion is preferable to force. The transition from tolerating to accepting is the same type of commitment leaders need to make in order to become compassionate, empathetic and inspiring leaders who can access the full potential of the people.

Check out more blog posts in this series: Coach’s Corner.

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      Author's profile photo Viviane Zufferey
      Viviane Zufferey

      Profond message - well illustrated by the video and by the additional tips for leading with persuasion over force.

      Although I don't think of myself as a leader leading with force, I do see some areas where I could use persuasion to involve my team more in "thinking" through their activities.

      As always, thank you for sharing Jason.


      Author's profile photo Jason Cao
      Jason Cao
      Blog Post Author

      Thank you for your comment Viviane!

      And thank you for considering the opportunities to use more persuasion in how you lead! πŸ™‚

      Author's profile photo Lejla Seperovic
      Lejla Seperovic

      Great read....and what a choice of video to make it stick !

      Author's profile photo Jason Cao
      Jason Cao
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks for reading the post and for your comment, Lejla! I love the way Stephen Covey delivers his content - very down to earth and memorable! πŸ™‚

      Author's profile photo Manfred Klein
      Manfred Klein

      Hi Jason Cao,

      Have a nice real life example how offering a theoretical choice saved the day and was persuasive.

      Both my wife and mother in law work in senior care. Weekend shifts have not many fans. Some shifts were not covered. "Could any of You cover a weekend shift?" yielded no results. My mother in law said:"This is rhetorically wrong. You need to ask:'Which shift do you cover? Saturday or Sunday?'"

      Long story short: Asking the proper questions is an art. Avoid promoting Your least desireable outcome. Paint a (beautiful) picture (before minds eye) of Your ideal world(beneficial for all).

      Author's profile photo Jason Cao
      Jason Cao
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Manfred, what a wonderful example! Yes, asking the right question is an art, and with practice we can all craft questions that help us achieve our goals.

      You know your story reminds me of the way we use to encourage our children to eat more vegetable. Rather than asking "Would you like some broccoli?" We asked, "Would you like spinach or would you like broccoli?" πŸ˜€

      Author's profile photo Manfred Klein
      Manfred Klein

      It's a kind of Houdini: Distraction.

      By asking a secondary question (Saturday-Sunday/Spinach-Broccoli) the true question (cover shift/eat vegetable) is obscured.

      Funny question is: Do we realize ourselfs if/when we are played this way?

      And if this is uncovered we can still say: I owe You/You owe me. These arrangements even strengthen the partnership in the long run. As long as we don't overdo this.

      Author's profile photo Jason Cao
      Jason Cao
      Blog Post Author

      Yes, so true, Manfred. Eventually, the other side will realize it is a negotiation. And that's OK. It is a process we must go through, and better to learn how to do it well sooner than later. πŸ™‚

      Author's profile photo Corinna Bornhorst
      Corinna Bornhorst

      Thank you for adding the beautifl video. That made it tangable for me..

      Author's profile photo Jason Cao
      Jason Cao
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks for reading the post Corinna and for your comment! I'm glad the video helped. Steven Covey is such a fantastic storyteller! πŸ™‚