The 3 ways to persuade

There were 10 men in the room. All of us were stunned.

It was the last night of childbirth class. Up till then, we’d discussed childbirth rather extensively. Still, we had no idea, really, what to expect.

Childbirth, for the men, was an intriguing, faraway concept, sort of like New Zealand.

Then, last class, we watched a video. It showed a woman giving birth.

I wouldn’t have minded some editing, here and there. But this video was determined to show everything, even if it took several days.

“That was unbelievable,” one man said during the break.

“I’m not feeling well,” said another.

No one, of course, had learned any new information. But something had changed.

You can know something in different ways. You can know, theoretically, that you’re going to die. But that’s different than knowing your death is imminent.

How then do you persuade others?

Sometimes, we assume that all it takes is the right information, or the right argument, to make a compelling case.


People are multi-dimensional. Imagine three centers of intelligence: head, heart, hands. Each requires something different.

1) Head: What do you want your audience to think? To influence thinking, provide facts and data. Use logic. Ask thought-provoking questions.

2) Heart: What do you want others to feel? To influence feeling, tell compelling stories. Ask others to imagine a vivid scene. Disclose how you feel.

3) Hands: What do you want others to do? To influence doing, model the desired behavior, or show what not to do. Encourage practice. Call for action.


I remember working with a jet engine company. If you make jet engines and you hear about a plane crash, the first thing you wonder, Was that one of our engines?

One day the answer was “yes.” Fortunately, everyone on board survived, but the company seized the event as a teachable moment.

They invited the pilot into the plant.

He showed pictures of his wife and children, described how he felt as the plane was going down.

Everyone at the plant had always known about quality. But that pilot changed their commitment.

Tip: The next time you communicate, consider head, heart, hands. When your message is important, speak to all three.

© Copyright 2011 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.

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