Greek storyteller Aesop said, “Persuasion is often more effectual than force.” More than 25 centuries later, his observation is as valid. The people who usually influence us are not those who use their power of authority or brute force but those who inspire us with their ideas. Such people derive their power from our trust in them, which they earn from their character and intentions. Somehow, they connect with us deeply—we believe them, we trust their ideas, and open ourselves up to them. We are willing to follow them and embrace their approach and perspectives because they feel like our own ideas.
Take the example of Mahatma Gandhi, who stirred the hearts of millions of Indians to join his non-cooperation movement against the British rule without the use of any power or force. Imagine for a moment the period in which Gandhi lived—there was no electronic media, no internet, not even landline phones to connect people. But the effect that Gandhi had, cut across caste, religion and social status, making him one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century.
Ken Blanchard, best-selling author of The One Minute Manager, says, “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” Gandhi didn’t have any official authority. His approach was to lead by example, persist with his convictions, and be willing to take the risks that came with it. His ideas were inspiring because they were simple.
Gandhi persuaded people by appealing to their higher vision. But the art of persuasion is not just the prerogative of great leaders. It comes in handy in our everyday life too—at workplaces, in businesses, in relationships and in society. Wherever there are people, the need for persuasion becomes imminent, sooner or later.
But persuasion is not to be confused with manipulation, which too is employed by many people to get others on their side. Manipulation implies convincing someone for your own benefit; it is not concerned with the interests of the other. Authentic persuasion, on the other hand, is undertaken only with one objective—to help the other.
Internationally respected author and speaker John Maxwell brings out this distinction emphatically as he outlines the seven principles of effective persuasion in our cover story. “Effective persuasion is a result of relating, not ruling. It speaks to the heart as well as to the head. Therefore, persuasion does not make use of force or intimidation,” he writes. Using the story of Zuke Berman, the famous trial lawyer from New York, the author helps us understand the delicate art of persuasion, which mainly involves stepping into the shoes of another.
Filled with anecdotes, this month’s cover story will persuade you to adopt the noble approach offered by Maxwell in your own attempts of persuasion. So go ahead, expand your influence, and make a positive difference to the world.