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#Persuasion Tip: to get others to change – change the question

Wow! I just got a great persuasion lesson from one of my “business heroes” Peter Bregman from the US.

I’ve been learning from Peter’s advice for years since I started following his columns in the Harvard Business Review.


What I like about his style – is he will often question or add to “conventional wisdom” about encouraging change and persuasion.

Peter will often add an extra step or an extra “twist” that will make a technique I use even better.


For example, I have written before about being more persuasive by using:

1. The Guided Choice
2. The intersecting Circles

Today, I learned from Peter about how he added an extra layer to the old Guided Choice technique.

Peter says you often get more control by giving more control to the person you are trying to change.

He tells a real-life story how he was encouraging his daughter to eat a more healthy dessert. He wanted to persuade her to change to a healthier choice.

He gave the guided choice of Banana OR Grapes. The person being persuaded has control of choosing. Yet the ultimate goal “healthy eating” is achieved. Either path leads to the desired result.

I often use the guided choice with my kids.

O.K. You decide – bath or shower?

Peter’s daughter wasn’t falling for his guided choice and wanted “icecream”

She finally wanted an Apple.

This wasn’t part of Peter’s original guided choice.

Peter says he got over himself and his urge to control the choice – and to stick to the choice he offered in some power play.

He was prepared to give more control to his daughter.

Peter says people don’t mind change. They mind being changed by others.
Give them control over how they change and they are more likely to change and not resist change. (I am paraphrasing and simplifying)

So to get change – change the question.

Be prepared to change your position – don’t stick rigidly to your position just out of some desire to control.

A good question to add if your guided choice technique isn’t working is:

O.K. you decide – what else would you like? (that’s similar to banana or grapes)

I’ll have to add this change the question technique to my repertoire of persuasive techniques when I need to persuade my kids!

T and O footies

If you are interested, here are link to those posts about the Guided Choice

and Intersecting Circles

I still maintain that The Guided Choice does work well. The extra question suggested by Peter is also handy to have – if your get resistance to The Guided Choice.

Oh dear! Writing this has made me hungry. Think I’ll have some grapes AND banana AND just a little ice cream on the side 🙂 The old “This AND that” is another persuasion countermove I’ll share in a future post.

Tony Biancotti - positive, persuasive messages

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These days, lots of people and organisations need help with how to COPE with too much work, too much information, too many meetings, delivering difficult news, business writing, effective e-mail, e-mail overload, cross-cultural communication, better social media engagement etc. I like to help people COPE.



One comment on “#Persuasion Tip: to get others to change – change the question

  1. efangelist
    September 3, 2014

    Reblogged this on busy dad to better dad.

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