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Challenge Priorities

 

Techniques General persuasion > Being Right > Challenge Priorities

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

When people seem to have a reasonable argument for something, you can be more right than them by showing that what you want is more important.

Ways to challenge priorities include:

  • Just assert that what you want is more important.
  • Put together a bundle of things and assert that these together are more important.
  • Expose the criteria they are using to prioritize and show that these are invalid or weak.
  • Show that your criteria are more important.
  • Go to the next level again, challenging the criteria by which criteria are chosen.
  • Ask 'Who is it for?' and show that the interests of important people are not being considered sufficiently.

If you are trying to persuade, use this to set criteria and priorities before you make the main argument. If you can own what is important, then you can be right far more often.

Example

Right, what's important here is winning. Nothing else matters, right?

How did you decide that is important? What criteria did you use? What weighting?

Short-term profit is not as important as considering customers.

Discussion

The core of decision-making is to compare choices against criteria that represent priority. If you can own criteria you can own priorities and so force decisions.

When people make decisions, they often do not think very deeply about why they are making the choices they do. This gives an opportunity to challenge the process and criteria they are using.

Challenge is often best done using surprise. Let them talk and appear to be agreeing with them. Then dig into what they say, initially with gentle inquiry but then persisting, with stronger assertions until they have to concede.

As with all argument, challenging criteria can be helped significantly if you prepare. Think beforehand what criteria are reasonable and which are more important (to do this, think about the criteria you use to select criteria). Consider other people who will benefit or lose out from the decision. Consider factors such as price, quality and necessity.

Criteria is a plural, by the way. The singular is criterion.

See also

Decisions

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