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Three Ps of Persuasiveness


Techniques General persuasion > Articles on persuasion > Three Ps of Persuasiveness

Positivity | Politeness | Persistence | See also


To persuade or change the minds of others you should develop three qualities that will sharply increase your success rate: Positivity, Politeness and Persistence.


Attitude is critical in negotiation and other forms of changing minds. If you are negative and pessimistic then failure is both expected and common. But if you adopt and sustain a positive attitude, even through the darkest moments, then it will be remarkable what you achieve.

Assume an agreement can be found, even when a negotiation seems stuck or impossible. See disagreement as not yet agreeing rather than a final position, and that all that is needed is a little more understanding. Stay hopeful even when others might give up.

Also assume that others are positive. People notice what you think of them and tend to align with your expectations of them. When you assume they are selfish and negative, then even if you are careful what you say, this attitude will leak out through your body language. You have to believe in the basic goodness and positive intent in people to be able to draw this out and create collaborators rather than competitors.

With your overall thrust and individual requests, seek positive action that moves things forward towards an agreeable outcome. Ask them to do things to help even as you are doing likewise. Offer goodwill and expect it as a natural response.


Sustain a polite and civil tone, even when they act in ways that may privately anger you. Use careful language, starting with a formal approach that assumes they are worthy of respect. Likewise dress tidily, typically wearing a clean and pressed shirt and suit or smart casual clothes as appropriate. Use formal greetings and farewells, wishing them good health and success.

If they relax, you can relax more and become more friendly. If they suggest using first names thank them and do so. Note how starting more formally makes a step towards familiarity a distinct event that brings you closer. Further steps can be taken, but always stay a little more polite than them. Also sustain a basic politeness beyond which it is inappropriate to go, even if they become too casual and chummy. Their attempts at friendliness may be a part of their attempt to persuade you.

While conversation can be cordial and friendly, increase the formality around key actions such as final agreement of who does what. Letters should be more formal than email, which should be more carefully constructed than speech.

Polite language uses words like 'please' and 'if you could' that acknowledge their status and support their identity as a worthy person. Politeness also includes listening attentively and without interruption.


Persistence means never giving up. It requires both patience, the ability to go slowly, and determination, the resolve to keep going, even when things are looking bad. Other words which fit include resilience, steadiness, fortitude and grit.

If you are in a hurry, then you are more likely to accept the first offer to come along or at least get a worse deal than you could. Those who hurry are a gift to negotiators who just need to offer a little and stand their ground. Hurrying can also harm both sides as it misses possibilities from which both may benefit.

Persuasion can be rather like line fishing. You cast your bait then slowly reel them in so gently they do not realize they are hooked. If they pull back, you let them, then carefully resume the reeling process. The opposite is net fishing where you just sweep them up in a single, surprising move. While netting can sometimes work, patient reeling is usually a far more reliable method.

Many people take time to think and decide. They may want information and demonstrations, which of course you can provide. They may want to weigh up several options and you hence will need to carefully influence how they choose. They may need to persuade others before they can proceed, for which you can provide persuasive arguments and material.

When people say no, when they put obstacles in your way, when they just will not decide, then despite the frustration and exhaustion, giving up can not be an option. You just need to keep going, putting one foot in front of the other until you reach your goal. Remember that the other side will tire too and it can sometimes turn into a war of attrition where the winner is the side which persists the longest.

See also

More persuasion methods


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