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Self-persuasion: let people talk themselves around to your point of view - by Philip Hesketh

Despite this fact, football fans will this week be travelling to the away leg of a two-legged tie with the cheery thought that no matter what disaster befalls them, they can turn it around in the home tie. 'We've done it before, we can do it again.' Why such confidence? Well, because like most long-held beliefs, once an opinion is formed, we look for as much evidence as possible to support it. Even if the stats don't really add up.

You see, we resent having our attitudes adjusted by others, and so resist it at all costs. The truth is, people have to change their own minds. You can't do it for them. People will listen to themselves and automatically generate arguments that have personal relevance. It's called self-persuasion and the theory was tested by two researchers from Yale University.

Despite sounding like a hairy pop duo from the early seventies, Janis and King managed to persuade students to take part in an experiment that didn't involve smoking anything first. Instead, all they had to do was give a talk on a subject to two of their fellow students to try to persuade them about something. Then they swapped things around so each student had a turn at giving the talk.

Janis and King discovered that the students were more convinced by the talk that they gave themselves than when they listened passively to the same argument put forward by their fellow students. This suggests that we really are persuaded more strongly when we make the argument ourselves, even if it isn't in line with our own viewpoint. That's probably why it's a good idea to rehearse speeches and presentations out loud – not just to hear how it sounds but to make the final performance all the more convincing.

Pablo Briñol of Madrid University added more weight to the theory when he studied attitudes to smoking. He found that people were more likely to be put off smoking when they delivered an anti-smoking message themselves than when they passively received it. Simply saying it out loud was more convincing.

So here's how to get someone to come around to your way of thinking. Simply ask them to put aside their own attitude and beliefs for a moment and try to see it from your point of view. Then ask them to argue the case if they were ~ hypothetically ~ to hold your beliefs. Before you know it, by generating their own arguments on the subject, they will be more inclined to your way of thinking and to changing their mind. And if that doesn't work, there's always a cricket bat.

Whatever team you support tonight, let's hope you get a good result. After all, it's so much harder to play the second leg away.