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Persuasion Through Appreciation

From the blog of Nancy Hudgins

Face it. We all like to be appreciated. Even lawyers. Even opposing counsel.

From Fisher and Shapiro, Beyond Reason:

“If you and the other side appreciate one another, you are more likely to reach a wise agreement than if each side feels unappreciated. In fact, you benefit by helping the other side feel appreciated, whether or not they reciprocate. They will tend to feel more at ease and cooperative. And by appreciating them, you are more likely to foster their appreciation of you.”

They suggest expressing appreciation by working to understand the other side’s point of view, looking for merit in what they think, do or feel, and communicating that we understand. By asking questions we can work to understand the other’s point of view.

Of course, there’s no point in asking unless you are prepared to actively listen to the answer. One way to actively listen is to reflect back what the person has said, to make sure you understand. You can do this by summarizing the facts of what they said (So if I understand you…), or, more dangerously, by noting the underlying emotion (It sounds like you’re frustrated by how this went down…).

Once you “get” them, the next step is to find something of value in their position. If you can’t agree on their position, perhaps you can look for merit in the way they reached their position.

Then, let them know. Tell them what you appreciate about their viewpoint or their logic or their reasoning or their openness or their forthrightness. This is not giving in. This is finding something to appreciate and stating it. Be authentic in your appreciation.

Once people feel heard and appreciated, they are more likely to listen to you. Now you’ve set the table to persuade.


Nancy Hudgins

Nancy Hudgins, a San Francisco mediator and lawyer, began specializing in civil litigation in the 1970's. She has represented both plaintiffs and defendants, chiefly in personal injury, medical malpractice, elder abuse and product liability lawsuits, but also in a wide variety of complex litigation, including civil rights, fraud and class… MORE >

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