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Persuasion Through Openness to Persuasion

From the blog of Nancy Hudgins

Say what?

It’s true. Being open to persuasion can make you more persuasive.

Professor Jay Conger (Claremont McKenna College), in Winning ‘Em Over, addresses the myth that persuasion is a one-way process.

“At the heart of successful persuasion there is a continuous feedback loop from our audience to ourselves. To persuade meaningfully, we must not only listen to the other person and understand his point of view; we must also incorporate his perspective in our arguments. And we must do it in a manner that allows him to feel that we have positively responded to his needs.”

This is a tricky frame of mind for zealous advocates. One of the things we do for our clients is take on their causes. Many times this involves persuading ourselves of the rightness of their cause. The better job we do of persuading ourselves, the harder it is to be open to different points of view. I’m right, you’re wrong.

If the other side gets the vibe from you that you are not open to persuasion, you run the risk that they will close down themselves. If you won’t give an inch, chances are, they won’t either.

Many times lawyers don’t make the effort to see the dispute from the other side’s point of view. Sometimes lawyers don’t understand the other side’s point of view. My recommendation is to ask. Be open to where they’re coming from. If you can figure out a way to be persuaded to one of their points (even a small point), you can pave the way to mutual concessions and probable resolution.


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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