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Cracking the Code for Irresistible Persuasion

Cracking the Code for Irresistible Persuasion

Leaders must communicate with high integrity, full transparency and courageous honesty. By definition, we are charged to persuade people to engage in our vision, to commit to our strategies, and to join us even in the midst of change and challenge.


If we lack honesty, we fail to crack that code for irresistible persuasion, and we can quickly slide right into the commanding compliance style of leadership. Conversations intended to convince veer dangerously into confrontation.


I experienced this first-hand last week.


Last week, a peer asked to see files for documents from my organization. Their seemingly innocent outreach triggering enormous defensiveness in me. The request obviously lacked transparency, making me feel judged and mistrustful.


Why would I feel this way? Context matters.


The ask came from someone not in my organization, although they were affiliated with it.  I suspected, accurately, they were seeking specific wording in the document that they deemed inappropriate. Instead of openness, they dodged directness, opting for the document over dialogue.


They seemed to want to persuade me to give them the document, while their ultimate intention was to persuade me to change the document.


In full transparency, that content they were concerned with might actually have been inappropriate, and they had the right to have a discussion about it. But that’s not how they approached me.


After rumbling with my story about this disconcerting non-confrontational confrontation for a couple of days, I realized what was bothering me so much. Honesty, transparency, and courage pave the way for meaningful conversation. Those were lacking in the initial conversation.


I chose to re-engage, this time in a very honest, forthright way, hear their concerns, and discuss what they desired as an outcome. Despite my initial extreme resistance, open dialogue led to constructive change. Because one of us (that’s all it takes) was willing to engage honestly and openly, we got to an agreement in just minutes, and began quickly rebuilding where trust was eroded our relationship.


Dishonesty obstructs persuasion; honesty builds trust.


So, how honest are you in your daily conversations and efforts to persuade?


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Dishonesty—whether through withholding intentions, minimizing facts, or omitting key information—undermines persuasion.


In reality, dishonesty—even minor dishonesty—is manipulation; an attempt to control responses. Have you ever noticed how for most people that tends to raise their resistance to what you are asking? Paradoxically, honesty is the most direct and trust-building approach to persuasion. In other words, if you want real control, stop trying to control.


Irresistible Persuasion Begins With Self-Honesty:


Self-honesty is not a given. If you have ever found yourself rationalizing a decision or denying a rather obvious truth, then you know what I mean. Real self-honesty isn’t always convenient, and it doesn’t always feel great. But understanding your own motivations, emotions, and intentions, is crucial if you wish to effectively influence and persuade others. Recognizing the connection between self-honesty and irresistible persuasion is essential. Otherwise you care not foster trust, inspiring commitment, and driving positive change within teams and organizations. You are just promoting an idea as a sales pitch, or worse, demanding compliance.


Especially for leaders, it's essential to be aware of signs that indicate you have a need for greater self-honesty. We will explore this in depth, but it manifests with patterns of avoidance or defensiveness in difficult conversations, or experiencing tension or conflict within the team. These situations often arise when there's a disconnect between a leader's internal thoughts and feelings and their outward behavior or communication style.


To begin building crucial self-honesty, leaders can start by prioritizing self-reflection and introspection. By creating space for honest self-exploration, leaders can gain clarity on their values, strengths, weaknesses, and areas for growth. Failure to do so is a self-limiting move.


Additionally, seeking feedback from trusted colleagues, mentors, or coaches can provide valuable insights into blind spots and areas for improvement. Leaders should cultivate an environment where feedback is encouraged and welcomed, and where team members feel comfortable sharing honest observations and perspectives.


Furthermore, self-honesty enables leaders to leverage persuasive techniques with integrity and ethical considerations. Rather than resorting to manipulative or deceptive tactics, honest leaders focus on building genuine connections, understanding the needs and concerns of others, and presenting compelling arguments based on facts and values.


Recognizing Where Greater Honesty Is Required


Recognizing when you're being fully honest in a conversation can indeed be more challenging than you might initially think. Who wants to discover they are the culprit when communications go awry? However, there are signs, including feedback from others, that can indicate the need for greater honesty:

  1. Discomfort or Unease: If you feel uncomfortable or uneasy during or after a conversation, it could be a sign that you're not being fully honest. Your subconscious may be signaling that your words or actions don't align with your true thoughts or feelings.

  2. Inconsistencies in Your Story: If you find yourself changing details or providing inconsistent information when discussing a topic, it may indicate that you're not being fully truthful. Others may notice these discrepancies and question your honesty.

  3. Avoidance or Deflection: If you frequently avoid discussing certain topics or deflect questions rather than addressing them directly, it could suggest that you're withholding information or being evasive.

  4. Lack of Clarity or Transparency: If your communication lacks clarity or transparency, others may struggle to understand your intentions or motivations. Being vague or ambiguous can create mistrust and lead others to question your honesty.

  5. Negative Reactions from Others: If you receive negative reactions from others, such as skepticism, confusion, or frustration, it may indicate that they sense dishonesty or lack of authenticity in your communication.

  6. Repeated Patterns of Miscommunication or Conflict: If you find yourself repeatedly experiencing miscommunication or conflict in your relationships or interactions, it may be a sign that greater honesty is needed. Dishonesty can erode trust and lead to misunderstandings and tension.

  7. Feedback from Trusted Individuals: Pay attention to feedback from trusted friends, family members, or colleagues. If they express concerns about your honesty or authenticity, it's worth considering whether there's room for improvement in your communication style.

  8. Gut Feeling or Intuition: Trust your intuition. If you have a nagging feeling that you're not being fully honest in a conversation, it's worth exploring why you feel that way and whether there's a need to reassess your approach.

By being mindful of these signs and remaining open to feedback from others, you can increase your awareness of when greater honesty is needed in your conversations. Striving for honesty and authenticity can strengthen relationships, improve communication, and foster trust and mutual understanding.


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Self-Coaching Questions to Make Honesty Your Irresistible Persuasion Superpower


  1. What am I not saying, and why?: Reflect on whether you're withholding any information or feelings during the conversation and explore the reasons behind it. Ask yourself if you're avoiding certain topics or truths out of fear, discomfort, or a desire to control the other person's response.

  2. Am I being completely transparent?: Assess whether you're providing all relevant information and being transparent about your intentions, motives, and concerns. Consider if there are any aspects of the conversation where you could be more open and forthcoming.

  3. What am I afraid of?: Identify any fears or anxieties that may be influencing your honesty in the conversation. Are you afraid of conflict, rejection, judgment, or repercussions? Understanding your underlying fears can help you address them and communicate more authentically.

  4. How would I feel if I were on the receiving end?: Put yourself in the other person's shoes and consider how you would feel if the roles were reversed. Would you appreciate honesty and transparency in their position? Use this perspective to guide your approach to the conversation.

  5. What is my intention in this conversation?: Clarify your intention for having the conversation and examine whether honesty aligns with that intention. Are you seeking genuine understanding, resolution, or connection? Ensure that your actions and words reflect your true intentions.

  6. What impact could my honesty have on the relationship?: Consider the potential impact of being more honest in the conversation on your relationship with the other person. Reflect on whether greater honesty could strengthen trust, deepen connection, and foster mutual respect.

  7. What values am I honoring or compromising by not being fully honest?: Reflect on your personal values and integrity. Are you upholding your values by being honest and authentic in the conversation, or are you compromising them out of fear or self-protection?

  8. What is the long-term consequence of not being honest?: Consider the potential long-term consequences of avoiding honesty in the conversation. How might withholding information or being less than truthful impact the trust, communication, and overall health of the relationship over time?

By asking yourself these self-coaching questions, you can gain insight into areas where you could increase your honesty in a conversation and take steps toward more authentic and meaningful communication.


Reasons We Choose Dishonesty Over Irresistible Persuasion


Of course, there are numerous reasons why people might engage in dishonest behavior, whether it's through small lies, manipulation, or withholding the truth. See if you can identify with some of the most common reasons:

  1. Fear of Consequences: People may lie or withhold information because they fear the consequences of telling the truth. This could include punishment, embarrassment, or rejection.

  2. Desire for Approval: Individuals might manipulate the truth or omit certain details to gain approval or avoid disappointing others. They may believe that presenting themselves in a certain way will make them more likable or accepted.

  3. Protection of Self-image: People often lie to protect their self-image or reputation. They may feel the need to appear more competent, successful, or virtuous than they actually are.

  4. Avoiding Conflict: Dishonesty can be a way to avoid conflict or confrontation. People may lie or withhold information to maintain peace in relationships or avoid hurting others' feelings.

  5. Gaining Advantage: Some individuals engage in dishonest behavior to gain an advantage over others. This could include manipulating situations to achieve personal gain or control over others.

  6. Habitual Behavior: For some people, dishonesty becomes a habit or coping mechanism. They may not even realize they're being deceitful, as it has become ingrained in their behavior over time.

  7. Lack of Empathy: Some individuals lack empathy and may not consider the impact of their dishonesty on others. They prioritize their own needs and desires above the feelings or well-being of others.

  8. External Pressures: External pressures, such as societal expectations or workplace demands, can sometimes lead people to engage in dishonest behavior. They may feel compelled to meet certain standards or achieve specific goals, even if it means bending the truth.

It's important to recognize that while these reasons may explain why people engage in dishonest behavior, they don't justify it. Honesty is fundamental to building trust and maintaining healthy relationships, and individuals should strive to be truthful and transparent in their interactions with others.


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The Fear-Based Workplace Honesty Conundrum


Navigating a fear-based and punitive workplace environment where honesty isn't rewarded can make honesty for persuasion even more difficult than it already can be otherwise. However, there are still steps you can take to prioritize honesty for your own sake:

  1. Clarify Your Values: Take some time to clarify your personal values, which might include honesty and integrity. Even if it doesn’t, it is almost inevitable that dishonesty will erode your values quickly. Remind yourself why your values are important to you, regardless of the external environment.

  2. Set Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries for yourself regarding what you're willing to compromise on and what you're not. Determine the non-negotiables when it comes to your integrity and honesty, and commit to upholding them.

  3. Choose Your Battles: While honesty is important, it's also essential to pick your battles wisely in a challenging workplace environment. Honesty is not an incitement to conflict. Consider the potential risks and benefits of speaking up or remaining silent in different situations.

  4. Find Allies: Seek out like-minded colleagues who share your values and may be supportive of honest communication. Building alliances with trusted coworkers can provide a support network and make it easier to navigate difficult situations.

  5. Practice Diplomacy: When expressing honesty in a fear-based environment, it's often helpful to practice diplomacy and tact. Choose your words carefully and frame your messages in a way that minimizes defensiveness and resistance from others.

  6. Document Everything: Keep detailed records of your interactions, decisions, and communications in the workplace. Documentation can serve as evidence if you ever need to address issues related to honesty or integrity, but not in order to shame or blame other people.

  7. Focus on Self-Integrity: Ultimately, prioritize your own self-integrity and well-being above external pressures or expectations. Stay true to yourself and your values, even if it means facing challenges or setbacks in the short term.

  8. Explore External Support: Consider seeking guidance from a mentor, coach, or professional counselor who can provide objective advice and support as you navigate the workplace dynamics.

  9. Plan for the Future: While leaving the environment may be an option, explore other avenues for career advancement or opportunities that align with your values. Investing in your skills, networking, and exploring alternative career paths can provide hope and motivation for the future.

Remember that prioritizing honesty is not only beneficial for your own sense of integrity and well-being but can also contribute to a more positive workplace culture in the long run. Even in challenging environments, staying true to your values can ultimately lead to personal growth and fulfillment.


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If you suspect you might be avoiding full honesty, vulnerability, and transparency for any reason—from toxic workplaces to a lack of self-awareness—then take a moment to reflect on the impact of even minor dishonesty on your relationships, your ability to persuade others, and the fear that may be driving your approach.


Embracing honesty even more fully paves the way for compelling communication built on trust. People support those they believe in and who trust them, even in challenging conversations. And people they believe in are the ones whose persuasion they find truly irresistible.


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