You’re planning to roll out a new telematics deployment or ask senior management for a bigger budget, expecting to encounter some resistance. How do you position your proposal to get buy-in from stakeholders?
The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle offered insight into this topic with his work “The Art of Rhetoric,” which was published about 2,400 years ago. He introduced the three elements of influence that still serve as the foundation for effective leadership communications today.
The big takeaway from “The Art of Rhetoric” is that if you overlook any of the three elements when crafting and presenting your proposal, you’ll stack the odds against you being able to win over your audience.
What are those three elements?
Aristotle uses this Greek term to refer to the character and credibility of the speaker – which is you.
Does your audience believe in you, trust that you have their best interests in mind and have the confidence that you know what you're talking about? You can present the most compelling and smart proposal, but if stakeholders don't trust or believe in you, they'll dismiss your ideas before you even present them.
So, in the planning stages of your initiative, start early when it comes to involving stakeholders and building trust with them.
This term refers to the emotional disposition of the audience. In “The Art of Rhetoric,” Aristotle talks about how we look at things differently based on our emotions. Whether we're fearful, angry, happy or hopeful, we see things differently and accept the same message differently depending on what emotional state we are in at the time.
Your job is to identify both the current emotional state your audience is likely to be in and the target emotional state you want to lead them to. Then build your proposal or presentation in a way that moves your audience from their current state (e.g., fear) to the target state (e.g., confidence or optimism).
This element pertains to the logical consistency of your proposal. After all, you can establish your credibility and make a powerful emotional connection with the audience, but if your proposal doesn’t make sense, you’ll lose all that momentum.
The objective is to construct your proposal in a way that's clear, concise and compelling for your stakeholders to “get it” – so that they’ll be more inclined to buy into it.
Sean M. Lyden