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  • Sujata Banerjee

Readers’ Review 8: The Art of Persuasion, by Juliet Erickson



Hodder and Stoughton, 2004


Juliet Erickson works as a communication coach and leadership mentor. She was a founding member of the communication consultancy Rogen International. Her book is intended as a manual and toolkit, for “influencing people to get what you want”.


What can you expect from this book?

As the author says about her professional experience, “the biggest embarrassments and errors of judgment were communication-based”.

Sharing her story of worst cases, best practices and customer-centric solutions is her motivation for writing this book.


In her 1st chapter, “Throwing out the Rulebook”, it appears that one must unlearn whatever one has assumed to be effective communication.

“1. Forget rules, 2. Build rapport, 3. Be yourself, 4. Focus on individuals, 5. Be definite, 6. Actions speak loudest, 7. Stay present.”

Is this approach to communication transferable to every organizational culture?

I also suppose that individuals described in Susan Cain´s milestone book “Quiet” https://susancain.net/book/quiet

as introverts (approx. 50% of the World´s population) who can be an incredible benefit to an organization, may encounter huge difficulties if they try to adapt to these principles.


The 2nd Chapter, “You can´t cross half a Bridge” is about goal setting, recognizing, and shifting blockages, and differentiating between “Values that block and values that support”, increasing one´s self-awareness before addressing the Other.


This is followed by “Bad Habits” as a consequence of values that block. I find that the terms belief, values, principles, behaviour and habits are not being delineated. The understanding of when to use what may also vary depending on the individual reader.

It contains cases from her experiences, followed by checklists, exercises and advice aimed at shedding these bad habits, “firing up” one´s intention and getting one´s key message just right.


Part Two, in which the communication tools are assembled, is far more practical and transferable than Part One.

This Chapter contains exercises, checklists and interesting advice on behavioural culture and nonverbal communication (once again, please check whether this works in your context).


The 4th Chapter provides us with a Style Guide, mainly concentrating on building rapport with direct/analytical/social/expressive communicators.

This reminds me strongly of the Insights Model and Communication Guidelines (for example, when we are optimizing the setup of a team for more effective collaboration, with just the right mix of blue/red/yellow/green communicators).


The 5th Chapter, “Structuring the Message” provides you with clues on how to pitch your ideas successfully. Again, a comprehensive checklist may help you decide on your persuasive approach, especially for a presentation.


Some of these recommendations may make you seem very pushy, even if you are encouraged to start your presentation with a question to the audience.

The 7th Chapter is about “Good Questions”. Apart from mentioning open and closed questions, it offers an overview of how to employ these techniques.


As Erickson writes at the end of the chapter, “A good question can rescue a bad situation, create rapport, introduce humour (…) to defuse tension, discover hidden information and impress others with your insight and understanding. So, use one!” As humour can backfire easily, I am not so sure about this point.


In the 8th Chapter, “Cold Calling”, we receive helpful hints on how to deal with so-called gatekeepers when we try to reach their superiors/line managers/colleagues who are drowning in work. We are encouraged to treat gatekeepers as team members instead. This subchapter provides valuable advice on how to communicate inclusively, and perhaps even unblock communication bottlenecks.


The 9th Chapter on “Sticky Situations” is about being compassionate, cool, and seeing the bright side of things, about being direct without being micro-/macro-aggressive while delivering and receiving negative feedback.

It gives you an understanding of underlying agendas, especially when your counterpart communicates in a down-putting manner.


Chapter 10, “Fixing the Physical” provides practical advice on how to train your voice and pitch. Some of the information, for example on the dress code, is outdated.


Chapter 11, “Chance Meetings” is about the power of networking and recognizing opportunities whenever they present themselves. One of the most interesting insights is on the degree of preparation one must undergo in order to be successful.


Part Three, “Make-Or-Break Moments”, contains the 12th Chapter on planning as well as structuring this moment, and finally, the motivational final 13th Chapter, “Go for It!” which summarizes the three parts of the book.


My very senior Rhetoric Professor told us: “If you are guided by your integrity and conviction then, and only then, you will be a persuasive Speaker.” This goes a bit further than Erickson´s objective of “feeling good about communication”.


While you are reading the book, some points are trying hard to persuade you, instead of attempting to convince you. Experiencing this made me reflect on the way I want to communicate, and this was my key takeaway.

“The Art of Persuasion” by Juliet Erickson is insightful, helpful, in some minor cases outdated, slightly manipulative, - and pragmatic.


 

3rd generation of intercultural management applications, learnings and beneficial mistakes. Consultant, Facilitator, Trainer, Coach, Lecturer and Mentor since 1992. Homes in Pune and Berlin. Current Focus: Enabling Virtual Closeness in Distributed Teams, Leadership/Expat Coaching, NGO Startup Coaching, Architectural Communication Spaces ,and Communicating Across Cultures with Scents.

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