December 15th, 2007

Three persuasion tips

ANSI Common Lisp page 403, quoting Lord Chesterfield's Letters:

I was to bring in this bill, which was necessarily composed of law jargon and astronomical calculations, to both of which I am an utter stranger. However, it was absolutely necessary to make the House of Lords think that I knew something of the matter; and also to make them believe that they knew something of it themselves, which they do not. For my own part, I could just as soon have talked Celtic or Sclavonian to them, as astronomy, and they would have understood me full as well; so I resolved to better than speak to the purpose, and to please instead of informing them. I gave them, therefore, only an historical account of calendars, from the Egyptian down to the Gregorian, amusing them now and then with little episodes; but I was particularly attentive to the choice of my words, to the harmony and roundness of my periods, to my elocution, to my action. This succeeded, and ever will succeed; they thought I informed them, because I pleased them; and many of them said I had made the whole very clear to them; when, God knows, I had not even attempted it.

From The Submarine:

A good flatterer doesn't lie, but tells his victim selective truths (what a nice color your eyes are). Good PR firms use the same strategy: they give reporters stories that are true, but whose truth favors their clients.


The weak point of the top reporters is not laziness, but vanity. You don't pitch stories to them. You have to approach them as if you were a specimen under their all-seeing microscope, and make it seem as if the story you want them to run is something they thought of themselves.

From Founders at Work, pages 218-219:

Livingston: Some aspects of business turned out to be less of a mystery than you had thought. What did you find you were better at than you thought?

Graham: I found I could actually sell moderately well. I could convince people of stuff. I learned a trick for doing this: to tell the truth. A lot of people think that the way to convince people of things is to be eloquent—to have some bag of tricks for sliding conclusions into their brains. But there's also a sort of hack that you can use if you are not a very good salesman, which is to simply tell people the truth.