We all have the gift to move people, to excite them, to inflame their imagination. This gift is the key to thriving in an ultra-competitive global economy like today, where rapid technological innovations are upsetting every sector.
Scholars, neuroscientists, economists, historians, entrepreneurs, investors and “five-star” leaders all agree that they master the ancient art of persuasion – combining words and ideas to move people to action – it is essential to go from good to large.
The ancient art of persuasion to thrive in the modern world
This book developed from conversations with people who are stars in their fields and who attribute much of their success to their communication skills.
While the tools we use to communicate have evolved, the way our brains are wired to consume information has remained the same.
The ability to convince others is the ability that will give you a competitive advantage in an era when the combined forces of globalization, automation and artificial intelligence have triggered a wave of concern in all professions.
In the next decade your ideas, and the ability to articulate those ideas effectively, will count more than ever.
Machines and persuaders compared
For today’s professionals, an average performance guarantees below-average results. The very nature of work is changing, as are the skills required to stand out, move forward and achieve greatness in one of the most transformative moments in history. If you are able to persuade, inspire and ignite the imagination of others, you will be irreplaceable.
Anthony Goldbloom – one of the top experts in the use of big data, named among the top 35 innovators in the world – claims that machine learning (the technology that allows machines to learn from data) will be responsible for most of the changes that will occur in job terms.
“Machines are very good at learning things they have already done before and repeating them” – says Goldbloom – “but to touch someone emotionally you have to surprise them” and the machines are not as good when they have to handle new situations.
If knowing means memorizing, then artificial intelligence can do what human beings do, or rather better. But a robot can never replace critical thinking, creativity, the ability to communicate and arouse emotions.
The technological change and the fears that surround it
Emotional connection is the winning ticket in a world where technologies such as automation, big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning are eliminating millions of jobs and disrupting entire sectors, activities and careers.
People around the world are understandably concerned about the pace of this change and what it could mean for the future of work. But the history of the past 500 years has shown that every technological change, if it has destroyed many jobs, has also created new ones.
If we are unable to predict exactly which jobs will be automated, however, we are able to tell which roles will be occupied by human beings: those that require critical thinking, empathy, the ability to inspire, to ignite the imagination, to move emotions .
Since automation will replace most of the manual labor, your ideas today matter more than ever. The ability to communicate persuasively is the only great skill that will set you apart in the next decade.
Pathos and persuasion
Pathos is the act of obtaining the complete participation of an audience by appealing to their emotions. Stories are the most direct way to do it because they involve us emotionally.
Emotion is a brain mechanism that helps us remember key events and forget the rest. Stories are irresistible because we are made to think, elaborate our world and share our ideas through them.
Persuasion cannot occur in the absence of pathos, without appealing to the emotions of the audience.
The effect of stories on our brain
A research team from Princeton University has discovered – thanks to machines that scan the brains of people engaged in telling and listening to stories – that when a story is told, the brainwaves of the storyteller and those of all listeners move in sync.
This extraordinary effect is called “neural entrainment” or alignment of brain activity between speaker and listener. According to this research, the stories that highlight common ground between the speaker and the listener trigger a greater alignment.
Adapt the stories to our interlocutor
Jack Ma founder of Alibaba (the world’s largest virtual shop) is an irresistible speaker, his ability to tell compelling stories is a fundamental component of his success. Jack learned the technique from his parents, Pingtan professionals, an ancient Chinese art that combines music and storytelling.
Jack always adapts his stories to the audience in front of him, uses quotes from the most recent and popular films and claims that humble origins make good stories. The struggle, in fact, is part of human experience, we are made to find meaning in adversity, and success stories about the difficulties or triumph over the tragedy ignite our inner fire, inspire us to give our best.
Jack Ma was inspired by the story of Forrest Gump, the character played by Tom Hanks in 1994, a perennial optimist, who did not let his low IQ prevent him from realizing his dreams.
3 types of story that work
There are three types of stories that you can incorporate into any conversation or presentation intended to move people into action:
- Stories of personal experiences . The personal stories of a success achieved after an adverse event, of a triumph after a tragedy are powerful and allow you to create meaningful connections between people.
- Stories of real customers . How an employee’s job made a difference for that specific customer.
- Stories of fundamental events in the history of the brand or company . All major brands use this type of story to reinforce the values of corporate culture.
The three-act structure of the narrative
The market has changed and the skills we need to have changed. Uber, Airbnb ask us to do something that our parents would have told us never to do: get into a car or a stranger’s house.
Their founders had to persuade people to feel comfortable in unnatural situations. To gain confidence, they used an infallible storytelling method, also shared by all the successful Hollywood films, a method that you can use in your next presentation: the structure in three acts.
Act I – The set up
Film script: The characters are introduced, we get in touch with the hero’s world before the adventure begins.
Work presentation: The status quo, the current status of the company or sector, is described.