Media Spotlight: Persuasion

By James Borg

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Anyone who’s seen the first Star Wars film will no doubt recall the scene in which young Luke Skywalker and sage Obi-Wan Kenobi are trying to get into the town of Mos Eisley when they are stopped by a stormtrooper who asks them where their droids are from.

With a flourish of his arm Kenobi says that “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for”.

Parrot fashion, the stormtrooper squawks back that “these aren’t the droids we’re looking for”.

Unfortunately, we can’t all use the force or mystical mind games to get us out of difficult situations. In lieu of this, the art of persuading people to do what you want has always been important in situations ranging from business meetings to relationships.

James Borg’s book Persuasion is aimed at improving the way we interact with others while illuminating us on what our body language betrays about ourselves.

Greek philosopher Aristotle defined persuasion as an art that is judged as a combination of an individual’s ethics and character, their emotional appeal and the power of their logic.

This is as true today as it was 2,300 years ago. But obviously a lot can go wrong in that equation and Persuasion essentially analyses the most common areas where we all slip up.

Disturbingly, Borg says the first place we can get it wrong is in failing to effectively listen to what others are saying. We all prefer to talk rather than listen and if we interrupt and interject it makes us feel as though we are taking an active role, especially in business meetings.

The trouble is that we all equally find it annoying when other people do the same thing to us.

Borg points out that by failing to properly take in what is being said to us we can easily trip up when we make our follow-up contribution.

The book also includes also a useful section entitled ’Telephone telepathy’, which is disappointingly not about how to develop your mind control but rather the best way to take control of phone-based situations.

There’s a terrific scene in The Simpsons in which Homer rings his boss Mr Burns and tells him he’s quitting his job. Homer then puts the phone receiver to his eye and winks, in an attempt to indicate that he’s joking.

Fortunately, Marge reminds Homer that Mr Burns can’t see him winking and a screaming Homer slams the phone down before any permanent damage is done.

Of course, the problem with phone conversations is that, unable to rely on body language, we’re often forced to gauge what the person on the other end of the line is like from the sound of their voice and what they say.

This can spell trouble, so Borg takes the reader through a number of logical strategies designed to get what you want on the phone, in a section that seems to be particularly aimed at those looking to sell services or products.

But it’s the examples that Borg uses every step of the way that mark this book out as worth reading. True to life and often amusing, he presents a number of simple yet effective strategies for getting what you want.

So it may not be quite like using the force but reading this book is the closest those of us not blessed with a high midichlorian count are likely to get.

Book review by Robert Thickett