Business > Sharing Doubts Up Front Helps Persuade Others

| May 2, 2015


Harvard Business Review

If you want to persuade an audience, you need to show them that you’re trustworthy. In ambiguous or controversial situations, many people think it’s best to sweep small doubts or uncertainties about their message under the rug. But evidence suggests that signaling these doubts immediately before delivering your argument can actually help establish trust.

The key is sequencing: Start with a small weakness or drawback, then use the word “but” before delivering your main message. A doctor who says, “No vaccine in the world is without the occasional adverse event, but this vaccine is extremely safe and has been used to protect millions of children,” strengthens her trustworthiness and credibility. This message would feel different if the weakness followed, rather than preceded, her main point.

Adapted from “How Doctors (or Anyone) Can Craft a More Persuasive Message” by Steve Martin.

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