Persuasion & Certainty

Published earlier this fall in the Harvard Business Review, an article about persuasion captured my attention. Titled How CertaintyTransforms Persuasion, authors Zakary L. Tormala and Derek D. Rucker suggest that“how the more certain we are of a belief – regardless of its objective correctness – the more durable it will be and the greater its influence on what we do.”

Breaking it down further, we are more likely to buy something, invest quickly or recommend a service to a friend when we are more certain about it.  That part makes sense, right?  But, how does one become certain?  The authors explain that there are “four levers” that can increase certainty:  consensus (thinking you’re part of a group that holds the same opinion), repetition (stating your opinion over and over), ease (how quickly you landed on that idea) and defense (speaking out about your beliefs). 

In line with the core business audience, the article suggests that persuasion is something that is overlooked and is useful for marketing, organizational development and strategic purposes.   With my coach’s hat on, I was curious to see if it could apply to our personal lives as well. 

Persuasion is a big part of coaching.  People often work with a coach because a goal seems impossible and it is our job to help them discover what they can create in their lives. Imagine you are a client who would like to make a big life change as well as increase your feelings of self-worth.  Each of the four levers plays an important role. 

  1. Consensus:  Having a supportive group of people around you is essential.  The success of any big transition is more likely when those closest to you believe in you. 
  2. Repetition:  Significant changes do not occur over night.  Affirmations and mindfulness – so long as you truly believe in those positive thoughts – are important tools to motivate you on day 1, 2, 47 and 64. 
  3. Ease:  Life finds a way.  When you begin to live in alignment with your values, when you listen to your body and your own inner wisdom, things begin to fall into place.  The first few steps along the right path can be challenging, but as you build momentum the struggle decreases. 
  4. Defense:  There are often people in your life who, for their own reasons, do not want to see you change, even when the changes you are making are positive ones.  At this point, you will have to courageously speak to your choices and sometimes create boundaries with friends and family. 

Tormala and Rucker's research linking certainty and persuasion offers some interesting tools for change both at work and at home.  Are you facing a challenge that you just can't move forward with?  Perhaps certainty is what’s holding you back from believing in yourself.  Give us a call to see if we can help.