This a simple, yet effective, model of communication that can be applied in sales situation (convincing a client to buy your product / service) or/and in interpersonal relationships (for instance, when having an argument with your spouse…).
The first stage is called “diagnosis” and refers to our ability to comprehend the situation. You see, most people are so overwhelmed by their own problems, lost in their thoughts and concerns, that spend little or no time at all, to actually understand other peoples’ needs. This sort of “selective blindness” (or deafness if you prefer) to external stimuli, may be considered a defense mechanism, aimed at protecting us from absorbing stress coming from our environment (to put it simply, we have so much worries to deal with, that we don’t want to bother ourselves with other peoples’ problems…).
Yet, the solution, or at least the first step, of effective human communication is listening and caring for the other party. Therefore, in the first, diagnostic stage, and before presenting our point, view or arguments, we should ask the other person what is going on, what’s happening right now, from his/her point of view; thus, a salesperson may ask a prospect “-How do you deal with the X issue right now?” (e.g. a gym trainer may ask a prospect -“how do you take care of your body? / how important is it for you to keep yourself in a good fit?”).
At the second stage, we show empathy for the other person. This is also very important, so that we establish rapport and make the other party like us. In fact, “liking” somebody is of paramount importance to persuasion (it is one of the principles of persuasion mentioned in R. Cialdini’s famous book “Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion”).
To make somebody like you, you can simple show that you like him/her first! How? By asking questions expressing your interest for that person; the very fact that you care about others, makes you more likable, sociable, and attractive. Therefore, empathy (the ability to see the world through others’ eyes, to “step into their shoes”), evokes liking, which in turn facilitates persuasion. To initiate the process of empathy, you can ask the other person “-How do you feel about that?” (what is happening right now, the situation described at the 1st stage), thus inviting the other part to openly express their feelings. Of course, we do not interrupt them while they narrate their story, and we try to maintain eye contact to show our “presence”.
Finally, at the third, last stage we suggest an action! This can be called the “proposal stage”. We can ask the customer to try out the product for, say, 15 days, and see whether it suits their needs etc. Asking is important, because people have a tendency to do nothing unless it is-somehow-required to do so (because of an unmet need seeking gratification etc). You see, inertia is the “default” state of things and-unfortunately-in the long-term results in things falling apart (financially, physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, spiritually etc).
Therefore, we should ask people to do things, we should be assertive in our communications with others, implying that in a polite and non-aggressive manner, we should make clear to the other party what our wants, needs, and suggestions are. So, how do we make a suggestion, what’s the appropriate and effective way to do it? We can tell the other party “-Wouldn’t it be beautiful to + action” (e.g. “Wouldn’t it be beautiful to exercise yourself along with a personal trainer?”), and so on. In other cases, it is more appropriate to be a little bit more directive, saying “-I suggest that we do this or that, because + argument”. Also, in this case it would be wise to use a story to support your argumentation; people tend to remember narratives more easily than just plain phrases without a context. Furthermore, stories include images and emotions, which are stored into the unconscious mind and evoke reactions (an appetite for buying, a feeling of “connection” with the other person etc.).
To sum up, to increase your chances of success in persuasion, remember the 3 stage model, every time you have a conversation with your client, colleague, boss, partner, spouse, friend etc:
1st stage “WHAT’S GOING ON?”
2nd stage “HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT?”
3rd stage “WOULDN’T IT BE BEAUTIFUL IF …?”
You may notice how it helps you become a better communicator and perhaps more successful with regard to both your professional and personal life challenges.