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Techniques General persuasionKellerman and Cole's 64 Strategies > Challenge

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Persuade people by framing the actions you want them to take as being a worthy challenge.

Do not make the challenge too easy, or they will see it as boring and of low value. Also do not make the challenge seem too difficult, as they will only see the prospect of hard work followed by failure. Perhaps by conversation beforehand, seek to understand what challenges motivate the person and hence use this to guide the challenge you present to them.

Be clear in your challenge as to what 'success' means and how you will know when they have succeeded. Avoid telling them how to meet the challenge if you can, though you can offer advice if it seems they have little idea as to how to face the challenge.


The bottom garden needs to be dug and weeded. I believe you can do this in one afternoon. What do you think?

We've got the customer waiting in reception. I need you to ensure they leave happy.

Ok, team. Have I got a challenge for you. It won't be easy and people will say it can't be done, but I believe if anyone can do it, you can. 


In studies of happiness, it has been found that an achievable challenge is a powerful way of enjoying oneself. In fact if you think back to the happiest times of your life, you may well find that it was when you were working towards a big goal rather than lazing on a beach somewhere.

A trick of issuing challenge is to match the ability of the person with the task at hand. Give them too much and they will be overwhelmed. Give them too little and they will be bored. This is one reason why it is important to understand the person before challenging them.

Challenge is a powerful means of motivation in the workplace rather than expecting a person to do the minimum or something that is below their real capability. If you can challenge people, and particular if you can do this to a team so they have to work together, you will inspire them to great things.

Challenge is the 13th of the 64 compliance-gaining strategies described by Kellerman and Cole.

See also

Achievable Challenge, The Principle of Framing


Kellermann, K. & Cole, T. (1994). Classifying compliance gaining messages: Taxonomic disorder and strategic confusion. Communication Theory, 1, 3-60


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