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Understand the Situation


Techniques Persuasion 101 > Understand the Situation

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Before you begin to persuade the other person, stand back and look at the situation, the context in which the persuasion is taking place. How will the situation affect the other person? How should it shape what you do and say?

In particular note what other people are present and how they might affect how the target person might react (and you too). Relationship between the target person and this audience? Are they listening? Might they intervene? Also consider people who are not there. The person may already be influenced by others and hence resistant to your suggestions.

Consider how other factors may be at play. What are the time constraints? What is the broader context? What else might influence or distract the other person?  Also think about outside forces that may affect the conversation, from the state of the economy to uncertainty about impending change.

If you can, find out as much about the persuasive situation as possible beforehand. Otherwise proceed with caution and be ready to probe for contextual details that seem to be affecting the other person while you are talking with them.


In a work meeting, a person refuses a reasonable request because they think it would make them look weak in front of others. It would be better to ask them later, one to one.

A sales person meeting a buyer takes them out to lunch to remove them from the situation of being interviewed in the buyer's office and the power context that this creates.

A parent talking with their child about doing homework may not understand the social context of the child's school life.


Any human decision is affected by a wide range of contextual factors. Understanding these can help a persuasion, while misunderstanding or not realizing they exist can lead to problems and rejection. It hence makes sense to do what you can (given your situation) to find out as much as possible about this and then take what you have discovered into account.

In business strategy, acronyms such as PESTLE (political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental) are used to remind planners to take account of the broader situation in which business must operate. They also consider the effects of competition, customers and company culture, all of which constrain what can be done and how it might be done. The same principle, of considering external factors, can be very important for looking

A difficult persuasion is one in which there is a large and complex context, and where the is little opportunity to get to know the effect of this. Sometimes this is used by a party as a negotiating weapon, using the fact that the other person does not understand the situation to spring surprises on them and scupper their proposals. If faced with this, you may need to step back and rethink.

See also

Sociology, Decisions


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