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Techniques Willpower > Escalation

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



One way to persuade using willpower is by a steady escalation that signals determination and that you will continue to increase

Start pleasantly and kindly, asking politely. Then, if you do not get compliance or agreement, ask a bit more firmly, steadily escalating the pressure.

The next stage where escalation really begins is to bring in higher authorities, such as senior managers, independent arbitrators, parents, teachers and so on.

Before you do this, it is useful to checking with these people to ensure they will support you. Then, rather than bringing them in straight away, gradually escalate by pointing out that you will involve them before actually doing so.


Could you help me with this task, please.
You said you would help - can you do this now?
We need the task done - I don't want to have to escalate.
If it's not done by tomorrow I'm going to bring in Melissa.
Now Melissa's going to speak with you unless it's done today.


Escalation is a useful process when you do not have formal authority, where you need to get things done and when other people do not feel obliged to help you. It works by applying steadily increasing pressure with the assumption that at some point the pressure will get the other person to comply, if not agree.

A reason to start politely is that this removes the later objection that you did not do so. Many people will respond well to politeness. It is only the few that usually need escalation to get them going.

The point at which resistant others tend to give in is when they realize that you will not give in. When they become used to your determination and willpower, this is right at the beginning and you will find that you can persuade people to many things. This becomes a virtuous circle as success in persuasion builds confidence which builds willpower and so on.

Escalating to someone who the other person respects and will obey is a big step and many shy away from taking such a harsh move. Yet it is harsh not to help and when done well it is not unkind. Just the threat of this is often enough to get most people to come into line.

See also

Persistence principle, Authority principle, Developing your walk-away, Deploying your walk-away, Escalating Demand

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