Dan Pink’s Surprising Secret To Persuading Others


What are the ABCs of persuading, convincing, and influencing others?

Whether you want to promote your idea in a meeting, negotiate a raise with your boss, or just influence your family to choose your preferred vacation destination, you are in “sales” from time to time.

Daniel Pink has been recognized as one of the top 10 business thinkers in the world. His TED Talk on motivation has been viewed over 17 million times, and he’s the author of five bestselling books, including A Whole New Mind, Drive, andTo Sell Is Human.

I recently interviewed Dan on my podcast to get his advice on creating true influence (the transcript below has been edited for space and clarity).

Kevin Kruse: You say, “The ABCs of selling's no longer about always be closing, which was the old adage, but it's something else.”

Daniel Pink: I think the most important thing that's happened in the world of persuasion, selling, whatever, is that most of what we know about sales and persuasion has come from a world of information asymmetry, where the seller always had more information than the buyer. However, in the last 10 years, that information asymmetry has begun to shift, and it's something closer to information parity where sellers and buyers are evenly matched.

In the world of information asymmetry, “always be closing,” it might not be noble, but it's a pretty smart idea because the seller has an advantage, but the seller no longer has an advantage.

The new ABCs are:

  • Attunement: Get out of your own head into someone else's head.
  • Buoyancy: Can you stay afloat in what one salesperson calls “the ocean of rejection”?
  • Clarity: Can you go from accessing information to curating it? Can you go from solving existing problems to identifying hidden problems?

It turns out that those three qualities are really the make-or-break qualities if you're trying to persuade anybody in a meeting, in a sales call, to your boss, in this world where information is more fairly distributed.

Kruse: You also used to be a speech writer for Al Gore. Regarding the recent election, do you think Trump was a master persuader?

Pink: Oh, man, that’s a tough one. Certainly, we have a very, very divided country right now. It's extraordinary; we basically have half the country with one point of view and half the country with another point of view. And now, we don't even have consensus really on some of the underlying facts, on what truth is. That's an incredibly dangerous environment; it's very, very hard to persuade people in that kind of environment.

Maybe Trump did a decent job in that his message was so unbelievably simple. I don't mean that in a derisive way at all. I'm not a Trump fan, to put it mildly, but I think there's a power to simplicity. When Trump was running, people knew exactly what he stood for and what he was going to do as President. I don't think the same thing is true with Clinton.

Kruse: Unto a lighter topic: I noticed that you put your email address in the back of all of your books. I'm curious, how much email do you get? Do you respond to it all?

Pink: I do get a lot of email from readers, and a lot of it is extremely helpful. I actually try to answer every single piece of email. I don't always answer it, obviously, that day. I often will batch it. I'll do a batch of 35 or 40 that I keep in an email folder every few days or so. I try to answer it all. Even though it might read on the outside, “Oh, what a nice guy, he's putting his email address. He's either a nice guy or he's insane or he's full of it and it must not be real,” what people don't realize is, no, actually, there's a lot of self-interest in that.

For instance, I've had plenty of readers find typos or dropped words in a text, and we've gone back and fixed them in subsequent editions. Another thing is that readers ask questions, and a lot of readers ask really, really good questions. “Why didn't you write about this? Why didn't you write about that?” I start thinking and interviewing people… Reader emails help me figure out the next topic.

I really think that in the media world that we live in now, especially for writers, it has to be a conversation. With very few exceptions, it can't be this one-way, “Here I am on the mountaintop preaching to all of you great unwashed readers in hopes of saving you.” It doesn't work that way. I really think it has to be a conversation. The great thing about that is that conversations are richer. People will tell you where you're wrong. People will tell you what matter to them.

Kruse: Can you share what your next book will be about?

Pink: I'm writing a book about timing. Everybody says timing is everything, but a lot of our timing decisions, a lot of what I call our “when” decisions… when should you fire somebody? When should you quit a job? When should you go out on your own… We tend to think that's much more of an art, intuition. There's actually a rich science on timing that you can use to make better decisions.

I'm talking about everything from: When during a day should you exercise? When during your day should you do careful heads-down work? When during a day should you do your creative work? Why should you never, ever, ever–if you can avoid it, go into a hospital in an afternoon? Why do kids in standardized tests do worse when they take the test in the afternoon than in the morning? What happens at the midpoint of things? Why do sometimes midpoints bum us out and why do sometimes midpoints fire us up, so that NBA teams that are down by one at halftime are actually more likely to win than teams that are up by one?

A whole deep dive, and right now a very messy dive, into the science of timing and how you can use it to live better and work smarter.

Click here to listen to the full podcast interview with Dan Pink.

CEO of LEADx, and NY Times bestselling author, of Great Leaders Have No Rules and Employee Engagement 2.0. Get a FREE demo of the LEADx platform at https://leadx.org/preview.