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Can You Pass The Cicero Persuasion Test?

Posted Mar 22 2009 3:17pm

"If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings, and speak my words."
– Roman Statesman (and attorney) Cicero

A little more than 2,000 years ago, Cicero latched onto the importance of connecting at both the mental and emotional level with an audience. Rather than simply speaking to an audience of 1 or 1,000, he figured out that he had to actually connect with them.

Cicero Thinking Their Thoughts

Are you able to see the world from the perspective of your customer/audience vs. that of a salesperson or manager?  When it comes to being persuasive, think about this:

Communicating with people in a way that embraces their own point of view is the key to winning their hearts and minds.A focus designed solely to change their point of view results in discomfort, suspicion, and even antagonism. We're all fairly willing to make changes; but we prefer to do it as a result of making decisions that are as consistent as possible with who we are--not who the speaker is.

Feeling Their Feelings

What are the deep-seated feelings that drive your listeners? Is it a fear of loss or a hope for gain? Are they driven to play it safe or are they looking to stretch and live on the edge a bit ? Whether you're a speaker, a manager, or a classroom instructor, the answer to those is the pathway to connecting.

Speaking Their Words

This hits at the heart of the issue from a relational standpoint.

Are you talking down or speaking over their heads? Regardless of skill level, are you speaking with clarity or tossing in professional jargon  designed to  make you appear more knowledgeable and sophisticated than you really are?

People need to understand what you have to say in order to care about it--and you. And, they need to care before they'll decide to allocate the energy to act on your ideas.

Do You Really Wanna?

I don't want to dwell on the obvious. I know that you know that you have to relate to people in ways that will make them want to follow your lead, whether it's a management suggestion or a speaking point.

The million dollar question to ask yourself is:  Are you really willing to connect with these people?

If the answer is yes, go for  it.

If the answer is no, move on. Maybe what you think you have to say is better offered in an informational memo or email--or not at all.  You can’t stand before a group and fake your commitment to a decision or a cause.  And even if you can (you weasel), you’ll be "found out" during the implementation when your actions bely your words. 

It just occurred to me that herein lies a good  "go/no go" test for each of us before we attempt to persuade people to accept something new, whether it's a product, a service, or a management idea.

Ask Yourself: Am I willing to spend the time and energy to...

  • Think Their Thoughts?
  • Feel What They Feel?
  • Speak the Way They Speak?
  • Connect With Them Because I am Committed To Them?

Hmm. I like this. What do you think?


I decided that Guy Kawasaki and the gang at Alltop are primo examples of the Cicero Factor. As I began signing up for my own Alltop page of favorites, I realized that Guy had built this by involving himself in all four of the key points above. If you haven't yet checked out and used Alltop, visit the site and follow Guy's tweets at; you'll see what I mean. Now, if I could just do an @Cicero I know he'd feel good about all of this.

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