Powerful Persuasion via The Pivot


You are right. They are wrong. At least, you genuinely feel that way. And, when an issue is important, it’s very natural you’d want to persuade them to your side of the issue. The good news: you have logic on your side.

Then again, when a person believes something strongly and you suggest they are wrong, how likely is it that — based on logic alone — they will agree with you? Not very likely. Actually, they will find reasons not to. And, they most likely do not even realize they are doing this.

Persuasion, the ability to move a person to your side of an issue, is typically easier said than done. When thinking about it, it makes a lot of sense. As we’ve seen in a previous post, people make decisions based on their personal and individual belief systems; these being based on a combination of upbringing, environment, schooling, news media, television shows, movies, etc.

People’s minds are typically made up about the topic long before you have engaged them. Add to this, their ego which, not wanting to be wrong (or, more so, to be proved wrong) and you have the ingredients for a person who holds a certain “thought position” to defend that position. And, the more they feel another person wants to change it, the stronger and more resolutely they will defend it.

It also happens that it’s very easy to rationalize (which means to tell ourselves “rational lies”) one’s position by noting everything that seems to confirm it and ignore that which denies it.

As Daniel Goleman discussed in his classic, Emotional Intelligence, “The emotional mind . . . takes its beliefs to be absolutely true, and so discounts any evidence to the contrary. That is why it is so hard to reason with someone who is emotionally upset: no matter the soundness of your argument from a logical point of view, it carries no weight if it is out of keeping with the emotional conviction of the moment.”

First, We Must Reframe The Discussion

When involved in an intellectual debate with someone you’d like to persuade, always begin with a point on which you both agree. This way, the person will see that you’re not just looking to argue or simply be disagreeable.

Even more importantly, he’ll understand that you both really want the same result; you just have different views on how to get there. That’s much more acceptable, and engenders cooperation rather than conflict.

You are now operating from a frame of cooperation rather than antagonism. From that point of engagement, you can now pivot into making your persuasive point. Since the new point you are about to make is based on a current point with which you now both agree, it will be easier for the other person to accept this new conclusion. This is called the Ransberger Pivot, developed by Ray Ransberger and Marshall Fritz.

Because politics can be one of the most potentially explosive situations, let’s use a very highly charged issue (in the U.S.) as an example.

Let’s say you believe that adults should be free to make their own retirement investment choices. Your friend, however, believes that the government should be in charge of this and that they can do it more effectively via the current Social Security system. He states that he believes “people like you are heartless” for not taking into consideration the fact that too many people will not take care to provide for themselves.

He has already set a frame of conflict by insulting you rather than simply addressing the actual issue. In a typical situation, and if your ego is offended, you might, with a louder-than usual voice, say, “The current Social Security System is nothing more than a ‘pay as you go Ponzi Scheme’ that’s forcibly bilked the American taxpayer out of its own retirement money, greatly hurts the poor and is functionally bankrupt, not to mention totally unconstitutional.”

How likely is it that the other person will suddenly be accepting of your view? Not very likely. All you’re doing is arguing. You’re telling him he’s wrong, and he’s not interested in that. Facts don’t persuade—people persuade.

So, let’s try another tack. He opens the same way as above. However, this time, in a calm, respectful voice, you respond with a premise with which you’re certain the two of you are in total agreement. You say: “John, I appreciate your thoughts and, like you, I want our country to be one in which not one person has to suffer in their old age for lack of money, or in any way be a burden to their family or society.”

Ahhh, since that’s exactly what John wants as well, he may now be more open to learning how you think this can be accomplished. Rather than being angry, he might simply ask you a question, such as, “well, okay, but how would you ensure that those who’ve paid into the system all these years don’t lose the money that’s rightfully theirs?”

Only After The New Frame Has Been Set Will The Facts Be Heard

Now, assuming you have the facts in front of you, you can calmly, kindly and respectfully educate him. And he may or may not agree with you, which is his right. But you would never have even gotten to the point where he’s willing to listen had you not first taken the time to show him where you agreed with his basic premise and that you actually have the same goal.

So, you begin by saying, “Like you, I want . . .” fill in the blank. Then you pivot by turning in the direction you choose to go. This surprises him because he expects you to go right from the last point he made and launch into an argument, perhaps attacking him as he did to you. But you do just the opposite. The result is that he becomes less defensive and perhaps more open to an alternative view.

As you saw, I added the lead-in phrase, “I appreciate your thoughts.” This provides a buffer and sets up the pivot even more effectively. Or, words like, “I agree with . . . “, “I’m in complete agreement with your . . .” or “I appreciate your feelings about this” are all excellent lead-ins.

The Ransburger Pivot will work in practically every situation, not just politics. First, show where you both share the same basic premise and ultimate desire or goal. Then, with tact and respect, communicate the facts of the issue.

Master this and your ability to influence and persuade others will go sky high.

[Ed Note: Bob Burg is coauthor of the International Bestseller, The Go-Giver. The book has been published in 21 languages and has sold over 250,000 copies. Check out this brief and entertaining overview of the book at www.burg.com/tgg. And, of course, feel free to share it with others.]
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  • Marshall Page

    Excellent article Bob, thank you.
    We use a similar method here at Marshall’s when it comes to correcting improper exercise technique. We call it praise – correct – praise. This creates a positive, non-threatening, environment in which correction is not only accepted. but desired.

    • Bob Burg

      Marshall, thank you for your kind words about the post. And, yes, terrific method you use in order to create the frame for your clients to embrace your suggestions for improved exercise technique. You’re setting the – as you said – environment for them to know you have their best interests at heart and looking to encourage rather than criticize. Awesome!

  • Rajib Baruah

    A great post, Mr. Bob. This is what I have been doing for so long and it helped me and people I come across. I always believe that any argument never do good to anyone and no one wins with it. Thanks for this post, you are a genius no doubt in that……

  • What a well written explanation of the Ransberger Pivot. To begin with, I had not heard of this approach as having a name. Through the years my experience proves the benefits of this tact rather than a more confrontational one.
    I want to note, however, that there are those who will never be open to a rational discussion seeking common ground and mutual understanding. Make no mistake, I mean mutual UNDERSTANDING. That is the goal I desire. It’s not key if the other party agrees with me as much as they make the effort to grasp the opposite position. At least at that point their position becomes more valid – at least as I see it.
    If there is not a desire to understand there can never be conversion of beliefs and/or thoughts.

    • Bob Burg

      Bill, thank you for your complimentary feedback about the post. And, I certainly agree that there are those who will never be interested. Their minds are “already made up; don’t confuse me with the facts.” 🙂 And, in those cases, it is what it is. The Ransberger Pivot provides an opportunity to open the mind of someone whose mind possibly can be open. It greatly increases the odds of doing so while respecting the right of the individual to come to their own conclusion. Thanks again!

  • Bob Burg

    Rajib: Thank you for your extremely kind words. Lots of gratitude to/for you. Regarding the genius part, I’d say there is definitely doubt LOL but I sure appreciate your saying so.

  • Eddie Pratt

    Cool Post Bob,

    I’m a 23 year old who’s just finishing his first year doing inside sales for a large national IT reseller. This article hit on something I’ve noticed in my career. When customers disagree with us, or are super loyal to one of our competitors, our egos go nuts and we bash the hell out of them.

    We say government workers are all idiots, that if they only “Knew what we knew” then they’d see we are right and give us their money!

    My question comes: In my sales career, I don’t I can genuinely say “Like you, I want what’s best for your IT environment.” I mean, yes, my favorite part of my job is making my customers lives easier, making them look good in front of their bosses, that’s wonderful, but I’m a salesman, my job is to win their business.

    How would you recommend if somebody says “Well Eddie, we have worked with for 7 years, and they’ve always done a great job.”

    I was thinking I should change this to something like this: “I appreciate that they’ve done a great job, and I am not going to pretend you should, could, or would flip your entire budget to a new vendor due to a 5 minute sales call, however, there are many things a company like myself can do that may surprise you. At the very least, if your current vendor knows there’s competition, you can be sure that they will be committed to continuing the current prices and level of service that you currently receive.”

    What do you think?.

    • Bob Burg

      Eddie: Thank you for your comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Regarding your questions, I’m not totally sure I understand what you are asking, so please forgive me if my answer is off-base due to my own lack of understanding.

      First, when you say, that you’d find it difficult to say that you want what’s best for their IT environment, my question is, why not? Why should helping them get what’s best for their IT environment conflict with (as you wrote a couple of lines later), winning their business? Your job as a salesperson is to provide value to them superior to your competition, based on the prospect’s needs. If you cannot do that, then that’s a problem. So, again, I simply might be misunderstanding your question.

      Then, the paragraph that begins with “I was thinking…” is somewhat focused on you as opposed to your prospective customer (more in intent than in words). Yes, you want to be able to create an opening where you can have an opportunity to communicate your value; perhaps gain a portion of their business or, if it works out, all of their business. But, it can’t be (in their mind) because you want it, but because it’s of potential value to them to consider it.

      So, what would be THEIR motivation for doing so? In Harry Browne’s excellent book, “The Secret of Selling Anything” (available from System Seminars http://www.thesecretofsellinganything.com you will learn how to determine what motivates them. Once you know that, you are in an excellent position create that opportunity to fulfill the needs they have. But, to do so, you must always keep in mind that it’s all about them.

      I wish you the very best of success, Eddie!


      • Eddie Pratt

        Thanks, that’s helpful. To clarify what I meant is this: There are going to be times where a customer shouldn’t do business with me. Basically, in a nutshell, our competitor is cheaper priced, we offer higher quality service. If price is the most important factor to a customer, they shouldn’t work with us.

        However, the reality is that I didn’t bring enough value to justify the cost difference. I admit, I do need to do a better job of discovering what customers really value. I’m going to check that book out.

      • Bob Burg

        Awesome, Eddie. And, by the way, at times there really are those who will go on low price no matter what. But, of course, those are NOT the ones you want as customers. As you know, even IF they bought from you based on low price, they would leave as soon as someone whose price was even lower came along. Plus, you wouldn’t make enough profit to be able to properly service their account. So, indeed, learn how to become truly excellent at discovering what they really value and matching the benefits of your service with that. The better you are able to communicate the value (value as understood by the prospect) the greater the chances the sale will take place and you will have a very happy customer and eventual ambassador. I think you’ll find Harry’s book to be a big help. You are on the right track, Eddie, and I’m rooting for your huge success!

  • Focus_Dynamics

    “So, you begin by saying, “Like you, I want . . .” fill in the blank.
    Then you pivot by turning in the direction you choose to go.” This quote to me pretty much sums it up in regards to “re framing” yourself. Some of things that I do to re-frame my thinking is: First thing in the morning I think of 3 things that I am grateful for. Than in the evening I think of one thing that has impacted my life for that day. What this does is allow me to train the brain to look for the positive things rather than the negative things.

    Great read as always Bob and you are always spot on with your analysis! Great advice and I plan on using it! This is the reason why I keep coming back here over and over again! – Robert

    • Bob Burg

      Robert, I think that’s a great point. It actually does re-frame you while you are re-framing the entire interaction. It actually forces us to be “with” the person rather than against him or her. And, that makes for a much more respectful and positive exchange. And, thank you for your very kind words!

  • So glad I read this article. I like the strategy of starting from points of agreement and then expanding from there. Very useful. I even like the name – Ransburger Pivot. I’m not sure, though, that I would be able to effectively use the method if I’ve just been deliberately insulted. Still, in that circumstance just trying to use the method would be better than letting the conversation disintegrate into an argument. I appreciate this new insight.

    • Bob Burg

      Patti: Thank you for your kind and thoughtful feedback about the post. And, yes, when someone insults rather than looks at the actual issue that is frustrating indeed. And, certainly I’m not suggesting anyone allow themselves to be verbally abused. It’s more the “principle base” that if you can first respond (rather than react) you are then in a position to more effectively pursue the situation as YOU desire to. You have reset the frame. And, responding versus reacting takes practice! 🙂 You’ll then find the Ransberger Pivot to be very effective method of positive and respectful persuasion.