U R Responsible for Ur Own Actions


Breaking Through to Each Other, by Jesse Nirenberg [1976]
Review © 2007 Lloyd Kinder
This book is about persuasion and the following are paraphrased highlights of it. It goes very well with Peck’s People of the Lie in further clarifying what can cause stress and how to help prevent it.
Chapter 2: Empathy
- There's greater empathy from imagining being in another's shoes, than from imagining the person's feelings.
- Trust is increased by expressing intentions and expectations of cooperation.
- Ambiguous communication causes anxiety in listeners.
- Problem solving and decision making produce a sense of closure and satisfaction, while unsolved problems and unmade decisions produce tension.
- Threats to self-esteem from others, as via criticism, tend to produce anxiety and reluctance to admit uncertainty about questions.
- Incomplete remarks produce anxiety in the listener and anxiety often causes premature conclusions.
- To prevent others from jumping to conclusions, give them closure when conversing.
- Tell them immediately what you want and what they could gain.
- Honestly acknowledge the merits of any opposing ideas they have to allay their anxiety.
- Do not pretend that ideas have merit when they don't, as this undermines credibility.
Chapter 3: Orienting Others' Thinking
- Every conscious mental effort is a search for meaning.
- People always seek to see the whole picture, which gives closure.
- To persuade others, we want them to accept our conclusions by thinking mainly about information that we give them.
- Making proposals explicit produces greater understanding in the listener and leads more often to changes of opinion in favor of the speaker.
- Anxiety in the speaker tends to make cluttered talk, which hinders understanding in the listener, and adds tension; so the speaker should try to calm down before speaking.
- Anxiety in the speaker also makes listeners suspicious.
Chapter 4: Motivating Others to Listen
- The opening remark should include the proposal and the benefit expected from the proposal.
- If the benefit is not mentioned, the listener will imagine one for the sake of closure, and the imagined benefit is likely to be less impressive than the benefit you expect.
- There may be many potential benefits from the proposal, but mention only the most persuasive one/s, which is/are close to the listener's goals.
- The immediate benefit should also be included in the opening remark, because it'll explain how the main benefit will be obtained.
- Put the proposal and the main benefit before the immediate benefit.
- Add a question at the end of the opening remark to motivate the listener to think actively instead of passively.
- The listener's reply to this question will tell what to discuss.
Chapter 5: Quantifying Intangibles
- In every proposal the benefit has to be greater than the cost.
- If given no numerical figures for the expected benefit, the listener is likely to imagine an unimpressive figure.
- An experiment showed that stress from the threat of electric shock produced distorted observation [a rectangle was said to appear to be square].
- Listeners feel tense from ambiguity and often distort any ambiguous claims of benefits mentioned by the speaker.
- People judge others as more trustworthy, if the others give evidence for their claims.
- Listeners judge evidence objectively and perceive qualitative differences in different evidence.
- It's best to mention measurable, quantified benefits, not abstract benefits.
- It's often necessary to estimate the quantity or amount of benefit, but this is normal in all areas of society and not a significant drawback.
- Admit that estimated quantities are estimates, so as to avoid giving the listener the wrong impression and risking loss of credibility.
- Determine the amount of benefit needed to overcome the added cost of the proposal.
- Negotiate the estimated quantities with the listener, so the listener accepts them.
- Keep the estimates conservative in order to maintain credibility.
- Estimated quantities with numerical figures have greater impact than do vague terms, e.g. "about 10% more" has greater impact than "quite a bit more."
Chapter 6: Preventing Misunderstanding
- Everyone fails to hear parts of most conversations.
- 50% of listeners guess the wrong missing word in a 12-word sentence.
- 50% of those who guess the wrong missing word get the wrong meaning from the entire sentence.
- Getting the right meaning is important, so, when listening, ask for information that is missed or doesn’t seem to make sense.
- When speaking, use subjects of speech, i.e. antecedents, rather than referents, such as "it" or "that."
- Talking helps to form ideas, which leads to better understanding, which produces enjoyment [closure].
- So get the other person to talk about the proposal, so s/he will understand it better.
- Let the person finish talking before correcting errors in the person's understanding, because interruption produces stressful emotions, as measured by changes in skin surface electrical conductivity.
- Talking about feelings is enjoyable, whether the feelings are pleasant or unpleasant.
- We must control our greed for talking and our anxiety about being misunderstood, to let the other person finish talking before we reply.
Chapter 7: Probing Premises
- 35% of the influence on conclusions comes from personal opinions.
- 25% comes from the form of expression of the choices and conclusions.
- 20% comes from logic and 20% comes from chance.
- Using only one procedure to solve several problems results in the procedure becoming a habit.
- Stress reinforces habit and reduces originality.
- Two people working together on problems increases the flexibility for both, reduces their habits, and produces more successes, when new methods are needed for problem solving.
- Try to set up such teamwork with the other person.
- Motivate the listener to ask for your ideas.
- Turn the listener from objecting to the proposal to admitting they don't know.
- Those who admit they don't know learn more than those who don't admit it.
Chapter 8: Ask the Right Questions
- Everyone wants to speak and behave rationally.
- When we act on impulse, we rationalize to hide our irrational motivation.
- "Doesn't it make sense to ..." or similar reference to logic in support of the proposal increases persuasiveness.
- When we find weaknesses in our reasoning, we ask questions.
- Increased feeling of uncertainty leads to increased seeking of information.
- When the listener raises an objection, ask what part of the idea is not liked so you can explain it better.
- If the reply includes further objection, keep asking for more details [and provide clarifications] until you agree with the other person, or s/he shows uncertainty.
- Don't give information until asked for.
- When the person asks, or shows interest, then give information.
- The first question to ask the other person is a "why" question re what the objection is about.
- The questioning must be worded to minimize uncomfortable feelings in the other person in order to draw out the person’s reasons for objecting to the proposal.
- So acknowledge whatever is possibly true in the person's objection.
- People give more opinions when others agree with them or paraphrase them.
- They give fewer opinions when others disagree or don't answer.
- Showing agreement with the other person results in greater persuasion.
- In structuring our question, we give our reasoning, why we ask the question and why their reply may help.
- When replying, reveal any evidence that contradicts the objection.
- Giving our reason for asking the question shows the person we're after the best solution, not the most self-serving one.
- In summary, the drawing out question includes 1] acknowledgment of the other's points, 2] the question, and 3] the reason for the question.
- With each reply decide if the other person is still objecting or asking for information.
- After the “why” question often comes need for a “how much” or “how many” question.
- If the person sees some merit in your proposal, ask a "what if" question.
- A "what if" question changes the other person's premise or adds a new one from you to see if it changes the person's conclusions.
- In summary again, the drawing out questions are why, how much, and what if.
Chapter 9: Feeding in Ideas
- It's ineffective to feed in ideas if the other person disagrees with the proposal or has an objection, since they're not ready to receive.
- When the person asks for information, they're ready mentally to receive it.
- The opening remark is the only time to give information when not asked for.
- Answer questions directly, or suspicions may be raised.
- If the person states objections, but also asks for information, give the information.
- Keep remarks under 30 seconds and ask the other person to comment at the end of each remark.
- Have no more than 3 adjectives or numerical figures in each remark.
- Be fairly specific, rather than general, in describing things.

- The opening remark should include the proposal and the benefit(s) expected from the proposal, i.e. the most persuasive benefit(s) - those closest to the listener's goals.
- The immediate benefit should also be included in the opening remark, because it'll explain how the main benefit will be obtained.
- Put the proposal and the main benefit before the immediate benefit.
- Add a question at the end of the opening remark to motivate the listener to think actively instead of passively.
- The question should summarize the proposal and benefits and ask if it makes sense or seems like a good idea.

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