How do you go about persuading someone to change their mind in a way that doesn’t alienate them?

Well a friend of mine recently had this come up and perhaps you have too? Whether it’s persuading someone to give you that job after all, or fund your project, or whatever else.

Here are three fundamentals to keep in mind and three strategies you can employ.

Here are the three fundamentals:

Get clear on your goals

Get really clear on what your goals are, the end goals, and why your way about it makes sense and what it is the world will look like if we do it your way.

Understand the other person’s perspective

Then you want to get a full understanding, do your homework about what the other person’s perspective is. Let’s call her Jane – so what are Jane’s goals? What are Jane’s concerns? What would be the best way forward if you were in Jane’s shoes?

Focus on the common goal

And then the third is all about your mindset and approach. That is about focusing on the common goal, finding a common goal between you and Jane.

And I think about that in terms of, rather than going in and focusing on we’re stepping into the boxing ring and duking it out, instead, if we’re sitting across the table from each other, why not swivel your chair around so you’re sitting next to Jane, whether literally or figuratively. So that you’re both looking at the same set of opportunities and finding a common ground and a common way forward.

The other thing about your mindset and approach is that you’ve got to start from the stand point of mutual respect and then, importantly, open mindedness because, who knows, it may be you after going through all this thinking that decides that you are the one who wants to change your position rather than Jane. Anything can happen.

So let’s talk now about the three strategies:

The Back Channel

The first strategy is about the back channel strategy. This is all about reaching the influencers of Jane.

Now caveat here: keep in mind that these influencers may have just as a good as relationship with Jane as you have, or perhaps even better, so you’ve got to be ready for whatever you say to those influencers to get right back to Jane.

When you talk to the influencers, you’re trying to do three things:

1. You want to understand more about the context in which Jane operates, how is she thinking about this?

2. You want to give the influencer your point of view so that they understand and hopefully buy in.

3. If they do buy in, fantastic, because perhaps they are better to influence Jane than you are.

The second strategy is what I call…

User Affirmation

This one is all about, instead of you confronting Jane and telling her that her idea’s not good and she should change her mind, have the people who are actually going to be affected by this, the users of whatever the project is, gather data about how they feel about things and use that data to present to Jane so that the users are the ones changing her mind.

Third strategy is what I call the Direct strategy. Often the best strategy, but maybe you want to do these other strategies first.


The direct strategy means you and Jane sit down and your goal is to understand her point of view.

Remember that Stephen Covey quote, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”. As part of that remember that it could become a multi stage process.


Overall, let’s keep in mind that you may or may not be able to change someone else’s mind. Sometimes it’s just not possible.

But it is definitely possible to go about it in a way that does not alienate Jane or whoever it is that you’re working with.

So stay tuned for next week when we talk about some tactics for handling that session with Jane – the direct strategy.

In the meantime let me leave you with this question:

What strategies have you successfully employed to persuade others to change their minds without alienating them?

And then share that with us in the comments section below so that we can all benefit.