The Impact of Incremental Persuasion

The Impact of Incremental Persuasion

People often think of one great strategy or compelling argument as an effective means of persuasion.  In actuality, persuasion of any import is rarely accomplished by a single argument.  If that were the case, persuasion would look much like the diagram below, where A is the starting point and C represents the desired change:


A → C

Actually, getting from A to C usually requires at least a step B, and perhaps even multiple steps between A and B and between B and C.  A more realistic view of persuasion looks something like this:

A → 1 → 2 → 3 → 4 → B → 1 → 2 → 3 → 4 → C

Most people don’t like to change things that they believe work for them.  So, resistance is natural.  People also face obstacles and limitations that interfere with their acceptance of even the strongest reasoning.  A sure way to fail at persuasion is to underestimate the steps necessary to deal with these challenges.

While the model above is too static to capture the back-and-forth, quid-pro-quo nature of most persuasion, it does provide a guide for your planning.

Suppose your supervisor won’t listen to your concerns about project overload.  It may be that A1 represents getting him to talk about the issue.  A2 might entail convincing him to listen to your views, A3 allowing you to provide evidence, and A4 discussing the problems created by the status quo.  Step B could be achieving his appreciation of the situation.  Therefore, B1 might be gaining a willingness on his part to consider a change and B2 a discussion of how to either lighten the total load or prioritize projects to provide better focus on each one.  B3 and B4 could then be specifics of the change, and C his ultimate agreement.

Granted, this is a static view of the complexity of persuasion, but it sure beats going in without a plan.  Any actual persuasive effort may involve fewer steps than these -- or far more.  Adaptability is usually necessary, as well as a willingness to redefine C.

In some cases, reaching B may be the most challenging part of the total effort.  Once your supervisor appreciates the situation, reaching C could turn out to be a piece of cake.  Perhaps the supervisor believes that discussions about workload are a form of whining.  Once that perception is altered, he or she may move quickly to rectify the situation.  By contrast, you may work for someone who is quite willing to listen, even agrees with you, but who sees no way around the problem.  Getting to B is easy; it’s the journey to C where you’ll need to concentrate your efforts.

The next time you want to persuade someone, consider mapping out what you can reasonably obtain at each point in a discussion, or over a number of conversations.  Being right or in possession of compelling evidence often is not as important to effective persuasion as recognizing what steps need to be taken along the way.

Photo: Melpomene/Shutterstock.com

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China has reached a new record for nuclear fusion at 120 million degrees Celsius.

Credit: STR via Getty Images
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This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

China wants to build a mini-star on Earth and house it in a reactor. Many teams across the globe have this same bold goal --- which would create unlimited clean energy via nuclear fusion.

But according to Chinese state media, New Atlas reports, the team at the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) has set a new world record: temperatures of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds.

Yeah, that's hot. So what? Nuclear fusion reactions require an insane amount of heat and pressure --- a temperature environment similar to the sun, which is approximately 150 million degrees C.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it. In nuclear fusion, the extreme heat and pressure create a plasma. Then, within that plasma, two or more hydrogen nuclei crash together, merge into a heavier atom, and release a ton of energy in the process.

Nuclear fusion milestones: The team at EAST built a giant metal torus (similar in shape to a giant donut) with a series of magnetic coils. The coils hold hot plasma where the reactions occur. They've reached many milestones along the way.

According to New Atlas, in 2016, the scientists at EAST could heat hydrogen plasma to roughly 50 million degrees C for 102 seconds. Two years later, they reached 100 million degrees for 10 seconds.

The temperatures are impressive, but the short reaction times, and lack of pressure are another obstacle. Fusion is simple for the sun, because stars are massive and gravity provides even pressure all over the surface. The pressure squeezes hydrogen gas in the sun's core so immensely that several nuclei combine to form one atom, releasing energy.

But on Earth, we have to supply all of the pressure to keep the reaction going, and it has to be perfectly even. It's hard to do this for any length of time, and it uses a ton of energy. So the reactions usually fizzle out in minutes or seconds.

Still, the latest record of 120 million degrees and 101 seconds is one more step toward sustaining longer and hotter reactions.

Why does this matter? No one denies that humankind needs a clean, unlimited source of energy.

We all recognize that oil and gas are limited resources. But even wind and solar power --- renewable energies --- are fundamentally limited. They are dependent upon a breezy day or a cloudless sky, which we can't always count on.

Nuclear fusion is clean, safe, and environmentally sustainable --- its fuel is a nearly limitless resource since it is simply hydrogen (which can be easily made from water).

With each new milestone, we are creeping closer and closer to a breakthrough for unlimited, clean energy.

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