In some business-related instances, it’s possible to get someone to do something simply by telling him or her to do it. Position on the organizational chart can provide such influence.

But this column relates to a different activity, and it’s important that we remain focused as we work through this process.

We hear the word “Persuasion” used often, but it’s important to focus on what it means – particularly in business-related situations. It doesn’t mean giving orders to anyone!

Persuasion is defined as “Influencing a person’s belief, attitude, intentions, motivation or behavior.”

Persuasion is an intellectual exercise. It’s not directive.

Power and status can have an impact on decisions and activities, but such behavior often leads only to giving orders. Doing what we are told to do isn’t persuasion. It’s obedience, and there is little if any “buy-in” to any decisions or discussions.

Granted, in some situations, obedience is expected, appropriate and necessary. But usually it doesn’t foster commitment. There is a world of difference between obedience and conviction.

Obeying traffic regulations, for example, isn’t a matter of conviction; it’s strictly about behavior — following rules and doing what we’re told to do. Behaving demonstrates obedience, but commitment demonstrates conviction. Obedience is a physical reaction, but commitment is emotional.

The two reactions are different, and in both business and interpersonal interactions they must be approached differently. Persuasion usually involves using written or spoken language in order to change an attitude or an emotional reaction toward some event, idea, or perhaps another person.

Written or spoken language is the primary tool for persuasion, but before attempting to persuade another person, it is important to engage in personal reflection and a “fact-finding” exercise in order to assure selecting the correct plan and route. It’s usually a good idea to use fresh ideas rather than to repeat comfortable old habits. There is no doubt that old habits are sometimes useful and comfortable, but those well-worn habits can sometimes lead us to repeating unnecessary and costly errors.

An old axiom tells us: “Old habits die hard.” However, they can do serious damage if left to their own devices. Selecting and applying specific behaviors is far safer and more productive if done deliberately rather than habitually.

Persuasion doesn’t just happen; it must be constructed and practiced.

In our latest book, Never Kick A Kangaroo, Eileen and I suggest specific steps that emphasize the steps needed by anyone attempting to be persuasive.

Here are the steps we suggest.

Do a reality check. Before engaging in any persuasion encounter, identify the strengths and weaknesses that exist in all the participating parties. Including yourself.

Ask: What tools do they possess? What strengths do they have? What tasks are they using? What are their strengths and weaknesses?

Once identified, use your strengths against the weaknesses of your opponent.

The title of our book defines the strategy and the reason for using it. If you were ever to get into a conflict with a kangaroo, don’t pick kicking! You’ll lose!

The kangaroo is much better at kicking than you are — and will always be better than you! Pick some other tool or tactic to improve your chances for success.

Success requires that a participant master certain factors before the start of any encounter. To that end, concentrate on identifying these factors:

• What do you want to accomplish? If you can’t say it, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to accomplish it.

• Describe factors that must be changed in order to understand the impact of pending decisions and the consequences of changing any existing behaviors.

• Clarify understandings of the methods that can and will be available to both you and your adversary.

• Assure a thorough knowledge of the tools and techniques to be used in order to achieve the desired result.

• Master a high degree of knowledge concerning the strengths and abilities of the individuals who will be supporting positions contrary to current practices.

• Demonstrate a strong and clear desire to be successful. Without a firm conviction success is unlikely.

• And finally, determine what you need to see or hear in order to know you have achieved the persuasion you seek?

Siesta Key resident J. Robert Parkinson, who has a doctorate in communications from Syracuse University, is an author, executive communication coach and consultant to companies throughout the U.S. and abroad. His books include, "Be as Good as You Think You Are" (Motivational Press), written with his wife, Eileen; "Becoming a Successful Manager" (McGraw-Hill) and "You Can't Push A String" (Black Opal Books). Contact him at