When Persuasion Fails: The Correct Use of Force

When Persuasion Fails: The Correct Use of Force

There are many reasons we fail to persuade others. A failure to persuade can result from something as basic as your delivery to more complex factors like environment and context. Imagine trying to convince someone to go for a long walk by the beach with you when it rains; yes, it is possible, but the weather affects your approach and potentially the outcome of your persuasive attempts.

We can, rightfully, spend hours talking about the importance of environmental factors to communication. Still, I want to discuss one particular aspect of proper leadership that is often ignored or downplayed in our current social climate – the use of force.

Now, you need to understand that my definition of force does not imply or include the use of violence.

Physical or psychological aggression is never desirable in balanced social conditions. Force, in this case, is the use of personal authority to imply that someone must do something to achieve optimal effects. Sometimes, and though it can be challenging to know when these times come up, we need to exert our power over others to lead them in the right direction. We need to apply the right amount of pressure.

The failure often happens in assessing circumstances of an interaction correctly and knowing how much pressure to apply in our communication with others. Power dynamics are of critical importance to social cohesion, and we have to understand how to manage them.

Think of managing insubordination in a well-established business hierarchy. Depending on why the chain of command is defied, the boss must curb the enthusiasm of the employee’s disobedience. Imagine a coach who needs to get a refusing athlete to play well with the rest of the team. In both cases, regular communication has failed, and the people in charge must exert a different kind of pressure on the people betraying the rules. In both cases, failure to apply the correct type of force is detrimental to the group and its members.

It is the definition of force that matters to persuasion and leadership, and we need not be afraid to use it strategically. It is a worthwhile exercise to think about what conditions require the proper application of pressure. Obviously, those conditions are also affected by a plethora of factors about the individual and their environment.

I want to leave you with this: Kindness is ultimately the right approach to resolution, but it is essential to be ready to stand firm in defence of our principles; especially, when the most important of them, like kindness, is threatened.


Magic and Persuasion

If you have performed a good magic trick before, you understand what I write here. You have seen the wonderful human reaction to magic, and you know the fantastic feeling that response brings. If you are adept at performing magic, you also understand how exciting the expectation of a miracle is for the person witnessing it is. I, like you, have seen the positive emotional changes a well-executed trick brings to an audience.

Now, I will clarify that by magic, I mean the craft of stage or close-up magic, not anything paranormal or supernatural. The mechanisms that religion and mysticism use to manipulate minds constitute a different conversation that I am always willing to have, despite my mother’s insistence to avoid it at the dinner table.

Magic is beautiful. Magic as a craft demands good practice and an exuberant level of charisma to perform well. More significantly, the discipline of mental magic, as I have come to call it, is a fantastic combination of technical knowledge and showmanship (or show-people-ship, to be more inclusive) that opens people’s imagination in ways almost nothing else does. A good mentalist, or what we call the person doing mental magic, can make others question reality by exposing them to possibilities outside their natural expectations. I have seen people abandon convictions after a well-done mindreading routine. In the right mood and behaving as the deplorable asshole I once was, I pretended to be psychic on occasion – something I did for money or control. In my defence, I’ll admit to having played the psychic bit lately to demonstrate the techniques used by the charlatans who prey on people’s credulity and emotions.

Magic takes conviction. If you don’t believe you can do that trick, your audience won’t believe it either.

Yes, people need to believe in miracles and their ability to betray their own anticipations makes magic a powerful tool for persuasion. Like those quacks I’ve enjoyed unmasking, I have used magic to alert others of different possibilities, but I have alerted them to the possibility of beneficial changes.

My advice is to use magic sparingly and to lead people to think more critically about their world. I use magic to show someone how they are being fooled or how it is possible to miss an essential part of any process. I enjoy using magic to show people how someone can use their focus against them – how simple gestures can misdirect their attention. My favourite employ of magic is to help people see their own limiting beliefs and help them overcome them. Think of it this way: if you can demonstrate that the things we focus on are not always important – and help move that focus to the parts that are – you can help bring about good change.

Importantly, always be honest about magic. Always use it to amaze, entertain, and help others think better. Understand that using magic to extort others is deplorable; it makes you like the asshole I used to be. And while the power of magic is in people’s perception of it as something wonderfully unknown, always admit that it is only a trick – a complicated trick – but a trick nevertheless.

New Project: Learning to Write

It’s been a while.

And I have the luxurious excuse of being engaged in an absorbing project. Saying that this project is absorbing is not hyperbole; it is not an intentional exaggeration of the compelling context of this work, which can seem compulsive coming from me.

During the last six months, I wrote the true story behind the inspiration for The 8-13 Project. I want to voluntarily digress here and admit that writing non-fiction is much more complicated than fiction. Actual events are verifiable, and the veracity of the claims made in the book will stand to critical scrutiny. However, even in the pursuit of truth, specific parameters of anonymity and privacy must be met—navigating legal matters like the ironclad N.D.A we signed is often challenging and more often frustratingly necessary to protect everyone involved in the story. I submit humbly in my preceding ignorance that navigating these legal waters is needed to preserve the value of the story itself.

The project is a joint venture between several parties. This latest task that has kept me away from much of my social life is a partnership between people directly involved in the case that changed the financial world and a re-emerging company named After 9 Studios, with the latter being the catalyst for a process that seemed stale at the beginning of 2021. As you may surmise from the earlier mention of the non-disclosure agreements that protect us all, I am not at liberty to disclose the true nature of the project yet. And I’m not here to reveal anything other than a lesson this project affords me.

I thought I could write, and I was wrong. I will likely never know how to write well.

My compound predicates are incomplete, and my objects are easily confused with my subjects because of the distance created by unnecessary commas. I understand the need for subjunctive moods but suffer from the notion that most people cannot understand what I tried in my opening sentence of this paragraph. Perhaps, perpetuating that confusion in my second sentence will show that I don’t truly know what I am doing wrong. Perhaps, it is not that people can’t understand what I tried; rather, that my attempt was poor.

I know in my hearts of hearts that, unlike Hemingway, I will never write that one true sentence. I don’t know how a true sentence reads. I don’t know if my heart of hearts is a true thing. I only know that I have much work to do to become a mediocre writer, and therein lies the lesson: I look forward to that work. I am in love with the anxiety that thinking about learning to write causes me. I am enamoured and profoundly impressed with my need to put a true sentence together, but more compelling to my sense of arrogance is the idea that I will never stop learning if I pursue the complexity of language. I know now that my existence is meaningless in the interminable undertaking of learning how to write well.

More on the project soon.

— Peyton Dracco

Sales Training Lesson 2: Understanding Trust

On your journey of learning how to sell or be more persuasive, you need to follow the mechanics of trust and any other attitude you will use to move others. Selling, persuasion, like the success of a good magic trick, depend heavily on powerful psychological biases – understanding these biases is vital to this process.

Let’s get on with it. Welcome to your second lesson.

NOTE: Every lesson contains, amongst other parts, exercises and the reasons for the activities in those exercises. Whenever possible, I will suggest additional reading.

Why Is Trust Important To Selling?

As per our first lesson, the definition of selling we want to observe is persuading or convincing someone of something’s merits. I’ll ask you this: when was the last time you accepted anything from anyone you did not trust?

I will ask that question differently: when did you accept anything from anyone without a factor influencing your acceptance of that thing or person? These influencing factors could be simple motivators like your liking of the item or person or a need to accept what that person offered.

I want you to take some time now, to consider what factors could lead you to take someone’s offer. Could you think about different proposals made to you by different people and the factors that would influence your decision about those proposals?

Take your time.

Exercise 1 (Level: Basic)

In your first lesson, you did your best to identify the reasons you might trust others, and you remembered the last time you convinced someone of something.

We will go inside now to do our best to understand how trust feels to you and to identify it in others.

I want you to think about someone you trust. It would be best if you imagined accepting an offer from that person; the more complicated the proposal, the more complex the feelings about it will be; I recommend starting with a simple idea.

As you go through this process, do your best to identify what feelings arise in you, notice how your body and face react to those feelings. Whenever possible, do this part of the exercise in front of a mirror and observe those feelings’ physical signals. What are your eyebrows and shoulders doing? What is happening in your face? Make a note of the changes you see.

Do this part several times; it is not easy to spot subtle signs of emotion.

When you have performed the first part of this exercise enough times to identify how trust and acceptance feel to you and remember the vital role honesty plays in this process, I want you to do it with a friend.

Ask a friend, or a cohort, if you have access to several people willing to play with you, to do the first part of this exercise and notice how they react to it. Ask them what they feel and pay attention to how their faces and bodies respond to those feelings.

Make notes about this part and do it enough times to become familiar with the process.


It is imperative to the endeavour of persuasion to identify how people feel and provide the best possible feedback to those feelings. Nothing will put up defences faster than feeling disconnected from the person with whom we speak.

Whilst it is true that people react to emotional stimuli differently, this exercise will help you establish a baseline of the feelings and behaviours of trust and acceptance. Knowing that someone is feeling something, whatever that may be, can help you determine your next step towards convincing them of what you want them to believe.

Learning to read people, as many love to call it, is an essential part of selling. We will work on this skill extensively as we move through these lessons.

I cannot finish stressing the need to remain honest about what you think you see and understand about yourself and others. Self-honesty will invariably make the difference between success and failure.

I will add here that knowing how to identify and decode signals of emotion well will improve your general life-experience. This ability to understand what people are feeling/thinking is what many experts call emotional intelligence, which is a superpower for the person wanting to affect psychological change in those around him.

Make sure to complete the exercises suggested here before moving onto the next lesson. Let us know how this works out for you.

Suggested Reading

On Microexpressions: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microexpression

Dr Paul Ekman: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Ekman

Reading facial expressions of emotion: https://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2011/05/facial-expressions

Spotting Lies and Barriers to Persuasion: https://www.peytondracco.com/post/spotting-a-lie-and-barriers-to-persuasion

The Difference Between Persuasion and Manipulation

The difference between persuasion and manipulation is a strong point of debate is many social circles. Philosophers and psychologist love to disagree on the dynamics of both concepts, and they should; these concepts are complex and extensive. I have spent countless hours looking for that substantial difference that can, as people say, put a point on it.

The popular contention is that one is positive, and the other one is negative in contrast. My friend Maddox Vargas argues in Book 1 of The 8-13 Project that the difference is in the semantics and the intentions outlined by the words.

The reason you don’t hear about someone manipulating someone else into becoming a better person is that words are social and cultural contracts that bind us to very limited meanings.”

I find Maddox’s analysis of this difference compelling, and accurate; I share in the understanding that words and their definitions have power over our perception of reality. Language is, after all, that only tool we have to describe the world as we understand it – it is the only way we have to access other minds.

Inherent in this explanation of the difference between manipulation and persuasion is the idea of intention – the principal difference is in the love that may or may not operate in the hearts of the people attempting to move you or control you.

Like those philosophers and psychologists pondering the complexities of human behaviour, I also have much to say on the subject. Nevertheless, I leave you with Maddox’s prescriptions for now, which elegantly illustrate how the word itself is used to manipulate how you perceive its meaning, and therefore, how you feel about it.

From now on, I want you to pay attention to the language used as Peyton transcribes my words into sentences you can make sense of. I want you to focus on the meaning and the semantics of the terms employed here because we are deliberate in that practice – almost as careful as the legal system is in using similar words to confuse the truth.

Take the word manipulation as an example of what I want you to see. How do you define this elegant term? I’m sure it elicits a sense of being used or of psychological control exerted over a person without their consent and with negative consequences.

After all, we often hear about the undesirable aspects of [people] being in manipulative relationships, and we always listen to others admonishing people who are perceived as being manipulative of others. But the word has a different meaning in its formal version; it denotes the act of manipulating or using something in a skilful matter. The reason for your misapprehensions about this noun is purely cultural, you have been told by those who used it before you that it suggests a sort of unscrupulous action or behaviour against others.

Geneticists manipulate animal and plant genomes to make better versions of them, often in search for the cure for horrible diseases. Artists manipulate their brushes to paint beautiful masterpieces that inspire profound enjoyment in those that see them.

The reason you don’t hear about someone manipulating someone else into becoming a better person is that words are social and cultural contracts that bind us to very limited meanings. They are meanings that serve to support the zeitgeist and to manipulate you (if you use the popular meaning of the word) into accepting a collective identity and worldview that you did not choose. And their limits are intended, furthermore, to minimise your access to reality – your access to truth.”

Maddox Vargas, The 8-13 Project, Book 1 revised

Thank you for reading, I will have more on this soon.

— Peyton Dracco