Effective Persuasion: Are You a Painkiller or a Vitamin?

George Grombacher January 18, 2022

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Effective Persuasion: Are You a Painkiller or a Vitamin?

Do you take vitamins?


How often do you take them?


There have been times in my life I’ve taken them everyday. There have also been times I’ve stopped taking them altogether.


Then there are those times I’ve guzzled Emergen-C because I was getting on an airplane.


Bottom line, I’ve been less than consistent taking vitamins over my lifetime.


Do you take painkillers?


When I get a headache, I’m almost guaranteed to take something to get rid of it. If something hurts badly enough, an intervention is taking place.


Vitamins accentuate our health, painkillers alleviate discomfort.


In terms of persuasion, are you a vitamin or a painkiller?


Are you trying to accentuate something and make it better? Or are you trying to alleviate pain and make it go away?


It’s certainly possible to do both effectively, but it’s important to pay attention to how you’re attempting to go about helping people.


It’s also important to have a framework for inspiring the change you’re working to have.


Those are the areas I’m going to talk about here.


Overview of topic:


  • Accentuate or make better

  • Alleviate or make go away

  • Important questions


Let’s get started.


Accentuate or make better


How good would it feel if I did this? How much better could my life be if I started doing or did more of this?


Literally taking vitamins is the perfect example of this. It’s knowing that we may not enjoy the benefit of the vitamin the instant we put it in our mouth. Rather, we’ll enjoy the benefits over the long-term.


It’s understanding that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That we chop wood all summer long so we can burn it during the winter.


In service of this, we take the time for preventative doctor visits. We engage in daily exercise and eat a healthy diet. We plan for annual increases to our 401(k)s. We schedule date nights with our partner.


What inspires people to do this, to keep good going?


To create virtuous cycles and to keep making gains?


Sometimes, these are people standing on solid foundations. They have the fundamentals taken care of, and now they’re looking at the finer details for ways to improve.


Other times, when people are looking for ways to optimize, they’re really searching for ways to “hack” a process, or they’re looking for shortcuts.


How can you best serve these people?


Either way, it’s still incumbent on you to identify the problem they’re working to solve, and I’ll share a framework for doing exactly that later on.


Alleviate or make go away


How bad does it hurt?


If it’s bad enough, that will finally catalyze action.

Literally, a painkiller is the perfect example of this. It’s knowing this intervention will remove the pain.


It can be a wakeup call, hitting rock bottom, or reaching the end of your rope.


We can find ourselves finally searching for a remedy when diagnosed as prediabetic, having a heart attack or other medical event. When we experience a financial emergency like a bankruptcy. It can happen when we’re given an ultimatum by a partner.


What causes people to finally take action? To stop harmful behavior and/or start beneficial behaviors.


To break a vicious cycle, to get back to even?


Humans are creatures of habit and patterns. Even if it’s not healthy, harmful behaviors can be comfortable. Often, it takes an event to disrupt those habits and patterns.


Alternatively, never doubt a person’s capacity for change. With the right motivation, people can move mountains.


How can you best serve these people?


The opportunity is to help people to identify their own problem and to guide them to the solution.

Here is a framework for doing it.


Important questions


Fundamentally, change is an inside job. In order to do it, people have to want to change.


Is there anything that can be done externally to motivate internal change?


The right line of questioning can help.


Questions are so powerful because it allows us to control the direction of someone else’s thoughts. You remember the Jedi mind trick from the Star Wars movies? It’s sort of like that, but in the service of helping people make important changes.


This questioning framework can help someone self-diagnose, and get moving in the right direction.


What’s the biggest thing you’re struggling with?


People may answer this question outright.

They may also need additional prompting.

None of us can read minds, but you can utilize your powers of deduction. Let’s assume you’re a financial advisor. You could say something like this, “I talk with people all the time about strategies for getting out of debt, getting on the same page with their partner about money, and the best places to invest in the current climate. Does any of that resonate with you?”

You’ve cast a broad net, and odds are, they’ll also be experiencing one of them.


How have you tried to improve your finances in the past?


Once you’ve helped them to identify their top concern, the next step is to find out what they’ve done in the past.


Assuming they’ve told you they’re struggling with debt, you say “How have you tried to improve your finances?”


How did you go about it (be as specific as possible)?


From there, dig deeper “how have you tried to get out of debt?”

The goal is to determine how they’ve thought about the problem and everything they’ve tried to do about it.

In service of this, a great question is “tell me more about that.”


How long have you been feeling like you need to make a change?


Once you’ve talked about what they’ve tried to do, the next step is to determine how long they’ve been thinking about the problem.

You ask “how long have you been feeling like you need to make a change?”


Have you tried anything that worked?


Once you’ve determined the timeline, ask “during that time, have you felt anything worked or was working?”


How has being in debt impacted you (monetarily, psychologically, physiologically)?


The next step is to ascertain the total cost they’ve paid. You ask “how has being in debt impacted you?” There are no doubt going to be financial impacts, but they may also be suffering mentally and emotionally as well. They may have relationships which have suffered because of it.

Not only that, but there may also be opportunity costs they have paid. Has being in debt precluded them from saving and investing for their retirement or other financial priorities?

Although painful, it’s important to get as close to the truth as possible.


How frustrated are you right now?


Are they sick and tired of being sick and tired? In this example, are they sick and tired of being broke?


You ask, “on a scale of 1 to 10, how frustrated are you right now?”




When you’re able to follow this framework, you’re helping the other person to self-assess their problem.

All you’ve done is ask great and thought-provoking questions which prompted the person to consider their predicament.


If the person responds to your final question with an 8, 9 or 10, they’re ready to make a change.


From there you say, “I’ve got a lot of clients who’ve faced similar situations and frustrations. Would you like to talk about how they were able to move past them?”


And now you’re onto the next phase of your process and in a position to help this person get on the path to meaningful change.


If you’d like to dig deeper into this process, you can connect with one of our Certified Coaches for a no-cost call.

We’ve got three free courses as well: Our Goals Course, Values Course, and our Get Out of Debt course. 

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