Psychologists believe there are two basic ways people are influenced: one is through reason and the other is based on intuition and emotion. The cognitive approach relies on well-reasoned arguments, a conscious weighing of pros and cons, consideration of multiple options, reviewing factual evidence, and valuation of options in relation to the client’s goals and interests. Cognitive persuasion is hard work and takes time. By contrast, the intuitive approach is automatic and almost effortless. Emotions and intuitions rely on superficial cues rather than facts or arguments. Intuitive decisions are often made on the basis of perceived expertness or attractiveness of the presenter rather than the soundness of her logic.
Cognitive influence is generally more stable and enduring while intuitive influence can be ephemeral and fleeting. Some clients are more easily persuaded by cognitive arguments while others are more often influenced by emotion. Cognitive persuasion relies on clear, logical arguments while intuitive influence is based on distraction, confusion, fatigue, ambiguity and emotion.
Emotions also influence the type of persuasion that’s most effective for an individual. For example, happiness or anger generally triggers intuitive processing, while sadness triggers thinking. The source and content of a message also determine its persuasiveness. A credible source who provides accurate and useful information will appear knowledgeable and more persuasive than someone who provides contradictory information and appears self-interested. A neutral expert can be especially influential at critical moments in the settlement process. Easy to understand arguments are more appealing to listeners than complicated chains of reasoning which tend to confuse rather than educate.
Confidently expressed arguments are generally more persuasive than tentative suggestions, even though there is no relationship between the confidence of a speaker and the accuracy of her statements. Several strong logical arguments presented by different people are generally more persuasive that the same arguments presented by one person. On the other hand, if the arguments are weak, they are more likely to be believed if delivered by a single individual.
Arguments are more persuasive if the expert presents both the strengths and weaknesses of her position. An expert will increase her credibility if she honestly points out flaws in her arguments. However, presenting additional weak arguments won’t persuade the other side. Instead, the expert’s judgment will appear poor if she presents weak arguments because the listener will wonder why the expert is presenting such flimsy facts and arguments. Logical arguments win the day, not simply the number of statements an expert makes. Additionally, it’s important to rebut an opponent’s arguments rather than simply ignoring them.
Finally, research shows that arguments presented early in a proceeding are more influential than later statements. Also, the last argument you hear is recalled better than earlier material. Thus, present your best arguments at the beginning and repeat them again at the end of your presentation to make them maximally persuasive and better recalled.