Permission Structure: How to Convince With Empathy and Understanding

Laura Graichen

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When was the last time you had a conversation or discussion that led to a change in your opinion? Convincing others to see things differently can be challenging. However, with the concept of permission structures, you can persuade others effectively, without hurting their ego. Discover how to utilize this powerful communication tool to bring about positive changes.

What are Permission Structures?

The concept of "Permission Structures" originates from politics, specifically the US Democratic Party, which successfully used it in election campaigns. The idea is based on the understanding that changing our opinions can be difficult due to the fear of appearing ignorant or inconsistent. This phenomenon is prevalent in politics and daily life alike, and this is where permission structures come into play.

A Permission Structure offers your counterpart a rational justification to change their opinion without feeling like they have to compromise their pride or values. This "way out" allows people to be open to different perspectives and changes they might otherwise reject.

The Importance of Empathy and Understanding

To effectively apply permission structures, empathy and understanding are essential. You must try to comprehend the reasons behind your counterpart's opinions, including their core values and beliefs. By empathizing with your conversation partner's perspective, you create a solid foundation for further communication.

Different Types of Permission Structures

In general, you have the choice between the following three methods to convince your counterpart of your point of view. Of course, all three methods can be combined with each other:

1. Presenting New Information

This approach involves presenting new insights and facts that validate your counterpart's existing opinion while providing an incentive to reconsider it. By introducing new, relevant information, a permission structure encourages your conversation partner to reevaluate their position.

Example:

"While it's true that making our company carbon-neutral is costly, a recent study has shown that it saves money in the long run."

2. Highlighting Your Own Changes of Mind

Sharing your own experiences and instances where your opinions evolved signals to your counterpart that it's okay to change their mind. This helps your conversation partner feel less isolated and encouraged to reconsider their viewpoint.

Example:

"I used to think investing in a strong company culture wasn't worthwhile. But then I read about the impact it had at Microsoft."

3. Addressing Legitimate Concerns

When your conversation partner raises valid objections to a new idea or change, it's crucial to acknowledge and address these concerns. Show, in a compassionate manner, why these apprehensions don't apply in this specific case.

Example:

"It's true that some people felt isolated while working from home during the pandemic. However, it was mainly due to health measures and not necessarily because of remote work itself. Additionally, we wouldn't transition entirely to remote work; those who prefer can still come to the office."

Conclusion: Use Permission Structures to Build Bridges

Permission Structures are powerful tools to persuade others to embrace new ideas and foster positive changes. By employing empathy and understanding and utilizing various permission structure strategies, you can bridge gaps in opinions and collaboratively find innovative solutions. Whether in a professional setting or daily life, this concept enables constructive discussions and genuine progress.

If you're interested in learning more about persuasive communication and productive disagreements, check out our course "Productive Disagreement and Finding Common Ground" on Masterplan.com.

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Laura Graichen

Laura Graichen is Product Marketing Manager at Masterplan. She is responsible for the market positioning of our platform and occasionally gets in front of the camera for our tutorials and Masterplan Shorts.

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