“Pacing builds trust because people see you as being the same as them. After pacing, a persuader can then lead, and the subject will be comfortable following.”Scott Adams, Win Bigly
Pacing and leading is an expert lever of persuasion that is particularly powerful for people in positions of leadership. However, you can use it in a variety of settings to shape the behavior of others.
WHAT IS PACING AND LEADING? WHY DOES IT MATTER?
Pacing and leading is a two-step lever of persuasion.
- First – You “match your pace” to the person you want to influence in as many ways as possible. You can do this by mimicking the way the person talks, stands, their appearance, etc. You can also mimic less tangible aspects like the way they act, or their emotional state.
- Second – Once you’ve set your pace with someone, lead them to whatever decision or behavior you want them to take!
Pacing and leading works because, by first aligning with the other person, you get them to like and trust you. And you already know that similarities increase likability, and likability is a core lever of persuasion.
And, as with most levers of persuasion, this process is unconscious. That’s what makes pacing and leading so powerful.
Here’s Scott Adams again in Win Bigly explaining how Trump uses pacing and leading:
“Trump’s simple speaking style made him relatable to the average undereducated voter. This is another example of Trump using pacing and leading. First you match your audience to gain their trust. Then you can lead them.”
EXAMPLES OF PACING AND LEADING
- Copywriting / Sales – Show potential customers you have similarities as them (values, interests, etc.). You can also discuss similarities between potential customers and existing customers. Once you’ve “paced” with them, explain why your product/service is a natural next step.
- Pitching Clients – When trying to bring in a client, start by matching their language (what words do they use frequently?), posture, email style, etc. Once you’ve consciously matched your behavior on a few items, then discuss how you think it’s in their best interests to do XYZ.
- Guide Behavior – Guess what another person is thinking or feeling. Once you’ve done so, you can lead their actual behavior. For example, meditation instructors do this in guided meditation. They often start by telling you something like “You’re breathing in and out, and your mind is slowing down.” The first part of that is pacing (obviously you’re breathing); the second is leading.
- Job Applications – How can you create similarities between you and a potential interviewer? Match their posture, talking style, etc. Once you’ve done so, get them to visualize you working there in order to get them to think past the sale.
- Negotiation – In addition to pacing by matching your counterpart’s physical posture, way of talking, etc., you can also match their argument. For example, “I understand that X is a reasonable stance to take because Y. In fact, that’s a pretty intelligent approach to it. However, there may be more nuance to it, and one could also see the issue as….”
How have you leveraged pacing and leading to persuade and influence? Where have you seen it used by others? Share your expertise in the comments.
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