How To Frame Compelling Arguments



“Silence is argument carried out by other means.” — Che Guevara

How do you create compelling arguments for change?

How do you convince others to comply with your requests? How do you reduce the perceived costs of action or increase the perceived costs of inaction?

In The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels, Michael Watkins writes about framing compelling arguments.

Reason, Values, or a Combination

You appeal to reason, values, or a combination when you need to win support.
Via The First 90 Days:

“Persuasive appeals can be based on logic and data, or on values and the emotions that values elicit, or on some combination thereof.

Reason-based arguments have to directly address the pragmatic interests of the people you want to convince.

Value-based arguments aim to trigger emotional reflexes — for example, by evoking patriotism to win support for sacrifices during wartime.”

Appealing to Core Values

Watkins summarizes appealing to core values:

Core Values Within the Business Environment
  • Commitment to an ideal
  • Sacrifice to realize that ideal
Commitment and Contribution
  • Service to customers and suppliers
  • Creating a better organization, society, or world
Individual worth and dignity
  • Respect for the individual expressed as elimination of exploitative or patronized practices and promotion of decency and opportunity for all
  • Providing the means for individuals to realize their potential
  • Respect for the letter and the spirit of the law
  • Ethical and honest behavior
  • Fairness in all interactions

Key Take Aways

Here are my key take aways:

  • Frame your arguments. One approach is to just ask for what you want and see what happens. If the stakes are high, you’ll want to frame a compelling argument.
  • Know whether you need logic, emotion or a combination. In general, I find a combination is most effective. That said, some people are more emotionally-driven while others are more data-driven. For those that are more emotionally driven, I find that metaphors or emotional picture words work well. If you know somebody is more data-driven, be sure to do your homework. See Know It Alls.
  • Know an individual’s convincer strategy. You need to know the recipe to how an individual gets convinced. See Seven Meta-Programs for Understanding People.
  • Don’t misrepresent your argument. There’s a difference between improving your argument and manipulation. Present your argument in a compelling, relevant way, but don’t mislead. Integrity matters.
  • Know the meta-programs. If you know how people filter the world and what they value, you can make your argument more relevant. See Seven Meta-Programs for Understanding People.
  • Know the Five Thinking Styles. If you know how people think, you can better frame your argument. See Five Thinking Styles.
  • Create a compelling business case. You can use a business case to show how big is the pie and what’s your slice. You can use a business case to either support your argument or to argue against an alternative action. See Eight Rules of businessThink.
  • Calculate the impact. This includes the impact over time. Many people are driven by impact. They like to know they make a difference. If you help show them how they will make a difference, this will help you frame a more compelling argument. See Calculating Impact.

If you’re not winning the support you need, change your approach, and find a better way to appeal to the hearts and minds of the people you want on board.

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