Men of few words who are masters of persuasion03 january 2013, 12:35
I taught a course at Nazarbayev University recently that I’d never taught before: Presentation Skills -- what used to be known as Speech Communication.
One of the course requirements was a persuasive speech. To succeed in their quest to persuade others, the student speakers had to prepare excellent arguments and offer compelling evidence.
As I was thinking about the skills it takes to persuade other folks, I remembered a story that an Australian friend told me about two of the most persuasive guys in Kazakhstan. Let’s call them Vlad and Stas.
Vlad and Stas’ ability to persuade does not spring from finely tuned rhetorical skills. On the contrary, both are men of few words. But they’re master persuaders nonetheless.
Here’s the story that my friend, a businessman whom I’ll call Jeremy, told me about the redoubtable Vlad and Stas:
Jeremy, who is doing an excellent business selling heavy equipment in Kazakhstan, hired a designer in Almaty to create a Web site to make his business even better.
He paid the designer a tidy sum, then realized he needed to make some small but important changes to the site.
But the greedy designer – let’s call him Yuri -- refused to make the changes without a huge second payment.
Jeremy asked Yuri several times to make the changes at a reasonable cost, but was snubbed.
Where I come from, there’s an unpleasant name for the game Yuri was playing. It’s called extortion.
Jeremy has a great country manager for his business, a guy I’ll call Nikita. Nick has long idolized Jeremy for giving him a wonderful work opportunity with his company – and Nick would do anything for his boss.
So Nick decided to call Yuri himself to see if he could end the standoff.
“I called several times, but he wouldn’t listen – he always demanded a lot more money,” Nick told me.
So Nick decided to call the most persuasive guys he knew to convince Yuri to do what he was supposed to.
“When I was a young guy in Shymkent, I ran around with a gang,” Nick said. “I was heading for trouble, but thankfully I broke away and carved out a good life for myself.”
But Nick is still friends with some of the gang, including Vlad and Stas. So he asked the two for a favor.
A couple of days later, Vlad and Stas showed up at Yuri’s Web-site design office in Almaty.
Nick didn’t describe Vlad and Stas, but I imagine each to be about 6 feet tall and 240 pounds, with shaved heads, black T-shirts, tattoos, scars and gravelly voices.
Because I didn’t have photos of Vlad and Stas, I asked my Tengrinews editor Tanya to imagine what the two looked like – and add reasonable facsimiles of their photos to this blog. She happily complied.
“Vlad and Stas didn’t say much to Yuri when they arrived at his office in Almaty,” Nick told me. “They just stood over him while he made the changes to Jeremy’s Web site that he was supposed to have made months before.”
The suddenly generous Yuri didn’t even charge for the changes, Nick grinned – not even a kopek.
Only five minutes after they’d arrived at Yuri’s office, Vlad and Stas were back in their car on their return trip to Shymkent.
How about that for persuasion?
After Jeremy and Nick told me this story, I thought to myself for a moment: “You know, I often invite guest speakers to my classes – people with unusual expertise to share with my students. Maybe I should invite Vlad and Stas.”
Then I thought better of it. After all, they wouldn’t say a lot to the students.
They’re masters of persuasion – but men of few words.
Vlad and Stas. Photo courtesy of tooktheother.wordpress.com