The Socrates Method of Persuasion


One of the frequent statements of Socrates to his disciples in Athens goes thus: "One thing I know is that I know nothing."

This statement is the hallmark of humility because it came from a man regarded as one of the wisest philosophers who ever lived. Years down the line after his death, his words of wisdom and approach to arguments are still as relevant as ever. This article is based on an excerpt from a book titled "How To Win Friends And Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. It will discuss Socrates' method of persuasion that can make a tremendous difference in your professional and interpersonal relationships.

The King of Tactfulness

The art of tactfulness describes the ability to tactically and skilfully get people to do your bidding without enforcing your will on them. Socrates is the master of this art. He got his opponents to say yes by starting his arguments from a common ground. You should focus on areas where you and your opponent agree before softly arriving at the bone of contention to leverage this method.

This approach is tremendously effective because it eliminates the tendency of human beings to stick to their guns all because of pride. Sometimes, even when we know that we were wrong by saying no initially, we will not back down because of our ego. Therefore, a skillful persuader must seek to sidestep this trap to get the opponent to say yes.

Saying Yes All the Way

When using the Socrates method of persuasion, ensure you start with a question or statement that the other party will accept. For example, if you want your spouse to get a new job that will make him create more time for the family, it is not the best approach to accuse him of neglecting his family. Starting with that statement is likely to make him defensive.

Instead, start with, "I am convinced that you love this family and want the best for us, right?" Most likely, he will say yes because no one will want to admit that they do not care about their families even when their actions show otherwise. You can proceed by saying, "I am sure you do not want anything to ruin our marriage. Isn't it?" You will most likely get another yes.

By the time you say, "I believe you must have noticed that your job schedule is making us struggle to have time for one another as a family. Don't you think so?" he would have been disarmed already. You will make your point and get what you want without stress.

The failure to arrive at a favorable conclusion for both parties is the root of many conflicts. With the Socrates method, we can reduce conflicts in all spheres of life and improve our experience as humans.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can influence people and win them over, pick up a copy of "How To Win Friends And Influence People" by Dale Carnegie.

This article is part of our Business Coaching blog series. At Dataczar we talk to a lot of small businesses. We’ve found a few books that we keep recommending time and again. To better help our customers, we’ve added a Reading List for Small Businesses to our website. We encourage every small business owner to read and keep these timeless business books on their office shelf.