Obama’s Jobs Speech: Persuading the Reluctant

Sep 9, 2011
4 Min Read

Last night, President Barack Obama asked Congress to approve a nearly half-trillion-dollar plan called the American Jobs Act, which seeks to bolster the economy by cutting payroll taxes for employers and employees, aiding the long-term unemployed, and improving the country’s physical infrastructure.

“You should pass this jobs plan right away,” the president said about 20 times in a 30 minute speech as Congressional Republicans listened without expression. They did not clap when Obama said:  “The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy.”

The president was less flowery and more factual than usual, though, and he repeatedly emphasized that his proposals were ones that had previously been supported by Democrats and Republicans alike.  And surprisingly, some Republicans were almost won over.  “The proposals the president outlined tonight merit consideration,” Speaker John A. Boehner said in a public statement.

President Obama faced the unenviable task of convincing Republicans to support his initiative when thus far, they have tried to block every move he makes.  And at work, we’ve all been in the situation of having to persuade someone who is determined to disagree with us. It’s difficult, but here are some tips to ensure the best possible outcome:

Show what’s in it for them

Obama repeatedly referenced the dire straits of the American people, otherwise known as those who vote for members of Congress. Remember that the other person doesn’t care what you want, so think about how your proposal can help him get what he needs.

Provide evidence

Don’t appeal to the reluctant person with emotion – it won’t work. Instead, wherever you can, offer statistics, case studies, and research that show why your proposal is the best one.  Obama, for instance, cited a few successful state and local programs that he wished to implement on a larger scale.

Be genuine and transparent

Even stubborn people find it hard to put down someone who is passionate about their cause. Show how and why you care about this work, and put all your cards on the table.  If the other person senses that you have an underlying agenda or that you are leaving out important information, she will tune out. This is one area in which I believe Obama could have done better: he wasn’t specific about how the AJA would be paid for. The timing of the plan was also suspect for some Republicans, who wondered why it was being revealed as Obama gets ready to kick off his re-election campaign.

What did you think of Obama’s speech?  Did he convince you that the American Jobs Act will put people back to work? Do you think his speech will be effective in getting the bill passed?

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