Image for The Power of Acknowledgement to Persuade
Kind gestures acknowledging small or big acts of kindness can be the pathways to persuasion.

Simple Gestures Such as Nods of Approval and Thank You Notes Convey Acknowledgement

Acknowledging acts, small or large, of kindness, competence and courage can be empowering for those who receive the attention – and those who share it. Acknowledgement is more motivational and instructive than a tongue-lashing or a lecture. Acknowledgement also can be the pathway to persuasion.

Empowering acknowledgments come in the form of compliments, thank you notes, a holiday bonus check and even a smile and head nod. In a radio interview, Dr. Robert Ciadini, author of Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, recounted an acknowledgement he gave to his newspaper delivery person.

For years, he said, he ignored the envelope tucked in a folded newspaper inviting a holiday tip. Then it dawned on him that he could combine a tip with a note: “Thank you for always trying to land my newspaper in the middle of the driveway so my sprinklers don’t soak it.” The delivery person always obliged after receiving the note with the holiday check.

Leading with acknowledgement as a prelude to persuasion is more than just a strategy; it must be a commitment.

Sometimes the key to persuasion is right in front of our nose. Public affairs professionals spend a lot of time honing key messages. They and their clients nitpick over words, while potentially missing something more reliable – a kind gesture tied to an acknowledgment. What could be done, as well as said, to build a bridge to a target audience.

Gestures can be both verbal and non-verbal. Think body language. Assuming the posture of acknowledgement, which often means being a listener instead of a talker, can open the door to people paying attention to the words you do eventually speak.

Words can convey acknowledgement by choosing key messages that account for the audience’s viewpoint and values. Be sensitive to the non-verbal feedback you receive from your key messages and acknowledge, if only to yourself, when your message needs modification. In his latest book, Ciadini refers to this approach as seeking unity between yourself and an audience as a platform for persuasion.

Kind gestures aren’t foolproof tools of persuasion, especially if they come across as something other than genuine. Leading with acknowledgement as a prelude to persuasion is more than just a strategy; it must be a commitment – a commitment that requires practice much like continuous learning and self-reflection.

Not every situation, such as a communications crisis, can be leveraged by acknowledgement. However, almost every situation offers opportunities for acknowledgement – thanking emergency responders in a flood or firefighters in a blaze. Persuasion doesn’t have to be the motivation for every acknowledgement. Being thoughtful, respectful and thankful are rewards in themselves. And they are reputation builders that make people more interested in what you say.

The Concept of Acknowledgement

The concept of acknowledgement is often included in thoughts, books and poems. Here are some thought-provoking references to acknowledgement of others and yourself:

“A simple acknowledgement shows integrity.”
― Margo Vader, Take A Little Soul Time

“When we express our gratitude, it grows.”
― Richie Norton, entrepreneur and podcaster

“Appreciation has the amazing habit of bringing more reasons to be grateful for.”
― Isabella Koldras, author

“It is only in the acknowledgement of what doesn’t work that we can create sufficient space to craft something that does. And arrogance is certain to become mired in defeat because it refuses to accept the former so that it might achieve the latter.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough, professional counselor

“We value virtue but do not discuss it. The honest bookkeeper, the faithful wife, the earnest scholar get little of our attention compared to the embezzler, the tramp, the cheat.”
― John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America