There Are Only Three Ways for a CEO to Persuade Someone (Part 2)

Welcome to our three-part series that gives biotech CEOs and executive decision-makers the tools to advise, influence, and persuade listeners. If you can communicate clearly and understand how to be persuasive across various situations, your organization will thrive. 

This blog post based on our extensive research explains that there are only three ways to persuade someone of something. If you missed Part 1, be sure to catch up here. This post, Part 2, explains the second persuasion tool. 

A CEO can take on a variety of tasks they wish to tackle.   However, some tasks can’t be delegated. A few of the vital functions of a biotech CEO include: 

  •      Setting strategy and direction
  •      Modeling thecompany’s culture, values, and behavior
  •      Building and leading their senior executive team
  •     Allocating capital to the company’s priorities


The persuasion skill needed for all four of these areas. 

Hint: We already use this skill every day. 

The key to your success is the ability to persuade with emotion.  

Emotion is not inappropriate in the workplace. You can show emotion and still be credible. Yes, there is a line, but most people can determine that line intuitively. 

When we think of showing emotion in business settings, it doesn’t seem to fit; fear, sadness, excitement.  When a biotech CEO applies passion to the company’s mission,  an investor pitch, or conference presentation, this often correlates with increased capital, increased efficiency, and improved public approval. 

Tool #2 – How to Persuade Someone: Pathos  

People are persuaded by Pathos or the emotional component of your communication. Emotion is one of the most significant persuasive appeals. 

Think about the last time you decided a person or experience that was not based on logic. The political candidate who shows passion for their stance, the self-help guru that admits they still struggle with anxiety, the movie that inspired you to start mountain climbing. You softened, or were moved, or were intrigued, by their openness. 

But what about when someone else makes an emotional appeal to you? A call to our emotional side is more persuasive than logic. We learn when we are young children that emotional appeals work, almost every time. If not, a temper tantrum is an excellent second choice, preferably in a public place. 

Here’s an example we can all appreciate: If you complain to the hostess about your table next to the bathroom in a restaurant, you may or may not get moved. If you plead with desperation and charm to the hostess, explaining your wife/ husband/ partner will murder you if you sit six feet from a toilet, you will most likely be relocated to a better table. 

Emotion drives us to make decisions that are led by instinct, impulse, reflex, or habits. Starting today, utilize emotional appeals when persuading others to give you capital, take action, or make organizational changes with ease. For most CEOs, the emotion-based persuasion tool is a game-changer once they start using it regularly. If you’d like to start taking more vacations and less ibuprofen, read on for the most efficient way to apply Pathos. 

In a two-horse race, emotion, not reason, wins the race. Think of political debates; those who make the most emotionally persuasive argument win and get the most positive ratings the next morning. 

A key takeaway is that Pathos can be used to create a connection with your audience that makes them receptive to your message. If you can do that, your audience is more likely to:  

  •    understand your perspective;
  •    accept your viewpoint; and
  •    take the course of action you suggest.


Action Item – Create a Pathos Assessment 

Refer to this checklist and apply at least one Pathos tool when you are speaking to make your listeners  more receptive to your message and agreeable to your perspective:  

  • Tell a story: You could tell a story of your own, the story of someone you know, a fairy tale, or a Greek myth. Personal stories are what people remember most from speeches and presentations. 
  • Hone your delivery: apply appropriate pacing, pitch, volume, and tone. If this is difficult for you, get help from a Communication Coach. If you say, you are “happy to be here,” do you look and sound happy?
  • Use metaphors: listeners love metaphors, and these are enjoyable to weave into presentations and speeches. A simple google search will get you inspired to find an appropriate metaphor for your topic. 
  • Be likable: if people tend to cringe and cower when you enter the room, find a way to show your human side. Poke fun at yourself or share a part of yourself you usually keep hidden. 


One final tip – put yourself in the shoes of the listener. If you were them, what would you want to hear from you? Deliver this information with Pathos, and you will create a secure emotional connection that will persuade every listener to agree with you. 

Coming up next: Part 3

Click here to read Part 1 of this series on the tools of persuasion.

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