Pacing and Leading

Pacing and leading is a simple persuasion technique you can use to help you get to a “yes”.

Short version

If you highlight aspects of a person’s current conscious reality, they may be more open to you leading their reality in a different direction.

Benefits

  • ´╗┐Getting to “yes”.

Description

Pacing and leading is a persuasion technique used in NLP, hypnosis, sales, and the like.

The idea is that to get someone to “follow” you (whether that’s buy in to your idea, get into a similar mindset as you are, or otherwise follow your lead), it’s much easier if you point out their ongoing reality to them first.

So you point out and acknowledge aspects of a person’s current personal conscious experience, and then move the conversation towards where you’d like it to go.

For example, right now you’re sat reading this article. You’re looking at your screen reading the words as your eyes scan across them. You can probably feel the weight of your body on your seat (pacing). And you’re getting curious about what else this post has to offer you, so you feel an urge to keep reading (leading).

If you’ve ever had someone say to you, “OK, I know what you’re thinking…”, and then go on to say exactly what you were thinking, then you know what it’s like to be paced. If you think back to a time like that, you might also remember a certain shift in your mental state, maybe you felt “seen” in a sense, it builds a bridge between you and the other person, and you might have been a little more open to what they said next.

Think of a car salesperson saying something like “I know what you’re thinking, here comes another guy in a suit who’ll say whatever they need to just to make a sale. But I’m really here just to help you find a car that you’ll love.

In you’re head you’re like “They’re right, I was thinking that…”. It brings your guard down a little.

This technique is similar in principle to the Yes Ladder.

How to do it

  1. As you’re talking to a person, acknowledge an aspect of their current reality in that moment that you know, or at least strongly suspect to be true.
  2. You might want to “stack” two or three things if you can do it in a natural way, but just one thing is often fine.
  3. Then drop in the idea that you want them to consider.

Why it works

It’s hard to say. Maybe people have an inherent need to connect with other people, or to be understood. So when someone says something that aligns with what we’re thinking or feeling at the time, it fills that need to some extent. It builds a short-lived sense of trust.

Remember, with great power comes great responsibility. It’s good to have tools to help you get your point across to people who you think need to hear it. Not cool to be a manipulator. Also, it’s good to know about things like that so that you can recognise when they are being used on you, and understand that that shot of trust and rapport that entered your veins might be, to an extent, artificial. That said, don’t get neurotic about it. If you notice this in the wild that doesn’t mean it was a deliberate and conscious attempt to manipulate you. It might just have been a consequence of the ebb and flow of that particular conversation.

Also, note that you can also do this on yourself!