Structuring your persuasive argument

Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to pitch any idea so that it sticks in the other person’s mind, and they feel compelled to take the action you require? The good news is that in 1979 Dr Bernice McCarthy, an award-winning teacher, invented the 4MAT System, which you can use to structure your argument when persuading (in person or in writing) so that you do just that — compel people to action.


We know that when we are persuading other people they take in information differently, learn differently and form opinions quite differently to each other, and often differently to us. The 4MAT learning styles model that McCarthy invented takes all the different learning styles into account and ensures that you present your information in a logical, well-structured way. Following this model makes it easier for your stakeholder or prospect to absorb your argument piece by piece until they are ultimately convinced. This model also ensures that you address all the elements of an important argument, not just the parts of the argument that are interesting to you!
Remember — you’re not trying to persuade yourself. You are aiming to persuade your stakeholder. Therefore, it’s important that you cover all the issues and angles in a way that makes sense to them, not necessarily in the way that would make sense to you.


The 4MAT System recognises that if people are to sit up and listen and then take the action you require, you need to answer four key questions.


These questions are:

1. Why? The person needs to clarify the context and rationale.

2. What? The person needs to identify the detail of what is to be learnt (or the action you require).

3. How? The person needs to explore how to use and apply what is learned (or being asked for).

4. What if? or What else? The person needs to know the alternatives for the new information so they can modify, adapt and create new contexts. They also need to know what will happen if they don’t take the action you are suggesting.

The 4Mat System is a common-sense approach that is incredibly effective for structuring a persuasive message. If you are keen to know more, I cover this model more thoroughly in my first book How to Present: The ultimate guide to presenting your ideas and influencing people using techniques that actually work (also published by Wiley).

© Michelle Bowden 2022.  Michelle Bowden is an authority on presentation & persuasion in business. Michelle is a CSP (the highest designation for speakers in the world), best-selling internationally published author (Wiley), and a regular commentator in print, radio and online media.


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