"The Soulful Art of Persuasion" by Jason Harris

By Liam Satre Meloy
We caught up with Jason about his new book "The Soulful Art of Persuasion: 11 Habits That Will Make Anyone A Master Influencer," which offers a roadmap for cultivating character-building habits that are essential for both personal and business success.

Jason Harris is the co-founder and CEO of the award-winning creative agency Mekanism and the co-founder of the Creative Alliance, a coalition of ad agencies that makes pro bono social impact and advocacy campaigns. Mekanism’s clients include Peloton, Ben & Jerry’s, MillerCoors, HBO, and the United Nations. Under his leadership, Mekanism was named to Ad Age’s Agency A-list, twice to their Best Places to Work, and to the Creativity 50. Harris has been named among the Top 10 Most Influential Social Impact Leaders, as well as the 4A’s list of 100 People Who Make Advertising Great. Harris’ approach, which entails working with brands through a “blend of soul and science” is studied in cases at Harvard Business School.

Jason understands the power of good storytelling, so “The Soulful Art of Persuasion” is packed with compelling personal and professional anecdotes ranging from amusing to profound. While advertising is Jason’s industry, his book offers lessons that will resonate with anyone who’s interested in a guide for embracing personal authenticity and transparency as an antidote to the pessimism and mistrust of our current moment.

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The book's genesis… Jason wanted to distill learnings from his 20 years in advertising into advice that could be useful to a broader audience, and what emerged was the “antithesis of selling and pitching." But he also wanted to write a response to our “age of mistrust” – “The book debunks the old adage of selling, which is about mirroring and matching, and argues being authentic and genuine is the most powerful way of creating trust.”

The four principles of persuasion…

Be original. “To be convincing and trustworthy, you have to lean into your quirks and what makes you you. Tell stories about these things and really understand them. Like Oscar Wilde said, ‘be yourself because everyone else is already taken.’”

Be generous. “It’s the idea of giving something away in every interaction. It could be stuff or it could be time. Like giving away advice, not hoarding connections. It’s about saying 'yes’ when someone asks you for something even though you want to say ‘no.’ So get in that habit of always helping others and giving things away and keeping people top of mind.”

Be empathetic. “Humans are a 99.9% the same, yet we seem to be in a moment where if someone doesn't agree with everything we stand for, then they agree with nothing that we stand for. We need to understand that we all want the same thing – connection, attention, and the need to feel safe.”

Be soulful. “This means taking the skills that you've developed and marrying those with a higher purpose, something that you're doing to make the world a better place. When you are soulful, when you embody this principle, you become more successful and your business starts to thrive.”

Jason Harris

The 11 habits... The book’s subtitle offers a roadmap for translating Jason’s four principles of persuasion into tangible action.

Jason’s top three are:

Learn the persuasive power of good storytelling. Every story needs to have a message, a takeaway. “The human mind is a story processor not a logic processor. So if you’re trying to persuade people, remember the power of telling a good story.”

“Never be closing.” The second idea is the inverse of the adage “always be closing” from “Glengarry, Glen Ross.” Play the long game instead of looking at business in transactional terms of closing a deal. “When you hear a no and get rejected for something, stay in touch with that person. Keep those relationships alive and one day they’ll come back around. Business is a marathon."

Find your “personal Jesus.” This is your higher-order purpose that’s bigger than your career. "List three skills you’re good at and then list three things you really care about. If you look at those two pages long enough, you’ll come up with an idea of how you can give back and contribute using the skills you have.”

The other 8 habits… Include “The Pull of Positivity” (learn to give positive emotions a starring role in the way you approach the world) and “The Importance of Skill Hunting” (persuasiveness demands a serious, rigorous, skill-based approach to whatever projects you choose to pursue) and a half-dozen others.

Interested, but don’t have time to read the whole book…? You're in luck. “Soulful Art of Persuasion” neatly summarizes key learnings and habits at the end of each chapter. So now what's your excuse?

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