I frequently needed to persuade resistant people that it was in their best interests to work with the FBI. As an FBI counterintelligence agent, my job was to recruit a foreign spy to work for the U.S.

I asked them to betray their country. Needless to say, I took copious notes when this topic was taught at the FBI Academy.

When we persuade resistant people, we appeal to their logic or emotions. We don’t try to prove them wrong. Instead, we try to open their mind up to something new or different.

As a leader, entrepreneur, or business owner, you may need to persuade others. You recruit employees, customers, or investors to buy into your solution or idea. To be successful, you need more than a title or position to persuade them to accept your agenda.

To recruit foreign spies to work with the U.S. Government, it turns out that persuasion becomes more of an art than a science. There is no one equation that will produce predictable results because people are unique.

Nonetheless, here are 5 ways to persuade resistant people: 


The first step in any recruitment process is to ask open-ended questions of the person you aim to recruit. This enables you to gain a better perspective of their thought process. Otherwise, you have no idea of what truly matters to them or what will push their emotional panic button.

When you ask open-ended questions, it encourages people to give you long form answers instead of simple Yes or No response. This is where the buy-in begins. Rather than being told what to do, they provide at least part of the solution.

You may already know the answer you need—without input from others. But when you ask their opinion, you give people a sense of ownership of where the idea is going.

Tip: The right kind of questions help people to persuade themselves to come around to your way of thinking.


If I simply walk up to a spy and ask them to work for the FBI, a huge barrier would spring up. Small steps were the secret sauce I used. Each step was so small that it did not alert the spy to changes in their environment. The best way to persuade resistant people is to present a message that is gradual, intentional, consistent, and not intimidating.

Small steps does not mean you move slowly—you can still move very quickly. However, take small steps instead of giant leaps when you’re trying to persuade others. It will give you time to gage emotional reactions before you press forward.

Slower moves can also be smarter ones because they give you the opportunity to take the problem by the “soft handle.” This is the approach that is easiest to grasp as you look right at it. It allows you to reduce the element of uncertainty as much as possible.

Tip: Recruitment and persuasion follow the same principles as a seduction. Take the time to interpret what is going on with the other person. Remember, look for ways to appeal to their logic or emotions.


Arrest plans follow a set protocol that can adapt to almost every situation. However, the plan is always flexible enough to change or tweak as new information becomes available.

Objections to your idea may be unavoidable, but your approach to them can be strategic if you continually re-evaluate your situation so you can change your game plan.

To persuade others, you want them to be able to answer this question: What’s in it for me? The answer to this question is the great unknown.

You ask open-ended questions and follow up with small steps. You may think you know what the answer will be, but prepare to pivot and come at it from another angle if need be.

Tip: Look at the objection like an opponent—bring it down and attack it from a variety of angles, some of which will not make themselves known until you are closer to the person.


Igor was a diplomat and his wife had been caught shoplifting. Foreign diplomats (and spouses) have immunity so she was not arrested. I could embarrass him, though, and report the incident to the Consulate’s Security Officer. Most likely, Igor would be sent back home in shame and his career ended.

Department store security detained Igor (and his wife) and notified the FBI. When I met Igor, he shook with fear. He was afraid I would ask him to betray his country. I let him think this was my objective for quite a while.

Little beads of perspiration burst on his bald head as he waited for my next move. He pulled a grayed handkerchief from his back pocket and wiped his brow. I sat across from him and asked him questions about his grandchildren. He spoke good enough English that we had a nice little conversation.

I made an offer of a sum of money right then and there to answer a few questions. He knew about some individuals of interest to the FBI. Nothing too intrusive, but important information for us.

His relief was palpable. He gave me the answers. I handed over the money, and we never saw each other again.

Igor was jolted out of complacency by my extreme suggestion that he betray his country. In truth, we didn’t want him; he just wasn’t that valuable. But he didn’t know that. His attitude shifted when I offered him a desirable alternative.

Tip: This is a technique used with great success by retailers, ex-spouses, and terrorists.


The truth is that people cannot be persuaded if they are content. The following letter is a perfect example of how to stir anxiety to go about changing people’s minds:

Dear Mom and Dad,

Since I left for college, many things have happened. I apologize that I didn’t write sooner, but you’ve been in my thoughts. Please, do not cry until you’ve read my entire letter but you had better prepare yourself and sit down.

First, my jail sentence went by faster than I expected. The food wasn’t that bad, really, and I felt lucky that I lost only 50 pounds. Being female, I didn’t know what to expect but my cellmate was a businesswoman named Sugar and she’s offered me a regular job with her escort service. She assures me that I’ll be an escort to very nice gentlemen. We’ll attend innocent parties and not to worry about the nasty rumors. I’m not sure what she means, but she says she’s got a great lawyer.

While in jail I met the man of my dreams. He’s out on parole now and we’ve found a wonderful little cubbyhole under the Golden Gate Bridge to live in until he finds a proper job. He’s an enterprising young man and I know you’ll like him. For example, he gets up and goes through the trash bins before anyone else in the area! Yes, I’m homeless right now and although my boyfriend thinks I should take up Sugar’s offer on employment, I’m worried that my pregnancy will not make me a desirable escort.

Yes, a baby is on its way! And as soon as my boyfriend’s infection clears up, we’ll get our blood tests and have a real wedding. I know you’ll welcome him with open arms and perhaps even help him find a job. You should also know that although he never graduated from high school, he has high ambitions.

Now that you have all the news, I want to tell you that I didn’t get arrested, I didn’t lose 50 pounds, Sugar is not my future employer, I didn’t meet a boyfriend in jail, I’m not homeless, and I’m not pregnant. I am, however, getting a D in economics, which wouldn’t be so bad but it is, unfortunately, my major. I wanted you to see this in proper perspective.

Your loving daughter, Lori

Tip: Sell yourself when you stir up anxiety and then show how you can make up for the deficiency.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

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