• David Strittmatter

Be persistent and convince anybody

Whoever knocks persistently, ends by entering - Muhammad Ali

Photo by Dave Lowe on Unsplash


  • People reject you not because they don't like you, but because of so many other reasons you can't think of

  • To convince someone, it's key to stop assuming and contemplating probable reasons, find out the actual, underlying reasons, and address them

  • Asking for the actual reasons will require empathy. We need to be genuinely interested in the other person's opinion and rationale

Practical advice:

  • First, always try at least a second time - whatever you're trying to do

  • Second, when rejected, ask why. And thereby, try to be as emphatically as you can

  • Third, address the actual reason why you got rejected

Dear friend,

I've to tell you a story of an amazing person from my community. This person, let's call him David, approached me some months ago and asked whether I could proofread an application he wrote to apply for an internship abroad.

David did a really good job, his letter of application was well structured, answered all the relevant questions, and fitted the vacancy well. So, I told David what a great application he wrote and that he will definitely get this internship.

A few weeks later, David told me that his contact, whom he sent the application, hasn't answered him yet. Not even a confirmation. I told him not to worry and to send his contact a reminder mail. Luckily David did so, and he received a very kind reply. His application is great, there might be a great fit, and they are going to set up an introductory meeting.

David was really glad that he sent reminder emails and greatly looked forward to the meeting. Yet, again, a few weeks passed and no meeting was set up. In one of our latest community events, he told me happened. David felt like he was "ghosted" (the person decided not to answer him anymore), and that the contact person actually isn't interested.

I told David that this behavior is common. Managers are very busy people, and keep forgetting things to do if they are not on top of their minds. It's not that he was ghosted on purpose, but it's just because this manager was too busy. Hence, I told him he has to be persistent and keep approaching him. It might seem annoying, but it actually isn't. This manager liked his profile and was interested in him. So, I told David, he is doing both a favor if he stayed persistent.

Another few weeks later, David told me that he got the official invitation for the interview. Instead of writing emails, he decided to call the manager and ask him about the status quo of the application. Indeed, the manager was really busy and forgot about the meeting. Immediately, though, the manager reached out to his HR department and got the interview scheduled.

What I really love about this story is not that David got the invitation to the interview (and will hopefully land that internship) but rather that he made the realization that persistence pays off.

It's often the case that people don't reject us because of the reasons we think of (they don't like us, we are not good enough, ...) but because of reasons we often cannot think of. And usually, these actual reasons lead to a rather "negative" and not a definite "no" response, such as no replies to our emails. Hence, if we stay persistent and address the actual reasons why we were seemingly rejected, we will much more often obtain what we asked for.

In today's blog article, I will dig deeper into this topic and write about persistence and how it can help us to convince anybody.

No often does not mean no

Recently, I watched a TED talk on a guy who tried to get rejected at least once every day. He wanted to learn to better deal with it and tried hilarious things. For instance, he went to a donut shop and asked whether he could have 5 donuts in the shape of the Olympics logo (the 5 rings). Or he asked random homeowners whether he could cut their lawn. Or he asked in a burger shop whether he could have a "burger refill". Usually, he persisted and really tried his best to obtain what he asked for. And guess what, he often succeeded.

Often the people were hesitant or gave him a quick no. But as he got into conversations with people, he could often overcome the initial rejection.

I've made similar experiences. When I wanted to win new sponsors for my student organization, the representative of the sponsoring organization were even reluctant to speak with me. Once I got a personal or virtual meeting set up with them, though, my chances were significantly higher. So, I always tried my best to have a meeting with them, often trying different things multiple times until I got the scheduled meeting.

Persistence + Empathy = Superweapon

The guy made another great realization during this experiment. Once he started asking the people why when they rejected him, not only his chances to convince them increased but also the actual reasons were an epiphany.

Almost always, the reasons why he was rejected were totally different from what he expected the reasons to be. For instance, he asked in a Starstucks whether he could serve as a "greeter" as they have in Walmarts stores (people standing at the entrance and saying a nice "welcome to Walmart"). The responsible person of the Starbucks store initially rejected him. Not because he didn't like the TED speaker who asked, not because he thought the TED speaker was ugly, and not because he didn't like the idea. After asking why, the TED speaker found out that the responsible manager just doesn't want to waste time with a weird guy who is joking around. By addressing this actual reason, telling the responsible guy that it was meant seriously, the TED speaker was allowed to be a greeter.

As David and the TED speaker did, I've experienced rejection several times. I learned that people reject me not because they don't like me, my email, idea, or application, but because of so many other reasons I couldn't think of.

To convince someone, it's key to stop assuming and contemplating probable reasons, find out the actual, underlying reasons, and address them.

Asking for the actual reasons will require empathy. We need to be genuinely interested in the other person's opinion and rationale. Yes, that's not easy. This person we are trying to empathize with just rejected us. But it's going to be worth it. Either we will better understand why we're rejected so we can do better the next time, or we can address the underlying reasons and obtain what we wanted in the first place.

Harness persistence to convince anybody

From all the books, articles, and research I consumed and the experiences I personally made, I want to give you 3 practical tips on how to be more persistent and more successful in convincing others:

First, always try at least a second time. Whatever is you are trying to do - applying for a job, asking someone for a favor, giving someone a pitch, asking a guy or girl for his or her number, ... - try at least one more time. There are so many situations in which this second try is needed. Some jobs are only for those who tried a second time. Some guys or girls reject us just by default the first time we approach them. Some investors want to see persistence and challenge us by default. Trying one more time can immensely increase our chances of success.

Second, when rejected, ask why. And thereby, try to be as emphatically as you can. As already described in the previous chapter, often the actual reason why we get rejected is totally different from what we expect. Hence, to not only increase our chances to convince others but also learn crucial lessons by identifying the real reasons, we need to ask why.

Third, address the actual reason why you got rejected. Once you found out the underlying rationale why a person rejected you, think about ways how you can address it. If you lack experience for a certain job, obtain more experience. If a person doesn't trust you and thus rejected you, find ways to instill trust in him/her. ... There's no ideal way how you can address the reasons why you're rejected, and you cannot always address those. Yet, if you really want something, you'll definitely find a way to make it possible.

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