Last week, in my coaching tip for our LiveStream members, I highlighted a book from my “important shelf” (less than 2% of my 3,000 books makes it there) titled: “How to think like Leonardo da Vinci – Seven Steps to Genius Everyday” by Michael Gelb.

One of the seven is titled “Sfumato” which translates to “going up in smoke” although to my mind it’s the ability to communicate with artfully vague language, often referred to as the Milton model from NLP.

The subject of Leonardo’s most famous painting, the Mona Lisa, has long been debated, who exactly is she? An interesting idea suggested by artist Dr Lillian Schwartz is the possibility that the painting is in fact a disguised self-portrait as the juxtaposition above illustrates. This is classic sfumato, to cloak an idea with clever use of ambiguity rather than needing to have certainty at all times.

There’s been a trend in society generally and business specifically to focus on the facts and for many the art of subtle suggestion seems to be lost. And yet the planting of an idea in someone’s mind can be much more persuasive than the issuing of an instruction. If I was to tell you to win 10 new instructions this week it might cause you to hit this target. If instead I say to you, “if this week was to be your best yet just think about how many instructions you’ll win” this use of Sfumato has the potential to conjure up a different mindset and approach and potentially result.

Imagine you’re trying to persuade a client to use you rather than a competitor. My guess is many of you might be tempted to reach for your facts, to provide statistics that “prove” you are number one, etc. But what if instead you deployed Sfumato? How might your client react to a suggestion such as “when it comes to making the decision to move home you’ll probably want an agent who will truly be there for you, who will work with you to achieve your goals, who will be your guide for this next step in your life. And when you’re ready to make that really important decision please call me” (hand over business card).

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