The subtle art of persuasion is something that has been honed to perfection over the last hundred thousand years. Persuasion is part of the way human beings learn to cooperate. It’s also a quality that comes naturally to those who enthusiastically pursue success and leadership, and it’s easy to master if you follow these simple rules…
Persuasive people persuade – they don’t tell or demand, and are never pushy… they just understand the principles of rapport, of establishing relationships with others. They are able to inspire trust in others and establish their ideas with an easy, natural confidence.
Being pushy is guaranteed to turn people off and make them resistant to your ideas. It’s subtlety that wins people over. The trick is to be calm, collected and above all, patient. Good ideas speak for themselves so you don’t need to be overly persistent – if the idea is that good, it will soon get their attention!
Urgency undermines persuasion, so you must learn to tread lightly. Trying to force people to agree quickly makes it more likely they will stick rigidly to their own position. Any impatience on your part will only serve to make them more determined to dig their heels in. Good ideas are often difficult to process instantly, so it’s a good idea to remember that patience really is a virtue.
There’s a balance to be struck here however, because you shouldn’t be a shrinking violet either. Presenting ideas as questions – “do you think I should…?” etc. makes it look like you’re seeking approval, which in turn is likely to make you seem unconvincing.
If you can turn ideas into interesting facts, it will make them more attractive. Whatever happens, don’t introduce qualifying phrases like “I’m reasonably sure…” or “it maybe…” Remember, you have to appear confident.
Being persuasive means that you have to exercise a little give and take – you will have to give ground occasionally. You don’t have to be right all the time and it will do no harm to do the odd favour for someone. In the long run, being human is the best way to get others to like you and thus win them over.
It’s important to know your audience, something I learned very early on as an entertainer! You have to speak their language. That doesn’t mean using the same words and phrases them, it means you have to identify with them – you have to understand them. All human beings are different so you must know when to tone it down or pump up the volume, depending on whether you’re interacting with shy individuals or loud and aggressive types.
Remember too that everyone has an imagination. If you can use words to paint pictures your persuasiveness is going to increase. Using visual imagery and metaphor is good – telling interesting or exciting stories can breathe life into your ideas. Good stories (keep them short and to the point) will create images in the minds of your audience that are easy to relate to and hard to forget.
Be aware of your body language. Standing up straight with your head up and being able to look people in the eye exudes confidence. It will make you feel more confident too. You need to speak clearly and audibly. It’s not too hard and takes just a couple of minute’s practice. This will engage people a lot more than if you’re slouching and mumbling into your drink.
Whatever happens, don’t fold your arms – this is defensive and rude. And don’t lean in to people while your talking to them – invading other’s personal space is definitely a no-no. How you present yourself, how you speak, is just as important as what you’re saying.
Smiling from time to time also helps, but beware the vacuous, cheesy grin. If you can smile during conversation, the person you’re talking to will likely do the same – and feel closer to you. People who are enthusiastic when they talk about their ideas do tend to smile – and the effect can be contagious.
A powerful tactic in the art of persuasion is to concede a point. Modestly admitting that your argument is not perfect shows that you’re open minded and willing to make adjustments. That’s a much better image than stubbornly sticking to your guns. You need your audience to know that you have their best interests at heart and that you’re actively listening to what they have to say. Genuinely persuasive people are interested in, and respect, other’s opinions and accept them as valid.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is failing to listen to what others are saying. This is because we are concentrating more on what we are going to say next!
So it’s a good idea to ask lots of questions. People like it if you’re interested in them and care about what they have to say. You’ll be surprised how much respect you earn if you are willing to ask questions.
Persuasive people make sure they use the other person’s name every time they see them. Your name is part of your identity, and it feels good when people use it. Don’t overdo it though because the over use of someone’s name is more likely to become irritating.
People will begin to accept what you have to say once they have a sense of what kind of person you are. In a negotiation experiment carried out at Stanford University, students were asked to reach agreement about a certain topic in class. Without instruction of any kind, 55% of the students successfully reached an agreement, but when students were instructed to introduce themselves and share their background before negotiating to reach agreement, 90% of the students succeeded.
The trick is to avoid getting too caught up in the back and forth of the negotiation. The human being you are communicating with is a person, just like you, not your opponent. No matter how compelling your argument, if you fail to connect on a personal level, you will remain unconvincing.
It’s true that those who appear genuine and honest are the most persuasive. Our natural ability to spot a fake creates cognitive dissonance – you don’t need a degree in psychology to know when someone’s flirting with you or you find yourself in the company of a loudmouth. People are far more likely to trust you if you come across as genuine.
It’s difficult to believe someone you don’t know. Persuasive people know who they are. They’re confident enough to be comfortable in their own shoes. By concentrating on what drives you and makes you happy as an individual, you become a much more interesting and persuasive person than if you attempt to win people over by trying to be the person you’re not, or the person you think others want you to be.
Copyright Andrew Newton 2015. All rights reserved.