When you hear the word persuasion, an abrasive 60s salesman or a Disney villain maybe comes to mind. Contrary to the stereotypes we usually associate with persuasion, such as manipulation or even coercion, it's simply defined as the act of convincing someone to do something that’s mutually beneficial.
While the art of persuasion may take years to master, we’re here to share some basic practices you can start incorporating into your daily negotiations, so you can work towards the best outcome for all parties.
1. Get with the times
We’ve all heard the saying that a good salesman can sell ice to an eskimo, but we bet the eskimo wasn’t their first choice for a customer. Understand that not everyone can be persuaded, if the timing or the context is off. For example, if you want to ask for a raise but only joined the company recently, then no amount of persuasion will get you there since you've yet to prove your value. In this case, you’ll need to pay your dues and wait for the right time.
2. Listen up
Building a positive relationship with the person you’re trying to persuade is a crucial task. Really listen to what they have to say, try to understand the situation from their point-of-view, and know what’s important to them. Aside from making them feel more comfortable through doing so, it’ll also help you frame your side of the conversation. Try to use the word ‘we’ to build cohesiveness and mutual understanding, while avoiding words like ‘but’, which makes your arguement limiting.
You can also try subtly mimicking the body language and overall tone of the other person to make them feel more comfortable and in sync with your ideas. Keeping a consistent pace in your conversation will allow you to build rapport with the other person, increasing the likelihood of a ‘yes’ from their side. Body language is also very important when you’re trying to be persuasive because you want to come off as engaged but also relaxed.
4. Pack leader
Confidence and persuasion go hand-in-hand because positioning yourself as someone who’s authoritative about the topic at hand will elevate the objectivity of your argument. Be clear and concise about your ideas, and paint the picture the way you want them to see it. A lot of this will come down to knowledge, as the more you know about the topic, the more confident you’ll feel going into the conversation.
5. Drilling it in
Persistence is a sign of your resolve, which can make your argument all the more persuasive. Don’t give up easily because the second you do, it’ll be near impossible make your point credible again. Going back to the previous example: if you’re trying to prove your value as an employee, then you need to consistently make this point through your performance through a desire to take on more responsibility. That being said, being too pushy is a turnoff, so try to find a balance between the two.
6. Me me me
The first step to persuasion is to keep the attention of your audience on something they’re interested in. What’s the one thing everyone’s passionate about regardless of age, background, etc? Themselves, of course! Keep the focus of the conversation on them no matter how it deviates, show your interest by asking questions, and bring up knowledge you know about them. That being said, forced flattery is obvious, so make sure to keep it sincere if you do want to unload any compliments.
7. Give and take
Reciprocity is an innate feeling since it’s biologically beneficial for us as a species - also known as the ‘reciprocity norm’. This means doing a favour for someone beforehand can make a huge difference in how they perceive you, and how willing they are to in turn help you. Going out of your way to be nice and volunteer your time or resources will usually come back when you need something in return, just don't be too agenda-pushing about it.
8. Urgent notice
Whatever you’re trying to persuade the person about, try to frame it with urgency and scarcity, which goes back to the Scarcity Principle. The idea is simple: your desire for something increases when you know that you may miss out for not acting fast enough. Getting the person to say yes early in the conversation will increase the likelihood that they’ll convert down the line too.
9. Trust me, okay?
One of the most important aspects of persuasion is honesty and truth-telling. Often times, we’re able to stand out as trustworthy simply by saying what other people are afraid to. This could be an unembellished hard fact or an observation made without agenda. Managing the other person’s expectations, even if it means taking away from your argument, is also helpful in building your credibility. The key is to be genuine, and the rest will follow.
10. Know when to back down
There’s nothing that’s more distasteful in a conversation than someone who just won’t take a hint. If you feel the other person is not receptive to what you’re saying, then try a different approach. But if it’s still not getting through to them, then drop it and perhaps pick it up at a later time. Pushing them even when it’s clear they’re not interested shows your lack of EQ, increasingly the likelihood they’ll walk away for good.
11. Bonus tip: All in the ‘yes’
Once a person says yes to a request, they’re more likely to acquiesce to future requests because they’ve already subconsciously changed their attitude. The key here is to ask for something small so you get your food in the door. Even if the request has nothing to do with the final issue, getting them to think positively about what you’re asking is how it all starts.
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