The other day I invited a friend to a not-so-well-known gem in my city. Now, Houston is not known for its majestic architecture or theological Mecca’s but this place was both. We parked in what looked like a movie; towering trees, lush grass and cobbled streets. Kerry the Librarian gave us the tour; theological books, ancient journals and Dead Sea Scroll fragments ensconced in soaring, fresco ceilings, iron chandeliers and high-backed armchairs. When she explained for the third time that only the chapel and library were open to the public, I knew it’d be a tough one.
Persuasion can be called many things: coaxing, coercion, the art of letting other people have your way. So I started; asking Kerry about herself, flirting with her. Finally, we had clearly won over the Librarian. We swayed all staff encountered, allowing us access to the lake, ranch, secret pathways and trails and ending when we coaxed a ranch-hand to give us feed for the llamas, swans, ducks, goats and sheep.
Persuasion is an art that can enhance any experience or relationship. It can gain that promotion or get you out of that speeding ticket. It’s the opposite of whining, demanding or acquiescing and it can be staggeringly effective. Here are the skills. Enjoy having the keys to the castle.
1. Know that it’s not about you.
People think about themselves morning, noon and night. Their minds are on what they want, not what you want. So learn their quirks, desires, and fears. Be interested in what drives and excites them. Get their name right and use it often. If it’s difficult to pronounce have them spell it, they’ll light up. All of this allows you to find the hook in their psyche that can later be used to your purpose.
2. Make time.
The more time you spend with others, the more you’ll be trusted. Even if they dislike you in the beginning, they will thaw. Time does wonders.
3. Be likeable.
Smile genuinely, with your eyes and your whole face. Show delight when seeing them, even if you saw them yesterday. Turn your body fully toward them and acknowledge their presence. If you’re happy to see them then they’re happy to see you.
4. Don’t criticize or complain about anything they say, do, or think.
No one will appreciate hearing “you’re wrong” and pointing out their mistakes to them will instantly make you an enemy. So you better stay away from criticism.
5. Appreciate and compliment them often, honestly.
Compliment their house, car or hair. Say something nice about something they care about and hold in high regard. If you hear them complaining don’t ignore it, agree and sympathize.
6. Listen and observe.
Encouraging them to talk about themselves allows you to learn their triggers. You will get better at knowing if they’re about to say “no”. Verbally expressing objection is a glandular, nervous and muscular act, your whole body does it and it’s hard to reverse. So if you observe them frowning or pursing their lips, change strategies before they speak.
7. Make them say “yes”.
To anything: the weather, the ball game, whatever. This training keeps them saying yes, building a consistent habit of compliance and agreement to you.
When trying to get a “yes”, think of that person’s interests. What does your proposal offer them, personally or professionally? What will they gain? Make it apparent that it will benefit them and emphasize it all out of proportion.
8. Make the other person feel important.
In public, make them seem important. I was boarding a plane last year (heading to coach) and passed my parents sitting in first class. I froze, exclaiming “Oh my god, are you John Love?!? I’ve seen all your movies! I think you are the most important movie Director of our generation and I just love your work! Is this your wife? She is just gorgeous, you lucky dog. I can’t believe this is happening. Can I please, please have your autograph?” They were bombarded for the rest of the ride for autographs and pictures, the normally stoic first-class pleading for Hollywood gossip and scandal.
9. Give them something.
If you are admitting you’re wrong, do it quickly and emphatically. Gush it out. If saying “you’re welcome” add “I know you would do the same for me”. This works off the psychological principle of reciprocity. Tangible or intangible, giving something propels them to give in return. And keep giving.
10. Create an opportunity for them to shine.
The person you’re persuading is an expert or has talent in something. Use it. Talk about the problem you are having out loud and ask if they have ever had a similar problem. Usually there is no need to ask for their assistance, they will fall all over themselves proving their expertise and skill. It will seem like their idea (from the start) to help you out. At this point, hang on every word and show wonder at what she or he can do. This allows the person to feel masterful, instead of being used for free services.
If you are a first time reader, there’s a chance you might now be a little disgusted. Repelled. You’re not a sycophant, kiss-a** or liar. I get it. However, the probability of your success rests on how honest you can make your interaction, not how much lying or deceit is dished out. So open yourself up, see your target and their world through their eyes. And allow the fun to begin!
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