Have you ever noticed that just about everything we do in our lives and the results we achieve revolve around our ability to persuade and influence others? From getting your four year old to put their toys away, to getting someone you admire to go out with you, to convincing someone to employ you or simply getting your wife to leave the toilet seat up, we are doing it all day.
Interestingly, it’s something that we can’t avoid and is vital to our success, yet most people don’t want to talk about it. Many of us associate the concept of persuasion as something reserved for the call centre or the car showroom when it’s actually a far nobler pursuit.
Persuasion is about getting others to do what you know is in their best interests, and once you’ve learned how to do so, you often get to benefit too. Here are some suggestions to help you become better at the art of persuasion.
1. Think in tweets
We are all subjected to thousands of demands for our attention every day. Many of us are overwhelmed with emails at home and at work, text messages, media advertising, and incessant demands from our colleagues, customers, and our boss.
When you are trying to persuade anyone to do anything that you know will serve them well, they will tune you out if you drown them with more “noise.” Your message has to be simple, clear, and compelling. Summarise what you have to say that will help them in the form of a mindfully crafted tweet.
For example, when people ask me why they should consider buying my book Hamster to Harmony, this is what I tell them, using the tweet approach:
“Some of us find ourselves wishing, hoping and dreaming for more. This book is for those who are tired of tiptoeing their way through life.”
2. Focus on the goal
If you are going to persuade anyone to do anything, you need to have a very clear goal. That goal should contain how you want people to feel. You can talk all day long but if the people you are speaking to don’t connect emotionally with your words, they are unlikely to act.
I once worked for a CEO who insisted on calling the entire team together at 8:30 AM every Monday morning every week for a three-hour meeting. His goal was to ensure that he understood everything that had happened in the business the previous week and to ensure the team was focused on the new week.
It was a clear goal but it only served to make the executive team resent him and dread the Monday morning “inquisition.” Persuading him to switch to the Monday afternoon for an hour satisfied his goal but in a way that left him feeling that he was building his executive team rather than alienating them.
3. Make it about them
In the above example, the CEO was a very exacting and anxious man who needed to feel in absolute control, and he needed to feel that at the very start of the week. There was no point trying to persuade him to change those meetings without understanding what he needed and how any change to his preferred start of the week would impact him.
Once he understood the adverse impact that having such long, repetitive, and arduous meetings first thing on a Monday morning were having on his team, he was prepared to listen. More importantly, he was only persuaded to shift the meeting to a more sensible time when he felt he would have even more control through a management team who were given the space to at least gather their thoughts.
4. Watch your language
Choose your words carefully to ensure that your audience not only understand your message, but feel it makes a significant difference.
In the current American presidential election campaign, Donald Trump is trying to get people to vote for him by using words like:
“Nearly 180,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records, ordered deported from our country, are tonight roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens.”
Hillary Clinton has chosen to use words such as:
“We will not build a wall. Instead, we will build an economy where everyone who wants a good paying job can get one.”
Donald Trump appears to be trying to persuade his audience using the language of fear whilst conversely Hillary Clinton chooses words of hope.
5. Play nicely
Remember when you were a child and you asked your mother if you could go outside to play with your friends? If she was anything like mine, you probably heard something like, “Yes, but play nicely.”
Those were powerful words from our mothers, and evidence that she understood the keys to a life of connection, success, and happiness. She also understood that if you were “likeable” enough, you could increase your chances of persuading anyone to do anything.
Playing nicely as adults and professionals is the same today as when we were small children. It involves smiling, listening carefully, being kind, being generous, and paying compliments.
6. Share a vision
As I began my long, hard journey to climb the corporate ladder over 30 years ago, my boss told me something which I didn’t realise at the time would have a profound impact on me personally and professionally. He said: “The only people who need to be motivated are the people who can’t see a future and it’s your job as their leader to help them to see a future.”
That one simple truth has always held great wisdom and power for me and I believe it’s at the heart of persuasion and influence.
The idea of persuading anyone to do anything must not only be based on their best interest but also offer them a glimpse of the possibilities and opportunities available to them. If you can help someone to see and feel a brighter future, no matter how small your idea or suggestion, you are more likely to succeed.
I believe that if you embrace these 6 simple strategies you will learn to master the art of persuasion. Whilst you consider and practice these principles, please don’t follow the advice that some suggest as the means to successfully persuading people to do things.
1. Don’t create scarcity
Unless something is genuinely likely to soon become unavailable and you really don’t want someone to miss out on the benefits of the opportunity, don’t pretend it’s scarce.
2. Don’t be overbearing
Healthy persistence is one thing, but there is nothing worse than someone becoming a pest by repeatedly calling on you when you have already made your perspective very clear.
3. Don’t give to get
Reciprocity, similar to persistence, is a principle which can persuade people to respond positively to you and act on your idea. That said, if you give something to someone with the sole objective of receiving something in return, that isn’t good practice and something I would avoid.
4. Don’t rush them
Have you ever noticed that a magician or stage hypnotist will often try to rush a participant to choose the first answer that pops into their mind? If you have, then it’s worth knowing that the reason they do that is to increase the likelihood of you saying what they have already planted in your mind. When you are trying to persuade someone to do something that is genuinely in their own best interests, there is rarely, if ever, a need to rush them.
Featured photo credit: Endostock via dreamstime.com