August 24, 2017

The Art of Persuasion

We’ve all been in a situation where we’ve needed to establish credibility and find common ground through our ability to persuade others. It’s a skill most of us use every day without realizing it.

Maybe you’ve used it in the principal’s office when you got in trouble as a kid, in the job interview you recently underwent, or with your colleagues to extend a project deadline.

While some would see the art of persuasion as manipulative or controlling, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, persuasion can be a constructive way of finding shared solutions to a common problem. Persuasion, when used honestly, can be used to work toward a joint goal.

Persuasion requires a handful of useful skills, including active listening, emotional empathy, and generosity. Without these things, people will take our actions and suggestions as that of a manipulator, and rightfully so. We must show that our end goal is to serve the needs of others, even in the case where we hold an opposing viewpoint.

If someone else feels pressured or coerced into doing something we have suggested, we have violated the art of persuasion and that is simply to arrive at mutually beneficial solution. You cannot have a mutually beneficial solution when the other party is getting the short end of the stick. That is manipulation.

Now that definitions are clear, there are few tricks to the trade that every good persuasive person should know.

Provide proof or reasonable explanation for your point of view.
While many of us feel passionate about a host of subjects, simply feeling passionate about them is not enough. There needs to be some concrete proof for how you see the world or why you approach a problem in a particular way. If we are expecting reasonable people to believe us, we must be transparent in our means for arriving at these viewpoints. Do your research, know what kinds of questions your audience is asking, and add personal experiences only where applicable to support your perspective.

Connect emotionally to others.
Part of the allure of a persuasive person is in their ability to make people feel honored and considered. If you are seeking the cooperation of others, this point is absolutely essential. You must connect on an emotional and heart-level to reach the place in the other person that wants to work together with you. Without evoking some kind of emotional response in another person, you will not get the reciprocation you desire.

The best leaders do this when they check in on a regular basis to ensure their employees have the kind of support they need to thrive inside and outside of the work environment. It isn’t just about productivity. It’s about the whole person.

Practice reciprocity.
The idea of “give and take” is the foundation of any good relationship. Use reciprocity by giving someone something first before you expect them to also budge on an issue important to you. This can also be described as “building rapport” with others. It doesn’t have to be something big. Even a little bit of extra effort goes a long way in showing others that you care and have their best interest at heart.

Repeat important ideas.
Clear communication is the number one tip that gets results in any conversation. You cannot persuade or have a productive conversation without it! Part of what the best communicators do is deliver their message with clarity.

They don’t waste time burdening their audience with unimportant details. They get to the facts fast and spend the majority of their time presenting the solution. If you’ll notice, most persuasive public speakers repeat themselves often.

This is no coincidence. The first time people hear something, they may not absorb its meaning immediately. These days, people have shorter and shorter attention spans, which warrants the need to repeat ourselves even more! Repeating the important points helps keep the listener’s brain focused on what we want them to hear. Persuasion is all about repetition.

Practice what you preach.
Be an example, especially in the things you stand up for and publicly teach or claim. It can be a hard thing to do as leaders, and while we’re all imperfect, this is probably the most important part of persuasion to get right. Strong positions we hold are easily undermined by hypocrisy. Put the time into practicing what you hope for others to achieve. It will give you a new sense of empathy and understanding that you cannot fabricate if you’re giving people the “real deal”.

To your excellence in persuading with integrity,
Coach Greg