Persuasion plays an important role in our daily life. We always come across situations where we try to convince others to do something like for instance, getting our ideas across others, or to persuade someone to embody new healthy habits or behaviours or to consider our initiatives or a solution, or to work out a new business partnership. There’s a pretty much always a need where you need to convince someone for something that you want. While some people seem to be able to do it effortlessly, others fail to be persuasive or to enforce what they want. Persuasive communication is an important interpersonal skill and a key leadership trait one can develop.
“Seek first to understand, then seek to be understood”— Steven CoveyTweet
Persuasion is all about influence and manifests itself in many aspects of your daily communication to achieve your goals and objectives. Having an ability to persuade your teams, coworkers or partners to endorse or support your ideas or initiatives is important when it comes to some of our professional endeavours. And sometimes the act of persuading can drain time, energy, resources and doesn’t always result in desired outcomes if you are not proficient enough in doing so.
What’s communicating to persuade?
Persuasion is communicating to influence a person’s (or a group’s) beliefs, attitudes, intentions, or behaviours by using written or spoken words to convey information, feelings, or reasoning. Providing proper motivation acts as a stimulus that compels a person to change. Communicating to persuade often involves:
- To stimulate others to strengthen certain beliefs by presenting facts.
- Conveying information that the other people may not be aware of by keeping in mind the common ground and shared beliefs.
- To bring change in beliefs, attitudes or opinions of person you are in conversation with by providing valid points to convince that a problem exists or as to why they should consider your point or idea or a solution. And
- To others to take action or think differently or to adopt a new habit or action.
Do’s and don’ts of persuasive communication
Persuasion is the art of getting people to do things that are in their own best interest and that also benefit you in the process. Good persuaders are able to influence those around them to get things done instead of dictating, nagging or through coercion. Everyone can be persuaded given the right timing and context. Whether you are pitching your idea or negotiating, one way to improve your skills is to know what does and what doesn’t work. Here are some do’s and don’t s of persuasive communication.
- Provide too much information or present too many ideas. Many of us try to present our ideas in the most convincing manner and tend to project our point of views with many strong arguments. But often this reduces the power of our persuasiveness. The more arguments you present, the lower the quality of each new argument you bring. Since some points that support your idea or argument are strong and some weak, the other person might resist or ignore your ideas based on the weaker points. Also, you end up spending more time defending the weaker ones rather than presenting your strong arguments. Go with few strong ideas rather than to pursue every argument that comes to mind.
- Try too hard to persuade. Some try too hard to persuade by talking constantly. They seem they can influence others into submission to their point of view by reiterating it constantly. Repetition often affects perceived credibility of an idea. We tend to assign higher credibility to messages that we repeatedly encounter. But repeating too many times makes the listener perceive it as a pursuing effect and often triggers resistance or reactance. This reduces trust and the other person may not be willing to compromise or buy into what your ideas, arguments or points of view in a conversation.
- Coerce or nag. Some use default push approach or doubling on their efforts to get their point across using their position. The person in conversation may not necessarily like, and may get persuaded not because they want to, but they have to. Even though some would like to give in, but sometimes aren’t bought into the idea and often do not commit to it.
- Focus on only on your goals. Not able to frame your goals in a way that identifies common ground with those you intend to persuade leads to failed objectives. Identifying shared benefits is important in persuasion. If no shared benefits are readily apparent, it is better to adjust your position until you find a shared advantage. Avoid assuming what someone needs. Instead identify what truly matters to others to offer value. Your standing point should always be to know more about people and situations around you.
- Use arguments without logic and reasoningSome people find facts and figures highly persuasive. So not having a sound reasoning and structure for what you are suggesting often hampers your persuasiveness. Exaggerated arguments or the ones based on falsehood or lies often gets rejected. Don’t give your conclusions first before providing the reasons. Instead build your argument or idea up from bottom, so that your eventual conclusions may appear to be the only logical outcomes.
- Use elaborative arguments. If you don’t know how to communicate complicated things in a simplified way that many others can understand, it is questionable that we genuinely appreciate that which we want to communicate. In being too elaborative in your explanation of things, you sometimes forget to mention the obvious. It’s good to keep things simple and regularly remind ourselves about what matters the most. Don’t give too many supporting reasons as it not only increases confusion but also dilutes the impact of the good ones. Keep other points or reasons as back up for usage at a later stage.
- Be a good listener. The most effective way to persuade is to listen to discover the true intent and basis of other person’s position, needs, opinions and frames of reference before you share your ideas. If you want them to realise why your idea is good, you need to know what matters to them and what doesn’t. Encourage other person to share all their thoughts before you respond instead of turning the discussion into the conventional back-and-forth banter. Active listening leads to creating an environment in which the other is comfortable sharing all of their points before you verbalise your ideas, opinions or counterpositions.
- Use persuasive language. We are all positively affected by the language we use in communicating our point of view or a concept or an idea. Avoid using phrases like “I want” or “you don’t understand “ or “I think” or “ you didn’t hear what I said.” Avoid repeatedly saying “but,” as it can negate the other person’s perspective and makes it confrontational. Also, telling them they are wrong can be accusatory and make you miss a chance at persuading them. Using “we” instead of “I” and using words of understanding makes the other person feels like you are on the same side.
- Focus on what matters. Much persuasion lies in managing others’ expectations by considering other person’s agenda. Instead of focusing on what you want, focus on how what you’re offering can benefit the other person. When you focus on what the other person wants, you are more likely to create opportunities to align with the other person and add value to the conversation. Reinforcing that you hear what the person is saying and then repeating what they said helps them feel heard and clarifies their content and intent.
- Be assertive and not aggressive. The goal is to be a strong advocate of your ideas or concepts, but not to the point of being aggressive. Express your own needs and wants while being respectful to others. Avoid trying to too hard to sound persuasive since it makes people resistant to your ideas. Using an enthusiastic tone of voice can help the other person to get interested about your idea.
- Be prepared. Lack of understanding of the others’ perspective or of the idea, solution or the product or service you are offering. People often resist information that doesn’t conform to their needs or views. Not being well-informed about the subject you are trying to persuade leads to failure in convincing the other about the usage of your product or service or how good is your idea, or what makes it different or better than others.
- Focus on emotions. Emotions you express when communicating with others and the feelings you elicit in them play an important role in persuading. Be aware of the primary emotions of the other people involved and be responsive to them. Show your own emotional commitment to the position you are advocating and adjust your tone and the intensity of your arguments according to the strong emotional state of others. It is far easier to persuade others by building empathy or an understanding of what it is like to be them.
- Establish credibility. Your credibility and trustworthiness plays an important role in communicating to persuade an opponent to change his or her beliefs or behaviour. When someone is persuaded to do something, they do it because they have gone to believe it is the right thing to do. And in order to do this, one must earn the trust and respect of other people. If they do not believe in you, they will definitely not buy your ideas. You need to be able to convince others through your expertise, skills and more importantly your ethics and ability to understand.
Self reflection space
How do you rate your persuasion abilities in your personal or professional endeavours ?
How often do you try to convince your coworkers, teams, or friends in getting them to endorse or support an idea or initiative?
How persistent are you in your efforts to get your points across in business discussions or arguments?
How do people respond to your persuading abilities – do they resist, avoid, or argue or contest?
Do you make an effort in understanding the concerns and interests of the other person or people?
How often do you base your arguments on mutually beneficial solutions?
How successful do you get in persuading others to change their unhelpful attitudes, cognitions or behaviours?
Persuasion is the art if getting people do things that are in their own interest and also benefit you. It is a process that can be accomplished and improved overtime. You won’t be able to reach shared solutions first time around. Great arguments matter, but what matter as much I’d the credibility and your ability to listen and understanding other’s position and their emotional state to create a mutually beneficial position or a shared solution. Being aware of what you should and shouldn’t makes you more skilled and natural in the process.