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Your powers of persuasion are an essential set of life skills, without which you would not be able to get your business and personal needs met. However, while we instinctively know how to talk others around to our view of the world most of us could do better.

The sub components of persuasion (below) are interrelated, but looking at them one by one may give you some insight  as to where you may need to ‘up your game’.

The same principles apply to one to one engagements, team situations and presentations to large groups:

1. Establish common ground with others. Show that you are are similar to them in some way and identify and share common positions and interests. We are more likely to be influenced by those whom we feel share our perspective.

2. Establish emotional empathy with those that you are trying to persuade, as this will create an assumption that you understand and have taken into account their perspective in arriving at your own conclusions.

2. Find genuine ways to praise others. We are prone to succumb to ‘liking’ (despite what we might say to the contrary!) and being influenced by those who praise us.

3. Give freely of what we want to receive.  It is natural for us to reciprocate when we receive something, even if there is no expectation on behalf of the giver of receiving something in return.

4. Use referrals and endorsements. The power of referral from those who are respected and trusted by those you are trying to persuade should never be underestimated.

5. Get an early commitment. We tend to be morally ourselves obliged to follow through on commitments given, especially if they are in writing.

6. Position yourself as an expert. Don’t assume that others will know that you are an expert unless you say so and provide evidence.  People feel safe, trust and are less questioning when dealing with those they perceive as experts.

7. Create a sense of scarcity, as this builds urgency in others to act. Commitment can wain with the passage of time, so don’t forget to ‘close the sale’.

8. Listen intently and ask open questions. Seeking views from those you are trying to persuade demonstrates respect and allows you to assess what arguments will be most likely to hold sway with them.  As a rule of thumb you should do 80% of the listening and only 20% of the talking.

9. In group situations allow others to speak first, so that you can develop a more refined response which acknowledges the opinions of others.

10. Timing is everything.  Know when your audience is ready to receive certain arguments, which should, where possible, be based on irrefutable facts.

When faced with objections it is often best not to challenge directly but rather to cast seeds of doubt and allow those you wish to persuade to come to their own conclusions.

In group situations it can be less risky to build consensus/allies gradually through a series of small ‘wins’ than to make a big play and risk rejection. It can be hard to overturn an objection if lines are drawn around publicly stated positions.

Also, we tend to be more committed to conclusions that we come to of our own volition. This needs to be balanced against the need to get an outcome – so don’t be slow to push for a decision when there appears to be a consensus.

It is easy to see how the above tools of persuasion  could be cynically used to manipulate others in an unethical way. If you do this it will likely have the opposite effect to what you intend, as we are astute at perceiving others true motives.

So only use your powers of persuasion when you are trying to persuade others to go down a road that you sincerely believe to be in their best interests.


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