If you want to get your way, then you must be persuasive. To make friends is to persuade, to receive help is to persuade, to get a date is to persuade. To sign a client is to persuade, to negotiate is to persuade. To sell any idea, product or service is to persuade others of its relevance, quality and value.
The ability to communicate ones’ needs, thoughts and opinions is a cornerstone of a successful life. It is vitally important to know what to say and how to say it as you expertly customize the message for its recipient.
I do not advocate manipulative behaviour, however. The idea is to get what you want in a way that creates a positive outcome, with all parties feeling good about the exchange and no one feeling bullied, resentful or exploited. Persuasion is about how we frame and deliver our desires, proposals or assertions and we must be respectful of others.
Tone of voice, that is delivery, is a big factor in persuasive communication. Anger, sarcasm and condescension are unlikely to facilitate persuasion. Delivery that is perceived as hostile causes those on the receiving end to become defensive and mired in reacting to your style, losing sight of your content in the process. You’ll be treated as if you are wrong even if you are right and you will lose.
To inspire you to pay attention to certain aspects of your communication style, I offer here a few suggestions that will lead you to improve your powers of persuasion:
Avoid “always” and “never”
Substitute “often” and “rarely” instead. There are many people who will reject a reasonable assertion out of hand, without taking its full measure, when you frame and present opinions in dogmatic, absolutist terms.
Lead with the positive
When disagreeing with another’s point of view, it is natural for many of us to immediately, perhaps vociferously, take exception to that opinion or interpretation of fact. Whenever possible, promote persuasion by finding some common ground, some point upon which parties can agree. Soften your rejoinder and offer up a soupcon of validation, maybe like this “I know some people feel that way, yet based on my knowledge and experience, I’ve come to view the matter in this light…” Call it smoothly handling an objection.
Don’t complain, but do explain
Rather than criticize and complain that someone is wrong, tell that person what behaviour or action is preferred or necessary and why that is so. Reframe your complaint or criticism as a request, delivered respectfully, perhaps in this way “When you arrive late to our meetings, it makes others feel that our sharing of information is unimportant to you, that you do not value the process. Is the time frame inconvenient for you? What can be done to get you here on time so that all parties can be present to address important agenda items?”
Thanks for reading and Happy Thanksgiving,