Reach Your Goals Through the Art of Persuasion
Jan 24, 2019
By Paul Endress
Regardless of your industry or profession, chances are you regularly have to persuade others to adopt your ideas. Whether you’re persuading a client to buy your product, your boss to give you a raise, your coworker to give you a piece of that key project, or even your kids to clean their rooms, the need to persuade others to see things your way is part of everyday life.
While research shows that most people believe they can’t be sold, the fact is that those same people can indeed be persuaded if they don’t realize that a “sales” technique is being used. That’s why smart professionals use the art of persuasion, rather than sales, to get others to do what they want.
Persuasion does not involve tricks, gimmicks, lying, or anything unethical. When you use persuasion techniques you merely employ simple psychological concepts that make your message more credible. For persuasion to work effectively, whatever message you’re conveying must be based in truth and delivered with the right intentions. After all, your goal is to convince someone that your point of view is correct, not to con someone into doing or thinking something questionable.
The following principles of persuasion will give you an edge when you want others to adopt your ideas.
- Aim at a narrow target. Too often people do a “data dump” on their listener when attempting to persuade them to adopt a point of view. They present every possible fact and figure, hoping that some of the information will stick and persuade the other party. However, if you want to be effective at persuasion, you need to keep your focus as narrow as possible. Start by finding out what’s important to your listener. Simply ask, “What’s important to you about…[insert the topic at hand].” Then listen to what your listener says and address only those points.
If asking such a direct question doesn’t seem appropriate for your situation, you can couch your question within a statement, such as, “I was talking with someone the other day about [insert your topic], and he told me that _______ was the most important thing to him about [insert your topic]. That wouldn’t be important to you too, would it?” So your statement could sound like: “I was talking with someone the other day about buying a car, and he told me that gas mileage was the most important thing he considered when purchasing a vehicle. That wouldn’t be important to you too, would it?” Allow the person to answer and give you the information you need. Then you can gauge how to direct your conversation based on his or her response.
- Use stories to convey your message. Stories are an extremely effective way to persuade. However, many people are too obvious with their stories, and as a result they come across as giving a sales spiel. The best way to use stories as a persuasion tool is to use analogy. For example, suppose you want to convey the idea that your product will give the person peace of mind. First, determine what that idea is similar to. You may decide that relaxation is similar to the concept of peace of mind. If so, what conjures up images of relaxation to you? To this you might reply that a day at the beach equates to relaxation. If so, then tell a story about a day at the beach.
Here’s another example: Let’s say you’re trying to motivate your staff to try something new and you want to convey the idea of being open to the discovery of new ideas. What is similar to discovering new ideas? For many, it’s akin to being surprised. What else then, elicits a surprise? How about opening a present? Tell a story about that. The point is to pinpoint what you want to convey, determine what else evokes that main idea, and then tell a story about the similar concept, idea, or thing. This indirect approach works.
- Use a second or third party quote. Sometimes you may have to tell people bad news in order to get them to see things your way. If you don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, you could use a second or third party quote to tell the news for you. For example, you could tell a client, “I was talking with Joe Smith the other day and he said that XYZ Company has trouble making deliveries on time.” Another example would be to say “My father used to always tell me ___________”, and then tell them what you want to tell them. Who could argue with your father? The only caveat is that you cannot use this technique to say something that is not true. The goal is to deliver truthful news or make a point in a way that doesn’t reflect poorly on you or make you appear as though you’re selling.
- Use pacing and leading to prove your point. Pacing and leading involves the idea that if the brain can verify two things as true, it will accept the third fact as being true too. If you tell someone, “My name is Mary Jones and I’m with Acme Corporation,” the listener’s mind can quickly verify those two facts as true. Then whatever you say next, such as, “We have the lowest prices on your office supply needs,” rings true to the listener as well. Again, you cannot use this technique to say something false. Whatever your third piece of information is, it must be a reasonable fact.
A Slight Edge Can Yield Huge Rewards
None of these persuasion techniques involves the use of “smoke and mirrors.” They are designed to give you a slight edge in your dealings with others. And if you think a slight edge is meaningless, think again. After all, in the Olympics, the difference between winning the gold and winning the silver is often just a few hundredths of a second or a fraction of a point. So arm yourself with these persuasion tools and make them a part of your everyday conversations with others. You just might find that more people will start seeing things your way.
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