Let’s face it, at one point or another, we've all wondered how to make a person agree to our request, or to get on our side.
Whether in a meeting at work, pitching an idea to a client, or even convincing your kids to do something without telling them to do it. Here is where persuasion comes in.
Persuasion is like guiding people’s behaviors or influencing them to complement your needs - or their own.
In short, it’s a skill that teaches you to make it more likely for people to say, "Yes."
Why Do You Need to Be Persuasive?
A charity requires people to donate their hard-earned money to the organization. If they don’t put up a good reason for it, people won’t be supporting the charity wholeheartedly.
Marketing for any product means influencing people’s behavior towards the said product. Without knowing how to connect to people, how is a company supposed to make its sales?
Teaching for instance, or being in a managerial position, or even being a parent - there are all kinds of situations where knowing how to convince people or sway them is crucial.
People don't like being told what to do. But sometimes, people also don't want to open their minds to new ideas or suggestions.
A great example is a parent who thinks it's important for their child to go to post-secondary school. Instead of telling the kid, "You are going to college," they might try persuading them to start looking into it themselves.
This could be a better outcome than the student just saying no because they don't want to do what their parents want them to do.
The bottom line, persuasion isn’t just a trick. It’s a talent worth sharpening for everyone, regardless of their field. It helps people become more positive towards your approach and support you. And once you get through to someone, you can finally get them to say “yes”.
5 Ways to Become More Persuasive
1. Showing Similarity
One way of becoming more persuasive is by displaying how similar you are to the person you are talking to.
Here’s a question for you- who are you more likely to help out financially, your friend or a random stranger?
The answer is pretty obvious. We tend to come to the aid of people we trust and have a relationship with. Hence, for us to be more persuasive, one of the fundamental things we have to do is establish a common ground.
To convince someone, first, we need to be in their good graces. This means you need people to like you. This is because we tend to help people whom we like, and we like people who are similar to us.
So, establishing a common ground will be a great way to bolster your ability to influence others.
But how do we connect with a person we hardly know? Well, you need to think of something that brings you together.
- Bond over opinions and share your ideas.
- Talk about your likes and dislikes and follow the thread of similar choices.
Once you’ve created a bond that seems mutual, people are more likely to grant your request.
2. Don’t Command, Give Options
It’s strange how when you give people the option to say “no”, often, they end up saying “yes”. Confused? Well, let us elaborate.
People don’t like taking commands, meaning they don’t like being told what to do.
For instance, the more you tell a person they cannot eat fast food, the chances are that this command will sit negatively in their minds. In the end, they will probably end up having fast food.
We are inclined towards doing what we are told not to do because we do not like giving up our freedom of choice.
But what if you could give people their freedom of choice when trying to influence their behavior?
When people fear their choice of freedom is being threatened, they feel they are being controlled. Often they react poorly to it and hence, do the opposite.
But a simple tip is to give them the option to either follow your instructions or not- telling them they are free to choose.
This assures people that they have complete freedom of choice and no one is trying to control them.
Giving people this autonomy, in most cases portrays you as an amiable figure with a not-so-commanding approach. As a result, your audience is more likely to say “yes” by reminding them that they can say “no”.
3. Quantity or Quality?
Persuaders usually have their ideas organized for different audiences. You need to know when to dazzle your crowd with a lot of information and when to cut it down to a few short impressive points.
But when do you know when to choose quality and when quantity?
Just ask yourself two simple questions:
Are people paying attention?
If people aren’t paying attention to what you have to say, it’s probably because you couldn’t motivate them enough to listen through.
If they aren’t listening properly, they probably aren’t focusing on what you are saying. Hence, if you ramble on about relevant examples or topics, the listeners think you have a lot of reasons for the case.
Are the reasons/examples good?
To make a case, you don’t need to suit up and be a lawyer. Nor do you need to keep on talking for hours. Focus on creating a good argument and then add reasons bit by bit.
If people are motivated to listen to you, they won’t care about the 100 points you have listed. You only need a few good reasons to get your point across. Just think of the bigger picture.
Depending on the circumstances, you need to pick your tactics. Sometimes you need a bunch of arguments to prove a point. At other times, you only need a few reasons that speak volumes to people.
4. Sound Relevant
People pay attention to what you are saying if they can relate it to their own lives.
If the arguments presented are closer to home, they can make decisions based on their own personal information and so on.
So, to make whatever you say sound appealing, try to make it sound super immediate. For example, people hardly pay heed to any news about climate change.
But have you wondered why?
Because the consequences of the situation are not to be affected by the people now, but down the line. Hence, they are reluctant towards making any necessary changes at the moment, thinking they have ample time.
This is why your choice of words matters greatly. What words you choose have an effect on how much impact you make.
Take a look at the following sentences for example:
“Half of the population in this room are infected with the virus.”
Keeping the message the same, but paraphrasing the information, we can say,
“The person sitting next to you might be infected with the virus.”
Notice how the same message, but different wording, creates a shattering impact?
By making situations seem like an immediate concern, you can get people to pay attention to your speech. Make the issue relevant to someone by situating it in their lives, and you’ll walk the path to persuasion in no time.
5. Know Your Audience
Before you start persuading people, you should know your audience.
This means knowing what your audience values, how they think and how they would rather be persuaded. In other words, you have to tailor your message according to your audience.
Let’s talk about how companies advertise a camera. If the target population is in the western world, the advertisement revolves around a single individual. This is mostly because westerners tend to care more about their personal space and goals for the future. They wish to stand out and achieve their success.
However, while marketing the same product in an Asian context, the advertisements are tweaked to be family-oriented.
This is because people from this part of the world care more about the family and their collective goals for the future. Hence, the advertisement may feature a group of family members.
If cross-cultural perspectives seem too broad, look at it this way - will the same speech compel two people the same way?
Let’s say one person has a rural background and the other was brought up in urban civilization. As a result, their ideologies will differ from one another. Likewise, you will need to devise different approaches for each.
Culture isn’t the only factor that plays a part in knowing your audience. You also need to know if your audience is going to be swayed by emotion or by logic.
For an emotional crowd, you will need to have a sentimental approach, while you will need a rational one for the latter.
Similarly, there are various aspects to take into consideration while getting to know your audience. But conducting background research helps you to tailor your messages according to what your audience cares about.
Talk about what the audience finds compelling will ensure greater success in persuasion.
Final Words on Being More Persuasive
These strategies aren’t surefire, but what these will do is help you to gain the attention of the people you are talking to.
Not only will they gain attention but will likely make them more agreeable to you. Also, practice makes perfect.
Pay attention to these tips, plus the reactions you get from the people you are trying to persuade, the more you will learn what feels right and what doesn't - and what swings people to your point or turns them away from you.
The art of persuasion is a helpful one to have in your pocket - but remember to use it fairly and wisely - you don't want people to think you have a hidden agenda, or are up to something shady. Trust is key - so don't lose it once you have it!
Editor's note: This article was originally published April 12th, 2021 and has been updated to improve reader experience.