Imagine being able to get anything you wanted or needed in your professional life. From landing sales and acquiring new customers to a pay rise or promotion, your power of persuasion plays a large part in what result you get. We all use persuasion in our professional lives, in varying degrees, pretty much every day. Some people are naturally persuasive, and are easily able to steer a strategy or conversation in a certain way, that suits them. Others find convincing others a little more difficult. There are a number of techniques that can be used to improve your powers or persuasion and increase your influence with your colleagues, managers, customers and contacts.
“When using a Jedi mind trick, a Jedi often waved his or her hand to aid in the persuasion. The Jedi adopted a peculiar tone of voice along with a casual facial expression. The sentient being that was the object of the mind trick tended to adopt a casual tone of voice but a peculiar facial expression. Should the trick succeed, he or she then agreed to whatever was being said to them without being able to think for themselves. Moments later, they would feel puzzled about their new opinion, but usually didn’t feel like changing it back.”
Most of us aren’t Jedi Knights (although a few exist on LinkedIn apparently!), but we can use invisible or subconscious techniques to persuade others into seeing our point of view and thus getting the outcome we want. FYI: remember not to wave your hands about like a Jedi!
Below are a few different techniques to get you on your way to truly using ‘the Force’:
1) The ‘Framing’ method
Framing is the way we describe or explain something in a specific way as to influence how the recipient/s interpret the information. Certain words can be used to alter someone’s perception of what we’re saying, a simple example is “the glass is half full” instead of “the glass is half empty”, the first explanation sounds more positive, even though both mean the same thing.
This technique is often used very effectively by politicians when debating with the opposition, to influence the audience to agree with their point of view or policies.
There are 3 core elements of Framing, these are:
- Placement – choosing the right time, place and people to maximise the technique’s effectiveness
- Approach – the way in which an argument is presented. In most cases people are more likely to respond better if you explain the positives as opposed to potential negatives
- Method – using specific words to increase persuasion is very effective. Some words are more persuasive than others, and how we say them also has an impact. When we hear words our brain separates the words from the intonation and processes them separately. For this reason it’s important to say things in the right way (pitch and tone) as well as using the right words.
2) Use “we”, not “you”
By using the word ‘we’ instead of ‘you’, you’re saying that your option will mean continuing as a team, and with your vested interest. Being part of a team is far more of an attractive option than doing something alone, and as such is a more attractive option.
3) Be specific and confident
If you’re confident, clear and concise with what you have to say, people are more likely to listen to you, take what you have to say seriously, and agree with you. Prepare what you want to say, make sure you have everything clear in your own mind as this will make it easier to explain to others. When speaking, avoid words like ‘umm’, ‘err’ or ‘like’ as these portray that you’re struggling to express the message or are uncertain of what you want to say.
4) What’s in it for them
One great way of persuading people is to explain the benefits that will affect them specifically. If someone can see and appreciate that agreeing with you will offer advantages to them personally, they’ll be much more inclined to agree with you.
5) Create scarcity and urgency
Creating a real need for something, or a time constraint, makes people want something more than if it were abundantly available. Brands often use this technique when launching new products, the fact that consumers believe they may miss the opportunity to own something new makes them rush out to buy it, even though another batch would be available a few weeks later.
6) The ‘But You Are Free’ technique (BYAF)
In an article on Inc.com, entitled ‘Most Effective Persuasion Technique You’ve Never Heard Of’, Jessica Stillman explains that by simply reminding people they’re free to decide, you double your chances of getting agreement from them.
By stating that they can choose their response reaffirms that you’re not a threat. It doesn’t matter how you say this to them, a simple “your choice” after explaining the options will suffice.
Further reading about the study can be found here.
7) The ‘it’s working for others’ approach
People follow people, not literally but we do look to others to make our decisions and influence our behaviour. For example, if a crowd of people are looking up at something then we’ll automatically do the same, and continue to look even if there’s nothing there, because we believe there must be if others are looking. This ‘herd effect’ can be used in persuasion, you can point out that a particular product, service or strategy is being used by a lot of people to great effect, this alone can sometimes be enough to persuade others.
8) Get agreement about something else first
Starting a conversation with something that people agree with is a great technique to persuade them on a different topic later in the discussion. World news or current affairs are a good talking point.
9) Lead to victory
Leading people subconsciously is a powerful persuasion tool such as shaking a customer’s hand while trying to close a deal. As a handshake normally signifies a closed deal, it’s more likely to influence the recipient to do just that, close the deal.
10) The ‘Sullivan Nod’
The ‘Sullivan Nod’ is a technique whereby you list the options available to someone (no more than 5) and slightly nod your head when you read out the option you want them to choose. The nod should be visible but not too obvious (as it would look weird!). Apparently this works 60% of the time!
11) Reciprocity is a powerful tool
I always say that you shouldn’t give expecting to receive. Even if you do follow this mantra there’s still power in reciprocity, people do feel more obliged to accommodate your views and help where they can if you’ve previously assisted them in some way.
A sales person offering something for free is usually doing so as a technique designed to increase a customers feeling of obligation to purchase something in the future.
Being generous and helpful, as often as possible, is a powerful persuasion tactic.
Your body language also has an impact on your persuasion success, follow these rules to improve your skill and compliment the techniques above:
- Smiling naturally – makes us seem approachable and likeable
- Raising our eyebrows – signals we are not a threat, but rather friendly and approachable
- Avoid crossing you arms – expresses we’re not feeling comfortable and makes us look less approachable
- A visible neck – shows that we are unthreatening and easy to approach
- Eye contact – shows interest in the conversation and trustworthiness
- Wear colour – complimentary colors make people stand out and seem more attractive
- Show our palms – says that we’re telling the full story
- Hand out of our pockets – hands in our pockets says that we are not feeling comfortable
As you can see, with a few fairly simple techniques, choosing when and what to say carefully and being ready, you can improve your powers of persuasion dramatically. Using this to manage a team, influence projects or initiatives, land sales or chair meetings are just some of the ways you can use persuasion tactics.
But remember (to quote a well-known super hero’s uncle), “with great power comes great responsibility“.