Having trouble getting buy-in for your latest big idea? These simple tips will help
Whether you’re trying to secure a pay rise or promotion, or convince busy line managers of the value of your new HR initiative, your ability to persuade colleagues, peers and senior leaders plays a significant role in achieving success.
Some people are naturally persuasive and are easily able to steer a strategy or conversation in their preferred direction. Jedis, for example, can use their infamous ‘mind trick’ to get their way. But others find convincing colleagues a little more difficult. Fortunately, there are a number of techniques you can deploy to improve your powers of persuasion and increase your influence.
1. The ‘framing’ method
Carefully describing or explaining something in such a way that influences how the recipient interprets the information being given is known as ‘framing’. Take the classic example of a glass that is ‘half full’ or ‘half empty’ – the first phrase sounds much more positive, even though the same object is being described in both instances.
This technique is often used effectively by politicians when debating their opponents, to influence the audience to agree with their point of view.
Framing has three core elements:
- Placement – choosing the right time, place and people to communicate with
- Approach – carefully constructing how your argument is presented. People are more likely to respond better if you explain the positives of your viewpoint, rather than any potential downsides
- Words – selecting the most appropriate words to explain your viewpoint
2. Talk about ‘we’, not ‘you’
By using the word ‘we’ instead of ‘you’, you’re saying that your opinion or strategy is relevant to the whole team, rather than just to your vested interests. Being part of a team decision or project is far more appealing than being left out.
3. Be specific and confident
If you speak confidently, clearly and concisely, people are more likely to listen to you, to take what you have to say seriously, and to agree with you. Prepare what you want to say; make sure you have everything clear in your own mind before tackling a tricky conversation. When speaking, avoid filler words – such as ‘umm’, ‘err’ or ‘like’ – because these suggest that you’re struggling to express your message or are uncertain about its validity.
4. Explain 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. Think about the limited-edition products that brands launch – the fact that consumers believe they may miss the opportunity to own something new makes them rush out to buy them.
6. The ‘but you are free’ technique
A 2013 review of 43 research studies, which involved 22,000 participants, found the ‘but you are free’ (BYAF) technique to double the chances that someone would say ‘yes’ to a request. And it’s a devastatingly easy strategy to put into action: simply remind the people you’re talking to that they are free to make a decision on the subject you’re discussing, and they will be more disposed to agree with you.
7. The ‘it’s working for others’ approach
People naturally look to others to make their decisions and influence their 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 something if others are looking. This ‘herd effect’ can be used to persuade, too: pointing out that a particular service or strategy is being used by a lot of people in your industry or profession can seal the deal.
8. Get agreement on a more minor point first
In a sales environment, this is known as the ‘yes ladder’ – by getting someone to agree with a minor point, or to carry out a smaller task, you will be more likely to get them to agree with a bigger project.
9. Remember to reciprocate
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. Think about the last time a salesperson offered you a free gift – did you feel more obligated to make a purchase?
In a workplace context, be generous and helpful as often as possible, in the hope that those you help will be on your side when you need them in the future.
10. Pay attention to your body language
Your body language also has a significant impact on your ability to persuade:
- Smiling naturally – makes you seem approachable and likeable
- Raising your eyebrows – signals you are not a threat, and are friendly and approachable
- Avoid crossing your arms and putting your hands in your pockets – signals that you don’t feel comfortable and makes you appear less approachable
- A visible neck – shows that you are unthreatening and easy to approach
- Eye contact – shows interest in the conversation and trustworthiness
- Wear colour – complimentary colours make people stand out and seem more attractive
- Show your palms – indicates you are telling the full story
This article was first published in April 2014. It was updated in May 2018 for freshness, accuracy and clarity.