“A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.” – Benjamin Franklin
Many people believe that the way to persuade others is to win an argument or to pick out flaws in their way of thinking and their perspective. Persuasion does not work this way. While we may temporarily force or entice others to see or do things our way, they will revert to their old ways of thinking as soon as the enticement that we are offering is no longer there. Some people believe we are born with the power of persuasion, some have it and some don’t. Nothing could be further from the truth. Like all skills and competencies, persuasion can be developed through continuous practice and refinement of tried and true skills and behaviors.
Here are 7 ways that we can increase our ability to be more persuasive:
1. Avoid Arguing or Trying to Force Your Thoughts on to Others
When we are arguing with someone or they feel they are coerced, there will naturally be a reaction to become defensive and put up barriers. This will work counter to any other efforts that you will make to try to persuade them. In order for persuasion to work, the other party must believe that you are on the same side, not in opposition, that the argument creates.
2. Actively Listen
When someone feels they are heard, they become more open to our ideas. In order for people to feel heard we have to actively listen and avoid the common trap of thinking of how we will respond while we are listening. We can let others know that they are heard by repeating or paraphrasing back what we heard them say and asking them for clarification or to delve deeper into what they are expressing.
3. Allow the Other Person to Do Most of the Talking
It is important to allow the other person to feel that they are in control of the situation. One way of doing this is to allow them to talk while you actively listen. While they are speaking, listen for opportunities to agree and connect with them. See if you can get insights into their values and the reasons they think the way they do.
4. Look for Common Ground and Points of Connection
The more common ground, shared values and connections that you can make with someone, the greater the chance you can persuade them. People feel more comfortable and trust others with whom they share common beliefs, values and interests. The more you can make them feel comfortable, the more they will trust you and be open to your ideas.
5. Look for Opportunities to Give Sincere Compliments
If there is something about the person you admire or think that deserves praise, let them know. Everyone loves to receive a sincere compliment and receiving one from you makes them more open to anything else that you have to say. It also forges bonds in your relationship and makes them think of you more favorably. Your ability to see the positive in them elevates you in their eyes and gives more credibility to everything you say and do.
6. Let Them Think That the Idea is Their Own
The best way to be persuasive is to plant a seed in someone’s mind and let them believe that they came up with the idea. Instead of trying to force them to do something or demand, make suggestions, which gives them the power to make up their own minds, allowing them to believe that it was themselves that came up with the idea. Take your ego out of it and allow them to take credit for the idea. An idea that we believe we came up with, or we’re partly responsible for always appeals more than one that someone else is exclusively responsible for.
7. Appear Confident and Knowledgeable
If you are not confident in your idea and your grasp of it is not solid you won’t inspire anyone else to have confidence in it. We believe in those who sound confident and appear to know what they are talking about. If you are not totally convinced yourself, your lack of confidence and hesitation will show up and result in a loss of credibility and a lost opportunity to persuade others. Even if someone is seriously considering your idea, coming across as unsure and not having all the information plants doubt in their mind. We all want to be confident and sure of the source of our ideas and decisions.
Putting it All Together
Becoming more persuasive means developing our skills associated with listening, relating to others and finding common ground to connect. Persuasiveness cannot be forced, it must be carefully and patiently cultivated and developed with practice and persistence.