How to Be More Persuasive
Everyone has that friend that seems to always know what to say to convince you that their idea is the best option. They don’t have to necessarily be mean or manipulative to get what they want. Being persuasive means listening to those around you and figuring out how to ensure that everyone gets what they want, while also making sure that you get what you want. You will never succeed in any aspect of your life if you continually seek to undermine others in order to get what you want. It’s important to listen and seek a solution that appeases everyone.
There are a few strategies that will improve your skills of persuasion. Check them out on the list below and see what tips you can utilize in your everyday life.
Cultivate your active listening skills
It’s impossible to be persuasive if you have no idea what or who you want to convince. You need to listen to others not only so that you know how to approach them, but so that you can understand their perspective. Persuasion is truly about finding a middle ground, which is impossible when you’re not really listening to what the other person is saying. Active listening isn’t hard, but it does take more effort than we may be used to.
First, put away any distractions. Then give the other person your full attention, while watching for subtle body language cues to figure out the underlying meaning of their words. It takes some work, but it’s worth it.
Understand what other people are really saying
The next step in the journey of becoming more persuasive is to understand what is making the other people in the conversation say what they’re saying. This requires a knowledge of body language and social cues. Maybe your friend is insisting that they would be happy to see the movie you are suggesting, but you can see that they seem uncomfortable and anxious. These social cues are easy to spot, but only if we are actually paying attention. It’s hard to notice these little things if your head is buried in your phone.
Understand why someone is saying what they’re saying
This is another skill that requires the more basic skill of active listening. It becomes harder with people you don’t know as well, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out what could be motivating a person when you know them well. Maybe someone is advocating against going to an escape room, and you remember from previous conversations that they get claustrophobic in small spaces. Figuring out what matters to the other person in the conversation will help you understand their point of view, which in turn will help you find a solution that everyone can agree on.
Don’t make it about your wants and needs
Every time you try and persuade someone using the phrase “I want” or “I need”, you drive a wedge between the two of you. You may think that you’re simply trying to explain your perspective, but it often comes across as needy, selfish, and self-centered. The next time you want to persuade someone, try focusing on the benefit that the proposed solution could bring to them. This will show that you’re seeking a mutually beneficial agreement rather than just trying to get your own way.
Think before you speak
If you know a conversation is coming where you’ll have to persuade people to see your point of view, think a bit about what you’ll say before entering into the conversation. Even if you feel prepared, this will help clarify your views so that you can express them confidently without hedging or second-guessing yourself.
There are some people who are naturally more nervous about conflict and negotiations than others, and that’s totally ok. Everyone can be persuasive, even people who don’t believe that it’s in themselves to argue confidently. A helpful technique is to take a moment to center yourself before the discussion begins. This can be as elaborate as sitting down and spending 10 minutes in meditation before a big meeting, or as simple as taking one deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. This simple action forces you to be in the present moment and will help ground you.
Express your views with confidence
Being persuasive means that you are, in essence, trying to get people to put their trust in you and your viewpoint. Being confident in your beliefs and in your speech will help put people at ease, so that they feel secure trusting your judgement. As soon as you start to falter by second-guessing yourself, or using filler words like “umm” or “ahh”, people’s confidence in you will begin to drop. Build up your confidence by practicing your argument a few times in the mirror or to a trusted friend before the big moment, and you’ll feel much more at ease.
One tried and tested technique that has been shown to help persuade people is the casual lean-in. This means bringing your body closer to the other person in a show of camaraderie and trustworthiness. Be careful though as you have to be able to read the other person’s body language in order to see if the moment is ripe for a move like this. It could easily backfire if they feel uncomfortable when you invade their personal space.
Use words that focus on “we”
Another way to help persuade people that you are truly after the best solution is to use words that focus on your commonalities and ways that you can work together. Using words like “we” and “us” can help subconsciously persuade people that you’re working towards a mutually beneficial agreement, rather than simply for your own sake. One reason why persuasion often fails is because the other person doesn’t feel like they are part of your solution — use “we” to show them that you both see and value them.
Use a friendly tone
It’s unbelievable how many people fail to succeed in persuading others of their opinion simply because they come across as arrogant, tense, or nervous. Body language is key for this, but tone is another important aspect of persuasion that people often overlook. Talking in a loud or overly-intimate tone can repel people even as you believe that you’re bonding with them. Keep the physical contact to a minimum, but draw people in with your voice and mannerisms instead. Making others feel that they’re in the company of a valued friend — even if you’re speaking to a stranger or you’re at work — will make them relax and trust in your judgement.
Don’t be aggressive, be assertive
Another way that people often miscalculate is by thinking that by being aggressive, they can intimidate the other person into submitting to their point of view. This is the epitome of a short-term solution, if it can even be considered a solution at all! Many people will simply dig in their heels if faced with aggression, while others will completely shrink away and refuse to engage in the conversation. If you do find that you get what you want, it might be the last time that you do. Working with aggressive people is exhausting and many people will avoid it at all costs. Instead, confidently explain your point of view and assertively answer any questions that come your way. Your assertiveness will inspire confidence and trust, rather than fear or stubbornness.
Seize your moment
One of the most important aspects of persuasion is knowing when to speak and when to remain silent. It’s a difficult thing to do, especially if you’re a naturally talkative person, but choosing the right moment is truly the key to success. It doesn’t matter if you’re the most persuasive person in the world. If you approach someone at the wrong moment, you’ll never get the answer that you’re looking for. Instead, pick a time that you know they’ll be comfortable and receptive to new ideas. After a good meal never hurts!
Sometimes, it takes a little while before someone can come around to seeing your point of view. If people see that you’re patient enough to wait until they come around to your point of view, they’ll start to realize that maybe it isn’t such a crazy idea after all!