“Persuasion is not about others doing what I want, but about wanting to do what I want them to do.”
This phrase of the politician Winston Churchill perfectly describes the ability to influence the decisions of other people. A skill linked to leadership but which many confuse with manipulation.
Few people consider that persuasion should be part of their work and attribute it to politicians or vendors of dubious ethics. Could not be farther from the truth. If it is positive, responsible and seeks the common benefit, it is part of the communication and leadership and any professional should develop it.
And anyone can be persuasive. Not all influential people are instinctive, although there are born leaders. The secrets of persuasive communication are learned and can be easily and successfully applied in a professional setting, regardless of the position we hold.
INFLUENCE AND AUTHORITY
The ancient Romans claimed that a good leader had potestas (power of influence) and a bad one only auctoritas (authority). Authority can be imposed, but the influence is always granted by others. In a work environment, the ability to persuade will depend on the perception of the environment and the credibility that they give you, not on the position you occupy in the company. Persuading is a complex skill that will allow you to achieve your long-term goals. Before launching yourself to convince others, practice behaviors that strengthen your leadership:
- Define your goals. Think about exactly what you want to achieve and set yourself priority goals. Towards them you must direct your capacity for influence, without wasting efforts to take the cat to the water when it is not worth it.
- Think positive. No one can persuade another by using negative phrases or concepts. Do not blame others, criticize their work or show contempt. Banish words like impossible or failure from your vocabulary.
- Take control. If you want to be influential, always keep your composure. You must remain calm before challenges and difficulties and demonstrate your safety. So others will trust you when they have to make decisions.
- Do not go around the bush. Always use simple, clear and precise arguments. Get used to not wandering or abusing abstract concepts. If others believe you do not hide anything and have clear ideas, they will surrender to your influence.
- Listen actively. To influence someone, it is necessary to see the world with their eyes. And this is only achieved by listening. Only when you know what your boss, your client or your team wants and needs, will you be in the ideal position to exercise your influence. The listening must be active. If you do not get enough information, ask. You have to ask open questions that can not be answered with a yes or a no. This will allow you, at the same time, to obtain information and direct the communication to the point that interests you.
- Choose the right bait. If you want to catch a shark, you will use a meat bait; If you want to move a donkey, you will put a carrot in front. Each person acts moved by different values, beliefs and desires. Identify them and use them in the persuasion process.
- Manage the feelings. Most people make decisions driven by their emotions and then justify them rationally. For this reason, the crux of the influence is that it really reaches the heart. Enthusiasm, empathy, sincerity and honesty are more convincing than the best of rational arguments. If you want to persuade someone, appeal to their emotions using your own feelings.
- Select the information. You must be honest and honest, but that does not mean you say everything you know. A good leader must value what information he provides to others, how to manage and interpret it. Sometimes you will have to omit data and other times offer irrelevant information that distracts the other person or influences you unconsciously.
THE SYMPATHY EFFECT
An English newspaper published a curious news a couple of years ago: “An old woman of 80 years convinces some thieves to give her back the money”. The good woman showed her sympathy towards the chorizos and assured them that she understood the reasons why they were stealing: they were poor like her and life had not given them anything. The thieves felt so much empathy towards the old woman that they did not take any of their belongings. When someone likes you, instinctively justify their actions and feel the urge to agree to their proposals. In the same way, if you do not like it, you only see the negative aspect of their behavior and you will not want to pay attention to it even if its
Intentions towards you are the best. In principle, human beings tend to feel empathy towards others. But natural empathy is not enough if you want to be truly influential. To make sure you awaken the sympathy of others, use some tricks:
- Like a chameleon. We feel close to those we perceive similar to ourselves, with our ideas, values and beliefs. It is easier to persuade someone if you have an image, a way of speaking, affinities and common tastes. It’s not about pretending, just adapting a bit to your interlocutor.
- Develop the relationship. Every day you can earn points to get influence on others. Take care of your employees, your customers, even your boss. Be interested in their problems, recognize their work and establish a commitment with them.
- Overcome antipathy. If the relationship with the person you want to persuade is currently bad, parts with a disadvantage, but you can overcome it. It is amazing how easily we forget our quarrels if the one we consider enemy is friendly with us.
- Shorten the distances. People are influenced by those who feel close. There are many techniques to shorten distances and facilitate persuasive communication. The important thing is to convey the feeling of belonging to the team, that interests, illusions and objectives are shared.
- Persuade, do not manipulate. Persuasion has a dark side: manipulation. Sometimes I remind my students that some persuasion techniques are included in the CIA’s interrogation manual or are typical of political propaganda, so they do not forget that they should be practiced with honesty and sincerity. And it is not about getting others to do what I want against their own interests but to ensure that everyone wins. Credibility is essential to achieve long-term influence and commitment. You can not cheat everyone during all the time. To be persuasive you have to be consistent, set an example, act with transparency and help others in their goals. If you get caught in a lie or regret having yielded to your influence, you will have lost all your capacity for persuasion.
HOW TO EXCEED THE EXCUSES OF YOUR INTERLOCUTOR
When we try to persuade someone else, we are forcing them to make a decision. This creates a defense mechanism in your mind, a resistance that can be aggravated if you do not use the influence well. Act with care when the first objections and excuses appear.
- Avoid a confrontation. In this situation, it is important not to start a confrontation. If you take the opposite to your interlocutor, you will only strengthen their position and force them to defend their point of view.
- Ignore the resistance. Most objections evaporate in the air on their own because they are excuses or simple comments to buy time or determine a negotiating position. Therefore, it is best to ignore them and move forward with your arguments.
- Give him the reason. When the other person repeats his objection several times, it means that he is real and that he is less willing to be convinced. In these cases, openly admit what you say, minimizing everything possible and exposing the advantages of your point of view. For example, if it tells you that it is an expensive project, you can answer that it is expensive because it solves all the problems we now have and will allow us to save in the future.
- Question. Sometimes, the other person will give you false excuses to get rid of you but has a hidden reason not to give in to your influence. In these cases, the information you have is insufficient and you must find out the true cause of its resistance. But do not ask openly, it is much better to use indirect methods: You say that you can not take on this task because you are overloaded with work. Could you do it next week ?.
- Handles the numbers. Many times a person resists our influence because the decision that we are forced to take has a cost (economic or otherwise) for him. If the problem is related to the figures, there are many ways to present them. There is more to see the difference between these two phrases: “There is a 95% chance that the operation goes well” and “There is a 5% chance of dying in the operation.”
The most effective trick to manipulate numbers is to reduce the scale of the problem. For example, you want to sell a house and the buyer alleges that 250,000 euros is too much for him. Ask how much you intended to spend. If you answer that 200,000, you should say: “Then the problem is 50,000 euros”.
It is about using the objections of the other to your benefit. If your interlocutor claims that your proposal is too bold, he replies that he has always been a pioneer.
Close a sale, get an increase, promote your ideas. There are infallible tricks to influence others, although you have to use them with care and delicacy.
- Give it for granted. Behave as if the others were going to act according to your wishes. Many sellers start filling out the order form before their client has decided. Although it is a little aggressive, it works, because most of us find it hard to disappoint others or openly oppose them.
- The alternative. It consists of placing the other person in a position to choose between two solutions, both favorable to your interests (“When do we carry out the project, next month or in two months?”). The other person will believe that the choice has been theirs and they will not feel so pressured.
- The balance. If you know that your idea has visible drawbacks, admit the negative aspects, but make them important and summarize them in one. Then, exaggerate the positive aspects and break down each argument into several. You will influence others, transmitting honesty and objectivity at the same time.
- The challenge. Subtle doubt on your ability to do what you want to do: “Maybe this task is too complicated for you.” Do it only with challenging, competitive and proud people.
- Anchorage. Causes an unconscious response in the other person using a stimulus. If you want to convince your boss of something, create a favorable mood in him (ask him about his favorite sport), anchor that state with a precise gesture (touch his arm, offer him a coffee). Then, when you propose your idea, repeat that gesture. He will feel good unconsciously and will be favorable to your suggestions.
- Covert order. The phrase seems like a suggestion but it hides an order and gives better results. If you say “I’m going to present my report, if you want you can take notes”, everyone will take notes.
- Hypnotic structures. It is a series of phrases that exert an almost hypnotic effect on the listener. The first is an objective truth (“We are all concerned about the drop in sales”), the following may be true (“Sales have dropped by 10%”) and is followed by another that is no longer an objective truth, but It serves your interests (“A new design would stimulate consumption”). In the last sentence you will express your suggestion (“to improve the design you have to invest 100 million”). By inertia, your interlocutor will grant the same credibility to all the sentences and agree.
If you want to be an influential person, you must practice persuasion in all directions: upwards, so that your boss can help you achieve your goals; down, to exercise leadership with good results; horizontally, to take advantage of the synergies of your colleagues, and out, because what is good for the company, is also good for you. Remember that what is worth with a superior is not worth with a client. To each one you have to give your thing:
1. The Leader
- Do not complain. It is the golden rule to influence a superior. If something hates a boss is that they cause more problems than you already have, that you go with complaints, criticism or negative comments. The key to the upward influence is to be positive and propose solutions. If you want your boss to approve a project, raise your salary or promote your ideas, let him see the advantages that these proposals have for him and the company and omit any negative phrase.
- Knowledge and recognition. Make an effort to get to know your boss, his needs, motivations, wishes and use this information to your benefit. Remember that bosses are human and they also need recognition from their team. It will be very effective that, from time to time, you congratulate them for their work, always sincerely.
- Paraphrasing. If your superior is one who does not admit suggestions, paraphrase something he said and put your idea as if it were his. Your vanity will be safe.
2. The subordinate
- No shouting. If you only exercise direction with impositions and shouts, your team will carry out your orders but they will not have initiative or motivation and will take advantage of your carelessness to diminish their performance. If you want to be influential, sign the following agreement with them: Follow me and I will help you achieve success. They must believe that your decisions clearly benefit them.
- Select the information. The handling of information (knowing what to say and omitting, how to interpret and disseminate it) is a very powerful weapon to persuade. Express yourself clearly, set an example and act as if you had nothing to hide.
- Create a good reputation for them. The recognition of their work is an effective weapon of persuasion. If you create a good reputation, it will endeavor to maintain it and will not want to disappoint you.
3. The colleague
Use a winding road. Influencing the decisions of coworkers is not easy. Each one has its own purposes, needs and problems and you will have to think of more thoughtful formulas to make them compatible and achieve your objective at the same time. Look for a path that, even if it is not straight, leads to your goal through your desires and aspirations. Take time to listen and think about the problems and needs of others.
Many pros, few cons. Talk about the benefits that your idea or project can have for him and anticipate his objections. When you talk to him, emphasize those advantages, minimize the negative aspects and offer your help. Take advantage of your ambition.
4. To the client
- A good business. You must perceive that you are doing a good business. Pretend that you let yourself win, that you have won concessions because of your negotiating skills. Phrases like “With you there is no one who can”, flatter their vanity and open to our influence.
- The decision is only yours. We all like to buy and nobody likes to be sold. The client must believe that the final decision is only his. Any attempt at subtle pressure will cause its rejection.
- Create a good ‘feeling’. In the market there are similar products and services. The person is the one who makes the difference. If you like your client, you will have it for life (if you take care of it, of course). On the contrary, if he does not support you, it is difficult to want to have commercial dealings with you. Remember: two do not argue if one does not want to.
5. The group
- Identify the leaders. In every human group there are leaders, people who can change the opinions of their colleagues in a short period of time. Always look at the most influential people to show your interest in them and answer their possible doubts and fears.
- Watch your words. It is difficult to adapt to the way of speaking and the characteristics of a whole group. Before a team, verbal and non-verbal communication should be more neutral, neat and elegant.
- Do not ignore anyone. If you do not take into account someone in the group, thinking that your opinion does not matter, you run the risk of feeling upset and working covertly to sabotage your influence. Reaffirm the needs of each member of the group throughout your argument, always address each one by name and understand that you know their position and their importance within the company. Look at the body language and behavior of all to tackle possible problems.