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Tips for Persuading People

Provided by the International Finance Corporation


Effective persuasion enables you to either shape, reinforce or change others’ attitudes and/or behaviors. Good persuasion skills are particularly important for leaders managing change, sales executives closing a sale, managers negotiating budget and resources, or employees aiming at a promotion.

According to coach and keynote speaker Tony Robbins, “Persuasion may be the ultimate skill for creating change. You can have an idea or a product that can change the world, but without the power to persuade, you have nothing.” Without persuasion, you will not get indeed the support or resources you need. You will not get people buying into your ideas. You will not get the change you want to see.

Improve accordingly your persuasion skills today with the below tips.

Prepare yourself

To maximize your chances to persuade people:

  • Improve your positional and personal power. Boost your visibility, expertise, achievements, and self-confidence. This shall inspire more trust from people you are trying to persuade.
  • Recognize others’ mental state. As you intend to influence someone, recognize first that the other person has different desires, beliefs, perspectives, priorities. You can, for example, evaluate where he/she stands on Abraham Maslow’s pyramid. The pyramid is a visual representation of the hierarchy of people’s needs, starting with basic physiological needs, safety needs, belonging needs, and self-esteem needs up to self-fulfillment needs. As you do, identify common points of interest. Assess also his/her desire to change.  
  • Understand people persuade themselves. Richard M. Perloff, in ‘The Dynamics of Persuasion: Communication and Attitudes in the 21st Century,’ highlights: you cannot force people to be persuaded—you only active their desire. Influencing is not manipulating; you need to respect the rights of the others, including to choose freely to change attitudes or behaviors. Ensuring people understand you are aiming at the common interest of the organization could help.
  • Take it one step at a time. Persuasion is a process. Think of yourself as a coach, moving people step-by-step to a solution, helping them appreciate why your advocated position best addresses the problem.
  • Be concrete. Help people visualize the benefits of following your advice. You can also show them the negative impact if your recommendations are not followed. Give concrete examples as you describe how to implement the desired change.   
  • Use symbol. Craft your message carefully using strong symbols, analogies, and metaphors to illustrate your point, mold opinions and change attitudes and behaviors.  
  • Choose your words carefully. A 2016 study from the University of Cornell on how to get people to change their mind found that using calm words rather than emotional words or words that imply control increased your chance to persuade people. Similarly, one-liners rarely persuade people. Prefer instead a greater number of sentences, paragraphs, adjectives, adverbs, backed up by evidence, examples. The study also found that if you have not convinced someone after addressing four objections, your argument is not going to be the one that will move them.

 Adapt your persuasion strategies to people

Generally, you will face seven types of people to persuade. Find out below how to deal with them:

OPPOSING TYPES

  • Aggressive. This type may be particularly challenging for you as these people attack you and your plan. They like to focus on ‘what’s wrong’ instead of ‘how to solve the problem’.
  • Unfriendly. This type disagrees with your plan but does not directly attack you. For instance, they may oppose your plan without reason.

Persuasion strategies include: shifting from reactive to proactive by asking questions, depersonalizing with empathic statements such as ‘it must not be easy.’ and using humor.

UNDECIDED TYPES

  • Apathetic. This type understands your plan but does not express either objection or agreement. Likely, they see no personal impact or relevance resulting from your change program.
  • Indecisive: This type understands your position and your plan but cannot make up their mind whether to support or oppose you. This type is not apathetic because they are concerned about the change, but they cannot arrive at a decision.
  • Ignorant. This type does not understand your position or your plan and therefore cannot form an opinion, as they are not familiar with the problem and issues.

Persuasion strategies include: highlighting novelties; illustrating how your plan will help them solve their specific problems; showing how they can take part into the change process; focusing on a few elements of the plan that can create engagement and enthusiasm; projecting what success will look like with its associated mood; and inspiring a sense of purpose.

SUPPORTIVE TYPES

  • Sympathetic. This type understands you and your plan and is interested in both; however, they do not actively support you.
  • Supportive. This type not only agrees with your plan but also actively supports you and your plan.

These types do not really need persuasion. They would rather value encouragement and recognition. They would also appreciate if you can remove obstacles they face as they support your plan, making their life easier. With time and your first achievements, you may convert sympathetic people into supportive ones.

For more resources:

More information about the studies quoted in this article:

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The material in this work is copyrighted. Copying and/or transmitting portions or all of this work without permission may be a violation of applicable law.  IFC does not guarantee the accuracy, reliability or completeness of the content included in this work, or for the conclusions or judgments described herein, and accepts no responsibility or  liability for any omissions or errors (including, without limitation, typographical errors and technical errors) in the content whatsoever or for reliance thereon.

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