The Art of Persuasion (2)

The Art of Persuasion

Every successful leader has one thing in common. It’s got nothing to do with IQ, fame, wealth, personality, or even the ability to dream up billion-dollar ideas. It’s their ability to influence and persuade. Some have taken it too far (see: Billy McFarland of Fyre Festival, and Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos), convincing everyone on the success and potential of their businesses when the opposite is true.

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However, most ethical leaders do not cross the line of deceit. Rather, they use their power of persuasion to advance their companies and careers, sell their products and services to clients and investors, and attract the top talents to get on-board with them. Here’s how you can adopt the same skills and strategies.

The first thing you need to know is the difference between persuasion and manipulation. Psychological manipulation, which involves devious exploitation and alteration of another’s behaviour to get your way at the expense of their wellbeing, is what industry experts like to call a low blow. Persuasion, on the other hand, focuses on creating mutually beneficial situations.

For that to happen, you have to first know exactly what you want. You need a clear vision of your goals. If you’re unsure of your stance, how can you argue for it effectively? Have an image of the end product. What do you ultimately want to see? Once you’ve established that, the next step is to communicate it with unwavering conviction.

Here, confidence is key. The lack of confidence is often tied to one’s lack of official clout—you’re not some luminary in your field, or Oprah, and hence, you’re not influential enough for your words to be sticky. Yet, this doesn’t have to define your delivery. Having respect begins with the self. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one will. If you do, you’ll have the entire room in the palm of your hands, regardless of your social standing.

Every time you speak, act like you’re an authority on the subject, so anyone will trust your word. Yet, don’t cross the line into haughtiness. Convey gravitas, not superiority. When it comes to your body language, be unafraid to step in and initiate a firm handshake. Eye contact is crucial, and so is taking up space. That means opening up your body language. Stand straight, instead of slouching. Keep your head up, instead of down. And don’t hide your hands in your pocket or under your arms.

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To demonstrate genuine interest in the other party, lean your body towards them. Leaning away conveys disinterest, and people aren’t generally interested in those who aren’t interested in them. This position also shows that, while confident, you’re not cocky or self-absorbed. You’re concentrated on them, and attempting to bring them closer to you.

Slow and steady also wins the game of confidence. Steer clear of fidgeting, walking too quickly or speaking like a Texan auctioneer, all of which suggest anxiety. Speaking in the present tense is also more preferable as it conveys relevance, as opposed to talking about what happened in the past. Vicki Kunkel, the author of Instant Appeal, recommends using the word, “because”. A 1978 study by Ellen Langer showed that people were more willing to allow someone to skip the line if they used the word, “because”. In fact, the sentence, “May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?” saw a 94% success rate of a free pass. Kunkel reckons that the word itself “elicits an automatic and innate response to grant the favour”, no matter how ridiculous the reason.

Another word that holds much potential sway is “you”. After all, our inner narcissist loves hearing about ourselves, seeing our names, and having other people talk about us. It’s simply human nature. Imagine having a conversation in which your partner constantly uses the word, “I”. Wouldn’t you think that person’s a little egocentric? When that word becomes “you”, however, it’ll feel like your partner truly cares about you, placing the spotlight on you and you alone. This creates attraction, which offers a solid foundation that makes it hard for them to say no to you.

This is why it’s also vital for you to be likeable, and in an authentic way. Creating a phony facade of likeability will only cause more problems in the long-run. The idea is to be yourself, but also patient, gentle, kind, respectful and thoughtful like a customer service attendant. As we all know, words can either make or break relationships. They hold power over the emotions of others. You want the people around you to feel positively towards you—because positivity breeds likeability—so be generous with your Thank You’s, and genuine with your compliments.

For those tough nuts to crack, try to establish some common ground, be it a hobby, TV show or food. It’s much easier to feel comfortable around those who are similar to you. Mimic their body language, and get on their wavelength. Then again, don’t try too hard, or be too available. Scarcity creates value, so know when to pull back and when to step forward.

This is why the hard sell technique never works. It’s like the story of the wind, trying to get a man to remove his coat by forcefully blowing the coat off him. The more the wind blew, the tighter the man clung onto his jacket. You’ve got to lure him in slowly and get him to take off his jacket of his own accord. It’s the same in an argument. The more you tell someone that they’re wrong, the more defensive they’ll get and the more reluctant they’ll be to agree with you.

Instead of insisting your way, listen to their point-of-view, understand their needs, and restructure the entire argument so they’ll see that they too will benefit by going your way. To do this, you have to see things from their perspective and know what makes them tick. The point is to sell them their desires. What’s in it for them? If all else fails, do them a favour first without prompt, and they’ll feel compelled to help you out in return. 

Something about the number, three, also pulls people in and convinces them of the credibility of statement. Use this to your advantage by backing your proposition up with three positive claims. To make sure that your words are easy to remember, keep them short. Don’t save the best for last. Capture their attention with a zinger right off the bat, and they’ll remember it for life. Although, the general rule-of-thumb is to make an impression with your parting words as well. With these tricks in your arsenal, you’ll be on your way to win every negotiation and get what you want.

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