How to Be More Persuasive
One day the Sun and Wind got into an argument over who was stronger. The Wind spotted a man walking down the road, wearing a jacket. They decided that whoever could get the jacket off the man must surely be the strongest. The Wind went first; he blew and blew in an attempt to remove the jacket. But the harder the Wind blew, the tighter the man held on to his jacket. Next, it was the Sun’s turn. The Sun gradually warmed the man, until he was so warm he willingly took off his jacket.
The moral of the story? Persuasion works better than force.
This is one of my favorite fables because it illustrates a key principle of being persuasive: you must warm them up. Too often we attempt to persuade others to do, think, or feel a certain way through force. A quick perusal through any social media platform shows many people believe that persuasion is at best about force, and at worst about abusing people into adopting your viewpoint. But this tactic is rarely successful, and at its worst it can permanently damage relationships and ensure that the other person will be resistant to anything you suggest in the future, even if it’s something with which they would have agreed.
Given that, how do we “warm” someone up to persuade them effectively? Here is one simple (but terribly effective) strategy:
Make it a Win-Win Situation
Perhaps the most effective of all persuasive tactics is showing the other person what’s in it for them. We’re often so invested in what’s in it for us, we forget about this part. But how often are you willing to do something if there is nothing in it for you (and I do include the warm fuzzies you get from volunteer work as being something that’s a “win” for you)? Consider the following examples:
1. Hey Diana, would you be willing to take on a leadership role in our club? The work is unpaid, but we really need your help and no one else will do it because it's a lot of work.
2. Hey Diana, would you be interested in a leadership role in our club? It's volunteer work that many people have leveraged into paid work because of the connections you'll make and the experience you will get. I know you're trying to build your business, so you're one of the first people I've asked.
If you’re Diana, which sounds more appealing? Even if Diana is your best friend in the world, you’re asking her to do a lot for you, and that alone causes hesitation on her part. But if you show her the value for her participation, now she’s not only willing, but probably excited to help! Bonus points if you also made her feel valued and special as well.
If you’re trying to persuade someone to do or think a certain thing, and can’t see a clear related benefit for them, consider leveraging other benefits instead. You can make important connections between them and someone in your network, or barter your time or services. As long as you’re offering value when trying to persuade them to do something, then your effectiveness dramatically increases. One caveat: do not lie! Don't make up benefits or values that aren't there. That isn't persuasion, it's manipulation and people will never forget it if you break their trust.
If you’re trying to persuade someone to adopt a certain viewpoint or behavior, you must show them not only how the issue affects them, but how your viewpoint will be beneficial to them. I’m not going to wade into politics here (though the principle are the same), so let me offer you an example from marriage.
1. Husband, for dinner I’d like to try that new salad place instead of the usual burgers or tacos.
2. Husband, you’ve mentioned you haven’t had much energy lately. For dinner, how about we try that new salad place and see if you feel any better?
Don’t forget that people make decisions with their emotions, NOT the logical part of their brains! Which means if you really want to persuade someone, you have to make them feel good first. When people feel warm and fuzzy about whatever you’re proposing, they feel good about agreeing with it. And understanding the clear value proposition (as in, what’s in it for me) goes a long way towards helping people feel good. Now, go forth and use your new persuasive powers for good!