Have you ever met someone who could Persuade you to do anything? I have, and I’ve always craved this seemingly out-of-reach ability.
There are countless books and college courses that all claim to hold the keys to persuasion. They’re valuable resources for learning how to persuade, but they tend to overcomplicate the matter and ignore practical methods of communicating effectively with people.
You don’t have to be a master salesman with endless confidence in order to be more persuasive. You simply need to pay closer attention to the basics so that you can twist the odds of success in your favor.
1. Make your words powerful.
The pitch itself needs to be full of words that actually elicit a response. You can do this easily by framing your statements around key phrases.
For example, “car accident” is a phrase that makes you think of many different types of vehicle collisions. But if you’re trying to persuade someone to buy car insurance, you won’t say that there are thousands of car accidents each day. You’ll say that there are thousands of car-related deaths every day.
“Death” is a more powerful word than “accident,” and advertisers use this method every day in order to convince people to buy products.
2. Dress up, but don’t talk down.
Nice clothes go a long way in helping you maintain confidence, even if no one is around to see you. The nasty side effect is that being the most well-dressed person in the room can result in talking down or being condescending to people who are actually above you.
This is an easy trap to fall into because if we feel like we have the power in a conversation, we’re more likely to patronize the person by saying things like, “Oh, well let me explain this to you. It’s really quite simple.” The problem is that if it isn’t simple, or if you’re not communicating well, you’ve pretty much lost them.
Keep in mind that the person you’re pitching to is above you. They have the power to say “no.” You don’t want them to realize this, obviously, because you need to maintain control over the conversation, but talking down to the person is challenging them to a contest you don’t want to take part in. Remember that there is a fine line between arrogance and being assertive.
3. Focus on the future.
Using future tense is a great way to establish confidence. It helps the other person know that you are moving forward and ready to carry out what you promise.
You can do this easily by abusing the word will. Phrases like “We will” and “Then we’ll do this” will get the person used to the idea that this is going to happen.
That said, don’t be pushy. Try not to make decisions for the other person, but instead talk about possibilities and the effects of decisions that can be made.
4. Make yourself scarce.
People want what they can’t have. Make it clear that this offer you’re extending to them won’t last for ever, and they will be missing out.
This especially works if you’re selling a product. Common tactics for offloading new products is by intentionally making them scarce and rare, which triggers something in people to “Get it now while you can!”
There is a great guide on the psychology of scarcity that you can refer to.
5. Choose the right medium for your pitch.
You’re trying to convince someone to do something they probably don’t want to do (yet). This means that cultivating the environment for your pitch is quite essential.
Study the person and determine how they prefer to communicate. Simply asking them if they like to talk on the phone instead of email goes a long way, just as long as you give them some options.
I’ve even come across people who are more comfortable texting than talking face to face. Keep this in mind and choose a medium centered around them, not you.
6. Speak their language.
Finishing a person’s sentence is a bad habit to get into. This is because you’re inserting your own “speak” into their independent thoughts.
Listen closely to how the person talks and watch how they carry themselves. Choose your own approach accordingly. Do they stray from jargon? You should too. Do they make jokes and end their sentences with prepositions? Match that with your own relaxed style.
Even body language should be matched effectively. If they like to talk with their hands, that means their ideal form of communication is active, so it is helpful for you to do the same. If their language is reserved and closed off (arms are closed, etc), then you know to avoid gestures that would make them feel uncomfortable.
This technique is useful for addressing groups of people as well. Try to get a feel for the room and study what makes people react positively to what you say. Learn what works and apply it accordingly.
7. Avoid verbal fillers.
Every time you let “um” or “uh” interrupt your speech, you lose credibility with the person you’re speaking to. It won’t even matter that what you have to say is important.
Be clear and let your speech flow. The best way to do this is by practicing your speech at home or thinking for a second before speaking.
8. Do something for them.
As a kid, you probably said something nice to your parents before asking them for something. Even at a young age, we realize that people are more likely to help us out if they’re returning the favor for something we’ve done.
You can do this before you even pitch anything. If you start off a networking relationship with a favor, that person will be more likely to work with you later on.
You should also return the favor, because you never know what’s being noticed about you. I once recommended a great website on this site, which was an unsolicited favor. The recipient of this favor was so grateful for the spike in sales that they sent me free merchandise. I didn’t ask for it and they definitely didn’t have to, but it cemented a relationship that could lead to more mutual benefits in the future.
9. Be a master of timing.
This goes along with getting to know the person you’re pitching to. Study them and find out the best time to talk to them.
For example, some busy executives are swamped during the beginning of the week and check out mentally on Friday. This means that Thursday may be the best time to approach a person you need to persuade.
This is easier if you’re trying to persuade a friend or loved one because you understand them better. Pick the right timing to talk to them, and your odds of success will shoot way up.
10. Express your opinion reluctantly.
You want the other person to believe in you. You have all of the answers, but how did you get there?
Talk about what you used to believe, and what you believe now. Use your own learning experience as a story that they can model after. By doing this, you are pacing the conversation/pitch and giving the person assurance that this will work for them.
11. Repeat what they say.
Prove that you are listening to and acknowledging the thoughts and feelings of the person you’re talking to. You can affirm their stance by simply saying,
“If I’m understanding you correctly, you’re saying that you find this important because of XY and Z. I ubderstand that, and think AB and C.”
Trust me, this comes in handy even when you’re not addressing the alphabet.
12. Build to your emotions.
Let your emotional responses, such as enthusiasm and excitement, naturally develop during the conversation. Don’t overwhelm the person with a zeal they don’t feel yet.
In many cases, you’ll want to wait until the end of your pitch to start sprinkling in the emotion and passion. This will ensure that it comes across as sincere and logically founded on what’s already been said.
A good rule of thumb is to start the conversation on an upbeat but relaxed note. As you start discussing the topic at hand, gradually grow more excited and passionate about what you’re talking about. This way, the person won’t feel like they’re being “worked.” They’ll instead feel like you are doing them a favor.
13. Be confident
Your first step is to remain and project confidence throughout the entirety of your appeal. The more confident you are, the more convincing your arguments are going to sound, and the more powerful you’re going to appear. Confidence is easy to fake and hard to distinguish, so don’t be afraid if you don’t feel confident — just act confident, and that will probably be enough.
A study by the University of Leicester found that “the single significant behavioral difference between persuaders and persuadees was in the expression of confidence.”
Confidence subtly implies that you’re already convinced you’re going to get what you want, which subtly influences the other party to give it to you. Just be careful not to overextend your exhibition of confidence, or you’ll run the risk of turning people off with arrogance.
14. Introduce a logical argument
People are easily persuaded by logic. The Conflict Research Consortium of the University of Colorado states that “persuasion is the process of convincing an opponent to change his or her beliefs and/or behavior through moral or logical argument (rather than force). When someone is persuaded to do something, they do it because they have come to believe it is the right or best thing to do.”
For example, let’s say you’re persuading your coworker to take on one of the more challenging pieces of an assignment you’re working on together.
15. Make it seem beneficial to the other party
One of the more effective means of persuasion is making your request seem valuable for the other party. Doing so can be tricky, but under the right circumstances, it can be a perfect fit. For example, let’s say you’re trying to convince a friend to help you move.
Obviously, there’s a lot of work involved with moving, and your friend may not be so willing to go along with it. Instead of talking about all the furniture you need to move, talk about how much fun it will be to go through your old junk, or about how you’re buying pizza for everyone afterward, or how you’re giving some old things away in the process.
16. Choose your words carefully
Certain words have an inherently higher value than others, and some words have more positive associations than others. For example, “lucrative” is a more powerful word than “good,” and “reasonable” is a more powerful word than “alright.”
Your goal here isn’t to inject big words into your sentences, but rather to arrange your sentences to ensure your meaning comes across precisely. In the process, you’ll come across as a better communicator, which will make you seem more intelligent and thoughtful, and therefore more trustworthy.
17. Use flattery
It’s one of the cheaper tricks on this list, so be aware that a good percentage of the population will catch onto you quickly if you’re too blunt or obvious. Instead of outright bribing your intended subject with flattery, use subtle phrasing and off-the-cuff remarks to flatter your recipient.
For example, instead of telling your boss, “Hey, that’s a really nice tie, do you think I could take an extra hour for lunch today?” try something like, “Can I have an extra hour for lunch today? I know you’re usually flexible, but I wanted to run it past you to be sure.”
18. Be patient, but persistent
You can’t always persuade your subject to give you what you want on the first try. If you’re unsuccessful, don’t resort to pleading, begging, or arguing. Instead, let the situation go, recollect yourself, and try again at a later time.
Your persuasive messages will linger in his or her subconscious, and the next time you bring up the argument, you have a chance to seem more reasonable (and more persuasive). Don’t abandon your goal, but do leave plenty of time between attempts.