The Art of Persuasion

Being persuasive is an art, and a powerful one at that. Whether you’re selling a project, managing a team, or pitching a new idea, knowing how to persuade others is often the key ingredient to success. What’s even better is if you can manage without seeming pushy. With all the points that follow, the biggest takeaway message is this: make it about the other people and not about you. Keeping this in mind, here are five secrets to the art of persuasion.

  1. Give and you shall receive. When someone does you a favor, you know instinctively that you will have to do something in return in the future. Psychologists call this the reciprocity rule, and it can be very useful in persuasion. So next time a colleague needs help with something, be the first to stand up and lend a hand. According to this reciprocity rule, they’ll be more likely to return the favor in the future.
  2. Admit your weaknesses. People will never accept an idea or proposal if it sounds too good to be true, so one of the most effective ways to be persuasive is to admit a weakness. Next you’re trying to close a deal or convince someone of your worthiness, admit a small drawback before you go on to tell them why your proposal will benefit them.
  3. Emphasize potential loss. Interestingly enough, potential losses count far more in a manager’s decision-making than the same things presented as gains. What this means is that to be more persuasive, you should point out what they have to lose by not accepting your idea, as well as what they can gain.
  4. Highlight similarities. It is apparent that people respect and listen to those who they believe to be similar to themselves. One way to maneuver this is by using what psychologists call mirroring, By mirroring the body language, tone of voice and interests of the people you’re speaking to, you’ll make them more likely to accept your suggestions.
  5. Appeal to their reputation. People are more likely to behave in a way that is consistent with their past decisions or beliefs, thereby upholding their reputation. This is what psychologists call labeling. You can use this to your advantage by pointing out for example that their company is cutting edge and cutting edge companies invest in products like X.
  6. Use Social Proof. This is a powerful mode of persuasion. If you’re trying to sell an idea or product, highlight how the idea or product has been successful with other businesses. People will trust the decisions or behaviors of others and will be more likely to do the same.
  7. Take it one step at a time. This is all about getting your foot in the door. Try breaking down what you aim to achieve into small steps, and then gradually talking them into saying yes to each one—you’ll be more likely to persuade them. Yes, this process can take more time but remember small steps in the beginning can lead to big leaps in the future.