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How to be Persuasive, and Why Every Type of Professional Needs This Skill

Posted by Mary Bradbury Jones on October 12, 2016

iStock_96142391_SMALL.jpgPersuasion is perhaps one of the most misunderstood word in today’s culture. People think of “Persuaders” as phoney people in suits, trying to convince people to do or buy something that only benefits the persuader themselves.

But in reality, good persuasion is all about helping people. There are a lot of reasons why being persuasive is an important professional development skill in business life, as well as personal. Most importantly, persuasion helps people take actions that will actually be in their benefit, despite the mental roadblocks they might have that prevent them from doing so.

The bottom line is that people won’t buy your product or service unless they’re convinced or persuaded to do so. The same goes with vendors, business partners and investors. That’s why persuasion is an indispensable business skill in today’s world.

Here’s how to be persuasive, and why every single type of professional should know how to do so.

What does it mean to be Persuasive?

No matter what situations we encounter in life, persuasion usually plays a role in the outcome. You might be trying to convince a toddler to brush their teeth, prodding a friend to go to dinner at a certain restaurant you love, or getting your repairman to come to your home at your preferred time of day. It doesn’t matter who we are, or what we do, we all practice the art of persuasion.

Persuasion in the context of business takes play everyday as well. Advertising is a form of persuasion by attempting to influence customers to visit your store or use your services. Persuasion is also key to any negotiation, and for businesses this can mean convincing vendors to provide better pricing or services. And think about dealing with staff; you’re often trying to persuade them to increase their effort, take on new tasks, or adjust to unexpected changes in the workplace.

Why does persuasion have a negative connotation?

Persuasion sometimes comes across as a “dirty word” in our society. To many people “persuasion” implies manipulating, pressuring, and cajoling. It’s the age-old “used car salesman” stereotype that’s often evoked when people think of persuasion. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Think of persuasion simply as an extension of effective communication. By skillfully describing the benefits and logic of something in order to gain an agreement or build consensus, great persuaders can create a win-win for everyone. You might be convincing others how a certain proposal makes sense, and the different ways it benefits other parties. Part of business persuasion is showing stakeholders how a project or business will generate returns, or explaining to employees why a new process or approach will benefit them in the long run.

It’s all about knowing how different people process information, and communicating in a way that’s best for them. Unfortunately, the negative stigma is that persuasion is seen as manipulative or even dishonest. People are wary of persuasive people trying to sell them something they don’t need or want, or worse yet is a defective product.

>>> Learn more about Influence and Persuasion

Why persuasion is good and how to become better at it

It’s important to recognize what persuasion is, and what it isn’t. Persuasion is absolutely not convincing people to do something they shouldn't do, or is not in their best interest. Persuading people isn’t about getting people to take an action that they don’t want to do, without any justifiable reason. Persuasion does mean laying out a clear, logical case for why someone should do something, explaining the facts and letting people draw their own conclusions.

Here are a few quick tips on how you can become more persuasive, in either personal or professional settings:

  • Do your research. In order to persuade someone effectively, you need to establish credibility. By doing your homework, presenting pertinent facts, and coming across as an expert in the field, people will be much more receptive to your message.
  • Be a good listener. It’s a misconception that persuasion is all about you doing the talking. Being a good listener means giving people your full attention. Look them in the eye and repeat their name throughout the conversation. Give them a chance to finish before interjecting. This signals that you’re more trustworthy, and more of a consultant than salesperson.
  • Find common ground. Good persuaders seek common ground to establish rapport at the very beginning. This could be discussing similar areas of expertise, past experiences, or even hobbies outside of work. Establishing common ground will also make you more memorable to that person in the future.
  • Address concerns. Every persuader runs into objections, and overcoming them is probably the most important aspect of persuasion. If someone disagrees with you, don’t just forge ahead with your pitch. Learn why they feel the way they do, help them to understand your perspective, and explain rationally how your solution will ultimate erase their doubts.
  • Show empathy. Empathy is key to persuasion because ultimately, you’re trying to help solve someone’s problem or ease one of their pain points. Put yourself in their shoes, understand where they want to go, and how badly they want to get there. Tell them that you understand how they feel, and if you’ve had a similar experience go ahead and share it with them. Showing empathy builds trust and connection that’s imperative to great persuasion.

By now you should have a good idea of why you need to be persuasive. At the end of the day, top notch persuaders lay out a bulletproof logical case. But they know how important emotion is to the presentation and delivery. Persuasion isn’t about selling someone a used car. It’s about being a good listener, understanding people’s problems, and presenting a solution that benefits everyone.

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