Using Persuasion to Influence Others

Why do we sometimes fail in our efforts to influence the other person? It may be because we are not focusing our attention on the right thing. The natural tendency is to look at every situation from our own point of view. We consider first the ways we need help, believe our own recommendations are best and set agendas that cater to our personal priorities. In other words, when dealing with other people we are usually thinking: "What's in it for me?" When two people approach a conversation with this same mindset, it is not surprising that the chances of reaching agreement diminish.

To get someone to accept your advice or opinions, you need to put yourself in their shoes. In doing this, you must speak their language and talk about the values or potential benefits that will mean the most to them.

For example, if you want a colleague to back a new strategy for client contacts, it would be better not to focus on what it means to you. Instead, concentrate on how the proposed strategy will help your colleague and the rest of the team.

You might start by saying you need their support, and then point out how the reorganisation will create more opportunities to cross-sell and that other companies have been able to increase revenue by 15 percent using a similar process.

The Persuasive Cycle: Statement, Impact and Evidence

This approach uses a "persuasive cycle", which should contain three main parts. The first is the "statement", which outlines in your own terms the main idea, recommendation or initiative. In the case above, it is the request for your colleague to support the new contact strategy.

The second part is "impact". This should be delivered in terms most readily understood by the person you are trying to influence. The objective is to refer to the benefit they will get, or to give a compelling reason why your statement is important for them. Here, it is the chance to capitalise on cross-selling opportunities.

The final part of the cycle is "evidence". Saying that something is a benefit is not always enough. You should back up your statement with facts, statistics, visual aids or even testimonials to provide added meaning and make it easier for the other person to take action.

In most cases, using the persuasive cycle will get you far in an influencing conversation. However, as we all know there are cases in which you might need to take a different approach. The colleague or client you are trying to influence may have an awkward personality, and some people just have an innate resistance to change or new concepts, even after the benefits have been expressed. Sometimes no amount of emotional or rational justification, clarification or evidence will sway a fixed opinion. In these cases, you may want to try being more assertive.

We will talk about an approach to assertiveness in our next post.