The 7 secrets to being persuasive

persuasive

The only way to be truly persuasive is to understand the human mind.

The human mind doesn’t work by rules of logic when it comes to being persuasive but there are rules involved when seeking to influence others.

Tali Sharot is a professor of cognitive neuroscience at University College London and her new book is The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others.

In this book, Sharot has helpfully identified 7 factors that influence our ability to be persuasive.

1. Prior beliefs

Don’t start off by telling people they are wrong. The reality is when people hear things that contradict their beliefs, their minds turn on defensive mode. So, instead, start with common ground between your position and theirs and then move on to try and influence them to your side. Once you find middle ground with your opponent you’re halfway to being persuasive.

2. Emotion

Emotion affects judgement. One of the most persuasive ways to communicate arguments effectively is to share feelings. Emotions are contagious and by expressing our feelings the audience will empathise with you.

If the time is not appropriate to share emotion, for example, in policial or legal debate, then try to inject emotion through storytelling. Take the audience on a journey with you, help them to understand where you are coming from and by the end of your story, they should be able to take up your point of view.

3. Incentives

A little story – hospital staff started to be electronically marked in terms of feedback. Every time a doctor or nurse washed their hands, the numbers on the board went up. Interestingly, the number of workers washing their hands increased to almost 90%. The takeaway – provide an incentive, if you want someone to do something. Whether this is following an order or following your way of thinking, be imaginative and think about how you can subtly incentivise them do it. Remember subtlety is key – nobody likes to be told what do to – and if they think they are being ordered around they are highly likely to rebel.

4. Control

Former FBI lead international hostage negotiator Chris Voss says it’s critical in any negotiation to give the other side a feeling of control. And the research agrees.

So, when you seek to be persuasive, don’t order but instead, give options. Guide them towards the light and they will often believe they got there on their own.

5. Reframe negativity

People often don’t want to hear bad news and will do their best to ignore it. So, if we have to deliver bad information, we have to reframe it, as a positive. This is because when people hear positive information, they become curious and intrigued. So in effect, you are reframing the message to highlight the possibility for progress, rather than the doom.

6. State of mind

An interesting exception to the above rule. Researchers found that people under threat were far more inclined to take in negative information.

Another interesting point is that when we feel positive we are far more likely to take risks.

So the point is, align your speech with the other person’s mood. When they are low they are far more receptive to suggestions that make them feel safe, when they’re up they’ll be more responsive to riskier ideas, or thoughts.

7. General consensus

Whether it be a negative or positive consensus, if there is a following backing one side of an argument over the other, people will support the general consensus.

What that means for the power of persuasion is try as best as you can (without obviously being misleading) to frame your position as the positive and popular one as it simply gives your argument more weight.

 

To read more on this topic read the magnificent blog on Barking up the wrong tree, on this topic, here.

6 ways to improve your communication today

communication

Leadership and communication go hand in hand. How we communicate with others is integral to our success. Communication is a leadership skill that has multiple dimensions, verbal, non-verbal, and written, so if you want to get better at this critical skill, here are some proven strategies to learn;

1. Learn the basics of body language

Nonverbal communication accounts for 55 percent of how a public speaker is perceived. This means that the majority of what you say is communicated not through words, but through body language. Things like posture and eye contact matter. Stand tall and look people in the eye. Crossing your arms or reducing your size, in any way, communicates closed body language and a lack of confidence. Read more on body language here.

2. Get rid of filler words

Things like “Ummm” may seem innocuous but they drastically reduce the persuasive value of what you’re saying. Most of us use them out of habit. One way to get rid of them is to start keeping track of when you say words like “um” or “like.” You can also start to try to pause before you speak. Silence is not always bad, in fact, it communicates confidence and control and be assured that the silences feel longer to you, than they do to your audience.

3. Lead with empathy, not ego

When we have to have difficult discussions try to always lead with empathy. This means instead of using judgment “What you did was wrong/unacceptable”, start with “Why did you decided to do that?” or “How could I have helped you more in this situation?” or “How was this in your eyes?”. This takes you into an open and honest conversation where the other person can feel comfortable responding. This will help you to find solutions far more effectively and also build respect in those around you.

4. Listen, actually listen

One of the best things you can do to improve your communication skills is to learn to listen. So many of us are just waiting to respond. However, an effective conversation is a line of words elegantly connected with listening. So, instead of responding with “yes, but”, try and replace it with a follow-up question. Let people finish what they are saying and don’t interrupt if that is your inclination. Genuinely, listen to the speaker. These simple skills can go a long way in building trust with those around you.

5. Make your communication two way

Ask more questions and seek feedback. This is different to listening and more about keeping your mind open to input from others. The most successful people and companies are the most flexible. Asking questions about how others feel about a given topic or how they think something could be done better puts you in an active role. Asking questions is also a core leadership skill, it builds trust and keeps your mind open to innovation.

6. Create stories

Stories are powerful. They activate our brains, make presentations engaging and make us more persuasive than others. Use stories to bolster a point, “I think we should do it this way because of a time..”, use it to create trust, or prove characteristic points about yourself to a new audience for example, “I believe I can do this, because…” In its simplest form, a story is a description of cause and effect. Everything in our brain is looking for the cause and effect relationship of something we’ve previously experienced. This is simply how humans are wired. Stories help you to make your points stronger and are more memorable for your audience.

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