The power of persuasion is something that is highly sought after and that can help you to achieve more in every area of your life. When you can persuade someone to agree with you on any given point, then you can prove the Rolling Stones wrong – and you can always get what you want. Or at least most of the time.
For instance the ability to persuade can help you in an interview – to persuade the interviewer that you are the person they need for the job and that you are a highly capable and successful individual. Likewise if you want to sell something – via marketing spiel on a website or face-to-face as a sales person – then the power of persuasion is what will convince the person you are speaking to to part with their hard earned cash (and if you can do it again and again then you can become rich).
If you can convince a member of the opposite sex that you are an attractive and kind individual, and a good catch, then you will find yourself enjoying a better love and sex life. But furthermore it will help you to get by easier in all the other little things – to get people to agree to organise meetings and events at the times that best suit you, to win arguments and debates, to talk your way out of a fight, and to get your money back when you’re returning a product.
In other words you become a powerful force who can dictate whatever they want, and who can lead people to agree with you and follow you. How you wield this power is up to you, but once you learn the knack for persuading people the sky is then your limit. But how do you go about successfully persuading people? Here we will look at some of the techniques you can use to bring people around to your way of thinking.
Build a Rapport
In ‘NLP’ (Neuro Linguistic Programming) building a ‘rapport’ is considered a powerful technique that can make someone open up to you and feel a kinship. This then means that they will be more likely to agree with you, and it will mean they begin to mimic you allowing you to lead the conversation. Building a rapport is a very subtle process, but in NLP practitioners are encouraged to subtly mimic the positions and movements of the people they are speaking to. In other words, gradually reposition yourself so that your body language matches theirs. If they are leaning back with their hands crossed then you should adopt essentially the same position. From here you can then try subtly changing your position and you should notice them changing theirs in unison. This then means you now have established a rapport, and you should be more effective in leading the topic how you want and getting them to agree with you.
Work Out What They Want to Hear
When you are trying to persuade someone you should try and find out precisely what it is they want to hear by doing a quick psychological assessment of them. Why are they speaking to you/listening to you in the first place? What kind of person are they? What are they expecting of you? Knowing these things then allows you to fit their mould as much as possible, and to explain any discrepancies.
If you want to persuade someone you first need to engage them. This means talking about something that they can relate to and that they are interested in to make sure that they sit up and take notice. If you are writing a sales pitch open up with a line or a subject that is going to interest the maximum number of people. Then from there promise that you will provide something interesting or worthwhile to them, or answer some kind of question that you poised at the start of article, but only if they continue to read on.
Let Them Fill in the Gaps
It is very hard to change someone’s mind on a point against their will and even if you have compelling evidence and a very good argument, most people will still be reluctant to see your point of view just because it means they were wrong, and it means that they are having to ‘bend’ to your will. It feels like a defeat.
As such then, to really persuade someone in conversation and bring them around to a new viewpoint, you should be sure that you don’t ‘attack’ them with your point of view. Instead try and lay a trail for them to follow – don’t tell them they’re wrong, but rather ask them if they had considered certain flaws in their own argument (more as though you were interested than critical). Let them know a little about your point of view but don’t force the issue. This will all then encourage them to ask more questions of their current views, and to hopefully gradually move towards your conclusions. But what’s important is that they will think that they came up with the idea, or that you came up with it together – and as a result they won’t be adverse to it. Another way to do this is to confirm suspicions they already hold (use commonly held suspicions to get a high hit rate) as this will again make them feel like it’s really their own ideas they are reading/listening to.
Disguise Your Motives
Generally then if someone suspects they are being ‘persuaded’ then this will set off alarm bells. Instead then make sure that you don’t make it obvious that you are trying to sell something, or promote yourself. If you can make the conversation about something else, or at least start as being about something else, then you can sneak in past their defences.
Let Them Persuade You
Another way to make someone more malleable and more responsive is to let them think that they are also persuading you. If they think that this is a two way process then they will be much more likely to reciprocate. Tell them you agree with one of their points and they will feel almost obligated to agree with one of yours (and remember you don’t actually have to agree with their point you can just pretend – if you really want to persuade someone then you need to be willing to sacrifice your pride and self image and to be willing to say anything to persuade them).
People respond shockingly well to flattery. This instantly makes people warm to you, while at the same time allaying any fears that you are criticising them. Furthermore, once someone feels like you are impressed with them, they will then want to win your approval further, and they won’t want to do anything in order to lose your good impression of them. Thus they will try to agree with things you say in order to impress you.
A good sales pitch will feel like it is talking to the person and will use a big capital ‘YOU’ at some point in the first paragraph. Likewise if you can use someone’s name, then this will make them feel more personally involved. Whenever you are haggling or doing anything else, make sure that you get their name first and then use this a lot. This is a technique recommended when flirting too – you get the name of the person you are flirting with early on and then you use it a lot to create a familiarity that will make them more susceptible to your advances.
Great persuasion techniques are those that creep up on you and gradually persuade you. The ultimate example of this was in the infamous ‘Milgram’ study, where psychologist ‘Milgram’ got participants to deliver electric shocks of gradually increasing intensity to strangers (of course the shocks were fake and the strangers were actors) until the point where they were enough to kill the person on the receiving end. Ordinary individuals were then capable it was shown of killing people they never knew just because they were told to. Part of the reason for this was that they were using gradually larger shocks and increasing incrementally – so they were only doing a little bit more each time – what difference could it make?
Build on Existing Facts
Another way to achieve a similar effect is to build on existing facts. Start with a statement that no-one will disagree with, and then follow a seemingly logical trail of points to lead them to the conclusion they want to – this way even outrageous claims can appear to be grounded in logic. For instance:
Peas are green – peas taste nice – grass is green – thus grass tastes nice.
Of course you’re going to be far more eloquent than this, but the basic principle remains the same.
Appeal to Higher Authorities
One other reason the Milgram experiment was so successful was that the people instructing were wearing lab coats. This meant that they appeared to ‘know what they were doing’ and appeared to be in positions of authority. This then meant that people were less likely to question them – most of us have obeyed an authority of one form or another for our entire lives. Thus if you can make it seem as though your idea is backed by some form of authority, it will make others more likely to agree. Similarly appealing to ‘facts’ and ‘statistics’ is also a good method as these generally cannot be argued with (even though savvy readers will know how facts are reliant on samples and reporting methods). If you can make yourself seem more like an authority then this will help you even more. If you’re a doctor for instance then flaunt it and say that your idea was created by Dr LeMouse rather than just Mr.
If someone likes you then they will be more likely to want to agree with you – because they won’t want to disappoint you, and because they will feel you have their best interests at heart. Smile a lot and remember your manners, but also be sure that you don’t come across as sleazy. There’s a fine line here.
Primary and Recency
The primary and recency effect states that we remember best the things we hear first and last. Thus you want to organise your pitches with this in mind – making sure to use your most powerful points at the start and at the end of your spiel. Fill the middle of the talk with the explanation and hyperbole, but make the first and last statements bold, memorable and positive. Using emotion in your pitches can also help them to stick in people’s minds as our brain is hardwired to better remember emotional events. So if you’re making them angry, making them sad, or making them happy while you’re pitching – these will all make sure your points stay with them long afterwards.
If you want to persuade someone then it is highly important that you be completely confident and relaxed. If you come across as insecure then it will look as though you are not confident in what you’re preaching and so no-one will buy it. Generally in any debate the more confident person will have the upper hand.
Generally you should try and be as impressive yourself as possible. This will firstly make the person listening to you think ‘these viewpoints have worked for this person, so maybe they will have similar value to me’; but additionally it will also increase their desire to impress you and to align themselves with you which is a natural human behaviour.
Hold Your Cards
While the other person should be now nervously trying to impress you, you need to give nothing away about your position and try not to get emotionally involved. When haggling or discussing a price point, it is generally believed that the first person to speak will be the loser – so don’t feel a need to fill silences. Speak slowly, be patient, and let their own fluster force them into split decisions under pressure.
Bring it All Together
So if we were writing a sales pitch we would try and bring all of these different techniques together. That would mean opening with a powerful, evocative statement that addressed the reader, before asking them questions and promising more information later on. We’d then go on to use universal facts and build on these in order to make our point, before getting to our conclusion. We’d then ask them a related question that would get them to challenge their established beliefs themselves and fill in the ‘blanks’. We’d go on to explain in more detail while appealing to statistics and higher authorities – before demonstrating our own success and confidence. We’d be positive and flattering throughout, and we’d end on a powerful statement that would stick in their mind and maybe even be controversial or evocative.