Have you ever met someone who could persuade you to do whatever they wanted? I have, and I've always wished for this seemingly unattainable ability.
There are a plethora of books and college courses that all claim to hold the keys to persuasion. They are useful resources for learning how to persuade, but they tend to overcomplicate the issue and ignore practical methods of communicating effectively with people.
To be more persuasive, you don't have to be a master salesman with boundless confidence. You simply need to pay more attention to the fundamentals in order to tip the scales in your favor.
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1. Make your words as powerful as possible
The pitch itself should be full of words that elicit a response. You can easily accomplish this by framing your statements around key phrases.
For example, the phrase “car accident” conjures up images of a wide range of vehicle collisions. However, if you're trying to persuade someone to buy car insurance, you're not going to tell them that there are thousands of car accidents every day. You'll claim that thousands of people are killed in car accidents every day.
“Death” is a more powerful word than “accident,” and advertisers use this method all the time to persuade people to buy their products.
Here are some more words that are said to be the most persuasive in English.
2. Dress up, but don't talk down to anyone
Even if no one is around to see you, wearing nice clothes can help you maintain your confidence. The unintended consequence of being the best-dressed person in the room is that you may speak down to or be condescending to those who are actually superior to you.
This is a common trap to fall into because when we believe we have the upper hand in a conversation, we are more likely to patronize the other person by saying things like, “Oh, well, let me explain this to you.” It's really quite straightforward.” The problem is that if it isn't simple or if you're not communicating effectively, you've already lost them.
Remember that the person you're pitching to is in a position of authority over you. They have the authority to say “no.” You obviously don't want them to realize this because you need to keep control of the conversation, but talking down to someone is like challenging them to a game you don't want to play. Keep in mind that there is a fine line between arrogance and assertiveness.
3. Concentrate on the future
Using the future tense to establish confidence is a great way to do so. It lets the other person know you're moving forward and ready to follow through on your promises.
You can easily accomplish this by abusing the word will. Phrases like “We will” and “Then we'll do this” will accustom the person to the idea that this will happen.
However, don't be pushy. Try not to make decisions for the other person, but rather to discuss the possibilities and consequences of possible decisions.
4. Make yourself unavailable
People desire what they are unable to obtain. Make it clear that the offer you're making to them isn't going to last forever, and they'll miss out.
This is especially effective if you are selling a product. A common tactic for offloading new products is to intentionally make them scarce and rare, which causes people to think, “Get it now while you can!”
You can find a great resource on the psychology of scarcity here.
5. Select the best medium for your pitch
You're attempting to persuade someone to do something they most likely do not want to do (yet). This means that creating a favorable environment for your pitch is critical.
Investigate the individual and learn how they prefer to communicate. Simply asking them if they prefer to talk on the phone rather than send an email can go a long way, as long as you give them some options.
I've even encountered people who prefer texting to face-to-face communication. Keep this in mind as you select a medium that is centered on them rather than you.
6. Speak to them in their language
Finishing someone else's sentence is a bad habit to develop. This is due to the fact that you are interjecting your own “speak” into their independent thoughts.
Who wants to feel as if they are being invaded?
Pay close attention to how the person speaks and how they carry themselves. Choose your own strategy accordingly. Do they deviate from jargon? You should as well. Do they crack jokes and use prepositions at the end of their sentences? Match it with your own laid-back style.
Body language should also be effectively matched. If they prefer to talk with their hands, this indicates that their preferred mode of communication is active, and it is therefore beneficial for you to do the same. If their language is reserved and closed off (arms closed, for example), you know to avoid gestures that would make them feel uneasy.
This technique is also useful for addressing large groups of people. Try to get a sense of the atmosphere in the room and observe what makes people react positively to what you say. Learn what works and put it to use.
7. Avoid using fillers in your sentences
When you allow “um” or “uh” to interrupt your speech, you lose credibility with the person to whom you are speaking. It won't even matter if what you're saying is important.
Allow your speech to flow and be clear. The best way to accomplish this is to practice your speech at home or to think for a second before speaking.
8. Do something nice for them
You probably said something nice to your parents before asking them for something when you were a kid. Even at a young age, we recognize that people are more likely to assist us if they are repaying a favor we have done for them.
This is something you can do before you even pitch anything. If you begin a networking relationship by doing someone a favor, that person is more likely to work with you later on.
You should return the favor because you never know what people are saying about you. As an uninvited favor, I once recommended a fantastic website on this site. The person who received this favor was so grateful for the increase in sales that they sent me free merchandise. I didn't ask for it, and they didn't have to, but it solidified a friendship that could lead to more mutual benefits in the future.
9. You must be a master of timing
This is related to getting to know the person to whom you are pitching. Investigate them and determine the best time to speak with them.
Some busy executives, for example, are swamped at the start of the week and mentally check out on Friday. This means that Thursday might be the best day to approach someone you want to persuade.
This is easier to do if you're trying to persuade a friend or loved one because you know them better. Choose the right time to talk to them, and your chances of success will skyrocket.
10. Express your point of view with reluctance
You want the other person to trust you. You've got all the answers, but how did you get there?
Discuss your previous beliefs and your current beliefs. Use your own learning experience as a story for them to follow. You are pacing the conversation/pitch and assuring the person that this will work for them by doing so.
11. Restate what they have said
Demonstrate that you are listening to and acknowledging the thoughts and feelings of the person with whom you are conversing. You can confirm their position by simply saying,
“If I understand you correctly, you believe this is significant because of XY and Z. That is correct, and I believe AB and C.”
Believe me, this is useful even when you are not addressing the alphabet.
12. Work with your emotions
Allow your emotional reactions, such as enthusiasm and excitement, to emerge naturally during the conversation. Don't overwhelm the person with zeal that they don't yet feel.
In many cases, you should wait until the end of your pitch to begin sprinkling in emotion and passion. This ensures that it appears genuine and logically founded on what has already been said.
Starting the conversation on an upbeat but relaxed note is a good rule of thumb. As you begin to discuss the subject at hand, you will gradually become more excited and passionate about what you are discussing. This way, the individual will not feel like they are being “worked.” Instead, they will believe you are doing them a favor.
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