Mastering the Art of Persuasion
You aren’t likely to get your way with strong-arm tactics or guilt trips.
Everyone has little tactics for getting what he or she wants. Some use seduction, others beg, while there are those who use plain-old intimidation. But you don’t have to resort to unseemly methods to get your way. According to Michael Lee, author of How to Be an Expert Persuader in 20 Days or Less, “The power of persuasion rests on getting people to do what you want willingly, resulting in a win-win scenario for everyone involved.” Can’t get your employees to meet deadlines or your husband to walk the dog? Then these 10 secrets are for you.
1. Start things off on their behalf.
“People are more likely to be persuaded to complete a task if it’s already been started for them,” says Steve Martin, coauthor of the bestselling book Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive. Next time the dishes need to get done, try cleaning the silverware, then asking if your partner wouldn’t mind finishing the job.
2. Use the magic word “imagine.”
I know it’ll be a late night, but can you imagine how relieved we’ll be if we get the job done before going home? This tactic paints a vivid picture in the person’s mind of the pleasure if she/he does—or the pain if she/he doesn’t—do what you asked, says Lee.
3. Stress their losses.
Can’t pry your hubby away from Sunday sports for a trip to the beach? No problem. Rather than guilting him into it with complaints about needing more “quality time” together, remind him that he’s passing on one of the last days of summer. “We’re more persuaded by the thought of losing something than the thought of gaining,” says Martin.
4. Be the first to give.
People are psychologically conditioned to return a favor, says Martin. And, instinctually, we’ve known this one all along—i.e., if you buy the first round of drinks, they’ll buy the second. So think of doing the initial good deed as an investment, explains Lee. “In turn, people will feel compelled to do things for you.”
5. Ask for more than you need.
“People feel a sense of guilt when they refuse a request,” Lee says. “If the second request (a.k.a. the real request) is something they can afford to comply with, then they’ll grab the opportunity,” says Lee. This is a tactic kids know well: Can we go to Six Flags? No? OK, so how about the pool? “The second request gives freedom of choice, like an escape route,” Lee says. They’ll feel relieved, and you get what you want.
6. Make them laugh.
“If you want to be more persuasive, work on your sense of humor,” says Lee. And so does British comedian John Cleese of Monty Python fame, who once said: “If I can get you to laugh with me, you like me better, which makes you more open to my ideas. And, if I can persuade you to laugh at a particular point that I make, by laughing at it you acknowledge it as true.” Classic comedian mentality, but he’s also right: People generally laugh at things when, for one reason or another, they identify with them, explains Lee.
7. Drop the “I” for “we.”
“Studies have shown that the reassurance of ‘we’ is more productive in persuading people to compromise than other approaches,” says Martin, including the threatening approach (If you don’t do this, I will) and the rational approach (You should do this for the following reasons). The use of “we” immediately conveys a sense of belonging, commonality and support: We’ve worked through this before; we can work through it again.
8. Rely on the majority.
Energy reduction studies show that households are more likely to reduce their energy consumption if they see their more energy-efficient neighbors’ utility bills. “When persuading, point to evidence of what others like the person you are trying to persuade are doing,” Martin says. After all, when making decisions on our own, he explains, we likely survey the scene for reassurance anyway.
9. Use the positive labeling technique.
“You did a fantastic job with this—I’m sure you’ll do even better next time.” One of the most powerful principles of persuasion rests on a person’s need to remain consistent with his past actions, Lee explains. “People are more likely to be persuaded to behave in certain ways if they have acted that way before—and it has been noticed,” adds Martin.
10. Time your request.
“Sometimes, it’s not what you ask for but when you ask for it,” says Martin. People are most persuadable immediately after thanking someone, and at their most persuasive after being thanked, so it’s the perfect time to ask for a favor: My pleasure. In fact, I was hoping you might be able to help me out with something, too.