There are many reasons why you might want to persuade someone to do something, and many times that you might need to. Children are the artful manipulators in the use of persuasion and bring wheedling, needling, tantrums, cajoling, charm and guilt-tripping to bear on the matter, when all the parents have in their arsenal is the word ‘no’. But no upstanding adult has the desire to fall back on this childish approach, surely?
Well, maybe sometimes we are sorely tempted, and isn’t turning the subject up to the boil with an angry spat the quickest, sharpest way to get your persuasive edge to cut to the quick? Unfortunately not as a general rule. We do have to be as creative as children in our attempts to bring our case to the table but our real success lies in our ability to understand how the power of persuasion actually works.
Whether it’s negotiating with an aggressor in a war zone or a child in a sweet shop, what you are not doing is trying to coerce them. It has to be to the benefit of them and you, not just you. And helping them to see why it is a benefit is the real art. Start by identifying those who will come round to your way of thinking pretty easily. They probably share a similar mindset and references. It won’t take much to swing their vote. The others who are entrenched in their own persuasions will take longer. It takes time. And patience. Think of segregation in America. Dr Martin Luther King was a great persuader. “I have a Dream…” He already had black people on side because they were suffering the degradation he was trying to change. Then he got the white folk who knew it was wrong and that it was time to do something about it. Then it was those who hadn’t really thought about it but recognized now when confronted with it, that it was wrong. And then those who felt guilty but went with the flow; afraid to rock the boat. Then those who found it inconvenient to change but saw they were beginning to stand out as the bad guys. And then the laws changed and the staunch resisters had to come on board. Slowly some of those got the immorality of segration and their minds shifted. And then there are those left behind whose racism is so deeply ingrained that perhaps they will never see the light. But the fighters of the cause will never give up trying to find a chink in their armor. Because in the end it benefits everyone, for humanity to work together.
When you start with passion, honesty, integrity and compassion, you are in a better position to offer a solution to a problem in a way that people are more likely to listen to with an open mind. As Oprah Winfrey says: “Align your personality with your Purpose” and you and everyone else will be clear about who you are and where you are coming from. Come at people aggressively or sneakily and their shackles will rise, their defenses will shift up a gear. People don’t listen when they feel attacked or manipulated. If you genuinely believe in your case then your best chance is to tread lightly and slowly. The same goes if someone is trying to sell something. Traditional selling-methods leave a bad taste in our mouths. We are highly attuned to the Pitch. We know the pattern. But nevertheless we get drawn in, flirted with, flattered, then bam, here comes the left hook and their hand is in your wallet. As much as you know it, hate it and resist it, the cunning salesperson is in there with a sledgehammer. And there you are, having bought something you don’t want. Or you’ve spent more than you can afford. That’s not the ethics of persuasion we are interested in. You must believe that the other person will be better placed, if they choose to take your proposal on board.
And you don’t know if they will benefit unless you become consistently invested in them. Know what they like, be interested in what they do, be curious about their values, needs, habits, dreams and goals. Understand what makes them tick. Engage with them on a regular basis. Celebrate their triumphs and commiserate in their disappointments. Help them climb over their hurdles and through their battles. Let them test your integrity and authenticity. Let them challenge your convictions and beliefs. Let them try your patience. Let them see you walk in congruity to your beliefs and talk in tandem to your actions. For, as in building any relationship, they must have evidence of your solidarity to your word. Be a leader by shining example not by blunt instrument. See how slowly persuasion grows in potency over time and context. And through persistence you grow trust in those you wish to follow you, get to know you, befriend you and become loyal to you. With small gestures of good will, meted out in genuine tokens of generosity and kindness, you open them up to you and to your ideas and solutions. When you ask them to help you in return it touches their human need to reciprocate and they will do what they can, if they can. (TIP: read ”Influence” by Robert Cialdini)
In the digital age where so much is available for free, we must tap into the free exchange. Some people are still afraid to offer giveaways but as social media marketeer www.SharonLavenia.com says on Julie Hall’s Expert Ways series “If that is all you have, then you are in serious trouble.” It is easy to give free stuff. It helps people to like you and then when you have something to offer that they need, your levels of persuasion need only be gentle; they are already with you in spirit and they will pay because it suits them to. If you panic into high velocity persuasion tactics it turns people off, they think you are in it for the quick buck, not because you do what you do out of passion and conviction. Consider Abraham Lincoln, who lost his mother, three sons, a sister, his girlfriend, failed in business and lost eight separate elections before he was elected president of the United States. People voted for him because he believed in what he promised and he never swayed from his path, no matter what rocks were hurled at him. People stood behind him because he had the strength to persevere and the tenacity to hold firm. His conduct was his conduit to his followers. He stayed constant and true to his values and he attracted those who recognized and aligned themselves to that. He validated those people and their concerns and dreams.
“I have talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 people had one thing in common: They all wanted validation… I would tell you that every single person you will ever meet shares that common desire.” Oprah Winfrey
When we lay out our table with what we can provide in a motivating, invigorating, refreshing and trustworthy way, we draw people to us. But when we validate them; by being aware of their feelings, recognizing their needs, respecting their values, accepting their rights, by showing we think they are important, we honor them and that counts for everything. We have no need to second-guess what they want, we just have to stay consistently congruent to the path we have created with their validation in our line of sight. When we transgress that silent agreement, we create a cesspit of calamity. Look what happened to Volkswagon. They had generations of loyal followers, they stayed true to their purpose; they gave ‘cars for the people’. And then they blew it by secretly tampering with the clean diesel regulation tests in the US. Decades of unbroken belief in the brand were brutally severed in an instant. They torched trust and time-honored affection. They stepped off their path in pursuit of profit and their world and everything they built came tumbling down. It will take a very long time and creative understanding to gently bring back customers into the fold. They have to start again, under-promising but over-delivering. They have to open the vaults of Volkswagon’s values to scrutiny and skepticism. They have to rebuild relationships and rapport, one customer at a time. Betrayal is the enemy of persuasion, and humility and honesty will from now on be Volkwagon’s only friends.
Our words, actions and images are the prisms through which people view our mission and so they must reflect the essence of our message and our authority. It creates a consensus of people who have confidence and certainty in us. They know that what we offer is right for them and that we won’t let them down, to the best of our ability. Communication is key and where there is conflict we must bring calm and conviction. Anger and armies must be the last resort, used when all else has failed and only in a short, sharp, shock treatment. Years of war just wear people down, only dribbling to inconclusive misunderstandings, resentments, disharmony and never-ending eruptions of discontent and violence. Humanity owes it to itself to constantly fight for peaceful persuasion no matter how long it takes.
And in our daily lives, at home and at work, we must know ourselves first and then make it our life’s work to know, understand and relate to others. When we do it honorably, people will invest their belief in us. The world will always be a land of negotiation, a place where we jostle for scarce space, shelter, food, warmth, love. But the power of persuasion helps us interact, evolve and grow with, and around each other, in the pursuit of creating better lives.
If you want to know more about the influence and persuasion watch this fun video.
If you want help with your persuasive techniques go visit Bushra Azhar at
Or if you want to work with me to get more creative in how you run your life, your business or your organization, contact me to find out more on Lou@createlab.co.uk
Follow my daily uplifting Picture Posts on Twitter @createlab Instagram create_lab Facebook Lou hamilton