Whether we realize it or not, we use persuasive techniques every day to get the things we want by influencing others. While it may seem like some people are born to charm their way through life, persuading others with an enviable ease, the whole shebang at its heart is a science — something that anyone can learn to master with enough practice. If you’re looking to brush up your persuasion skills, whether to get your foot in the door at a business, sell a product, or even get a promotion, here are some tricks and tips that can help give you that desirable silver tongue. Backed up by loads of social science research, these techniques are sure to give you an edge in any negotiation or debate.
Reciprocity is a powerful force in our society and one that can be used to sway others. Doing a favor for someone you want to persuade can help to put them in your debt, and may make them more willing to help you out in the future. One study found that waiters who gave diners mints before they placed the bill on the table got consistently more tips than those who didn’t.
When others see you as being more trustworthy, they’ll be much more likely to go along with what you’re trying to persuade them to do, whether it’s hire you or buy what you’re selling. It may sound counterintuitive, but studies have confirmed the validity of admitting weakness. One such study sent out identical resumes with different cover letters, with one of the letters admitting a weakness. The honest cover letter-resume combo received many more call backs than the other which focused only on the positives.
Most people who are looking for a job highlight only what employers have to gain by hiring them, but research supports the importance of also pointing out what others stand to lose in a deal. Potential losses actually create a bigger impact than potential gains in the decision-making process, so no matter what you’re trying to convince others to do, show both sides of the coin.
Humans are highly social animals, and we often make decisions based on the actions and beliefs of others. For instance, hotel guests are more likely to reuse their towels if they are shown a message stating that many others are already doing this, rather than one that promotes the environmental aspects of reuse alone. For those in the working world, testimonials and recommendations can be powerful factors in helping others to make decisions.
Likeability is often a key factor in winning people over and studies have shown time and again that one of the key factors in influencing how much a person likes another is how many similarities they share. So if you’re seeking to persuade, take time to find out about the other person’s interests and determine what common ground you two may share.
Sometimes effectively persuading someone comes in baby steps, and getting them to stay yes to something small can lead to a greater chance that they’ll be on board with a larger idea in the future. A study on this phenomenon found that homeowners who agreed to place a small sign in their windows asking drivers to slow down were much more likely to agree to put a larger, more obtrusive sign in their yards later on than those who were not asked to display the smaller sign.
No one wants to be seen as inconsistent or a flip-flopper, and you may be able to use this to your advantage when trying to persuade. Highlight the past opinions and behaviors of others to encourage them to behave in a way that’s consistent with those positions or actions. However, if you want to get people to change from past behaviors, reinforce that circumstances have changed and that it’s natural to have different opinions in the present.
You’re not likely to influence anyone unless you have a smile on your face, but that smile has to be authentic. Humans are masters at detecting a fake smile. A genuine smile makes you more likeable, trustworthy, and ultimately more successful at convincing others.
Want your writing and speech to be the most persuasive? Keep it simple. Studies have shown that writing is much more persuasive when penned at the eighth grade level, even with those who are capable of understanding much more complex language. Simplicity makes things easy to understand and easy to remember, and is a highly effective tool in getting your way.
Even if there are negative aspects of what you’re trying to persuade others to do, spinning these elements as positive helps create a more overall positive view. Take this study as an example. Researchers created three different ads, one playing up a restaurant’s cozy atmosphere, one simply advertising the restaurant but mentioning its lack of parking spaces, and one combing both the cozy aspect and the lack of parking. The third was the most positively viewed, as the participants felt the lack of parking made the restaurant even cozier.
When given a choice, people will most often choose the middle-of-the-road option. If you want to influence someone to choose what you want them to, sandwich your choice between two more extreme choices. Chances are good that they’ll pick the middle option.
12. Employ “because”
One of the most powerful words in the persuasion arsenal is “because.” Studies have shown that this simple word can make almost any explanation seem rational. In one study, a researcher experimented with jumping the line at Kinko’s. In one case, the researcher said, “Can I jump the line because I’m in a rush?” Ninety-four percent of people complied. In another, the researcher asked “Can I jump the line because I need to make copies?” Ninety-three percent of people complied, despite the reason being the same as everyone else who was waiting in line.
No matter how tech-dependent we become, face time will always trump e-mail or phone time when it comes to persuasion. It builds personal relationships, trust, and understanding in ways that take much longer to accomplish over long-distance methods of communication. One study found that people who met face-to-face before being asked to come up with a solution to a disagreement were five times as likely to come to a resolution.
14. Repeat yourself
When trying to persuade, saying things once sometimes doesn’t cut it. While you want to be concise, research shows that you’ll be most persuasive when you repeat that shorter message over time, in different ways.
While we like to think that the decisions we make are always logical, the reality is that even when we think we’re being logical, much of our decision making is based on emotion. Logical arguments are key to persuading others, but you need to make your audience not only think, but feel your message. The right balance will make you infinitely more persuasive.
16. Make it pretty
Most people have pretty short attention spans when it comes to listening to any kind of persuasive spiel. That’s why it can be a big help to create visual aids to go along with your presentation. Not only will it draw interest, but help people understand and remember your ideas as well.
You might think that only focusing on the virtues of your point of view would be the best way to bring someone over to your side, but studies show that in actuality, people opposed to an idea are much more likely to be persuaded to an opposing position when they are presented with both sides of an issue. For the best results, present both sides and both pros and cons of your view.
18. Tell stories
There is a reason that politicians tell stories about everyday Americans they’ve met on their travels. These kinds of stories are relatable, make an idea or a concept real, and build a rapport, helping sell any platform a politician is running on. Borrow this tactic for your own negotiations for much more persuasive speech.
Few things will sell an idea or a product better than confidence. Help bolster your confidence by practicing your pitch ahead of time and preparing for any questions and concerns that could arise. More preparation often means more confidence, and thus, better results.
Adding a personal touch to something can often make others more motivated to respond and agree to it. One study showed that adding a simple handwritten sticky note to a questionnaire made recipients twice as likely to respond to it. So going the extra mile can really pay off when it comes to persuasion.
21. Label people
Generally, labeling people isn’t a good thing to do, but it can be useful when you’re trying to persuade, provided you keep the labels positive. Labeling people into a social group can actually increase participation, as one study found. Those who were told they were more likely to vote because they were labeled as politically active were actually, after the study, 15% more likely to vote than those who were not labeled. The same tactics may just work with anything you’re trying to sell or promote.
22. Ask and validate
You can help improve the persuasiveness of your conversation abilities by employing two tactics. First, ask others about their own goals, beliefs, and desires. Try to understand where they are coming from. Later, repeat this point of view and validate it. This will make others much more likely to listen to what you have to say, build trust, and can be incredibly persuasive.
23. Use “but” wisely
In any statement using “but,” listeners tend to focus more on what follows the key word instead of what precedes it. That’s why it’s important to make the final part of any “but” sentence the positive part, as that’s what listeners will remember.
The most effective way to get people to follow through on what they’ve agreed to do after you’ve gone through all that persuading? Make sure the commitment employs these three elements. If nothing else, get commitment in writing, as one study found participants nearly three times as likely to show up when they were required to fill out a form rather than just orally commit.
25. Employ authority
People are much more likely to go along with the advice of an expert or an authority than the average layman. Studies have shown that people are much more likely to do something, even if they’re uncomfortable with it, if they’re being encouraged to do so by an authority figure or an expert.
Want to motivate people to go your way? Give them an incentive. Many don’t realize the power that an incentive can have, especially in business. Take this study for example. Researchers advertised a new car wash with incentive cards, one that gave a free wash after seven visits and one that was free after ten, with three free stamps on the card. Those who got the free stamps, despite needing the same amount of paid washes, were much more likely to come back.
Sometimes, a simple change in wording can make a statement much more persuasive. Need an example? Compare the old standard, “Operators are waiting, please call now,” to “If operators are busy, please call again.” One implies that the operators aren’t busy, while the other implies a high demand for the product. It’s all about phrasing, and it can make a big difference in the success or failure of your persuasive abilities.
Decisions are context dependent, so the tactics that work in one situation may not work in another. You need to tailor your technique to your audience by learning a bit about their situation, needs, and desires. Do this wisely, and you’re much more likely to see success.
While you don’t want to outright copy someone else, mirroring behavior and ideas of another person can help you to see more likeable, trustworthy, and accessible. One of the most common ways to do this is to adapt your language, picking up on words, speeds, pitch and volume of the other person’s speech. It takes some practice, but can help to build a strong rapport and ease persuasion.
People are much more motivated to make a decision, and often the one you want them to make, when they are given the impression that they must act now if they want something or that there is a chance that they might not get what they want. That’s precisely why sales terms like “exclusive access” or “limited time” are so effective.
This article was first posted on OnlineMBA.com.