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Methods of persuasion: Getting people to do what you want

7 Mins

Whether you are trying to finalise a deal or motivate your team, we asked four leading experts from different fields for their advice on persuasion and getting people on your side.

Make it personal and emotional

Phillip Adcock, commercial psychologist and author of Master Your Brain: Training your Mind for Success in Life, explained: “A way to get people to do what you want is to give your brain a roadmap of the influence you wish to generate. In simple terms, what do you want someone else to do? More importantly, why do you want them to do it?

“Your response to why needs to be emotional. That’s the language your brain understands and responds to. For example, you flex your powers of persuasion to change the business structure to improve cost effectiveness and efficiency. But why do you want to do this, emotionally? It could be because you need more certainty about the safety and future of your family. Or making the business more profitable will strengthen your significance.

“Although you can use words like cost effectiveness and efficiency, they aren’t emotional – to you or the people you are saying them to.

“Emotional persuasion is 3,000 times more effective than rational argument. The emotional part of the brain is faster than the more modern reasoning areas inside your mind. So if you link what you want others to do emotionally to something they will connect with emotionally, they are much more likely to comply with your wishes.”

It’s all about consistency and engagement

According to Ben Ryan, Olympic title holder, Rugby Sevens coach and speaker in the Thought Expansion Network: “If you create an environment that causes any level of disengagement, then you aren’t going to get someone to do what you want them to do. The way you lead, the tools you use and the physical and mental environment you create can all impact on this.

“For good. For bad. I’m sure you are all aware of the various leadership styles and what they lead to, but ultimately you need to be consistent and in whatever environment you are working in, create psychological safety for your people.

“A badly judged email or review can destroy a person’s feeling of belonging or purpose in a second. Its fine to mould your leadership to your strengths, but it also needs to allow for the environment you are working in and also for creating a place that people feel they can flourish. Make sure you check that what you are doing is still making everyone feel like they contribute and have a level of autonomy. Recognise achievements.

“Whenever new technology or tools are used ensure they don’t interfere with that feeling of security or that it lessens their status. It can. It’s often that you are doing no one thing badly wrong, but have small improvements across all of these areas that have not been noticed. Eventually this becomes a big problem and seriously affects productivity, so stay self-aware and proactive.”

Never underestimate kindness and integrity

Sebastian Salicru, leadership development expert and author of Leadership Results: How to Create Adaptive Leaders and High-performing Organisations for an Uncertain World, opines: “Always be generous and gracious to others, and learn what makes them tick. Never react negatively, impulsively or out of frustration towards them.

“This robs you of your persuasion power and puts them in the driver’s seat as they learn your weaknesses. Regulate negative emotions and vent them with someone you trust (e.g. a friend or a mentor). This will enable you to be polite, sociable and benevolent at all times. Everyone feels compelled to comply to those who show kindness, courtesy, compassion and good deposition.

“Always show courage, bravery and perseverance by displaying emotional strengths, not to mention willingness to achieve your goals even the in the face of adversity. Never shrink from threat, challenge or difficulty. Always keep your promises and commitments by being your word and acting with integrity.

“Show strengths of character by speaking up and acting on your convictions – what you believe is right, your values and your truth. This will afford you a great reputation, and the admiration and support of others.”

Choice is the answer

Philip Cox-Hynd, change implementation specialist and author of Mindfulness and the Art of Change by Choice, suggested: “When my kids were small I would try to get them to go for a walk with me on Sunday afternoons. It used to start with me asking if they wanted to go. Uhmm, stay in the warm house by the TV, or go for a walk outside?

“I then changed tack. I’d turn off the TV and say, ‘we’re going for a walk, do you want your red wellies or your blue wellies?’ The sense of choice was usually enough to mask the embedded command. It worked, if only for a few weeks! The same principle is true with adults. When you put a team together to achieve something collaborative, state the thing that has to be done and the choices around how to get the desired outcome.

“Stating what can’t be changed, and has to be achieved will provide the ‘red lines’ or framework for the task that needs doing. This process of setting boundaries, then inviting and listening to answers and empowering people to deliver, is a powerful persuasion tool. As the individuals within the team are listened to, drawn out, their ideas considered, they start to find their own choices.

“A favourite phase of mine is this: ‘Within every apparent no-choice situation, there is always a choice. The trick is to discover it and not have it imposed’.”

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