How to persuade people without pressuring them

In both their personal lives and in work, successful people are persuasive people. Can you convince people to see things your way or do things they might not really want to do? You can, when you follow a few basic principles.

  • Engage your ears before engaging your mouth.
    Persuading people is really about give and take and that means listening, learning and negotiating. The best way to persuade people to accept your point of view is:

    1) Listen to them first to understand their point of view.

    2) Then put forward your great idea in a way that takes what’s important to them into account, and

    3) Then listen to their thoughts about your idea.

    When you listen first, you can state your case in terms of the other person’s viewpoint, their concerns and desires and describe it in a way that highlights your proposal’s advantages to them. Benefits persuade.

  • Don’t expect to always get your way.
    Unless you’re a body builder with big stick in your hands, you’ll seldom get your way straight away! Convincing people to climb aboard and cooperate whole-heartedly takes time, and usually involves talking things through and compromising.
  • Think long term, and stay flexible.
    Use these four good ways to persuade:

    1.  If … Then… If you will do this, then you’ll get that thing you want. We use this with children all the time: If you finish your vegetables, you can have some ice cream. It works with grown ups, too. If you could give me that information by this afternoon, I’ll be able to finish my report and then I can spend some time showing you how to [do this thing I know you want to learn].

    2.  Present your ideas as a modification to the status quo rather than as a radical changePeople generally accept adjustments and small changes more readily than big changes.

    3.  Keep at it. Far from breeding contempt, familiarity breeds acceptance. Just as unfamiliar ideas produce negative reactions, the more people are exposed to an idea, the more positively they feel about it.

    4.  Make sure the person is in a good mood to get a more positive response to your ideas. Every teenager knows that one – or they should!

  • Make sure the person you’re trying to persuade likes you and sees you as credible.
    It’s easier to persuade people when you have a good relationship with them. This means they see you as trustworthy and similar to themselves in terms of the values you share and what you consider important.

    When the person you’re trying to persuade knows that you have relevant experience, expertise and knowledge, they’re more likely to listen to your point of view and take it on board.

  • Use emotion.
    People accept ideas, to some extent, based on emotional factors. That means you need to connect emotionally with the people you’re trying to convince. One way to do this is to show that you are emotionally committed to what you’re proposing. (Not too emotional, or people will doubt your objectivity and level-headedness!)

    Your heart as well as your head needs to be behind your proposal — when you’re not a believer, no one else will be, either.

  • Collect your thoughts.
    Don’t just start chatting and hope for the best. Think through what you want to say and how you want to say it. There are a couple of important points here:

    1.  Explain why as well as what and fill people in on any background information they may not have realised. This helps them see things from your point of view and understand things as you understand them.

    2. Use vivid language so the other person can really see and feel what you’re on about. This helps your ideas hit home.

  • Forget the ‘hard-sell’.
    It’s pushy and invites resistance. Railroading people or making a strong, loud, logical argument in favour of your case without taking into account their thinking won’t convince anyone.

    Softly does it. Present your case so that it takes the other person’s position and ideas into account.

Discussion questions

How much more could you achieve by using the information in this blog to help you persuade people without ruffling their feathers? What other techniques are you aware of that help persuade people to another person’s ideas?



Does anyone make you see red?

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.

Carl Jung, psychiatrist (1875 – 1961)

If you lead people, you need a robust emotional intelligence (EI). Without EI, you don’t have a clue about how others might be feeling or your effect on them and their attitudes and behaviour. And without a solid EI, you don’t understand your own feelings and emotions and find it hard to control them. As a result, your ability to communicate suffers and so do your relationships with the people you live and work with.

Let’s drill into that third aspect of EI, understanding your own emotions, and in particular, understanding what makes you ‘see red’, and why.

We’ll start with a given: Naturally, you don’t want to be lazy, rude, selfish and so on. Yet, as a human being, you have the capacity to behave in any of these ways–we all do. Even though we know we shouldn’t.

And so, rather than admit that you have one of these all-too-human faults, you attach that fault to others. He’s lazy. She’s rude. They’re selfish. But unless others agree, it could mean you’re attaching your own behaviour to someone else. As William Thackeray, the English novelist said:

The world is a looking glass and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face.

Psychologists call this projection. You do it whenever you attach a characteristic to another person that you possess. These are often negative qualities you don’t want to own up to: rather than admit you have a loathsome fault, whatever it may be, it’s easier on the ego to point the finger at someone else (which leaves three fingers pointing back at you–try it!).

The next time you find yourself really, really, really annoyed by someone when no one else is, that annoying person may be, almost certainly unwittingly, highlighting a characteristic about yourself that you’d really, reallyreally rather ignore. And that means you should check it out!

Discussion questions

What do other people do that regularly and deeply annoys you? What characteristics and behaviours do you strongly dislike in others? The answers offer a powerful hint that you need to look in the mirror. Chances are, you’ve spotted something you dislike about yourself. Intense irritation gives us all some important information about ourselves.

Tax avoidance—legal, but ethical?

Who wants to pay more tax? No one. I think it’s fair to say that most people, including the body corporate, want to pay as little tax as possible. And it’s probably also fair to say that most of us want to pay as little tax as possible legally–not just within the letter of the law but also within the spirit of the law.

That’s possibly where ethics comes into play—where we draw the line between the letter and the spirit of the law.

Take that apple of the techie’s eyes, Apple Inc., for instance. From 2009 to 2012, it avoided paying US $44 billion in taxes—including tax on product sales in Australia. Legally, of course.

Let’s say you spend $6 on an apple that cost $1 to produce. The store that sells you that apple has ‘purchased’ the apple from another apple store in Ireland for $5.50, leaving the Australian seller the meager profit of 50 cents (on which to pay tax) and the Irish ‘seller’ the lion’s share of the profit (on which to pay tax). (Of course, that apple never was in Ireland; in fact it was produced in China and shipped directly to Australia.)

Now, why would an apple producer want such a convoluted set up? Because it saves them paying a lot of tax: 12.5% in Ireland vs 35% in the US and 30% in Australia. And the savings add up fast.

Of course, governments collude in allowing this to happen and not surprisingly, lots of global companies take advantage of tax loopholes, including Amazon, General Electric, Google, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, MasterCard, Microsoft and Pfizer pharmaceuticals.

All very confusing, and all very legal. But is it right?

Discussion questions

Where do you draw the line between following the letter of the law and the spirit of the law? Where do you think a corporation should draw that line? Which stakeholder groups do you take into account when deciding where that line is? What, if any, is the relationship between, say, ensuring humane working conditions in overseas suppliers and paying the ‘right’ amount of taxes?

Using an apple to illustrate the sustainability challenge

My friend Matthew Coxhill has a dramatic exercise he adapted from Resources of California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. It uses an apple to show just how much of the Earth’s surface is available to grow food to feed the world’s (growing) population.

Try it yourself. (Then eat the apple.)

  1. Take a knife and an apple. The apple represents the earth.
  2. Slice the apple into quarters; put aside three of the quarters, as they represent water on the Earth’s surface. (And please be careful as you cut up the apple–I don’t want any cut fingers out there!)
  3. Cut the remaining quarter of the apple in half; put aside one of the halves as uninhabited deserts and the Arctic and Antarctic areas. 
  4. Cut the remaining piece into quarters; put aside three of these pieces for land that is too rocky, wet, hot or poor for crop production.
  5. Peel the remaining part of the apple (1/32nd of the whole apple). The peel represents the thin layer of soil that is available for producing all of the world’s food crops.

This shows just how fragile our relationship with the earth is. Even soil isn’t an infinite resource; it’s a resource we need to nurture and protect so that the planet we live on can continue to grow the food we need.

Discussion questions

How can your workplace help protect the natural resources in your area? What initiatives are you aware of to protect your area’s natural resources?

Cyber crime risks increasing

Australia’s 2012 Cyber Crime and Security Report, commissioned by the national computer emergency response team, CERT Australia, and conducted by the University of Canberra, was released in February 2013. More than 20% of the 255 organisations surveyed reported a ‘cyber incident’, including denial-of-service attacks, financial fraud, loss of proprietary information and theft of critical data. Attacks involved the use of malicious software such as “ransomware” and “scareware”, and trojans — despite 90%  of respondents using anti-virus software, spam filters and firewalls, and 65% having IT security staff with tertiary qualifications. Interestingly, the report also said those who reported no cyber incidents were likely to have failed to detect them.

Alana Maurushat, academic co-director of the Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre at the University of New South Wales, says that computers are the weapon of choice when it comes to industrial espionage. She also recommends a ‘healthy disrespect’ for statistics about cyber crime and identity theft, saying they are both under-reported.

The World Economic Forum puts the risk of a cyber crime causing a major global breakdown of critical infrastructure costing more than US$250 billion at about 10%. The European Commission estimates the damage from cyber crime for business worldwide at around US$1 trillion a year. The Australian Crime Commission’s most recent figures, for 2008, estimates the cost of e-protection for Australian companies at A$1.95 billion.

Cyber attacks are not random but coordinated and targeted for financial gain; and they’re growing. Ken Gamble of the cyber-detective firm Internet Fraud Watchdog, believes Australia has a high incidence of cyber crime compared to other countries, but less protection. Thailand (population 70,000), for example, has about 200 police detectives in cyber crime units and is hiring about 800 more over the next five years, while NSW (population 7,000), with the most cyber detectives of the Australian states and territories, has about 12 detectives working in cyber crime.

Perhaps the soon-to-be-created cyber security centre, bringing together experts from CERT Australia, the Defence Signals Directorate, the Defence Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Federal Police and the Crime Commission to work with business, announced by then-Prime Minister Gillard last January, can help increase Australia’s cyber safety.

Meanwhile what is your organisation doing to protect its cyber risk?

Discussion questions

Have you carried out a proper cyber risk analysis for your organisation? Do you have robust measures to protect your organisation’s intellectual property? Do you routinely remind staff to stay vigilant so they don’t become careless or complacent regarding security matters?

Get my what out?!!

It seems a supervisor at IBM in Australia thinks a good way to increase sales is for women sales reps to ‘get their boobies out’ and a good way to motivate female sales reps is to sexually harass and bully them. The details are far too tacky to go into here and make for pretty distasteful reading (but if you really want to read the dirt, check it out here and here). When the victim spoke to management about it, she claims she was told to get back to work and never mention the allegations again.

Where are corporate dignity policies when employees need them? Not to mention management support.

The victim successfully sued IBM for $1.1m. Her manager-with-the-bad-taste eventually left IBM and is now employed elsewhere as a sales manager.

Discussion questions

Can you state your organisation’s procedure and the steps to take should an employee make an allegation of harassment?