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?