is that all-important ability to get others to do what you want them to
do because they want to do it. Maybe it takes reasoning, coaxing, explaining,
or even a plate of brownies still warm from the oven. But whatever it takes,
obviously persuasion is what's needed to make things happen, to take anything
from Point A (your idea) to Point B (others helping to advance that idea).
But, again, just ordering people around won't make it happen. In fact, that'll
probably have the opposite effect over the long run. "The three keys to
persuasion," says motivational trainer Peter Lowe, "are: Establish
rapport. Establish rapport. Establish rapport."
To build that rapport, you need to cultivate behaviors that will make people
trust you and make them feel it's in their best interest to follow your lead.
Here, then, are some ideas, big and small, for making yourself more persuasive:
Ask yourself: What do I really want? Sure, we all want security,
happiness, health, love, and fulfilling work. Digging a little deeper,
we might find further shared values, such as recognition, power, freedom,
and serving others. But what's unique to you? What do you think about
alone at three in the morning? What really resonates within your soul?
What would you, in a perfect world and freed of family, fiscal, or
geographic constraints, most like to be doing? Think about these questions
as a means of searching for your great "because."
2. Shift your focus to others. There's
an old story of a young lady who was taken
to dinner one evening by William Gladstone
and then the following evening by Benjamin
Disraeli, both eminent British statesmen
in the late nineteenth century. "When
I left the dining room after sitting next
to Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the
cleverest man in England," she said. "But
after sitting next to Mr. Disraeli, I thought
I was the cleverest woman in England." Disraeli
obviously had a knack for making the other
person the center of his universe, if only
for the evening. This may sound manipulative,
but if you practice attentiveness to others,
you'll find it does wonders for both of
you. They'll enjoy it; so will you. And
together you'll accomplish much more. So
make a conscious effort to think of others'
wants and needs before your own. Later
we'll talk in detail about what differing
personalities specifically seek. But meanwhile,
start training your mind not to focus automatically
on what separates you from the other person.
Rather, figure out what unites you, and
how you can build upon that base. Soon
such empathy will become a habit. A very
3. Be quick to compliment. This
is an ancient art fallen into disuse. A
really good, honest compliment shows that
you appreciate the person you admire. There
is no shortage of critics. But there is
a dearth of people who say nice things
when they genuinely feel them.
"Feedback," says Ken Blanchard, co-author of The One-Minute Manager
and other motivational books, "is the breakfast of champions." People
want and need to know how they're doing.
Be on the lookout for positive acts and attitudes worth noting. You'll convince
the other person that you care-and you'll convince yourself as well.
4. Train yourself to remember other people's names. The sweetest
sound, it's said, is that of your own name being spoken. And calling
others by name is an important first step toward building rapport and,
thus, persuasion. Yet names of strangers tend to flit through most of
our heads with lightning-like speed. Roger Dawson, in his book 13 Secrets
of Power Persuasion, gives numerous techniques for overcoming this problem.
One of the best: When you shake hands with a new person, note the color
of his or her eyes. That forces you to make eye contact and, after a
while, will also send a signal to your brain to store that person's name
in your short-term memory. Use the name soon afterwards, and you'll have
a lock on it. Try it!
5. Empower others. Skillful
persuaders send out the message, spoken
or unspoken, that they appreciate others'
abilities. For example, Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing
(3M), the $15-billion-a-year firm famed
for its innovation, encourages technical
people to spend 15 percent of their time
on projects of their own choosing. It also
gives employees grants of up to $50,000
to pay for prototypes or testing of their
ideas and allows employees to form companies
among themselves to develop and market
a new product. At the firm, where videotape,
Scotch tape, Post-it notes, and literally
tens of thousands of other products were
invented, leaders still utter-and follow-the
maxims of William McKnight, its legendary
leader for half a century: "Listen
to anybody with an idea."..."Encourage
experimental doodling."...and "If
you put fences around people, you get sheep;
give people the room they need."
Try to arouse positive emotion. Persuasive leaders often use drama
or play to stir up positive emotions. So try a playful gesture, such
as a light tap on the shoulder to emphasize a job well done. Or set
up an awards ceremony so good works will be publicly noted. Or write
a short note of appreciation. In other words, do something nice and
unexpected. Another way to stoke positive emotion is by trying to make
tasks exciting. Be enthusiastic. Talk up the job. Emphasize its importance.
Use stories and metaphors, which often are more motivating than reason
or statistics or duty alone.
a clue from your audience. Think of whom you're trying to persuade,
and what's the most comfortable way for them to receive messages. Elaina
Zuker, author of The Seven Secrets of Influence, tells of trying to
get the editor of a large magazine to use some of Zuker's audio cassettes
as an educational tool for the magazine's readers. She sent over the
tapes, but weeks went by without a response. The editor then asked
if Zuker could send written summaries of the tapes. At first, Zuker
mildly protested, telling the editor she already had the tapes-all
she had to do was listen to them. Finally, Zuker says, she got the
picture: The magazine editor, not surprisingly, was more at ease with
reading something than hearing it. In other words, she "saw" in
print. Zuker sent over the tape transcripts, and within two days they
had a deal. "This was a great lesson for me," Zuker wrote. "There
was nothing wrong with the content of what I presented. The audio form
was simply the wrong medium to use when dealing with a visual person." In
Chapter 8, I'll also show how different personality types often prefer
to receive material in different ways. That'll further help you match
your message to the receiver.
Hone your sense of humor. While being wheeled into the operating
room after being shot by a would-be assassin, the ever-persuasive President
Ronald Reagan got a chuckle when he wisecracked, "I hope the doctor
is a Republican." We may not all be so cool in a crisis, but we
can all profit by not taking ourselves too seriously. Humor is an infinitely
variable commodity, on the part of both the sender and the receiver.
Witness the range of comics from, say, The Three Stooges to Mort Sahl
or audiences as disparate as Shriners and anthropologists. My suggestions
for improving your sense of humor: First, find out what your strong
suit is, humor-wise. Ask a friend who'll be honest with you. Second,
research your audience. Find out who they are, what's made them laugh
previously. Third, work on your timing. Try out your best lines on
your family, friends, and associates. Fourth, if humor hasn't previously
been in your repertoire, proceed slowly. It's better to use humor sparingly
than to be remembered as a buffoon or insensitive. Fifth, sprinkle
your humor throughout your talk, not just at the beginning or end.
Sixth, make it relevant to the subject, not just a funny line you paste
onto your speech for laughs. And, last, remember that some of the best
stories are those you tell on yourself. A little mild self-deprecation
can go a long way toward making your audience feel at ease with you.
Such conversational first aid not only makes the other person or group more
persuadable, it helps you both keep your perspective. Humor not only can
be an icebreaker, but if the going is tough, to those in the trenches it
can also be an affirmation of dignity, a declaration of your collective faith
in the ultimate triumph.
9. Practice being a better questioner. Most of us get sloppy when
asking questions. Perhaps an acquaintance has just told us of a bizarre
or difficult occurrence, and we reply rotely, "Isn't that something?" Yes,
it obviously was something-and something important, too, or this person
wouldn't have told us about it. It'd be better to take his lead and follow
up by asking, "How does that make you feel?" or "Have
you ever experienced anything else like that?" or "How could
that be handled differently in the future?" or "I wonder what
lessons we can take from that?" Then you'd have the basis for building
conversation and rapport, making him or her-and probably yourself-feel
Keep your perspective. Yes, persuasion is a critical component
of charisma. Yes, you feel strongly about the points you're making.
Yes, you're as earnest as a person can possibly be. And, yes, you're
using the four-step process. But the world won't stop spinning if today
you can't convince someone of the evils of off-track betting or the
merits of environmentalism, if they won't buy the camcorder, or decline
to make a tax-deductible contribution to your organization. Despite
the undeniable correctness of your point of view, lighten up. Tomorrow's
another day-and another opportunity to persuade.
Dr. Tony Alessandra (http://www.Alessandra.com)
has authored 14 books, recorded over 50 audio and video programs and delivered
over 2,000 keynote speeches since 1976.
This article has been adapted from Dr. Alessandra's audio program, 10 Qualities
of Charismatic People - http://www.alessandra.com/detail.asp?product_id=P00053