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CHARISMATIC MOMENT ARCHIVES: Jump-Starting Your Power of Persuasion

Dr. Tony Alessandra

Persuasion 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:


1. 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 good habit.

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."

6. 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.

7. Take 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.

8. 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 better.

10. 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

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