Go On, Convince Me!

persuasionBeing able to present your viewpoint and convince others is an essential life-skill.  Your working life, particularly if you work in a sales-driven or marketing position, relies on your ability to convince others of the validity of your suggestions.  In your personal interactions with family and friends, being able to convince and influence will enable you to live productively and comfortably.  But it’s not about simply verbally persuading others into adopting your opinions!

We all know people, at work and at home, who are easier just to agree with – even if we really don’t share their views.  Some people have an overbearing manner and a tendency to shout their own opinions with no real regard for engaging in productive debate.  While it’s sometimes just easier to go along with them, generally they fail to truly convince us of anything useful.

Being able to truly convince others that your argument is correct and your suggestions are the right way to do things, is a delicate skill.   Like any other skill, it’s one that can be learned.  By being aware of the best methods to use and how to use them, you can master this art and learn how to convince others with ease.  Different situations call for different tactics.  In this article, we examine the best ways to convince in two of the most common circumstances, at work and at home.

Work Situations

Being able to convince people of your viewpoint is not only desirable in many work situations, it’s usually an essential skill to possess.

If you want to progress at work and maximise the results of your efforts, presenting your arguments constructively and winning people over is your recipe for success.

All too often, people have great ideas, yet they fail to share them with the people around them effectively.  This can be a matter of confidence or a general wariness of sticking their head above the parapet.  Consider using the following suggestions to ensure you can present your case succinctly and with confidence.  This will not only enable you to move forward with your ideas, it’s guaranteed to impress those around you and mark you out as a natural leader and innovator.

How You Look and How You Act

Personal presentation is important at work.  Firstly, pay attention to how you look, as your appearance forms a big impression on those around you.  Dress appropriately, noting how others, particularly managers, dress themselves.  Avoid anything too outlandish or anything that could be considered as ‘statement dressing’.  Much as it feels good to assert your individual style, many work situations call for us to adopt a corporate style of dress and presentation.  Looking like you belong to the group is important in gaining both the trust and respect of colleagues.

Equally, notice your behaviour and body language.  Own your space and move with confidence.  Maintain eye-contact, smile when appropriate and address any nervous ticks or behaviours you may have.  This can include things like nail-biting, hair-touching, mouth-covering, foot-tapping and shuffling.  Remember, how you look, how you act and how you move are the first things that someone will notice about you.

How You Talk

Just as important, when you set out to convince others, is how you sound.  Consider how your speech sounds to others.  Talking too quietly or too quickly, for example, can signal to your audience that you are nervous.  Nervous people don’t inspire confidence!

Slow your speech down if necessary.  Make sure you breathe deeply.  Project your voice when talking to groups to ensure that everyone can hear you clearly.

Also consider the language you use.  Research by Cornell University suggests that using first person pronouns (I) can indicate that your opinion is malleable, whereas using first person plural pronouns (we) suggests that an opinion is more set in stone and not open to being challenged.  Their research also suggests that using hedging language (It could be the case that…) is associated with a more persuasive argument.  This could be because it makes your suggestions easier to accept by softening the tone of delivery.

Your Facts and Figures

Knowledge of your subject cannot be underestimated in your mission to convince others of your opinion.  Make sure that you research the background of your subject, acknowledge previous successes and are also aware of previous failures – including the reason for such failures.  Also be ready and able to demonstrate your detailed knowledge of the present circumstances.

Be ready to supply figures.  For example, sales figures and percentages, cash flow examples and profit and loss projections.  Being able to provide factual support for your ideas has been shown consistently to be highly persuasive during an argument.  This includes being able to supply feasible projections of activities and financial performance.  It’s also impactful and persuasive to use visual aids to clearly show your findings, plans and suggested improvements.

Become the Authority

Your extensive knowledge of your subject should enable you to become a recognised authority on the issue.  Being able to answer questions effectively is a highly convincing strategy.  Ensure you spend time anticipating potential arguments and objections and are able to counter-measure with ease.

Personal Relationships

Whilst being able to convince family friends and social contacts about the validity of your viewpoint is highly desirable – convincing within the field of personal relationships can easily become a minefield.  Whereas at work, your confidence and detailed knowledge of your subject are of paramount importance, convincing those at home of your viewpoint is a far more subtle skill.  However, being able to assert your opinion at home and with friends and associates will enable you to move forward easily and without conflict.

We’re All In This Together

Paramount in convincing people with whom you have a personal relationship, is creating a sense of unity.  Ensure that everyone involved is aware that your proposals are designed to improve the circumstances for all.  Make sure that everyone who is affected by the decisions made is included in the discussions.  If necessary, this can be achieved by scheduling times for discussions to take place, allowing for everyone to take part.

Consideration

Consideration of everyone’s viewpoint is essential in order to successfully convince.  Make sure that you take time to review and acknowledge exactly what has happened in the past.  Look at, and invite discussion about what has worked in the past and what hasn’t worked as well.

Ask people how they feel about the situation.  Give them time to express their opinions and make sure you actually listen to them.

Most importantly, don’t appear to belittle, domineer or discount other people’s viewpoints.  Just because you’re convinced you are right, doesn’t mean others will see things that way easily.  You need to be gently persuasive, not arrogant and self-opinionated.  You’ll quickly see that others will back-off if you try to verbally batter them!  While it may be easier for them to simply agree with you, you won’t have won either their heart or mind.

Moving Forward

Be ready to clearly explain how adopting your suggestions will provide demonstrable improvements for everyone involved.  Talk about the bigger picture, such as how changes may affect more than your family group and how far-reaching those changes may be.

It may be beneficial to be able to provide examples of how similar social groups to your own have implemented such changes, and the benefits they have enjoyed by doing so.

Being able to convince others is a skill worthy of acquiring.  Whether you need to be commanding and authoritative or gently tactful, key is your understanding and empathy with your audience.  By knowing what they wish to achieve, you’ll be able to tailor your arguments to demonstrate improvements and benefits that will convince.

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