The Six Skills of Persuasion

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The art of persuasion is a beautiful thing, if we do it right. Every single day we are confronted with situations where we need to convince someone of something. Whether we try to convince our manager to accept our idea or we try to get our friends to eat Italian food instead of Chinese food tonight, we are constantly trying to change people’s minds.

Now, of course, persuasion can be used for good or evil. When we try to manipulate, deceive, and bully someone into doing something, then it is abuse; and it is simply not cool. For some of us, we use self-centered tactics to get our way, which is not only childish, but it will cause us to lose the respect that we need in order to convince people. When we get passive-aggressive, aloof, and even get emotionally worked up, then we lose a lot of credibility.  

If you want to excel in life and have an edge in your workplace, you must grow in the art of persuasion. It is a skill that can be developed so that you can change the heart and mind of a person and bring forth your desired situation. The good news for all of us is that persuasion can be learned.

Sadly, those in power do not want people to learn this skill because they know the effects that it will have. This was the case in the ancient Greek times. Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, saw the value of persuasion. In fact, he wanted every common person to learn this skill because he wanted to help people reach their full potential and amplify their happiness. Therefore, Aristotle wrote, Rhetoric, to help people learn this skill. Though the context and the times have changed since then, the principles remain the same even after 2,300 years.

Here are 6 skills (COMPEL) that you can work on in order to develop and grow in the art of persuasion to influence people and situations around you:

  1. C – CREDIBILITY is critical. When it comes to influencing and persuading people, one of the most important ingredients is trust; and trust is built on your character. When there is integrity in your character, then you are able to establish credibility. Make sure that you develop this first skill as best as you can. Pay attention to it. If your words are not backed up by your actions, then it will be hard for people to believe what you say. This is why when you have a hard time persuading your boss or friends, it is most likely that you have a credibility problem. If there is a person that does not know you well, they will do everything possible to decide if you are credible or worthy of their trust.

Next Steps: Be consistent and do what you say you will do. If the person that you are trying to persuade know you well, then try to do something that will go beyond their expectation.

  1. O – OBSERVE discerningly. It is important that you understand what the wants and the needs are of the person that you are trying to persuade. Too often, we end up “shoving” our own agenda on people and it is not received well. People do not like to be manipulated nor fooled. Therefore, it is vital that you observe and understand what the person is feeling and thinking. The more you ask questions, the deeper insights you will gain about the person. Then from your discernment, you can start to tailor your approach. It helps when you are able to “mirror” or bounce things back to the person in what they are saying, then they know that you are hearing them.

Next Steps: Try to ask the person at least 3-4 questions before you present your thoughts on things or make your request.

  1. M – MAKE the appeal through your EAR.  When we make an appeal to persuade someone, we cannot approach it from just one angle. In fact, the more multifaceted the approach, the greater results you will see. Therefore, when you make your appeal remember the E.A.R. – Emotions, Authority, Reason. People are emotional beings, therefore; it is vital that we pay attention to how we make people feel. Most people take action by how the communicator makes them feel. Secondly, we need to use authoritative voices. It helps people to know that what you are saying comes from “an expert” or someone with authority. Lastly, we must appeal to people’s reason. This means that we need to have data, facts, and even solid evidence to reinforce what you are saying.

Next Steps: Make sure that you are equipped well in order to present your idea. For “E,” you need to put the focus on the person and try to uplift their spirits. For “A,” try to find an article or a reputable news website to share your thoughts. For “R,” try to present a clear step by step reason why your idea can work.

  1. P – PARALLEL illustrations. One of the great tools that we have is to use metaphors and analogies to help highlight your point or idea. When you are able to find something in the person’s life which they understand, and then, you compare it with the idea that you are presenting, it will be very effective. It brings clarity to what it is that you are trying to communicate. If you are able to do this well, then you will be more effective in bringing people closer to your idea.

Next Steps: Throughout the day, pick an event or something that you notice and try to find a similar situation or example that would communicate it better. For example, if you see a person not paying attention and gets honked at by a car, you can draw the parallel illustration of how it is easy to get distracted in life and miss incoming danger; therefore, pay attention to life.

  1. E – EXAMPLES from stories. Studies have shown that when a person hears stories, then they are able to connect with the communicator emotionally. In fact, neuroscientists discovered that stories have a way of releasing oxytocin, which connects people on a deeper level. The closer the story is to your personal life, then the more powerful it is to help people to connect with you. Also, if the story entails failure, weaknesses, or difficulties, then the quicker the person will be able to bond with you. It is the relatability factor. Once someone relates to you on the emotional level, then you can influence them.

Next Steps: When you are trying to convince someone of something, make sure that you tell it in a story form. Especially, tell less of the success story but from a failure or lesson-learned format. Try to describe how you felt in that moment.

  1. L – LIKEABILITY factor. If people have more of a favorable view of you, then the more open they will be to your ideas. In order to be more likable, focus less on yourself and more on the other person. When a person talks about themselves, the likelihood of them seeing you in a positive light increases. Why? They feel like you care and are genuinely interested in them. Sometimes the likeability factor is just learning how to be well-mannered, courteous, and kind. Win people over by being winsome. Then, you can convince them of a lot of things, simply because they like you.

Next Steps: Put others first and find a positive trait in that person in which you can give a genuine and honest compliment.

We all want to influence people and situations around us, but it is difficult to do. If we are serious about convincing others of our ideas and convictions, then we must understand how people function and how they change their minds. Therefore, the ability to persuade a person is really an art, which will require practice and creativity. We all need to start somewhere and we are able to begin by knowing the skills of how to COMPEL others:

  1. C – Credibility is critical.
  2. O – Observe the want and the need.
  3. M – Make the appeal through your EAR.
  4. P – Parallel illustrations.
  5. E – Examples from stories.
  6. L – Likeability factor.

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