You probably know someone who seems to have the innate ability to make you see things from their perspective. When you talk with them, they immediately put you at ease, and you find yourself agreeing with what they’re saying. People like this are eminently persuasive. We tend to think of persuasion as a skill that is best exemplified by salespeople, politicians, or hard-hitting negotiators. But it’s not limited to people whose job is obviously to persuade people. Mastering the art of persuasion can help you in many facets of your career.
When you are searching for a new job, you need to persuade your network to help you meet the right people. You must compel recruiters and HR professionals to recommend that the hiring manager meets with you. And of course, you must convince the hiring manager that you are the best person for the job, that you can make an immediate impact, and that you can solve the business problems at hand.
When you are dealing with clients or customers, you need them to believe in you and your products or services. You need them to believe that you are truthful and sincere and that your solutions will help to ameliorate the business pain points that they have.
Are you part of a team? Then you constantly need to use your powers of persuasion to build influence and to get things done effectively. You need to help your teammates get to a mutually beneficial resolution for whatever problem you’re tackling.
Effective persuasion is both an art and a science. It is part communication and part observation. It requires good people skills and requires empathetic listening. You must keenly observe the people you’re trying to persuade so that you can identify what they value and match their tone and language. You should also observe their body language (assuming you’re face to face) so that you can change your tact if need be.
At its core, persuasion is a communication skill. Too many people fall into the trap of thinking that it’s a rhetorical skill. While not particularly difficult, persuasion requires you to do more listening and observing than talking. When you talk less and listen more, you give the impression that you are invested in what the other parties have to say. That makes you likable. And whatever it is you’re trying to sell—an idea, a product, a solution, or yourself—people buy from people they like and whom they perceive as trustworthy.
The ability to influence opinions and to spark action is a real skill. Listen carefully and actively and adjust your communication accordingly. Avoid being pushy and steamrolling the people you’re trying to convince; that will engender mistrust. If people like you, they will listen to you and will be receptive to your message.