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10 Signs You’re More Persuasive and Influential Than You Think

15 Oct 2018

By Jeff Haden

CREDIT: Getty Images

A great leader is a person you follow not because you have to, but because you want to. With a great leader, it doesn’t even feel like you’re following: Wherever you’re going, you feel you’re walking that path together.

That’s why every great leader is a great persuader — not through manipulation or pressure, but by using logic and emotion to present ideas and frame arguments in ways that convince others.

Steve Jobs: Visionary thinker, legendary persuader. Richard Branson: Visionary thinker, legendary persuader. Mark Cuban: Visionary thinker, legendary persuader.

The list goes on and on. People who harness the power of a great team to achieve seemingly impossible goals are innovative, intelligent, dedicated, incredibly hard-working… and incredibly persuasive.

Here are ten ways to know you’re more convincing, in a genuine and authentic way, than you may think:

1. You share big ideas.

As Beerud Sheth, the co-founder of Elance (now Upwork), says, “It’s just as hard to do small things as it is to do big things. And if you’re aiming big, it’s much easier to get everyone around you interested and excited. You need investors, employees, partners, media to cover you… entrepreneurship is all about convincing lots of people to help you in your cause. When your cause is truly big and ambitious, it makes it that much easier.”

While that sounds paradoxical, it makes sense. Aiming big captures imagination. If Kennedy had said, “Let’s build a better rocket,” that wouldn’t have been particularly exciting.

“Landing a man on the moon and bringing him safely back to earth?”  That’s something people could get excited about. That was a target worth shooting for.

Rallying behind a big idea is not just inspiring. Rallying behind a big idea provides a sense of meaning — and belonging — that pay rates and titles can never provide.

2. You talk about the positive and negative side of your ideas…

According to University of Illinois professor Daniel O’Keefe, sharing one or two opposing viewpoints is more persuasive than sticking solely to the benefits of your position.

Why? People know that no idea is perfect. They know there are other perspectives and other potential outcomes.

So address the negatives. Talk about the pitfalls people may already consider. Discuss potential negatives, and show how you will minimize or overcome those problems.

You’ll be a lot more convincing when people can tell you realize that your idea may not be perfect — and that they may naturally have misgivings.

Talk about the other side of the argument — and then do your best to show why you’re still right.

3. … and you eventually draw positive conclusions.

While it’s tempting to use scare tactics, positive-outcome statements tend to be more persuasive. (Researchers hypothesize that most people respond negatively to feeling bullied or “guilted” into changing a behavior.)

Which of the following two statements is likely to produce a better result:

  • “You need to stop making so many mistakes,” or
  • “I would like you to work on improving your accuracy”?

And which of these two?

  • “You need to stop criticizing people,” or
  • “I would like you to work on finding ways to praise your employees more”?

If you’re trying to create change, focus on the positives of that change. Take the person you hope to persuade to a better place… instead of a place he or she should avoid.

4. You’re not afraid to take a stand.

When you try to persuade, are data and reasoning are all that truly matters?

No. Research shows people prefer cockiness to expertise. We naturally assume confidence equates with skill. Even the most skeptical person will be partly persuaded by another person’s confidence. In fact, we prefer advice from a confident source even to the point that we will forgive a mediocre or even poor track record.

When you’re hoping to convince, be bold. If you’re confident (and if you’re not, why are you trying to persuade people?) don’t add qualifiers. Don’t say, “I think…” Don’ t say, “I feel…”

If you think your idea will work, say it will work. If you believe your idea will work, say it will work.

Stand behind your opinions, even if they are just opinions, and let your enthusiasm show.

The people you hope to lead will be easier to persuade.

5. Sometimes you swear.

Cursing for no reason is just cursing. But research shows adding an occasional curse word makes your message likely to be more persuasive.

Say your team needs to immediately pull together. Tossing in an occasional heartfelt curse word can actually help instill a sense of urgency simply because it shows you care. (And of course it never hurts when a leader lets a little frustration or anger show, too.)

Plus, authenticity is always more persuasive.

Of course, you don’t have to curse. And if you do, always be sensitive to your audience. Some words are definitely less offensive than others.

And if you don’t curse in your “personal life,” don’t try to curse at work. You’ll just sound silly.

But in the right setting, a heartfelt “da@*” or “sh*@” can make an actual difference. And possibly make you feel a little better.

6. You decide how quickly to speech.

There’s a reason for the “fast-talking salesman” stereotype: In certain situations, talking fast works. Other times, not so much.

Here’s what one study shows:

  • If your audience is likely to agree: Speak slower.
  • If your audience is likely to disagree: Speak faster.

When your audience is inclined to agree with you, speaking slowly gives them time to evaluate your arguments and factor in a few of their own thoughts. The combination of your reasoning plus their initial bias means they are more likely to, at least in part, persuade themselves.

When your audience is inclined to disagree with you, speaking faster gives them less time to form their own counterarguments — which gives you a better chance of persuading them.

In short: If you’re preaching to the choir, speak slower. If not, speak faster. And if your audience is neutral, speak a little more quickly… if only because you’ll have a better chance of keeping their attention.

7. You establish common ground first.

Gaining agreement has an enduring effect, even if only over the short term.

Instead of jumping right to the end of your argument, start with statements or premises you know your audience will agree with. Build a foundation for further agreement.

Remember, a body in motion tends to remain in motion… and that also applies to a head that nods in agreement.

8. You understand how your audience prefers to process information.

A fellow supervisor used to frustrate the crap out of me. I was young and enthusiastic and constantly barged into his office to share my awesome ideas, to lay out all my facts and figures, always sure he would immediately agree… and he would always disagree.


I walked away frustrated until I finally realized he wasn’t the problem. I was the problem.

He liked time to think and process; that’s how he was made. When I demanded an immediate answer — because, you know, I was right — I put him on the defensive. And since I didn’t give him time to reflect, he always fell back on the safe choice: No.

Finally, I tried a different approach. “Don,” I said, “I have an idea that I think makes sense, but I’m sure there are things I’m missing. If I run it by you, could you think about it for a day or two and then tell me what you think?”

He loved that approach. It showed I valued his wisdom and experience. It showed I didn’t just want him to agree — I genuinely wanted his opinion. And most importantly, it gave him time to process my idea the way he felt most comfortable.

Always know your audience. Don’t push for instant agreement if the other person’s personality makes that unlikely.

But don’t ask for thought and reflection if the other person loves to make quick decisions and move on.

9. You choose the right way to communicate.

If you’re a man, and you hope to persuade another man you don’t know well, or even at all, what should you do? If possible, don’t speak in person.

Write an email first.

Generally speaking, when we’re face to face we tend to feel a little competitive — and we turn what should be a conversation into a contest we think we need to win. (I know. I ain’t proud.)

The opposite is true if you’re a woman hoping to persuade other women. According to the researchers, women are “more focused on relationships,” so in-person communication tends to be more effective.

But if you’re a male who hopes to persuade another male you know well, definitely communicate in person: The closer your relationship, the more effective face-to-face communication tends to be.

10. You don’t just think you’re right. You can prove you’re right.

We can come up with big ideas. We can share positives and negatives. We can start by creating common ground. We can adjust our rate of speech. We can take stands. We can choose the right way to communicate.

All that is great… but matters most is the actual message. Above all else, you need to be right.

Don’t try to persuade simply for the sake of persuading. Don’t try to shape opinion just because you think you can.

Try to persuade because your idea is solid. Try to persuade because your idea is backed up by logic and data and reasoning. Try to persuade because you know, not just emotionally but also intellectually, that your idea is great.

That’s when you will be at your most persuasive.

And that’s when people will not just agree to follow you. That’s when people will not just want will follow you.

Wherever you’re going, they’ll want to go there together.

Read the full article here.
This content was originally published by Inc Magazine. Original publishers retain all rights. It appears here for a limited time before automated archiving. By Inc Magazine

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