How To Leverage – The Power Of Persuasion

Leaders who inspire, have an innate ability to get things done, with the least resistance. Dealing with people can teach you, powerful lessons in persuasion!  This is even more so, when you interact with people across multiple cultures, races, descent and nationalities.

Being persuasive, can do wonders for your career and create so much goodwill for you that it can open doors to many opportunities, that you were not even aware of.

The corporate world relies on structured roles, rules and procedures to conduct its business. Along with roles and rules, comes authority. When you add to this, the corporate fallacy of an authoritative person being seen as a more capable leader, it is a perfect recipe for authority to be used in business situations, in more ways than one.

With that, the most potent tool to conduct business, persuasion, gets relegated to the background.

But, you can choose to be inspired by many leaders who are powerful and yet, prefer to use persuasion instead of authority, to get things done.

So, What Is Persuasion And Why Is It So Potent?

Dictionary defines persuasion as-

‘Communication intended to induce belief or action’

This is a gentle process and essentially a two-way communication that allows the person whose action or belief is to be changed, to deal will all his or her fears and constraints and be fully convinced.

What it does, is bring commitment and purpose behind action, as people understand how their actions contribute to something bigger.  It also leads to lasting solutions.

Force, on the other hand, achieves only short-term results and that too on an involuntary basis. So, there is no cooperation or commitment.

There is an old saying that goes-

A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still!

Pure authority, at best, can give you only short-term results, if at all. However, for more lasting results, persuasion is the perfect tool.

In the business world there are ample opportunities to leverage the power of persuasion.

So, How Do You Harness The Power Of Persuasion?

1.  Understand The Other Person’s Perspective

Some years ago, I was traveling in India, on an economy class ticket.   At the airport, I requested an upgrade to business class by paying the difference. However, the airline staff declined my request saying that the flight was overbooked. It so happened that there was a technical problem with the plane and the flight got badly delayed. When questioned by passengers, airlines officials were unable to say by when the problem would be fixed.

Very soon tempers got frayed, passengers got agitated and started shouting at the airlines official. Realizing, that the airlines person was doing the best he could and that, it was not his fault, I stepped in and calmed the passengers.

Shortly thereafter, boarding was announced and as I presented my boarding pass at the boarding point, the airlines official retained my coach class boarding pass and gave me a business class boarding pass with a smile saying- “Compliments of the airlines, sir.”

In your career, when you find out what really matters to the other person and then present your point in a manner that the other person realizes it is for his or her benefit, even unpalatable things, become acceptable.  Good leaders do this, almost effortlessly.

2.  Find Out What Really Motivates The Other Person

Sometimes, dealing with children can teach you valuable lessons in persuasion. When my children were growing up, I wanted to inculcate in them the habit of reading. However, try as I might, they just refused to respond to my request that they read books, regularly.

Finally, I hit upon an idea and every night I told them a story, from a book that I wanted them to read. However, I made sure that I never completed any story. The next night I would start a new story and leave that incomplete as well. When they asked me to complete the story, I asked them to read the book themselves.

Curious to know the ending of the stories and fed up with my behavior, very soon my kids got into the habit of reading. And, once they did, there was no turning back!

People management is an important part of anyone’s career.  Instead of telling an employee who is slacking, to stay late and complete his or her work, try telling them how completing that work on time, could greatly enhance their prospect of a raise or personal betterment.

You cannot be a good leader until you are able to manage people, efficiently.

3.  Try Asking Yourself How You Would Respond If Someone Else Behaved With You In The Same Way, You Behaved 

Many a times, you behave in one way but expect the world to behave with you in a completely different manner.  That’s utopia!

Let’s say, a client has written a provocative mail to you and your immediate reaction, is to reciprocate.  Ask yourself how you would feel, if you received the mail that you yourself were planning to send.   The fact is, you would not like to receive a mail like that.

In that case, wait, so that you don’t do something impulsive and try and see what the issue really is. Once you understand the issue, you may well find out that the client’s mail was justified and if it were otherwise, your polite response will make the client realize his or her mistake.

More importantly, you would have stopped yourself, from damaging the relationship, permanently.  Managing and nurturing relationships is the key to career management. It is also a trait, that successful leaders demonstrate.

4.  Persuade By Showing The Bigger Picture

People, who use undue force or harsh language, often do so because they have not looked at the bigger picture.

Businesses that excel, do so, because their employees are also in the pursuit of excellence. When you trust people, you are inclined to be persuasive and rely on them to do what they need to do.

I once had a team member, whose performance was deteriorating and despite several rounds of discussions and counseling, there was no improvement. Not wanting to lose this person and realizing that this whole thing was going nowhere fast, I decided to try something very different. I asked him to help me in monitoring and evaluating other team members’ performance.

When he went through a couple of rounds of monitoring and evaluations, there was a sea change in his attitude. He not only realized that he was being evaluated on the same parameters as his peers, but also the fact that his performance was dismal compared to his peers. He began to focus on his work and his new-found zeal got him back on track, very quickly.

This would not have happened had he not understood that in the bigger picture, everyone was accountable to perform and that he was being evaluated fairly.

5.  Persuade With Logic

Presenting Precise Numbers Can Lead To Sales Faster Than Round Figures.

Selling, is often about persuading people to buy your product or services. Usually buyers have a choice of products and services and are also well informed. In this situation, if you present the price of a particular product or service, try not to round it off. For instance, if you are a travel agent, instead of saying that a particular package tour costs $3000, you would be better of saying that it costs $2970.

The reason being, when you are presented a precise figure as a price,you tend to think that there is a logical cost build up behind the price. So, you are more inclined to accept it and less inclined to argue over the price.

6.  Persuade With The Right Body Language

Persuasion is a lot about being in control of your emotions, and to use emotions and logic to convince other people. There is no place for losing control over your words, actions or emotions.

Sometimes, you may find it easier, to control your body language and gestures, than it is to control your emotions.

Have you noticed, if you have a smile on your face, it is difficult for you to say something, angrily? Or, if you are sitting on a rocking chair it is difficult to get agitated.

If you are really angry and about to say something nasty, try and bring a smile to your face and breathe deeply for a few minutes. You will find the anger dissipating.

Using the right body language can help you persuade people quickly. 

7.  Persuade With Action

One of my bosses in IBM, was very particular about her team members reporting back to her with pre-determined regularity.  To ensure that it happened, she began doing a review of her own work, voluntarily.   She came on a call every Monday morning, regardless of where she was or what she was tied up with, to give an update to the team on what had happened in the organization, during the past week.  After that, there was 100 percent participation on her review calls.

When you ask for a certain kind of behavior from others, that you yourself are not prepared to conform to, then you set a bad precedent that may lead to conflict.

If you are trying to persuade your team members to be punctual for meetings, then the best way is to demonstrate punctuality yourself, by being on time for all your meetings.

It becomes difficult to persuade people when they see a disconnect, between your behavior and what you are asking them to do.

Don’t take my word for it.  Consider exploring the power of persuasion and you could be in for an eye-opener!

Have you encountered the power of persuasion?  If so, do share your experiences and suggestions. It could be of great help to other people. 




About the Author:

Srinivasan is an independent consultant working in the area of strategy and technology interventions in the public sector domain. He has worked in companies like IBM and TCS and has over 30 years of experience spanning 24 countries.

Srinivasan R

Management Consultant at Independent Consultant