The Challenge: Whether at home or at work, we all face situations when we need to persuade.
The Science: Decades of research shows that how you express yourself makes a big difference
The Solution: Follow these ten evidence-based techniques to bring people over to your side.
Want to ask someone out on a date? Are you trying to convince the boss you deserve a raise? Maybe you are just hoping to talk your spouse into letting you buy Frosted Flakes instead of the healthy cereal that tastes like cardboard.
Whatever the reason, even the most brilliant argument will fall flat if not presented correctly. So, how does one become more persuasive?
Persuasion. At its worst, we call it brainwashing. At its best, we call it guidance. Whatever we call it, we can agree on one thing: we are often measured by our ability to pull it off. Whether we are talking to our children or our coworkers, by following the ten tricks below, we all can become a little more persuasive.
1. Start Small
Ask yourself the following question: Are my requests constantly being shot down? If so, you may need to rethink the size, not the style, of your request. Often, we suffer from expecting too much too soon. Rather than asking for the moon, we may be more successful in getting what we want by starting with a moderate request (1966).
This is called the “foot-in-the-door technique.” Once a person agrees to a small request, she is more likely to give in to a larger request. Our end game may seem too big at first, but we can make it feel less daunting simply by starting small.
2. Use The Magic Word – “Because”
Even when we ask for something small, it helps to follow up our request with an explanation of why we are asking. But don’t worry about having to craft the perfect argument; just make sure it includes the magic word…because.
Believe it or not, using the word “because” makes people much more likely to comply with a request (1978). Not only that but using the magic word was successful even when the reason was not very compelling (i.e., can I cut in line for the copier “because I have to make copies”).
3. Give Freedom
Once we make our appeal and use the magic word, another important step is to remind the person that they are free to accept or reject our request.
Even though it is obvious that a person can decide whatever they want, using a phrase such as “you are free to choose” can have a significant impact on our likelihood of having our request received positively (2012).
It is natural for a person to want to feel in control. When we make a request or try to convince him of something, his sense of control is threatened. His natural reaction is to reject the request because he wants to feel in charge. However, when the person is reminded that he has the opportunity to say no, the threat is reduced, and he is actually more likely to say yes.
4. Pick A Sunny Day
Now that we know how to ask, the next question is when to ask. Simply put, it is to our advantage to pick a sunny day.
It should come as no surprise that people are generally in a better mood when the sun is shining and the weather is wonderful. Pleasant weather conditions not only improve one’s attitude but also promote helping behaviors (2013).
When we ask for something, we want the other person to receive it in the best mood possible. With that in mind, we would be wise to save our biggest request for when the weather is beautiful.
5. Apologize For The Weather
If we don’t have the ability to wait for a sunny day, hope is not all lost. Even if the weather is frightful, there is a simple thing we can do…apologize.
Even though we have no control over the weather, a quick apology can still have benefits for how people view us. One study (2013) found that when we apologize for the weather, we seem thoughtful and considerate. Being viewed as kind or caring makes a person prone to view you favorably. And when a person like us, they are more willing to comply with our requests (1994).
6. Hedge Your Bets
In the heat of an argument, our natural inclination is to exude confidence. We think the slightest sign of doubt will allow our opposition to pounce and destroy us. But that may not be true.
Arguments can actually become easier to accept when we hedge our bets (2016). One way to do this is by using language such as “it could be the case that…” We may think this shows a crack in our armor, but seeming vulnerable can catch our opposition off guard and make our argument easier to sneak past their defenses.
7. Circle Up
If you are part of a team and trying to persuade the group to work as one, the arrangement of your chairs may be as important as your message. One study (2013) found that “seating arrangements can have a major impact on the way people think.”
When people sit at a circular table, they are more likely to cooperate and collaborate. People seated in rows are more likely to seem as if they are on their own and feel the need to reject the group and remain independent.
If your message is just not getting employees to work together, you may need to replace the conference table before you replace the team.
8. Don’t Ask For Help, Ask For A Helper
If you are looking to persuade a child, pay attention to the subtle linguistic cues you use. Word choice is very important for children. Kids are more likely to help an adult with chores when they are asked to “be a helper” rather than just asked to “help” (2014).
Children want to earn their identity. Parents can use that to their advantage by framing requests with the noun “helper” rather than the verb “help.”
9. Get Excited
Whether we are about to ask someone out on a date or give a major presentation at work, we will likely feel a little anxiety…or maybe a lot of anxiety. To fight that feeling of uneasiness, we may try to calm ourselves down.
Oddly enough, that may have the opposite effect. When we try to calm down, we open ourselves up to thinking about all the things that could go wrong. To become more persuasive, competent, and relaxed, we should actually tell ourselves to “get excited” (2013). This will help us focus on how things can go well.
10. Lower Your Voice
Just because we have told ourselves to get excited doesn’t mean we need to yell. In fact, lowering our pitch and our voice may make us seem more influential and help others rally around our ideas (2016). When we lower our voices, we appear more prominent, and people view us as better leaders.