A popular type of skills training many clients ask me for is to help them learn the art of persuasive communication.
With a recent 1-2-1 client, even from our first conversations it quickly became apparent that this individual’s focus had previously been more on the things they thought they need to say to be persuasive, i.e. looking for the specific words or ‘language patterns’ they believed would lead to a more persuasive style of communication.
As I do a lot of work helping clients to become more persuasive, as well as my own therapeutic use of persuasion and suggestion, I started off our sessions with the explanation that I will cover in this post.
So let’s look at the REAL foundation for being more persuasive and tips for developing this key attribute even further.
It’s All About Ideas!
Okay, let’s strip it right back to a simple way of explaining what is really going on with persuasion.
Persuasion is the communication of an idea with the goal of changing the perception (and perhaps behaviour) of the person receiving it. I will be talking here about one-to-one communication, but the principles are just as applicable to persuading a group or audience.
The idea exists in your mind (in a physical sense it exists in the complex neurological structures of your brain) and your goal is to transmit it into the other person, so it co-exists in theirs, with the power to change the way they see things and even how they act.
‘I Don’t Let Just Anyone Play with My Mind’
Ideas are powerful things, so our mind is designed to carefully filter and protect us from those ideas and suggestions that may not be a positive influence on our thoughts and behaviours. One reason why I use hypnosis for deeper level change work is precisely because this state allows you to by-pass this ‘critical’ filter.
But the majority of the time (when not in hypnosis) it acts like an email scanner, always checking whether an idea or suggestion being received is from a trusted source or on a sort of verified ‘white list’. If not, it is rejected completely regardless of how well it is presented and packaged.
This is the first step to being more persuasive, understand that you need the other person’s mind to identify you as a ‘ trusted source’, that they are open to receive the idea that you wish to send.
Rapport Is the Key!
For a person’s mind to be open to your ideas you need to establish rapport with them or, more importantly, ensure that you do nothing to break rapport.
This hard-to-define synergy of human interaction is best noticed when it is absent, but overall your focus should be to establish, on every level possible, the things that you have in common with the other person, showing your understanding of their experience and view of the world.
On a basic level, when face-to-face, ensuring good eye contact, using open body language, gently matching the speed, volume and tone of their voice, will ensure that there are no non-verbal ‘rapport breakers’ that will reduce the impact of your communication.
Listen, Listen & Listen
The real ‘secret’ to building rapport and being more persuasive is not what you are saying but how you are listening.
This is the short answer to this week’s question in a nutshell: ‘Listen, listen and listen some more!’
By REALLY listening to the other person, you will be better able to understand their views and beliefs, their ‘filters’ of experience, and this will make your responses more powerful when trying to communicate your idea to them.
Nothing Changes Minds Like Metaphor
Rather than focusing on slavishly learning particular persuasive language patterns, invest your time and energy in communicating using metaphors, analogies and stories.
Using metaphor to persuade is powerful and elegant and can have a profound influence on the subconscious mind (that’s why us hypnotists LOVE a good metaphor!)
When you communicate your idea in metaphor to a person who is open to receive it, you use resources and structures already present in their mind, which means that the idea is more likely to be understood and received positively.
EXAMPLE: You want to persuade a friend to go skydiving with you but they say its too scary. You spend a lot of time listening to them talk about their views and experiences, perhaps discussing other things they found ‘scary’ in the past. Maybe they tell you about the first day of their new job, how it was scary, but how they felt amazing afterwards when they had completed the day and done it.
You listen and listen. Then you communicate your idea, that they should come skydiving with you because it will be just like the first day of that new job – nervous energy, a little ‘scary’ at times, but afterwards that amazing sense of achievement and empowerment that makes it all worthwhile.
This is PERSUASION in action!
So, in summary, to be more persuasive:
- Keep it simple – see persuasion as the transmission of ideas from one human mind to another or others, with the aim to influence perception and behaviours.
- Build rapport – make an effort to get and stay on the same ‘wavelength’ as the other person – focus more on how ready they are to receive your ideas rather than how you are sending them.
- LISTEN – this is the key, really focusing on what they are saying. All the clues are there for how to best package and present your ideas, but you have to be really listening to spot them.
- Use metaphor – talking in metaphor, analogies and stories allows you to to utilise existing resources in the person’s mind, making them more receptive to your ideas.