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Successful Persuasion

Monday, August 13, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Camile Berry
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How often have you needed to persuade others to do something?

It’s a situation that arises almost every day, whether it’s getting your teenager to tidy their room, or your preschooler to get dressed, or a colleague to attend a meeting on your behalf. Some people seem to be able to do it effortlessly, and almost without anyone noticing, whereas others fall back on the power of their position to enforce what they want.

Persuasion skills can be learnt just like any others, and they are a key part of being able to influence others to achieve your goals and objectives.

Ways to Influence and Persuade


We all know people who aim to persuade by talking constantly. They seem to think they can grind others into submission, by simply reiterating their point of view constantly. This, basically, is nagging. And it does sometimes work, of course, because their colleagues or family give in solely to get some peace. But as a general rule, others persuaded in this way probably haven’t bought into the idea, and are not committed to it.

This means that when the going gets tough, the idea could easily just wither and die.


Others fall back on the power of their position, and order others to do what they want. This, in its most unpleasant sense, is coercion. Again, their family or colleagues won’t necessarily like what they’re doing. If it’s hard, they may well give up. More orders will be issued, to rescue the idea, but again, may be unsuccessful, because those involved are doing it because they have to, not because they want to.

A Better Way

The ‘Holy Grail’ of persuasion, then, is to get others to buy into the idea, and want to do it your way. And the best way of doing that is in a way that others don’t notice. But how?

The fable of the sun and the wind is a good example:

The wind and the sun decided to have a competition to decide once and for all who was stronger. They agreed that the winner would be the one who could persuade a man to take off his coat. The wind blew and blew, but the man only held on more tightly to his coat. Then the sun shone gently down, and within minutes, the man took off his coat.

The moral here is that you can’t force someone to do what they don’t want; instead, the art of persuasion is to get them to want what you want.

Barriers to Successful Persuasion

One way to think about what works in persuading others is to think about what doesn’t work first.

In his book Persuasion IQ, Kurt Mortensen lists ten obstacles to successful persuasion:

  1. Thinking that you are better at persuasion than you are, and therefore failing to hone your skills. Instead, take a long, hard look at yourself, and see where your skills need to be improved.
  2. Trying too hard to persuade. Seeming too keen probably puts people off faster than anything else.
  3. Failing to put in the effort required to get what you want. Nothing, or at least not much, is free in this world.
  4. Talking too much. Stop, and just listen to the people you need to persuade
  5.  Providing too much information, which just confuses people, and makes them think you are trying to blind them with science. What, they ask, are you not telling them?

    6. Getting desperate. Like insincerity, people can spot fear at a distance, and don’t like it.

    7. Being afraid of rejection. This can even stop people from trying to persuade in extreme cases.

    8. Not being prepared. You can’t ‘wing it’ every time. Your audience will see through you, and will think that you value your time more highly than theirs.

    9. Making assumptions about your audience, and then not being prepared to reassess when new evidence emerges.

  10. Forgetting that the whole conversation is important. You need to engage in order to persuade, right from the beginning.

Successful Persuasion

Research shows that there are a number of things that people like about successful persuaders.

Kurt Mortensen’s research suggests that these elements are largely emotional. They include keeping promises, being reliable and taking responsibility, being sincere, genuine, and honest, knowing their subject, and believing in it, building rapport, and being entertaining, as well as not arguing and providing solutions that work.

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