How to be more persuasive

How do you change someone else's mind in a way that feels ethical to you?


How to be more persuasive

Changing others’ minds and behaviour is an achievable goal, says Anthony McLean, persuasion strategist and counter-terrorist negotiator.

Make sure what you’re trying to persuade people to do feels ethical by asking yourself: if I walked up to a stranger and told them what I was planning to do, what would they say? Let this be your internal guide. Then…

  • Make it about them. The most common mistake is to talk about yourself when you try to persuade someone. Forget ‘me, I and my’ and use instead ‘you, your, yourself’ and call the person by their name, if possible.
  • Ask questions. Do your research before even attempting to persuade anyone, to gain a clear understanding of their beliefs, values and attitudes. Identify their key motivators: how they are connected to others, what they think, and the environment in which they are required to operate. Check out their LinkedIn profile, their Twitter feed, blog and other social media posts.
  • Understand them. Discover what they already know, what they don’t know, what they need to know and what they don’t need to know. This stops you over-talking or not providing enough information.
  • Be likeable We prefer to say ‘yes’ to those we know and like – and who are similar to us. People respond well to praise. Say what you appreciate about them, then try to discover what you have in common; uncover shared goals.
  • Be trustworthy and credible. A shortcut to being considered trustworthy is admitting weakness – don’t be a Perfect Peter, be human. But show people you know your stuff. We look to those who have a superior knowledge or wisdom to guide our decisions. If you don’t think you’re an expert, neither will anyone else. 
  • Try the door-in-face technique. Make an extreme initial request, expect a ‘no’, then ask for something more reasonable. Go into every negotiation with two outcomes: what you want and what you will take.
  • Personalise your approach. ‘Post-it note persuasion’ research found that a handwritten note on a letter got a 25 per cent better response.

READ MORE: Introducing Persuasion: A Practical Guide by Anthony McLean (Icon Books, £6.99) is out now

Photograph: iStock