How learning the art of persuasion can help you progress in your career How learning the art of persuasion can help you progress in your career

How learning the art of persuasion can help you progress in your career
11 Feb 2019

You may think you have all of the elements required for career success: A great education, hands-on experience, and some great technical skills.

All you need now is… a promotion, or a job that allows you to develop that great idea. But the missing ingredient in so many stalled careers is knowledge of the art of persuasion.

Employers value persuasive skills because they have an impact on so many aspects of the workplace and can lead to increased team engagement, alignment and productivity. Persuasive skills can also be used to influence many different stakeholders, including co-workers, bosses, subordinates and prospective employees.

Persuasion is a skill based partly on psychology, partly on human relationships and partly on effective communication. To fulfil our ambitions, to build a career, to complete projects successfully, and even to bring up a family well – all of these things either happen or not because of our ability to bring others along with us, to encourage them to buy into our ideas and journey with us on our preferred path.

Why do people rise up the ranks at work? For two simple reasons:

  1. They ensure things are done well;
  2. They can bring others along with them. The one thing that separates an authentic leader from the rest is that they have willing followers.

Furthermore, persuasion has become an essential managerial tool because businesses are typically run by groups of talented individuals, who are often very unenthusiastic about command-and-control tactics. Teams outstrip the performance of individuals that happen to operate in a group every time.

So how do you turn individuals into teams? Persuasion.

The approach does garner bad press at times though. High pressure, low ethics, me-me-me environments are breeding grounds for manipulative techniques and shameless ploys.

But does this mean that persuasion in and of itself is bad? No. It just means that if someone’s intentions are less than honourable, whatever tactic they use, or outcome they achieve, will be tainted by their negative or selfish intent. The ‘badness’ is in the intention rather than in the tool itself.

Persuasion in a positive sense happens out in the open. It involves reasonably and consciously engaging the thinking, emotions and behaviour of all parties concerned. It is the process of guiding people toward the adoption of a new or different idea, attitude or action by means of dialogue or interaction, willingly and without duress or pressure.

With persuasion, there is no trade-off. During negotiations, for example, some form of trading is generally under discussion. But persuasion is about seeing something in a given way and influencing someone to accept the way you see it.

We are not swapping ideas or goods. I do not cede my position to take up yours and we are not meeting in the middle. Instead I convince you to join me on my side of the fence.

Persuasion is also not about winning a one-off argument. The aim is not to convince a manager to hire you and then have that same manager regret it a week after you joined them.

Instead it is about making a professional case for yourself, which your actions subsequently back up each day. Persuasion creates friends, allies, and collaborators who are with you for the long haul – and the good news is you can learn to do it whether you are an extrovert or introvert.

So to learn the art of persuasion, you need to be aware of each of its key aspects:

Self-awareness

Self-awareness is key in this context as is about recognising that the way everyone sees the world is different. Even when two people are standing side-by-side looking at the same thing, the minor differences between them mean they will see it in a different light. Simply understanding and accepting that differences are normal means you will approach the art of persuasion more effectively.

Flexibility

A much-cited rule in human relationships is to treat people as you would wish to be treated yourself. But that strategy does not work too well. What works more effectively is treating people in the way in which they would wish to be treated. But doing so requires us to be more flexible in the way we behave and communicate with others. Such flexibility in treating people more in line with their preferences will inevitably make you more persuasive.

Mutual understanding

Communication is all too often seen as a ‘broadcast’ activity, whether we are talking about a one-to-one conversation or written document. Sadly, many people consider the whole point of a conversation is to tell you their story, their opinion or their worldview. But by shifting the purpose of communication to one of mutual understanding and creating genuinely common ground, the chance of persuading someone becomes much higher.

Ethos, pathos, logos

A lot of what we know and do today arguably is based on the philosophies and teachings of some of the great Greek philosophers, such as Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle, from over 3,000 years ago. As a result, some of most commonly accepted and used principles of persuasion today are based on Ethos, Pathos & Logos

  • Ethos = Personal credibility;
  • Pathos = Empathy;
  • Logos = Logical argument.

These three characteristics are sequential, so it is essential that each one is established in turn within the relationship in which persuasion is taking place. Establishing credibility first is critical as without it the other person is unlikely to listen, pay attention or believe what you are saying.

Having established personal credibility, the persuader should next attempt to understand the other person and see things from their point of view. If this approach appeals to the other individual, it may be possible to establish common ground. This means the person being persuaded is more likely to listen to the persuader when it comes to putting across their point of view.

The final step is to make a logical argument that makes sense to the person you would like to persuade. Here it is vital for the persuader to understand the points that are important to the person being influenced. As a result, your ‘proposal’ or ‘point of view’ must be positioned in a way that makes sense to them.

They, in turn, are more likely to listen to your proposal because they feel you are credible (ethos) and clearly understand their point of view and challenges (empathy). Therefore, they are inclined to see the value (logos) in what is being suggested to them (your idea).

 Bob Hayward

Bob Hayward is an expert in business and personal branding. He has started six companies from scratch, five of which became £1 million turnover or more businesses. Bob also co-authored the book Persuade with the late Nick Baldock, an international speaker and sales improvement consultant.

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You may think you have all of the elements required for career success: A great education, hands-on experience, and some great technical skills.

All you need now is… a promotion, or a job that allows you to develop that great idea. But the missing ingredient in so many stalled careers is knowledge of the art of persuasion.

Employers value persuasive skills because they have an impact on so many aspects of the workplace and can lead to increased team engagement, alignment and productivity. Persuasive skills can also be used to influence many different stakeholders, including co-workers, bosses, subordinates and prospective employees.

Persuasion is a skill based partly on psychology, partly on human relationships and partly on effective communication. To fulfil our ambitions, to build a career, to complete projects successfully, and even to bring up a family well – all of these things either happen or not because of our ability to bring others along with us, to encourage them to buy into our ideas and journey with us on our preferred path.

Why do people rise up the ranks at work? For two simple reasons:

  1. They ensure things are done well;
  2. They can bring others along with them. The one thing that separates an authentic leader from the rest is that they have willing followers.

Furthermore, persuasion has become an essential managerial tool because businesses are typically run by groups of talented individuals, who are often very unenthusiastic about command-and-control tactics. Teams outstrip the performance of individuals that happen to operate in a group every time.

So how do you turn individuals into teams? Persuasion.

The approach does garner bad press at times though. High pressure, low ethics, me-me-me environments are breeding grounds for manipulative techniques and shameless ploys.

But does this mean that persuasion in and of itself is bad? No. It just means that if someone’s intentions are less than honourable, whatever tactic they use, or outcome they achieve, will be tainted by their negative or selfish intent. The ‘badness’ is in the intention rather than in the tool itself.

Persuasion in a positive sense happens out in the open. It involves reasonably and consciously engaging the thinking, emotions and behaviour of all parties concerned. It is the process of guiding people toward the adoption of a new or different idea, attitude or action by means of dialogue or interaction, willingly and without duress or pressure.

With persuasion, there is no trade-off. During negotiations, for example, some form of trading is generally under discussion. But persuasion is about seeing something in a given way and influencing someone to accept the way you see it.

We are not swapping ideas or goods. I do not cede my position to take up yours and we are not meeting in the middle. Instead I convince you to join me on my side of the fence.

Persuasion is also not about winning a one-off argument. The aim is not to convince a manager to hire you and then have that same manager regret it a week after you joined them.

Instead it is about making a professional case for yourself, which your actions subsequently back up each day. Persuasion creates friends, allies, and collaborators who are with you for the long haul – and the good news is you can learn to do it whether you are an extrovert or introvert.

So to learn the art of persuasion, you need to be aware of each of its key aspects:

Self-awareness

Self-awareness is key in this context as is about recognising that the way everyone sees the world is different. Even when two people are standing side-by-side looking at the same thing, the minor differences between them mean they will see it in a different light. Simply understanding and accepting that differences are normal means you will approach the art of persuasion more effectively.

Flexibility

A much-cited rule in human relationships is to treat people as you would wish to be treated yourself. But that strategy does not work too well. What works more effectively is treating people in the way in which they would wish to be treated. But doing so requires us to be more flexible in the way we behave and communicate with others. Such flexibility in treating people more in line with their preferences will inevitably make you more persuasive.

Mutual understanding

Communication is all too often seen as a ‘broadcast’ activity, whether we are talking about a one-to-one conversation or written document. Sadly, many people consider the whole point of a conversation is to tell you their story, their opinion or their worldview. But by shifting the purpose of communication to one of mutual understanding and creating genuinely common ground, the chance of persuading someone becomes much higher.

Ethos, pathos, logos

A lot of what we know and do today arguably is based on the philosophies and teachings of some of the great Greek philosophers, such as Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle, from over 3,000 years ago. As a result, some of most commonly accepted and used principles of persuasion today are based on Ethos, Pathos & Logos

  • Ethos = Personal credibility;
  • Pathos = Empathy;
  • Logos = Logical argument.

These three characteristics are sequential, so it is essential that each one is established in turn within the relationship in which persuasion is taking place. Establishing credibility first is critical as without it the other person is unlikely to listen, pay attention or believe what you are saying.

Having established personal credibility, the persuader should next attempt to understand the other person and see things from their point of view. If this approach appeals to the other individual, it may be possible to establish common ground. This means the person being persuaded is more likely to listen to the persuader when it comes to putting across their point of view.

The final step is to make a logical argument that makes sense to the person you would like to persuade. Here it is vital for the persuader to understand the points that are important to the person being influenced. As a result, your ‘proposal’ or ‘point of view’ must be positioned in a way that makes sense to them.

They, in turn, are more likely to listen to your proposal because they feel you are credible (ethos) and clearly understand their point of view and challenges (empathy). Therefore, they are inclined to see the value (logos) in what is being suggested to them (your idea).

 Bob Hayward

Bob Hayward is an expert in business and personal branding. He has started six companies from scratch, five of which became £1 million turnover or more businesses. Bob also co-authored the book Persuade with the late Nick Baldock, an international speaker and sales improvement consultant.

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