There’s no greater power than the power to influence other people. If you know how to get your point across and motivate the people around you, you’re on your way to big things. The sooner you start honing your skills, the sooner you’ll see the results so sign up for a course on how to maximize your powers of persuasion.
The Psychology of Influence
In the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Dr. Robert Cialdini outlines some of the most profound factors that contribute to a person’s persuasiveness. We’ve listed some here so you can evaluate where you stand before you start your pitch.
If you already hold a position of power over the people you’re trying to persuade, you’re going to have an easier time of it than if you are a peon on the bottom of the totem pole. From the moment we’re born, we’re able to learn as much from listening to our parents and elders as from our own trial by error. No other species can pass down knowledge the way we do. We’ve evolved to be obedient listeners to the local guru. Following authority is simply how we’re groomed to function in society. If you’re not the one holding the shaman stick, use whatever authority you can get. Make yourself a specialist. Link your statements to scientific proof. Prove to your audience that you know the facts better than they do (without being a dork about it.) That may be enough to get the leg up that you need. If you still need more help, consider a course to complement your existing skills.
Most people have a hard time saying no to people who have helped them in the past. Again, it’s how our society functions. Even apes scorn takers who never give. Become a giver yourself, and you’ll lay the groundwork toward agreement. Shower your colleagues with genuine praise and public recognition for their talents, and you’ll be in the perfect position to call in favors when you need to seal the deal.
Aristotle defined rhetoric as “The art of persuasion.” He broke it down into three subcategories: the logical appeal of the argument, the emotional appeal of the argument and the character of the speaker. We’ve all seen the difference between a compelling speaker and a monotonous one. When you’re flexing your influencing skills, remember that people want to follow a leader. You need to put on a demonstration of what kind of character you are—what kind of leader you can be. That means being confident, engaging, and compassionate. It never hurts to be hilarious. The more likeable you are, the more people identify with you. The more they identify with you, the more they trust you. The more they trust you, the more likely they are to do what you want them to. Learn how to be a more motivating leader here.
True or not, people like to imagine that they are consistent. We imagine that we live by a code of rules that governs our conduct and decision making. That’s not always so. In fact, more often than not, we justify amendments to our thinking to the point of hypocrisy. If you want to influence someone, show them that you are providing something in-line with their current thinking. Validate their standpoint and demonstrate where your plan fits into it. If you’re trying to shake up stagnant thinking, you must help them justify a change to the pattern. Tony Robbins does this masterfully. His motivational speaking is aimed at getting individuals (who are already seeking change) into new habits that lead to success. By empowering your audience, you too can make your peeps feel confident with the impending changes your proposing. People rely on consistency, so if you can’t work with it, you’ll need to jumpstart them into new habits with motivational techniques.
Have you ever sat in on a focus group and watched folks come to consensus? The social pressure to conform to one viewpoint is contagious. You’ve heard it before: we are social creatures. We are hard wired to get along with the tribe. It’s the only reason we can live in over-populated cities: the go-along to get-along. If you need to make inroads with a new group, you’ve got the double-edge sword of social pressure to contend with. With that in mind, do everything you can to keep naysayers and skeptics in check before they contaminate your group. You know those outfits that give you a free dinner/cruise/weekend away, just for listening to their sales presentation? They know that if a few people in the audience sound enthusiastic, their sales will go up. So what do they do? They plant fakes in the audience, so you think that other people think that the time-share (or whatever) is a good deal. We’re not suggesting you plant yes-men in your audience, but it is one option. If you can persuade one person that your idea is the best, you’re on your way to getting the whole room. Get on your way to getting your point across with this course in the Art of Persuasion
The last element that factors into our decision making is scarcity. The idea that you can only get it now or never is a powerful tool. If you’re trying to sell something, the more rare it is the higher the perceived value. (Get the keys to sales success here.) In some cases, entire business models on based on the principle of scarcity like Groupon and Living Social. Learn how to use this technique to your best advantage by understanding the psychology behind it.
Those are the tried and true basics of influencing skills. They are all based around a understanding of social psychology, so if you want to learn more, start with a social psychology course. The more you know about how people make decisions the stronger your influence will be.
The Basics of a Powerful Presentation
You know how in real estate it’s all about location? Well when it comes to effective communication, it’s all about preparation. Get yourself and your ideas organized so you can present effectively. Never wing it. The difference between an amateur and pro is that the pros know you need to prepare to be persuasive. But for your presentation what exactly should you do?
- Professor Thomas Hajduk at Carnegie Mellon University recommends opening with compelling and relevant news to grab the audience’s attention. This also helps add to your street cred by showing you’re on top of the latest research and in the know when it comes to your topic.
- Organize your ideas according to logic. But not just any logic, the logical questions your audience is going to be asking. Present your idea clearly and concisely, then anticipate the reactions. Don’t shy away from the difficult rebuttals, address them head on. What are the risks? How much will it cost? What’s in it for the participants in your audience?
- Do the homework for them. If your audience needs to know about the competitive landscape in order to make an informed decision, it belongs in your presentation. If you’re going to be implementing an action plan, iterate it in your pitch. When you conclude one topic, tie it back into your desired strategy and always emphasize the results and benefits.
- Support your claims with quantitative data whenever possible, so they don’t just have to take your word for it. Show them the research backs you up. (If you’re the new kid on the block, this is especially important because you get the halo of scientific authority, which we already know is very persuasive.)
- Stand tall and speak loudly and clearly. Project confidence, or you’re not going to get anywhere. How can someone else believe in your ideas if you don’t seem to believe in them yourself?
- Use your visual aids to add to the power of your presentation. Don’t label a graph ‘Q4 results.’ Use it as an opportunity to make your point: ‘In Q4, 15% profit increase shows marketing initiatives are working.” If you’re feeling unsure of your Powerpoint slides, check out this course to maximize your Powerpoint mojo.
- Close by asking your audience to take specific action.
The secret sauce of influence is full of social complexities so you owe it to yourself, to get immersed in the psychology or persuasion. As with any other pursuit worth your time, the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. Just imagine how successful you could be, if you could master influence for good.