“How many times did you try to persuade someone this week?”
Here’s an even better question — how are you defining persuasion? Often when we think about persuasion, we think about specific things like asking for a raise, but there are a lot of times you’re trying to persuade people on a day to day basis that you don’t even think are persuasion. What about that time you tried to return something at a store with a vague policy? The conversation you had with your friend to try to get them to come out with you last night?
Erica Smith is an attorney at the Institute for Justice, where she’s been working since 2011. In her work, she persuades people on a daily basis — and she recently joined Praxis to lead a workshop on mastering the art of persuasion.
Some of Erica’s key points:
- The biggest mistake people make in persuasion is that they forget to persuade.
- It’s easy to think about what’s most important to you when you’re trying to be persuasive; rather, you need to focus on the other person’s needs.
- People are always watching you, and the way you carry yourself in the world also makes a difference in your ability to persuade. If people see you being rude to a waiter or a secretary, your rudeness will persuade them to have nothing to do with you.
- You use different types of arguments for emotional people vs. technical people. For example: the emotional reasons for switching to vegetarianism (saving the cute animals!), vs. the technical reasons (saves money, because vegetables are cheaper than meat).
Erica’s Principles of Persuasion:
- Remember that you need to persuade. This means you need to talk about the other person’s needs
- Know your opponent. You need to understand how other people think and what keeps them up at night, and then focus your argument to that.
- Figure out who the right audience is. You can make a really persuasive argument to the wrong person (i.e. someone who has no decision-making power, etc.). Who are you going to spend your resources on targeting and convincing?
- When making a pitch, you want to make it as simple as possible. Otherwise people will get bored or confused or angry at you for taking their time.
- Be confident.
- Be credible. If you lose your credibility, you’re going to lose everything. You lose credibility if you oversell and underdeliver. Be honest. Don’t exaggerate.
- Practice. Ask for discounts when you go to the store — it’ll feel uncomfortable at first, but it’ll get easier with practice. Watch how people react, and then try a different approach.
- Presentation. You want to make sure you present yourself well. Pay attention to the ticks in the way you carry yourself (facial expressions, body language, etc.) Everybody has small ticks, and you often don’t know what they are — and you pick new ones up all the time.
“A really good way to get people to get people to like you [which is important in persuasion!] is to just listen to them. Most people go through their whole lives without anyone really listening to them, because everybody just wants to talk about themselves.” — Erica Smith