Has your success ever hinged on someone agreeing with your initiative? Have you ever watched a project fail because of a lack of buy-in? Stood dumbfounded as someone else was handed the promotion you coveted? Watched a potential client pass on your proposal in favor of a more charismatic competitor?
Whether you are in the executive suite, in middle management or on the front lines, persuasion skills are crucial to ensuring that you have the best chance of career success.
To the uninitiated, the term “persuasion” has negative connotations: “You’re not going to persuade me!” someone argues defiantly. Or the well-intentioned person may proclaim, “I would never try to persuade someone.”
Persuasion is not coercive, conniving or devious. No one can be persuaded to do something they don’t want to do. They may have second thoughts or buyer’s remorse, but I’m not here to talk about that.
What is persuasion?
I define persuasion as ethically winning the heart and mind of your target.
“Ethically” means simply doing something honestly and without trickery or deceit. “Winning” means gaining agreement with your suggestion, idea or position. “Heart” refers to gaining emotional buy-in, “mind” refers to logical buy-in, and “target” represents the specific person you are attempting to persuade.
A term often used in conjunction with persuasion is “influence.” Influence is the capacity to become a compelling force that produces effects on the opinions, actions and behavior of others. Consider influence to be your professional and personal credibility, your organizational and political capital, your corporate “sway.”
Remember: Persuasion is an action; influence is a state or condition.
One thing persuasion is not? Manipulation. Nor is it underhanded or self-serving. Once you go down that road, your persuasive powers with that particular person are all but finished. Manipulation does not help build long and lucrative careers. Whether you’re attempting to persuade or dissuade, you have to be doing it for the right reasons and in the right manner.
Think about the last time you tried to persuade someone. Were you successful? Or did your attempt lead you and the other person down the wrong road?
(Photo by Ryan McGuire via Gratisography)