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Are You Made to Persuade? A Self-Test

Successful peuasion requires intellectual heavy lifting. Understanding your target, knowing how to increase the value of your offering, choosing the right words and determining the timing of your persuasive efforts all are prerequisites of effective persuasion.

No approach or technique can guarantee persuasion success, but there are ways to determine if you are, indeed, made to persuade.

In professional settings, persuasive people are:

  • Assertive: Inclined to be bold and self-assured.
  • Empathetic: Possessing the ability to see the world from another person’s perspective.
  • Communicative: Adept at applying verbal and nonverbal communication.
  • Tenacious: Extremely persistent in adhering to or accomplishing something.
  • Resilient: Possessing the ability to recover quickly after hearing “no.”

A Self-Test

Rank yourself in each area based on the descriptions below:

1. Assertive

Low: You rarely ever raise a new or contentious issue with others.

Medium: You regularly speak out in meetings and present cases for your statements.

High: Others might describe you as hard-headed or strongly opinionated.

          Low                                      Medium                                                 High

            1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          102. 

2. Empathetic

Low: You rarely consider another person’s perspective.

Medium: You easily determine when others want or don’t want to continue a conversation.

High: You’ve cried tears of joy at another’s success.

         Low                                      Medium                                                 High

            1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10

3. Communicative

Low: You tell everyone the same thing, the same way; you also send a lot of group emails.

Medium: You can explain most things to most people.

High: You intentionally vary both verbal and nonverbal approaches to suit your audience.

          Low                                      Medium                                                 High

            1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10

4. Tenacious

Low: You try to convince people of an idea, but you’re not going force them to agree with you.

Medium: When you want something, you’ll keep trying to get it for a good long time.

High: You hold on to your positions and objectives forever.

           Low                                      Medium                                              High

            1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10

5. Resilient

Low: When people say “no” to you, you feel personally rejected and depressed for days or weeks.

Medium: When rejected, you feel down, reflect on what happened and then move on.

High: Nobody likes to hear “no,” but you quickly shrug it off and move forward.

           Low                                      Medium                                               High

            1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10

Interpreting Your Results

Doing well on this self-test isn’t about scoring 10 in each area; it’s about possessing the right blend of these important behaviors of persuasive people.

A strength overdone is a weakness.

Let’s say you have great voice inflection and people find you an engaging and persuasive public speaker. Go too far with that voice inflection, though, and you’ll sound like a crazy — and not-at-all-convincing — late-night infomercial host.

Here’s my take on the optimum score for each essential behavior of persuasive people:

Assertiveness: You should score around a seven here. You certainly can’t be devoid of assertiveness and still be considered persuasive; at the same time, if you gave yourself a 10, you might have already crossed the line from assertiveness to aggressiveness.

Empathetic: An eight is great. You can’t be tone-deaf to the other person’s needs, but you also shouldn’t make your objectives completely subservient to your target’s every whim. You want to put yourself in the other person’s shoes temporarily; you don’t want to live there.

Communicative: This is where you want to hit the persuasive ball out of the park. Communication skills are crucial. What you say, how you say it, where you say it, when you say it and what you’re wearing all count. You want to be at your best, using both verbal and nonverbal communication to suit the message needs of your audience in much the same way a chameleon changes colors depending on mood and circumstances.

Tenacity: This one might surprise you. To be a persuasive professional, you only should score about a five or six on the tenacity scale. If you hold on to your ideas too tightly, you may quickly establish the reputation of someone who is unreasonable or obstinate. The key to knowing when you’ve gone too far is the ability to decode corporate-speak. When people start telling you they “like your passion,” that’s code for “We think you’ve lost your mind.” When you hear that, ease off the throttle.

Resilient: You need to score around a nine here, because you will face a lot of rejection in your career. No one hears “yes” all the time, so you better learn how to handle “no” appropriately. If someone doesn’t like your suggestion for the new marketing campaign, and you sulk about it for weeks as some sort of personal condemnation, you’re setting yourself up for a brutal existence. I’m not suggesting you be completely unfazed by rejection, either; that sort of momentary unhappiness can stimulate you to reflect and make important and necessary adjustments to your approaches. But the key here is taking action after hearing “no.” Do you get back to work quickly? People who score a nine in resiliency do.

It’s important to understand that your ability to improve is not based on some sort of inherent genetic disposition. You don’t need to be born with a silver tongue in order to be successful at persuasion. 

(Photo by Ryan McGuire via Gratisography)

Persuasion Destination

What Is Your Persuasion Destination?

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)

I am stuck on Band-Aid …

Hearing “yes” is largely about appealing to the other person’s enlightened self-interest. And one of the ways to effectively appeal to that is through the use of language, specifically a figure of speech called “chiasmus.”

A chiasmus is a verbal pattern in which the second half of a phrase is balanced against the first, with key elements being reversed. While you may not be familiar with the term, chances are you’ve encountered it.

For example, even the most challenged U.S. history high school student has more than likely heard references to John F. Kennedy’s iconic 1961 inaugural address, where he stated that people should, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

Or, if you’re a fan of advertising jingles, “I am stuck on Band-Aid, ’cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me.” Not as profound as JFK, but it nonetheless provides a memorable chiasmus example.

Want to improve the likelihood of a co-worker getting on board with your initiative? Use a chiasmus.

Steve, it isn’t so much what you can do for the project – although that’s substantial. You really need to consider what the project can do for you.”

Here’s why that approach is so effective: What you’re really “selling” is transformation. You’re showing Steve how, by participating in this project, he’s actually signing up for an improved skill set, greater visibility in the company and perhaps a starring role in a career-making project.

This works, because it appeals to the other person’s enlightened self-interest – potentially creating a newer, more interesting, more skilled, more visible, more respected and more marketable … him.

Want to get more people to say, “Yes!” to you more often?

Dress better. A study analyzing people’s inclination to follow a jaywalker dangerously crossing traffic proved very interesting.  Dressed in coveralls and work boots, no one followed the lawbreaker. The same person dressed in a three piece suit, had people following him like the dram major of a marching band.

Some experts suggest you should dress ten percent better than the person you want to persuade. I’m not sure how you would quantify that sort of sartorial precision, but I do know you should look the best you can. When you dress well, are pressed and clean and you’re your shoes are shined, people will follow your lead.

Be assertive, not aggressive. Here’s how:

Be assertive but not aggressive. Assertive people are admired and live to persuade again, and again. Aggressive people are told, “We like your passion.” which is corporate-speak for, “We think you’ve lost your mind!

How can you be assertive, but not aggressive?

Take two shots, then salute. When you have an idea you’re trying to get buy in for, use appropriate strategies and tactics to best increase your chances. If you get turned down, have another run at it. If you get turned down again, salute and move on. You’ll be seen as ambitious, yet reasonable (You can always resurface this idea at another more propitious time).

If you hold on to your position like a hoarder clenches a 1983 People magazine, you’re going to start to hear your co-workers say, “We like your passion.

Want to be more convincing?

Be convinced.

A biotech marketing director asked, “Mark, how to I get my team on board with a program I don’t believe in?”

My immediate, slightly sarcastic, mental response: These aren’t magic methods.

My actual response: You can’t.

Your external actions and internal thoughts must be in alignment. I call this state congruency. Not to get all “West coast woo-woo” on you, but mental conflict can be felt by those you’re attempting to persuade.

The fundamental persuasion heuristic is this: If you want to be convincing, you have to be convinced.