What is Persuasion?

So just what is persuasion? Occasionally when people hear the word “persuasion,” they mentally rub the hands together like some sort of mad scientist and think, “Finally! I can get the world to do my bidding.”

And in a way they’re right. You could use many of the strategies and tactics that we talk about in an underhanded and manipulative way and you will get people to say, “Yes.”


But that’s not what we communicate.

Successful careers are built on are building relationships, skills and approaches which will enable you to earn agreements, time and time and time again, resulting in you building a successful career and high performing organizations. That is our objective.

So although what follows will probably not qualify for a unified field theory it is a pragmatic framework for understanding persuasion.

First, I define persuasion as ethically winning the hearts and minds of others. This is an action. It is something that you purposefully set out to do. Not to be confused with negotiation, which suggests some sort of compromise, persuasion means bringing someone to your way of thinking. And doing so in a way that is above board and that speaks to them both rationally and emotionally.

Influence, in my view, is the ability to produce an effect without exerting effort. It is a condition. You are a person of influence in a discipline or organization. You have a sphere of influence an area of influence. Think of this as your organizational horsepower.

Your ability to persuade and subsequently your area of influence are largely predicated on three dominant skill sets.

Creating Your Unsurpassable Credibility

The first is credibility (Yes, I’m categorizing credibility as a skill set). You can create your unsurpassable credibility by improving your technical skills, i.e. how good you are at what you do. Your credibility can be further strengthened by the track record of your performance, both in actuality and perception. You do have to “market” yourself. The third and final component of credibility here is your ability to forge, maintain and re-establish high-quality interpersonal relationships.

Acquiring Superior Language Skills

The second dominant skill set is language. The words you use and the phrases you choose have a huge impact on your effectiveness with others. Knowing when to use “gain” language or “loss” language is important; your ability to leverage metaphor and analogy; your ability to effectively use inflection, volume and rate of speech, all of these skills combine to create superior language abilities giving you the capacity to be a master communicator.

Building Process Proficiency

The final skill set is your ability to create and employ powerful processes which inform and educate individuals and build organizational momentum. Persuasion success often is determined by the sequence with which information is presented. Think of this as your ascent to assent or if you like your acceptance progression.

Here’s what many don’t know. Your path to helping others understand why your way is best is often built on small agreements, not big ones. You ability to recognize, create and obtain those smaller agreements is paramount to your larger persuasion success.

As you get better at consciously developing your inimitable credibility, acquiring and applying superior language skills and leveraging powerful persuasion processes, this is where you’ll one of the greatest words in the English language: “Yes!”

And that’s my pragmatic framework to help you understand persuasion and to help you hear “yes” more often.