Effectively Persuading – A Collaborative Model
by Niki Tudge
As a company leader, a business owner and a pet professional, I am reminded on an hourly basis about how important the concept of persuasion is. To be an effective leader you must be able to persuade. When you want to inspire and create dynamic change persuasion is mission critical. As a professional whose role encompasses working through others your persuasion competency often directly correlates to your effectiveness. As an individual operating within a group, if you cannot relate to these roles then think about how impactful persuasion can be in your personal life, asking for a pay increase or resolving interpersonal conflict.
So what is persuasion?
Persuasion is a form of influence. It is the process of guiding people towards adopting a behavior, a belief or an attitude. Persuasion is not manipulation or coercion and it does not include deceit, force or dispatching orders. The goal of persuasion is to create and develop lasting changes in behavior. Effective persuasion requires careful preparation and presentation of ideas supported by evidence delivered in a credible and compelling manner. Most importantly persuasion is not about robbing people of their ability to make a decision or a choice. Rather it is about impactfully engaging, educating and compelling others.
When we aim to convince, compel or persuade we must appeal to people in the correct emotional climate and help them see and understand why they should change their belief, behavior or attitude. Just as importantly we must be credible and influential in helping them choose the correct door to open and road to travel so they can get from where they are now to where they need to be.
“Persuasion is a governing power.
Those who have it use it to their advantage.
Those who don’t have it let it run their lives”
Look around you and identify with somebody you know who is a credible and effective persuader. You will notice that they have some very strong interpersonal skills. They tend to be good listeners and they solicit and give feedback. They are probably good people readers; they can sense what is appropriate and when it is appropriate. They think creatively about the common good and they are always prepared and empathetic. Good persuaders are very credible people. Their credibility stems from four personal characteristics (Janasz, Dowd & Schneider2002):
i. Trustworthiness. A consistent, reliable, solid emotional character and someone who will look out for others best interests
ii. Composure. A self-assured and confident individual
iii. Expertise. Someone who has presented, even when passionate, reliable data and given nondefensive responses to criticism and questions
iv. Appearance. How one demonstrates over time through personal interactions a history of being engaged and enthusiastic
When we want to persuade somebody we need to frame our point of view in a way that engages the audience, creates a vested interest from all parties and inspires others to “join the crusade”. The best way to frame our position is to set a plan that involves describing the position in a way that identifies common ground. This framing helps us to set a collaborative tone and we achieve three interrelated goals. Framing provides our listener with the ideas we would like them to consider. Framing also provides an open way for alternative ideas to be compared and creates a logical structure for decision making.
There has been much study on persuasion and some of the disciplines interested in this research are psychology, communication and business. Researchers have proposed and tested several theories that explain persuasion and the factors that impact its effectiveness. Some of these findings suggest that persuasion is impacted by whether you like somebody or not and, by the amount of dissonance or tension in the relationship prior to the persuasion. I personally favor Reardon’s ACE theory. Reardon suggests that people use three criteria to determine whether they will respond positively to a persuader; appropriateness, consistency and effectiveness.
i. Appropriateness, the right thing to do according to accepted standards
ii. Consistency, how the action or belief compares to your own past behaviors or espoused beliefs
iii. Effectiveness, the degree to which an action or idea leads to a desirable state
Ethical & Cautionary Issues
When used correctly persuasion efforts are effective in gaining positive outcomes for all parties. When used incorrectly persuasion can be used and viewed as a road to manipulation. A quick litmus test to use when you are in the audience of a persuader, or when you are trying to persuade, is to ask yourself the following;
Who is really benefiting as a result of this? Is the information being presented accurately and does this interaction feel like a test of wills, a competitive game or is it a healthy and positive two way exchange, as in a debate? (Janasz, Dowd & Schneider2002).
As the founder of PPG and as the president of my own businesses I attempt to make all my virtual and non-virtual interfaces and interactions positive so I can work on building my personal and professional credibility. Then when I feel the need or the timing is appropriate to “persuade” I can be effective in educating and engaging my audience. What about You?
S. Janasz, K. Dowd, B. Schneider 2002 Interpersonal Skills in Organizations, McGraw Hill Irwin. New York