How can I improve my persuasion skills?

Posted on: March 21, 2010

“How can I improve my persuasion skills?” first appeared as a guest blog in the Property ADD blog in early 2010.

There’s an old proverb that says “You say it – they doubt it, you argue it – they defend it, you prove it – they diminish it, they say it – they believe it”. And herein lies the essence of persuasion…getting on the other person’s wavelength.

As a psychologist I could offer all manner of ideas and models to help you with persuasion – ranging from emotional intelligence (EQ), empathy, rapport, trust and motivation and through to personality, thinking styles and relationship type preferences.

Some people even recommend a series of techniques packaged up as NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming).

In my influencing toolbox I offer people a range of techniques including: personal impact, marketing and sales theory, psychological models, influencing styles and techniques and rational/data driven approaches.

However, for this short blog entry I recommend a best seller and fascinating to read book by a brilliant psychologist, Robert B Cialdini. He explains that humans often operate – for efficiency purposes – using fixed action patterns which means that they have automatic responses from a single trigger feature.

He proved, for example, that you are more successful if you provide a reason when requesting a favour (even if you say, for example, “Please may I jump in and make a copy because I have to make a copy – the “because” is the trigger that makes people allow you to queue jump – not the rather content-free excuse). And he explains the effectiveness of common set up examples used by estate agents (e.g. presenting a few poor options before an acceptable/good one).

He offers six key techniques to persuade – all based on proven psychological research:

    1. Scarcity – The rule of the few – Opportunities seem more valuable to us when they are less available. For example: “This sort of property rarely comes onto the market…”
    2. Reciprocation – Give and take – We try to repay what another person has given us and if we reject a big request then we are more likely to accept a smaller request. For example: “I know that four bedrooms was too many, but how about three instead of two?”
    3. Commitment and consistency – Hobgoblins of the mind – Once we make a choice, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment and that a small commitment usually makes us take a bigger commitment. For example “I know you said you really wanted RegionA but as you have already looked at some properties in RegionB…”
    4. Social proof – Truths are us – We view behaviour as correct in a given situation to the degree we see others performing it (especially in uncertainty). For example: “Most young couples want as big a house as their first time mortgage will allow”.
    5. Liking – The friendly thief – We prefer to say yes to the requests of people we know and like. For example: “My colleague Joe, who you got on really well with when you met him last year, suggested that you take a look at…”
    6. Authority – Directed deference – We have a deep seated sense of sense of duty to authority. For example: “My manager asked me to show you this property”.

From my experience, what makes people say “Yes” is your ability to meet their needs or match their principles and values, beliefs and opinions and needs and wants. To do this you have to have a deep understanding of the “What’s in it for me?” by describing relevant features, advantages and benefits.

But please remember in all conversations: “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated” (William James, a psychologist) and, of course, the words of George Burns: “Sincerity – If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”

I do not restrict access to the FAQs but I politely request that you let me know by email and acknowledge the source (www.kimtasso.com) if you wish to use the material anywhere.

As always, if there are particular topics you would like me to address in the future, please let me know. You will also find a source of more and up to date information on a broad range of management and marketing issues in the professions by checking out the blog where I also post regular reviews of books that might be helpful.

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