Powerful Persuasion

In our society, it’s impossible to escape persuasive messages. They come from advertisers, politicians, co-workers and even (or especially) children. In turn, you also frequently try to persuade others. If you’re in sales, you spend most of your working life at it. In addition, you’re persuading when you try to convince your family to go to the beach rather than the mountains for vacation. Or, when you negotiate with a contractor or vendor for a better price for their services or goods.


Motivate & Persuade

There are several things to remember when you are trying to motivate or persuade someone.


Appealing to Their Needs

Make certain that you’re appealing to them at their need level. You’ve probably heard of noted humanistic psychologist, Abraham Maslow. According to his theory, we are motivated or persuaded by different things at different times based on our needs. Someone may not care about getting a new car if they don’t have enough food to eat or a roof over their head. The car is an esteem need (the forth level), while food and shelter are physiological needs (the sixth level). Once you understand what a person’s need level is, you must appeal to and satisfy that need, not the one above it

For example

I have a friend who is intelligent, hardworking, loyal and has the potential to be an excellent manager. The problem is that she doesn’t have the same education as some current managers and feels inadequate. As a result, she has a million excuses for not applying for a promotion. Maslow would say that she’s dealing with her esteem needs and until those needs are satisfied, she isn’t ready to take the self-actualization step of moving on in her career. If you were her employer, you could gain a valuable manager if you helped her meet her needs, by giving her more positive feedback and recognition for the work that she’s already doing.


Have the End Results in Mind

When you’re preparing to convince someone to think or do something differently, it’s important to have the end in mind from the beginning. What really is the outcome you’re looking for? You also want to think about your “audience” B the person you’re trying to persuade. Do they just need a little nudge to make the change or are they hostile to the idea? You’ll need different strategies for different situations.

For Example

Let’s suppose that you have a colleague who is unhappy about a new policy that will ultimately improve morale. You might try a simple statement of reasons method to get him/her to “buy in.” Start by preparing a list the reasons or benefits of the new policy. Then, list them in order of their strength starting with the weakest. Then when talking with him, state your first reason, then the second strongest. Follow this with your other reasons. What you want to do is to build momentum. Finally, end your argument with what you hope your colleague will perceive as the very best reason. “Not only will this policy save the company money and cause less stress in the office, but it will also allow everyone to have an extra week of vacation.” Now that’s a reason! This method seems to work best when the “persuadees” are generally in favor of your idea.


The Problem/Solution Method

Another way of persuading is to use a problem/solution method.

For Example

If you’re having a problem retaining good employees and you think that a flex time schedule would go a long way toward solving the problem, here’s what you could say to your boss. “Mark, our exit interviews are telling us that we’re losing a lot of good people because they can’t be around when their kids get home from school (problem). Since most of our employees work independently on their projects, I think converting to a flex time schedule would help (solution). Since we know that we don’t want to hire a lot of part time people, this seems the best way to keep our people happy and increase production (best solution).” Of course, you’d want to fill it out with some evidence, statistics, etc., but you get the idea.



Remember that you can only be persuasive if the person you’re trying to convince perceives you as credible, honest and knowledgeable. That’s generally something that you have to develop over time with a person or group. Remember, too, that people usually aren’t convinced to make a major change in thought from just one message or presentation. It sometimes takes many messages. That’s why advertisers and politicians keep bombarding us with their slogans and products.

These techniques can work at home and in social situations as well as in business if you make certain that you know what you want the outcome of your persuasive message to be, the needs and attitudes of those you are trying to convince and the best method to use for the situation.

These are just a few ideas from a whole academic discipline, but if they get you thinking about new ways to persuade, then I will have been successful in motivating/persuading you.

Have fun!



©2017, Say It Well! Permission is given to reprint this article if the following is included: Reprinted by permission of Dr. Candice M. Coleman. She can be reached at 636-724-3761.