A simple question that generates a complex answer. Here is an article I wrote last year on the subject in preparation for a seminar.
The Power of Persuasion
There probably isn’t a day go by where we aren’t exposed to the act of persuasion. Either somebody is trying to sell us something, advertising is everywhere, or we are trying to convince another to take our advice or to give us something that we want.
We developed the skills of persuasion when we were children. I recall actively trying to convince my parents why I should be allowed to stay up past my regular bedtime to watch a television show that I wanted to see. Or why I should be able to watch a show that I was interested in that was on at the same time as a show that they were watching. I’m dating myself with that example, this was back in the olden days when households only had one television. I know … it is hard to believe that people actually lived in those conditions! Even negotiating with our mothers for an extra serving of dessert or a treat, helped us hone those skills of persuasion that would become so important to us in adulthood and in our professional careers.
This article is the result of the research that I undertook in preparation for a presentation titled: ‘The Power of Influence: Speaking to Make Things Happen!’ Ironically, as I researched the topic I found that perhaps the presentation should have been titled ‘The Power of Persuasion: Speaking to Get Other People to Make Things Happen!’
Nichole De Falco in her Saying What You Mean Blog, October 29, 2009, Influence vs Persuasion: A Critical Distinction for Leaders and those that responded to her on-line, provide some interesting insights into the topic.
“From a purely semantic point of view, it’s not such a big deal to use these terms [i.e. influence/persuasion] interchangeably. From a leadership perspective however, the distinction can be the difference between your team carrying you on their shoulders after a victory or having them stuff you in a locker before practice.”
De Falco defines Persuasion as … “presenting a case in such a way as to sway the opinion of others, make people believe certain information, or motivate a decision.”
She provides these examples of activities that would be associated with persuasion: ·
Choosing words and phrases to communicate ideas that strike a responsive chord in a target audience.
· Using a decision-matrix to steer a conversation through a path of predictable choices.
· Orchestrating environmental conditions in which to interact with others in order to optimize the likelihood of a desirable outcome.
In contrast, she provides the following definition of influence: “Influence is having a vision of the optimum outcome for a situation or organization and then, without using force or coercion, motivating people to work together toward making the vision a reality.” And the following activities as examples of influence in action:
· Giving others a voice in the decision-making process.
· Brokering meaningful relationships between unconnected groups.
· Giving others credit whenever possible.
· Maintaining a track record of consistent success in a particular area.
John Smith in his comments provided … “persuasion” seems more about direct action in a specific situation than “influence”, which appears to be concerned with overall guidance and direction.”
Brian Hearn commented … “I like to say influence is about PEOPLE – Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical. I use the terms influence and persuasion interchangeably but I see your point. If you are correct then influence, or being influential, is more than just saying the right thing. It’s about who you are, everything about you which causes people to follow you. Celebrities are a good example because they can be influential despite lacking persuasive skills. By virtue of who they are people want to be with them, like them and do what they do.”
Doug Edgar commented … “I hadn’t given much thought to the distinction between persuasion and influence in a leadership context but now that you’ve pointed it out I can see a clear difference between the two. Whereas persuasion can be effectively used by anyone with a good enough story to tell, influence can be used only by leaders. Influence is one of the defining attributes of leaders. Great leaders seldom need to persuade, they need only explain.”
Techniques to Persuade With Power:
When using any advanced skill or technique, it is imperative that you have mastered the fundamental skills that lead up to the mastery.
To be able to persuade others, you have to believe in yourself. You have to believe that what you have to say is of value and worthy of sharing. You have to be self-confident and aware that you will likely receive resistance to your ideas. Not everybody thinks the same way and what is important to one person may have no value to others. You have to be assertive in getting your needs met or communicating your message when others would prevent or discourage you from doing so. You need to have well developed writing and oral communication skills to be able to persuade others to follow your suggestions.
This article can’t really provide you with the skills mentioned above but can give you some suggestions that will increase the likelihood of your success.
The Structure of Persuasion: Problem, Cause & Solution
(derived from The Seven Habits of Persuasive Speakers by John William Coleman, The Toastmaster, December 2005)
Isolate the problem(s): If you are to persuade your audience to follow your suggestions, your first task is to demonstrate, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a verifiable problem exists. If your listeners don’t recognize the problem, or it has no importance or relevance to them, they are not likely to find your arguments for a solution to be of any value.
Coleman advises that you can establish an effective problem in a few basic steps: isolate it, underline its urgency and severity and sell its audience significance.
First isolate the problem and limit its scope. Set boundaries. For example, tackling a problem of world hunger may be too huge a scope to even consider but perhaps narrowing the scope to resolve the problem for a single family or perhaps a village, may be achievable.
Second, underling the problem’s urgency and severity. I’m sure we have all seen advertisements on television focussed on hunger in certain parts of the world attempting to persuade us that we are in the position to make a difference and that if we don’t there will be dire results for those involved.
And finally, show why your problem is significant to your audience. It’s not enough to prove that the problem exists. You have to convince your audience that it affects them in some way.
Identify the cause(s): You must identify the problem’s causes. Whether the cause is human, circumstantial or environmental, it must be clearly identified, logically connected to the problem, argued with sensitivity and delivered with passion.
You need to limit your causes and logically connect them to the problem. Use rhetorical questions to tie your facts together. This network of connective tissue is important. If your audience doesn’t buy the connection between problem and cause, it is less likely to act.
Second, argue the causes with sensitivity. The chances are high that in some way, members of your audience may be connected to the root cause of the problem. You need to raise their awareness without putting them on the defensive.
Finally, keep the causes compelling. If you have to deliver your persuasive pitch on numerous occasions you can be easily desensitized to the cause. Your audience needs to believe that this is the first time that you have ever spoken about the issue.
Formulate workable solutions: Once you have clearly presented the problem and persuaded the audience of its causes, you then must provide them with solutions that are actionable, personable and immediate. Your solution should be well thought out in advance, not at the time of presentation.
First, make your solutions actionable. Find and provide solutions that you believe will work and that your audience can easily support.
Second, make solutions personal. The audience has to be able to understand how they can make a difference by their actions. The solution to a problem they have agreed to has to resonate with them.
Third, give your solutions immediacy. Now is better than later. Later may never come. You need to persuade your audience to take the action that you are suggesting right now.
The Content of Persuasion: Logos, Pathos and Ethos
Aristotle’s on Rhetoric has been the essential guide for public speakers since the middle of the fourth century B.C. and with regards to persuasion, it focuses on three key concepts: logos, pathos and ethos.
Speak with logic (logos): An appeal to logos can appear in at least two ways: clear lineal reasoning and fact-based thinking. An effective technique to lay out a logical argument is to develop five or six independent pieces of the problem and then link them to their respective causes and solutions. Think of them as links of a chain. It is not unusual for someone in your audience to be unpersuaded by an element of your argument. If one of the links should break or not be strong enough to persuade a member of your audience, the others will be strong enough to support it. The other links should be strong enough to encourage your audience to take action. In building these chains of links, each must link throughout the entire speech — problem to cause, cause to solution and solution back to problem.
Second, persuasion should rely on fact-based thinking. You should mix individual stories with statistics and incorporate hard variable facts. Cite credible sources for your facts, preferably, sources that your audience is likely to recognize.
Speak to the heart (pathos): Your persuasive presentation should include an appeal to the emotions. Aristotle called it pathos. Effectively used in a speech it can make the difference between one that is compelling and one that is forgettable. An emotional appeal in persuasion prepares the listeners to accept your message and compels them to act.
Structurally, pathos and logos work in tandem. It is often advisable to start a presentation with a humorous or heart-warming story and then follow up with logic and fact. There has to be a balance between the two. Long, emotional stories can be draining to the audience as endless chains of logic can bore them. You need to remember that emotion works both ways. While it can inspire empathy for a cause or a victim, it can just as easily create antipathy toward the cause or the root of the problem.
Speak From Authority (ethos): Finally, the capstone of Aristotle’s rhetorical triad is the appeal of credibility (or from authority), ethos. For the most part, you can create this appeal in two ways: use external sources and your own history and character.
First, you can generate credibility quickly and effectively through the use of credible external sources — the same sources used to build a fact-based argument, satisfying the appeal to logic. Cite organizations or individuals that carry intellectual weight and rely on statistics and stories of those with a history of neutrality and accuracy.
Second, generate authority through your own experience and character. If you are an expert, let your reputation precede you.
Finally, you have to care about your topic, if you want your audience to do so. You can have a well researched, intellectually crafted speech, but the audience must see that your words come from your heart. When you believe, others will follow.
Quick Tips for Crafting a Persuasive Speech (derived from The Toastmaster November 2015)
Rather than talk about everything possible that might persuade the other person, find out what’s important to your listener and then persuade them on those points only.
Tell a story: Capture your audience’s attention with an anecdote or an interesting story that relates to the points you are making. Your story should be relevant and add to your persuasive appeal and not leave your audience wondering what you are talking about.
Exaggerate: Use gestures. Move your body and create facial expressions to add emotion to your words.
Show passion: If you want your audience to be enthusiastic about our vision, then you must show passion. It shows that you believe in what you are presenting. If you aren’t passionate about your proposal, why should anybody else be. In addition, if you aren’t passionate, perhaps you shouldn’t be trying to convince others. It would seem to be a recipe for failure.
Content matters: While writing your persuasive speech, make sure the content is strong, or else its not going to b persuasive. Use descriptive, colorful words that paint a picture for the audience.
The 10 Ps of Powerful Persuasion Learn to connect with your audience the way advertisers do. (derived from Karl Righter, DTM in the August 2012 The Toastmaster, Page 26)
Righter, the author, advises that there is a challenge in breaking through the daily clutter of 3500+ competing messages. He offers this proven 10-step communication process which he has developed to help you gain and hold an audience’s attention, foster better understanding and promote a response of some kind.
1. Purpose: Every presentation must have a purpose, an objective or sense of mission, or else it should not be done. What is the desired result or outcome?
2. Passion: A message delivered without passion and conviction becomes clutter. Passion makes a message memorable; it is an important as the message itself. For speakers, passion becomes evident in the form of personal conviction, facial expression, voice inflection, enthusiasm, body language and humour. If you speak from the heart, your message will be remembered.
3. Positioning: Your message must be clearly framed to differentiate it from other communications or competing points of view. Your audience needs a frame of reference to more easily process your information and anticipate what to expect. Speakers themselves should be properly positioned (e.g., Mr. Enthusiasm”, “The Mayor of …” , “The Author of …” Positioning strategy comes into play during the promotion of your presentation via e-mails, newsletters, fliers, mailings or written introductions.
4. Packaging: Product packaging is critical in marketing and advertising. Similarly, every speech or presentation needs a title, the more creative the better. Another part of the package is your introduction. It begins the communication process by clarifying your purpose and positioning you as an authority on your topic.
5. Pique: Just as a commercial has to quickly grab you or lose you to the refrigerator, your presentation has to immediately hook your audience. You must quickly pique their curiosity or you risk losing them altogether. This can be accomplished in the form of a provocative question, humorous story, unusual prop or visual aid, dramatic gesture, clever metaphor, song of compelling statistic.
This technique captures the imagination and signals the speech’s importance. After you have hooked your audience members, pique their curiosity with rhetorical questions and startling statements.
6. Promise: In a presentation, once you have the attention of your audience, it is critical that you promise a payoff. People want to know what they will gain by considering your message. They are reluctant to invest the energy required to figure out “what’s in it for me?” Give them an incentive to stay with you.
7. Premise: To add variety to your promise or payoff, state a premise that gives the audience a hint of how the payoff can be achieved. The premise is your stated game plan for achieving your promise. E.g., (Promise) Following these 10 P’s of Powerful Persuasion for more success in your presentations. (Premise) Applying any or all of the P’s will differentiate you as a speaker from every one else.
8. Points: Key points in the body of your speech comprise the “body” of your message. These points are the fulfillment of the promise and the proof of the premise. Audiences want to hear ideas with relevant practical applications to their lives. Reinforcing key points with humour fosters improved understanding and makes the message memorable.
9. Pictures: Today’s advertising often uses flashy computer-generated images and compelling action or comedy to add dramatic impact. In speaking, it is crucial that you bring your message to life with a variety of mental and visual images. Mental images include word pictures, metaphors, human interest stories, quotes, humour, share personal experiences, analogies and statistics. To appeal visually, use props, body language, visual aids, graphics and handouts.
10. Provocation: To get people to embrace your point of view, complete a survey or to write their local government official, you must provoke them to take action towards the promised payoff. In other words, ask yourself: What do you want them to do with the message that you just delivered?
To break through the communications clutter and get results, build your message with as many of the 10 P’s of Powerful Persuasion as possible.
How to Create a Winning Proposal
(derived from Toastmasters International’s The Winning Proposal Project, in the Persuasive Speaking Manual of the Advanced Communication Program)
What is my objective? Your objective is the basis for your entire proposal. “What do I want this proposal to accomplish? What do I want to happen?” Write it down. Keep it short, simple and focussed.
Who is my audience? The obvious answer is the ones that are listening to your proposal. Are these people knowledgeable in the subject matter of your proposal and do they have the authority to act upon your proposal? Are you making a proposal to the right audience? Are they the decision makers or do they have to pass their recommendations on to someone else who does? The more you find out about your audience in advance, the more effective your proposal will be.
What does my audience want or need? What are its interests? If you want the audience to accept your proposal, you must present it in such a way that listeners will be receptive to it. You must address the issue from your audience’s point of view, not from your own. Determining your audience’s wants, needs and interests may be the most difficult task in developing a proposal, since the information you need may not be readily accessible. You may have to do research at the library or the internet and/or talking to your audience in advance to find out what your audience wants or needs.
What do you want the audience to do? The purpose of your proposal is to convince the audience to take some action. What action do you want them to take? Your proposal should contain a simple statement clearly indicating exactly what you want the audience to do.
What is the plan? The proposal should include a review of how the proposed plan will work. Avoid going into too much detail. Too much information can overwhelm and confuse listeners, while too little information will only create confusion and doubt. Offer supporting information where it would be helpful and include costs when appropriate.
What would the results be? Provide the benefits the plan would produce. Conclude your proposal by asking your audience to approve it. When possible, provide a time frame.
After you have finished writing your proposal, review it carefully and consider the buying process. If your proposal doesn’t do this, make changes accordingly.
(derived from Toastmasters International’s Addressing the Opposition Project, in the Persuasive Speaking Manual of the Advanced Communication Program)
Know Your Audience: As mentioned previously, knowing as much about your audience is key to making a sale or getting your proposal accepted. In any audience, or perhaps your entire audience, there may be resistance to your ideas and your proposal. This project focusses on overcoming audience resistance.
Constructing Your Speech: A speech of this nature requires sensitivity and tact in preparation. If you appear too aggressive, your audience will become argumentative. If you aren’t forceful enough, they will tune you out. You want to impress them as a sincere, friendly and concerned person who deserves their courteous attention.
Your position on the issue or subject: Be honest and direct with your audience, telling them your position within the first moment of so of your talk. If you avoid telling them, you could cause them to distrust you.
Opposing viewpoints: Your listener’s willingness to hear you and consider your view is enhanced when you acknowledge their viewpoints and the opposing viewpoints that others have. Use the information you gather earlier about your audience and their concerns. Acknowledge these views and concerns, then carefully explain why they don’t have merit. Back up your explanation with facts whenever possible.
Benefits of your viewpoint: Your audience will want to know why they should believe in your viewpoint. Point out the benefits your viewpoint offers them.
Points of agreement: Your audience will be more receptive to your persuasive efforts if you identify areas where you and your listeners do agree.
Call to action: The closing should ask your audience to do something. No matter how persuasive your speech, if your audience doesn’t act upon your efforts are for naught.
Enhance the Message
Illustrate your points with stories & anecdotes
Use descriptive words
Show your commitment
Draw on listener’s emotions
Maintain eye contact
Pay attention to your voice.
Three Ways to Be More Influential http://christopherwitt.com/speak-like-a-leader/speaking-to-influence/
When you speak to influence, you do one or more of three things:
1. Interpret: You tell people what something means by providing context and understanding.
2. Evaluate: You determine the worth or value of something, making judgments based on your experience and wisdom.
3. Advocate: You make the case for action. You tell people can be done, and why it should be done.
You cannot be influential and timid or self-doubting at the same time. You have to know what you believe in and why you believe it.
You also have to see the big picture. Influence is about framing how people look at an issue. And you can only put a frame around an issue when you see it in context.
Five Ways to Speak with Influence
Here are five ways you can speak more influentially:
1. Remember that you are the message.
Who you are—your personality, experience, values—shapes the message you communicate. You can influence people only if and when they trust you.
2. Speak metaphorically.
Use a metaphor—an overall image—to describe the situation you’re talking about. Is this a make-or-break situation or an opportunity? Exciting times or a disaster in the making?
3. Make bold statements.
Don’t hem and haw. Avoid modifiers, like “I sometimes think…” or “on occasion it may be…” Take a stand and defend it.
4. Use strong words.
Avoid jargon and all the business clichés that timid speakers hide behind: at the end of the day, going forward, thinking outside the box, low-hanging fruit, paradigm shift, etc.
5. Tell stories.
There’s no better way to engage an audience’s emotions and imagination than to tell stories. Long after people forget everything else you’ve said, they’ll remember the story you told.
Thanks for your question. I hope I have persuaded you to read my response through to the end.
The Power of Persuasion: Mastering the Art of Influence is available at https://liveforexcellence.store/product/the-power-of-persuasion-ebook/ as an e-book, paperback and an audio book.
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For further discussion on public speaking, speech development, communication skills and Toastmasters, visit the Live For Excellence Book Store for the following publications:
Blow Your Own Horn!: Personal Branding for Business Professionals
Power Networking For Shy People: How to Network Like a Pro
The Power of Persuasion: Mastering the Art of Influence
The Power of Promotion: Online Marketing For Toastmasters Club Growth
The Savvy Emcee: How to be a Dynamic Master of Ceremonies
Working With Words: Adding Life to Your Oral Presentations
Rae A. Stonehouse is an author, speaker, and self-publishing consultant dedicated to helping others embrace constant improvement and overcome challenges. With over 40 years of experience as a Registered Nurse in psychiatry and mental health, Rae brings a wealth of knowledge and passion for self-development to his writing and presentations.
As a 25+ year member of Toastmasters International, Rae has systematically built his communication abilities and self-confidence to share his insights as an author and speaker. His self-help books and personal development presentations aim to have conversational one-on-one connections with readers and audiences.
Rae is known for his wry sense of humor and sage advice delivered in a relatable coaching style. After four decades as a nurse, Rae has rewired rather than retired, actively writing and pursuing public speaking. He strives to share lessons learned to help others achieve personal and professional growth.