How To Be Totally Persuasive, But Not At All Sleazy

You don’t need to make crazy advances to convince people of your rightness. You just need to find where your and their perspectives align.

How To Be Totally Persuasive, But Not At All Sleazy

Just as networking isn’t solely the province of scumbags, persuasion isn’t only for rogues, succubi, and salespeople. We can use our interpersonal powers for good–or so we hope to convince you.


Learn that persuasion can be learned

Persuasive people seem so natural, and, also, perhaps a bit intimidating. Ryan Gosling could probably convince the Fast Company staff of anything.

But persuasion is a social skill–and any skill can be learned. Persuasion is closely related to charisma. As we learned a while back, interpersonal prowess comes in many flavors, including those for both introverts and extroverts. Introverts, for example, can be very charismatic and persuasive because of their ability to completely focus their attention on a person, which cues the building of trust.

Though being devastatingly handsome can’t hurt. But regardless of your Gosling-tude, these three tips can make you more persuasive.

Master the three-stage listen

Since the people you’re trying to persuade have their own hopes and interests, persuading them of your ideas is actually a matter of finding where you agree–what might be called co-investment. So much of persuasion is actually finding where that co-investment becomes apparent. Which requires deep listening.

As sales expert Kevin Daum notes at Inc., super persuasive people listen in three stages:

  • To see how receptive you are to their ideas
  • To attend to–and start to solve–your objections
  • To find “moments of agreement,” which can grow into co-investment

But to do that, you need to keep your mouth shut.

Always acknowledge their credibility

Hand in hand with the listening is the ability to understand (and reconstruct) the other person’s point of view. To be super persuasive, then, is to understand the operating thesis that they’re trying to express.

As Dan Dennett, Fast Company’s favorite controversial American philosopher, would say, you need to put their “position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says: ‘Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.'”

Get empathic

So by focusing your attention on the persuadee, listening raptly, restating their position, and then showing the way that your goals intersect, persuasion makes a charming turn into co-investment. But what’s the skill underlying all those stages? Empathy.

And empathy, as leadership coach Ginny Whitelaw once shared with us, is the most powerful leadership tool. Why? Because:


(With empathy), we can sense what’s in her interests, and influence becomes a matter of showing how our idea connects with those interests. That doesn’t mean she will always agree with us or do what we want, but it does mean that our thoughts and actions are now coming from a larger place: one that accords both our interests and hers.

So yes, persuasion is awesome. We don’t need any convincing.

Hat tip: Inc.

[Image: Flickr user Nan Palmero]

About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.