You know your idea is good. You’ve done your homework, and your arguments are well researched and founded. So why isn’t your client or coworker agreeing?
Fear of change is the gorilla in the room, says Rob Jolles, author of How to Change Minds: The Art of Influence Without Manipulation. “It’s the ultimate nemesis to persuasion,” he says. “If it’s a small problem in another person’s eyes, fear of change will shoot down any solution. If it’s a big problem, you have to help others move past their fear of change.”
Few of us respond well to a hard sell, especially when we’re unsure or hesitant about the new idea, experts say. Instead of slick sales tricks, here are six ways to get someone to agree with you:
Before you try to get someone to agree with you, make sure you know exactly what you want from yourself and from the other person, with no reservations or qualms. Take a few minutes to write down what you want and what you’re willing to compromise, suggests Margo McClimans, founder of the international coaching firm Coaches Without Borders.
“If you know what you want, you can remain grounded,” she says. “If you don’t feel 100% clear and proud about what you want, then when the temperature rises while trying to persuade, it will be much harder to stand the heat.”
Few people ask enough questions or demonstrate good listening habits, says Jolles. “If you tell someone they have a problem to fix, they’ll resist,” he says. “If you lead through your questions, and let them articulate problems and solutions, they’ll own it.”
McClimans agrees and says being genuinely curious about the other person can help you win them over: “Find out what drives her and what she believes about the situation,” she says. “The more you understand about her, the better equipped you will be to also know what will make her say yes. People are less resistant to those who show curiosity toward them.”
“Social tension” causes people to act, and It’s best to employ this tactic by creating or removing it, says Stephen Denny, author of Killing Giants: 10 Strategies to Topple the Goliath In Your Industry.
“Create social tension through reciprocity,” he says. “Give a gift–tangible or intangible–that the other feels like they should reciprocate in some way.”
Remove social tension by laying out a “strategic retreat.” “State a position or an expectation and let them off the hook by retreating from it,” says Denny, who offers Patagonia’s “Don’t Buy This Jacket” ad campaign as an effective illustration of strategic retreat. Customers were encouraged not to buy the company’s products unless they’re looking to buy fewer things and understand that paying more for something of great value means it will last longer, perform at a higher level, and inspire similar-minded people to do the same.
“’Don’t Buy This Jacket’ says you can trust us because we’re not out to hustle you into buying something you don’t need,” he says. “It hits a clever decision trigger, particularly for [its target market].”
Establish a “we are in this together” mentality, says Elizabeth Lombardo, psychologist and author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Steps to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love.
“Using words like ‘we’ can help establish that you are on the same team, which makes it more likely for the other party to agree with you,” she says.
Approach others when their guard is down, and they’re relaxed and not feeling defensive, says Lombardo.
“When people are experiencing high levels of stress, they are more likely to disagree with someone else,” she says. “Choose your interaction time wisely.”
The more likely you are to change your mind, the more likely they will be to change theirs, says McClimans.
“People can feel your stubbornness, and if there is no hope to change your mind, they might not even bother having the conversation,” she says. “I know it is difficult to let go, especially if you are clear about what you want, but you never know; they might just actually have a genuinely better idea or solution than yours.
“It’s not about changing your mind, it is about being willing to change your mind. Being willing to change your mind when new information comes to light is a strength, not a weakness.”