Berger Leadership Blog

Jun 03, 2016

The power of persuasion

Dan testifying
Sharing the credit union perspective on data security during a hearing last year before the House Small Business Committee. (Dietsch photo)

If there is one ability every leader wants, it’s the power to persuade others – to convincingly, and logically, describe an idea and have it resonate with an audience.

I’ve been a lobbyist for more than 25 years, and my entire career has been built around the art and science of persuasion. I have watched and learned from many leaders on how they influence various outcomes and even had some as all-important mentors. To persuade and influence others take practice and experience.   

Many successful leaders have this ability. Inc.com’s Jeff Haden talks about this in a recent article by noting nine ways to be more influential and persuasive. Here are a few of his ideas:

- Start by gaining small “wins.” Don’t jump right to your end game. Start with a statement or proposal that you know others will like and accept.

- Take strong stands. Haden says people prefer advice from someone who is confident – even if not everything said is perfectly accurate.

- Adjust your rate of speech. “If your audience is likely to disagree, speak faster,” Haden suggests. “If your audience is likely to agree, speak slower.”

- Don’t be afraid to be (appropriately) “unprofessional.” Certain words, such as curse words, should not be used on a regular basis, but throwing them in occasionally can “help instill a sense of urgency,” he says.

- Know how your audience prefers to process information. Some people might need a couple days to mull things over; don’t expect an immediate answer.

- Share the good and the bad. Sharing the downside of what you’re saying, and addressing that, can help persuade others to your point of view. It shows you understand there are other options.

Haden encourages leaders to use their persuasive skills for the good of others. “The art of persuasion should be the icing on an undeniably logical cake,” he says. Any ideas on how you can be more persuasive?

Follow me on Twitter (@BDanBerger).