The persuasion paradox

We all need to persuade… Whether it’s moving a client towards your recommended outcome, or getting your Mum to snaffle you that X-Box for Christmas, having strong persuasion skills is a must!

The key with persuasion is that there shouldn’t be anything Machiavellian about it. You’ll often hear “you won’t persuade me” as if being persuaded is somehow showing weakness, and ergo stubbornness is strength. However, persuasion is all about ethically winning the heart and mind of your target. Strong persuaders use no trickery, they gain agreement and they appeal to both the emotional and rational buying brain.

Dan Pink, in his wonderful book “To sell is human” reveals that in non-traditional sales roles we spend 24 minutes in every hour dedicated to persuading. The paradox is that we spend very little time intellectualising our skills and approach. So, here are a few guiding principles that are a gem for increasing your persuasive skill:


You must develop a healthy give and take mindset. Studies reveal that those whom give generously of their time, energy and experience develop the strongest credibility when trying to persuade others. If you give, you must also take though… Those that constantly give, but will never reciprocate are seen as martyrs and will lose their persuasion credibility.

Mastery is when you give generously, but will accept back gracefully in kind. This sounds a little hippy dippy, but accept that if you do good then good things will happen back.


A traditional method for persuading is to use the old ‘carrot and stick’ approach. My kids are regularly extrinsically motivated by the phrase “if you are good and don’t yell, I’ll buy you a toy!”

While this approach can (and does!) deliver some success, Alexis De Toqueville shows how if you are doing something that is both positive and right you will deliver the most persuasive argument. If you can state how your suggestion is good for you, for them and for their organisation most people will find it very hard to say ‘no’ to you.


This is simply the alignment of what you say and what you do… It’s all about genuine belief in what your recommendations.

To prove the value of congruency, Scientists filmed married couples (at extremely high frame rates) discussing areas of contention in their marriage. They found that we have “micro-momentary” facial expressions. These expressions may be as quick as 1/6 of a second, but they tell the true picture of our thoughts. These expressions allow us to sense the true feelings. So, if you don’t believe in what you are peddling you are unlikely to be particularly persuasive.

So there you have it, three top tips – unless we haven’t persuaded you… :)

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