Persuasion And Influence

Business executives make exorbitant (if sometimes excessive) salaries for a reason. Successful management is tough. Many top executives and even mid-level managers spend their entire careers trying to learn how to persuade and motivate employees and clients.

The alternative to effective persuasion is issuing strict orders, which certainly can also be effective. In some situations, orders are necessary. In law enforcement and military work, for example, there is no time to try to persuade lower-level employees to see things from your point of view. They must simply follow orders.

Earning trust and respect is challenging but necessary for effectively issuing orders. To master the ability to give orders, focus on being consistent, fair and steady. Of course, it helps to be right. Order people to do something that ends up being a mistake, and you will quickly lose credibility.

Persuasion takes a different set of skills. In most for-profit businesses, employees are trying to motivate both customers and fellow employees, and persuasion is the most effective tool. Persuasion And Influence

Mark Goulston, a successful consultant and business coach, has taught persuasion skills to many people, including FBI agents and hostage negotiators, who need to be persuasive in life-and-death situations. He focuses on the persuasion cycle, which breaks down persuasion into distinct and manageable steps.

In his system, you take people from a natural state of resistance to your ideas to a willingness to listen. The next stage is consideration, followed by willingness to build your widget or do whatever it is you must persuade them to do. The final stages are having the other person actually do the task, then trying to help make them glad they did it.

The process begins with controlling your own emotions and reactions, particularly in stressful situations. You must do this in a matter of seconds or minutes, rather than hours, in most professional situations.

It is also crucial to try to look at your actions from outside yourself, and try to make sure you are coming across to others the same way you believe you are coming across. For example, boss Michael Scott in “The Office” TV show is often unpersuasive because he believes he is being hilarious when he is really being obnoxious and inappropriate.

A persuasive person must also learn how to listen effectively, which is more difficult than it sounds and is one of the key differences between giving orders and persuading others. You won’t necessarily need to listen to anyone else when giving orders. To become an effective listener and persuader, try a mental exercise: quiz yourself on how well you know employees or other people in your life. How well have you listened to their beliefs and stories?

To persuade people, you need to understand their viewpoint and make them feel like their opinion is understood and valued, even if you need to convince them of an opposing opinion.

Finally, persuaders should be willing to generate understanding and empathy by allowing others to see their vulnerabilities. This also is an important way persuaders differ from order-givers. Showing weakness and vulnerability can be fatal (perhaps literally) when trying to give orders.

Persuading and giving orders are each effective in different situations, but both take training and practice, particularly if you want to rise in the ranks and perhaps become one of those well-paid corporate executives.

“Just Listen” by Mark Goulston, 2010, published by the American Management Association