William L. Nothstine (1989), in his book, “Influencing Others: A Handbook of Persuasive Strategies”, explains that persuasion is “any attempt to influence the actions or judgements of others by talking or writing to them”. This is a simplified definition, but surely encompasses the essence of this discussion.
As a consultant, I can firmly agree that the ‘art of persuasion’ is one that must be relied upon to communicate effectively to a client and/or team members. However, by extension, what does it mean to have ‘persuasiveness’?
Sometimes, the word ‘’persuasiveness’’ has different meanings amongst different people. Some say that it is a type of manipulation; others say that it comes from one’s own ambitious nature. Nothstine (1989) rejects this claim, and postulates that, in fact, all forms of communication can be understood as forms of persuasion; and not to be confused as manipulation. Furthermore, there are many myths associated to acquiring the ability to persuade others, including:
- All you need to know about an audience is whether they are “for you” or “against you.”
- In order to communicate successfully, all you need is clear message.
- Only unfriendly audiences require persuasive communication.
- Persuasion means changing an unfriendly audience into a supportive one.
- “Persuading” and “informing” are two different things.
- It is always best to rely on statistics to influence people.
- A logically perfect argument will always persuade an aud
- Give people the “facts” and they will always believe as you.
- Facts are facts.
(Source: Nothstine, W.L., (1989). Influencing Others A Handbook of Persuasive Strategies. Course Technology Crisp.)
However, having persuasiveness is much simpler to understand, if you understand the fundamental sources of resistance to persuasion, i.e. conflicting values, attitudes and/or loyalties, apathy or scepticism and, a negative image of the presenter as a communicator. The table below outlines how a consultant can try to overcome these barriers to effective persuasive communication.
HOW TO BECOME MORE PERSUASIVE
|OVERCOME A NEGATIVE IMAGE||REDUCE SKEPTICISM||OVERCOME CONFLICTING AUDIENCE ATTITUDES|
|Be prepared for meetings or presentations. Do not improvise throughout!||Be positive!||When it can be done tactfully, draw attention to the conflict itself.|
|Make sure that the client knows about your credentials, expertise, education, etc.||Motivate by appealing to positive emotions—such as hope, ambition, joy, gratitude, love, pride.||Minimize the importance of the conflict.|
|Be tactful in your delivery, avoid being offensive.||Bring evidence to back up your claims.||Do not dwell on the conflict, and move on.|
|Communicate in an enthusiastic and energetic manner.|
|Don’t assume that your client knows that you understand and respect their point of view.|
However, students can develop these persuasive communication skills by joining debate clubs, student union elections, and even in a juniour enterprise such as, Westminster Business Consultants (WBC). Within these environments, these communication skills can be fostered and developed for future interviews, pitch deliveries and business meetings.
Melissa – As the Marketing Manager, I need to be persuasive in meetings and delegating tasks to subordinates in order to communicate effectively. Furthermore, my persuasiveness is necessary in order to motivate others to feel just as inspired as I am to be a part of WBC.
Andra – Being a new consultant, persuasion is necessary to bring my opinions and ideas to the forefront, and let my voice be heard. Additionally, I intend to work on future projects, and will need persuasion to influence clients to make informed decisions that will allow their business grow.
By: Melissa Malanda – Marketing Manager & Andra Grama – WBC Juniour Consultant