The Elements of Persuasion

There are three strategic elements about persuasion that every leader should understand and practice. These elements represent not only why and what you communicate, but they also reflect the effect of that communication. So, let’s take a look at the three elements of effective persuasion.

Persuasion Element 1: Communicate at the Belief Level and Explain the “Why”

The goal of persuasion is to influence others in a way that will produce voluntary change in their attitudes and behavior. To produce this kind of voluntary change, you must impact people at the level of belief because people only become willing to change voluntarily when they change what they believe. Nothing has a greater impact on what people believe than the perception that they are being told the truth. Explaining ‘why’ supports the perception of truth telling.

Communicating at the level of belief involves a heavy dose of “why” being constantly explained. “Why” is communicated by explaining value and purpose, the very items we so diligently pursue in the process of gaining clarity about the vision we have for our products and services. The same characteristics that cause us to believe in our vision will cause others to believe in it also. Communicate to the “why” to create buy-in.

Persuasion Element 2: Set A Powerful Example By Your Own Behavior

Have you ever heard the expression, “What you do speaks so loud I can’t hear what you say!” That remark is a famous quote of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American essayist, philosopher, and poet who lived in the mid 19th century. Emerson’s observation was true in 1850, and it remains true today. Only 7% of communication and persuasion is oral. The other 93% is the result of what people see and sense based on tone and other non-verbal clues. So, if you hope to persuade others it will be important that you make a practice of exceeding expectations yourself! Nothing persuades more effectively than a leader who sets the right example for his team, children, associates, and colleagues to follow

Persuasion Element 3: Demonstrate Confidence in What You Say and Do

The ability to present yourself, your requests, and even your vision with confidence is another non-verbal piece of the persuasion formula. Why? Well, it’s because of the perception that confident people know what they are doing and can be trusted. Confidence is a natural by-product of certainty. You transmit confidence by being confident and allowing it to be heard in the words you use.

It is difficult for many people to do, but having the ability to speak with authority about the things you want to persuade others to do is a strong confidence builder. People will read a lot of meaning into the things you say as well as the things you don’t say. You may be frequently tempted to give a less-than-assertive opinion for the purpose of not appearing arrogant, or because you are concerned that you will be perceived to be lacking in humility. When you want to persuade people to do something that involves their making a voluntary change in their behavior, confidence is a more powerful perception than humility. When you say things like, “I still have a lot to learn about this,” or “You probably know more about this than I do,” you are unwittingly sabotaging your own perceived confidence. People want a confident leader who knows what they are doing.

Remember, persuasion is a strategic function of leadership and your ability to persuade others will directly impact their perceptions of the future. Their perceptions will control their actions and the results they produce.