Power of Persuasion in the Workplace

By Bowes, Barb | Winnipeg Free Press, April 6, 2019 | Go to article overview

Power of Persuasion in the Workplace


Bowes, Barb, Winnipeg Free Press


It’s been three years now that the world has been subjected to the cruel and bitter rhetoric of our southern neighbour’s leader.

He’s a verbal and online bully, and through his television persona and famous catchphrase, “You’re fired,” he has also become what is known as a “compliance professional,” a somewhat fancy term for a powerful sales person.

In other words, he is highly skilled in the art of convincing and influencing others.

People are attracted to speakers and leaders like this because their words, phrases and tone of voice are successful at reaching out and touching deeply buried emotions that have personal meaning for the audience.

I don’t know whether or not this speaking style is natural and/or whether it’s the work of a clever marketing professional, but I’m confident the words and tag lines will be remembered for years to come.

It certainly proves one thing: even the simplest words and phrases can have considerable power.

It also confirms that old saying, “It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.”

As an author and well-known specialist in political and persuasive speaking, Frank Luntz says you can have the best message in the world, but it is the person on the receiving end that will interpret the words and this will always be influenced by their own emotions, prejudices and pre-existing beliefs.

In other words, influencing and persuading others is also all about psychology — the how and why of people’s behaviour.

One of the other popular principles of persuasion comes from Robert Cialdini, author of the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

Cialdini conducted a series of research studies with a variety of salespeople, fundraisers, recruiters and marketing professionals.

He refers to these people as “compliance professionals” because he found they are so significantly skilled in the art of persuading and influencing other people.

As a result of his studies, Cialdini developed six principles of influence as identified below:

Reciprocity: There is another old saying that applies here. It is, “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.”

This is what reciprocity is all about.

In other words, “I will help you if you help me.” Helping one another is natural behaviour for people and in this case, when someone does you a favour by helping, you will informally be obligated to provide help to this person when needed.

When using reciprocity as an influence tool, you will need to think about your personal objectives, what you want from the other person and what you would be prepared to give in return.

Commitment: One of the interesting traits about people is that we like things to be consistent.

In other words, if someone appears to be supportive of your project in the early stages of development, you expect them to be supportive when you are finished.

The strategy in this case is to reach out to people who are open to new ideas and who themselves have personal influence.

Share your ideas at an early stage and get their input, feedback and verbal commitment. Then, once you are ready to share more fully, reconnect with early supporters and get their final support.

Social proof: This principle relates to “safety in numbers.”

In other words, you will be more influential if you can show that others are on board with your ideas.

When presenting your ideas and looking for support, use numbers and/or testimonials.

Present successful case studies and/or spread the word through social media. Work to create something to talk about.

Liking: This principle is built around the fact that like-minded people — people who have similar values, backgrounds and beliefs — are more easily able to influence and reinforce another person’s viewpoints. …

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