The plea to your parents to extend curfew. Asking someone out on a date. Encouraging a prospect to join your organization or cause. Convincing your brother or sister to lend you that perfect shirt. Negotiating to buy a car. Getting that job you always wanted, or the scholarship to your dream school. Proposing to the love of your life.
Each day it happens. Either someone is persuading you, or you are persuading someone else to do or not do something. In ways big and small persuasion finds its way into all our lives. And it is that power of persuasion and influence that is at the heart of leadership.
If you’ve ever shopped for diamonds you’ll often here about the five C’s of diamonds: Cut, Clarity, Color, Carats, and as my husband learned in preparation for our wedding–Cash! These are the elements that come together to determine the value of a diamond.
Persuasion is ruled by five C’s as well that determine the value and effectiveness of your efforts to influence. The Five Cs of Persuasion: Character, Compassion, Care, Credibility, and Clarity. When you have developed these skills, you’ll never have to hard-sell someone. You’ll win them over because you share in such a way you inspire others to join you!
First, before we begin developing our persuasion skills, we must distinguish between two related but very different sources of influence: manipulation vs. persuasion. Both are related because their ultimate outcome is to encourage someone to have a certain feeling or to take action. The difference in my mind is, manipulation accomplishes this outcome through lies, deceit, or misleading (Example: “Hey smoke this cigarette…it’s not addictive and it makes you look cool.” Right.). Contrast that with persuasion, which I’ll define as accomplishing a change in feelings and/or action through truth (Example: “Join our organization…it can change your life.”). If your goal is to manipulate, then STOP! Read no further, because you’re not a leader—you’re a taker. However, if your aim is to improve your ability to convince through persuasion—then keep going.
STEP 1: Credibility. This is a quality or power of inspiring belief. How can you get someone else to believe when you are not convinced yourself? It’s incredibly difficult to persuade someone else when you have no conviction yourself. Develop your credibility by:
- becoming more decisive and knowing what you want (ever wasted a lot of time in conversation about where to go and eat or what to do for fun today?).
- gaining more experience and confidence.
- doing your homework and hard work to become a recognized expert, or the example of the action or feeling you want others to share.
- knowing your stuff and not making things up as you go!
STEP 2: Character. This is the collection of attributes and features that make up you as a person. Character, at its best, is moral excellence. It is steadfast and always “you” in every situation. It’s what people count on when they know and deal with you.
Character is the ultimate coolness. Sound character is key to persuasion because people don’t even make time or follow people they don’t trust. People can’t be persuaded if they’re busy thinking things like “Is he lying?” or “Will she follow through this time?” Character counts. With character comes the opportunity to share. Without it, the only persuading you’ll be doing is convincing others to get away from you!
Be your best person. “Be” is a continuous state, and when you’re being your best that’s the kind of leader others want to follow.
STEP 3: Care. This is having a genuine interest and concern for someone else. Notice I said “someone else”? That doesn’t mean you! People can tell right away when what you are asking them to do is self serving. Leaders seek to develop win/win relationships where both people come out ahead. Without stopping to listen, understand, and get beyond yourself, you will not get anyone else to join you.
To show you care the key is to make “care deposits” into the “Bank of Goodwill.” That means consistently showing in a variety of ways your genuine care for someone else. Here are some ways to show you care:
- Help—with no expectation of return.
- Communicate—send a card or leave a voice mail.
- Remember—keep track of favorites, hobbies, passions, likes and dislikes of others.
- Listen—hear their perspective, understand their motivation, read their body language, know what they really mean.
- Timing—because you care you’ll know the right and wrong moment to persuade. You’ll also know that being on time tells someone else immediately that you value their time and ultimately them!
- Exceed Expectations—under-promise and over-deliver.
STEP 4: Compassion. This is sympathizing (mutual understanding) and empathizing (personally identifying) with someone else combined with the desire to relieve distress or improve a situation. Compassion is caring with action. When you have compassion you truly understand someone else’s life, perspective, feelings, motivations, and/or current situation.
When you seek to understand and desire to help, the perfect moment is created to invite, encourage, and involve. Compassion is not taking advantage of someone else or a situation. Compassion means knowing the right moment, situation, and circumstances to persuade someone.
STEP 5: Clarity. This is being clear, articulate, and getting to the point. Clarity is all about communication. While caring and compassion deal very much with understanding someone else—clarity is the certainty that you are being understood.
Here are some ways to increase your persuasive clarity:
- Keep it Simple! People are busier than ever these days. If it sounds complex and confusing, you’re done before you start.
- Enunciate! Don’t ramble, speak too fast, or skip around mid-sentence. Stay focused, on target, and articulate.
- Project! If someone can’t hear you, how can they even consider, let alone be persuaded? YOU MUST PROJECT! Speak with confidence, passion, direction, and force.
- Move with Intention! Don’t wander, stumble along, or slouch. People follow others who know where they are going. Good posture, a confident stride, eye contact, a pleasant smile, and knowing where you are going speaks volumes. Your body language is just as powerful as the words you speak.
- Be Compelling! Show your enthusiasm and pride. If you are sharing an exciting opportunity—be excited! If you need help, don’t plead and beg – be direct and just ask!
Credibility. Character. Care. Compassion. Clarity. This is the “stuff” of powerful persuasion.
But keep in mind: not every moment is a moment to persuade. Even if someone likes you and everything you are sharing, it still may not be the right time for them. Relax. Don’t worry! Regroup. Don’t take it personally. Come back another day. Don’t despair—repair and get ready for the next persuasive moment.
Finally, close the deal! Don’t forget to ask! If you have an amazing interview but don’t ask for the job, you did not persuade – you informed. If you got the phone number and know she likes sappy romantic comedies, but you don’t call and ask to go to the movies, you just have a contact – not a connection. If you shared all the reasons to join your organization and they want to join—be ready to get them involved!