Being able to successfully persuade others to align with your view(s) or vote for you is a skill that can be developed through training and practice. Experience shows that many people approach persuasion in a way that makes it difficult for them to achieve success. The beginning of successful persuasion is to build trust and credibility so that you can be accorded attention by your audience.
Current electoral campaigns in Nigeria
The business of politics is very active at the moment in Nigeria as electoral campaigns have begun in a bid to persuade the electorate to vote for candidates of different political parties in the April 2011 general elections.
As usual, the electioneering is daily becoming interesting and shocking, unveiling the oratorical and persuasive skills of some politicians as well as exposing gross incompetence of others as regards persuasive communication. Those who lack oratorical and persuasive skills normally base their campaigns on other contestants/character assassination. Eloquent communicators focus on issues, that is, their manifestoes.
Violence in political business
We are witnessing the present spate of political violence in Nigeria because of communication incompetence among politicians. Those who do not know how to successfully convince the electorate simply resort to insulting other contestants. The result of this is avoidable violence that has negative effects on the polity. I would like to advise the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Nigeria to let political candidates go through public speaking and persuasive discourse training to stem the current tide of violence mostly caused by the use of abusive language.
Apart from violence, candidates who lack public speaking and persuasive communication skills basically resort to electoral fraud just as academically lazy students always look for question papers when examination days are getting near. Research shows that one of the reasons for electoral fraud in this country is lack of what it takes to convince the electorate and even win opposition over during electioneering by most politicians.
Campus violence and oratorical distinction
On a serio-comic note, lack of persuasion skills is so tragic that it has led to the upsurge in membership of campus cult groups in Nigeria. Research shows most cult members cannot successfully woo or persuade ladies. Therefore, they threaten target ladies to submission with their membership of cult groups. It is a truism that the causes of most inter-cult clashes on our campuses are often as frivolous as quarrel over girlfriends.
President Barack Obama was able to change the status quo in the United States of America by becoming the first Black President because of his skills of public speaking and persuasive discourse. He is simply a charismatic orator.
Ability to communicate persuasively is a skill that can be used in all aspects of our personal or business life. In short, it is said that the difference between an impotent conversationalist and the motivating communicator is the ability to persuade people to participate in win-win relationships. Dr. Kevin Hogan, author of “The Psychology of Persuasion” says the world would be a very different place without those few individuals who have mastered persuasion skills and used them so effectively throughout generations.
An individual’s (desired) state of mind is a very important thing to consider in the persuasion process. When you determine this, you can persuade the person by showing him or her how to get there. It is noteworthy that when a person is unable to generate rapport with someone else, then no relationship of any significance can take place. Rapport is essential to persuasion and all communication.
Negotiation and persuasion
Though negotiation and persuasion are almost the same, they are semantically different. Negotiation involves reaching an agreement on price or on the specific terms of an agreement; while persuasion, on the other hand, is the art of getting people to go along with your points of view, to see everything your own way. But you need negotiation skills to be a good persuader and you need persuasion skills to be a good negotiator.
Roger Dawson, a renowned author and marketing expert says, “Selling is really a persuasion contest, isn’t it? You’re trying to persuade the buyer to buy. The buyer is trying to persuade you to buy his or her point of view that he or she.”
Challenge and solution
If you are a salesperson who has become very good at prospecting for business and building rapport with customers, but closing is your problem as you just cannot get the buyer to ‘sign on the dotted line’, there is a solution.
In the words of Dawson, “Let me tell you about a persuasion technique that’s so simple, and so effective, that’s it’s amazing so few people are aware of how powerful it is…This simple technique is to use the person’s name, at the start or end of a sentence, and make your request. You must tilt your head a little and smile as you say his or her name….”
Establishing your credibility
The good news is that there are many strategies you can adopt to achieve effective persuasion. One of these is to establish your credibility as earlier said. In the workplace, for instance, credibility comes from expertise and relationships. People are taken as experts if they have a history of sound judgement or have proved themselves well informed about their proposals. They must have demonstrated over time that they work in the best interests of others.
Another strategy is to make a wise choice. If you make a wrong choice in the course of your persuasion by focusing on things that are extremely unrealistic or technically impossible, you may run the risk of not being able to successfully persuade your audience.
However, Naomi Karten, author of “Changing How You Communicate During Change” says, “Still, sometimes it’s worth a shot. One project manager, Cliff, summoned the courage to ask his boss for a three-month leave to pursue some personal goals. Cliff was so sure the answer would be ‘Are you out of your mind?’ that he almost didn’t hear his boss say, ‘OK, let’s find a way to make this happen’.”
Being specific about your expected result
You also need to be specific to achieve effective persuasion, e.g. “I expect five million votes from you”; “I want you to approve N2 million quoted in my proposal”, etc. You need to also explain why. Most people want to know the “why” behind the “what”.
To support your proposal, for instance, gather as much relevant data as you can. The fact that you have done your homework gives you a clear advantage over those who demand or plead in the name of being persuasive.
Doing people favour first
Doing people honest favour beforehand also helps. According to the reciprocity principle, people feel obligated to give back when a favour has been done for them. Robert Cialdini, in his text “Influence” says even people we do not like have a better chance of getting us to do what they want merely by doing us a small favour beforehand.
However, this principle has negative implications when applied for wrong purposes, e.g., if money is distributed to people to persuade them to vote.
Concentrating on audience’s issues
Another thing is to concentrate on issues important to your audience. Consider, also, what these people emphasise when they seek to persuade. If, for example, they stress facts and figures, strive to do the same. If they focus on how people or productivity, deadlines, etc., will be affected, deploy your key points accordingly. The more your own case matches what matters to your audience, the better your chances of winning them over.
Never expect an immediate positive response
Do not expect an immediate positive response in your persuasion or to proposal. It is easy to persuade a friend to change an appointment. Karten says but making a pitch for something big, such as the adoption of agile methods, is unlikely to get an immediate response. Getting buy-in for something that entails a major change usually takes patience and persistence. You allow the idea to be scrutinised, and you can show how other organisations have benefited from it.
Today, attention has shifted from aggressive marketing to assertive marketing. If your customer or prospect notices some deficiency in your product or service, for instance, and draws your attention to it, you listen to him or her and promise to correct it (assertive marketing) instead of dismissing his or her opinion as being untrue or baseless and advancing unnecessary defence. If you get turned down, accept the decision and make necessary amends.
To be successful at persuading others, we need to learn and apply the strategies of effective persuasion. If we master principles of effective persuasion, our marital life, career, etc., will be enhanced.