7 Ways to Get Someone to Do What You Want While Still Being a Good Person


Ahead is an edited extract from How to Persuade: The skills you need to get what you want (Wiley $29.95, 1 Aug 2022) by Michelle Bowden. An expert on presentation and persuasion in business, Bowden has delivered her Persuasive Presentation Skills Masterclass more than 950 times to over 12,000 people.

Despite the huge number of times per day we need to ask someone for something, most of us don’t think of ourselves as ‘persuaders’. Most people think of persuasion as something for people in politics or the United Nations. Maybe you think persuasion is for lawyers and talent agents, people like Tom Cruise’s character, the sports celebrity agent in Jerry Maguire, shouting “Show me the money!”.

The more successful entrepreneurs I meet, the more I realise that regardless of their intelligence and business acumen, regardless of their first-rate products or service and regardless of their commitment to their business, these people have one thing in common.

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They know how to present their ideas in a compelling, persuasive and memorable way. They know how to structure their thoughts, how to connect with people, and how to say things in a way that resonates. They inspire and compel people to take action! And because of that, they often get what they want.

The good news is that — in my experience as someone who has trained many, many thousands of people in this area over much of the past two decades — I’ve learnt that anyone can learn how to influence others. It’s just a matter of knowing what to do and then doing it.

With that in mind, here are 10 tips for persuasion.

Believe in Yourself 

The saying goes: “Where there is a will, there is a way.” The mindset of knowing you will reach an agreement requires you to eliminate all negativity from your environment. This is very contagious.

No matter how the stakeholder responds, keep it light and maintain a ‘can-do’ attitude throughout the persuasion. When you let negative thoughts occupy your mind there is only one outcome and it’s not good.

Plan Effectively

Work out what you want and make sure your desired outcome also serves the needs of your stakeholder.

Know Your Audience

First-rate persuaders truly believe that they can satisfy the stakeholder’s needs. They see the benefits, features, and limitations of their product, service or request from their stakeholder’s view. They weigh things on the stakeholder’s scale of values, not their own.

Prepare Your Message

It’s critical to identify and understand the impact and diversity of different strategies and styles available and the impact they have. In general, an effective persuasion process generally has an opening that builds rapport, a middle that asserts your perspective, and a close where you call your stakeholder to action.

Build Rapport

Rapport, rapport, rapport. Before you can persuade others you must build rapport with them. We like people who are like ourselves. So from the first word you say, make sure your voice, body and language patterns reflect the similarities between you and your audience members rather than the differences.

Connect Through Eye Contact and Smiling

Connect with the audience with your eyes and your mouth. When it’s time to influence get your focus off yourself and look at them in the ‘whites of their eyes’, really see them, whether it be one person or one thousand people. And smile authentically while you’re at it.

Alicia Grandey’s smiling research in 2005 found a direct correlation between authentic smiles and an increase in persuasion. Conversely, Grandey also found the more inauthentic the smile, the less effective the persuasion.

Ask for What You Want

People aren’t mind readers. Be explicit when asking them for the thing you want and be sure to articulate the next steps clearly. Depending on the scale of your persuasion it can be really important that you get your agreed outcome in writing.

In some cases, you need to assertively get the ‘yes’ from your stakeholder out loud. Take a pen to important persuasion situations so you can write important things down and even sign them if necessary.

Remember, it doesn’t matter how good your business is, how good your products or services are, how good your ideas are or how good your message is if no one’s listening.  Anyone can be a first-rate persuader — simply learn what to do and do it. Improve your persuasion skills today and reap the exciting benefits.

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