People often mistake ‘persuasiveness’ with either speaking more loudly or more passionately. Tone and volume certainly play a role in the impact of the things you say – sometimes positive, sometimes negative, but the most effective way to improve your persuasiveness is to employ some simple, but powerful persuasive language strategies. Here are three that we should all have in our toolbox:
Answer a Question with a Question
As a general rule, the person who is asking the questions is controlling a conversation, and there is a direct relationship between conversation control and the ability to persuade. Whenever someone asks you a question they take control of the conversation, which can often (but not always) work against you. Answering a question with a (related) question can re-establish control, and ensure that the conversation is heading in the direction you want.
So, for example, if you have a customer who asks, “What are the features of this product?” you can answer with, “It has a great many features – what were you looking for this product to do?” When the customer answers your question, you now know what features will be of greatest value to him.
Speak in Sandwiches
The best way to present negative information or a difference of opinion is to use good-stuff – bad-stuff – good-stuff language sandwiches. Say, for example, a coworker or boss has an opinion that you don’t entirely agree with. You could say, “I don’t entirely agree with that,” which is pretty much guaranteed to make him (her) a little defensive. A better approach would be, “Bob, that’s a good idea (Good Stuff). If we modified it a little to address these X issues (Bad Stuff), I think it can really work. I think you’ve really almost nailed it (Good Stuff)…” With this approach, Bob will be less defensive, and more receptive to your ideas.
The best conversation technique anyone can master is the art of shutting up. The value of your opinions and the things you have to say increases proportionately to the length of time you’ve spent listening to people.