Are You Persuasive?



Are you persuasive?  Have you ever convinced someone to do something they may not have thought of doing before?  Have you ever changed anyone’s mind?  Everyone from religious leaders to politicians to advertising types have tried to answer that question – with varying amounts of success.  And have you wondered why people continue to believe somethings even though there are obvious facts that speak persuasively against the belief? (Flat earth society anyone?)


There are successful strategies that will help you be persuasive, and there are things that you should avoid.


Here, from Wikihow are some things to consider when you are trying to persuade someone.


  1. There are good and bad times to make a pitch to persuade someone. Obviously, you want them to be relaxed and not on guard, so if you can find a time when they feel indebted to you for something you have done for them, a notion of reciprocity will work in your favor.
  2. People are more “persuadable” when there is a sense of rapport between the two of you. Simply, we prefer to do things for people whom we know and like rather than for people we don’t know or dislike.
  3. Make your request by framing it in positive terms – what you would like them to do, not what you want them to stop doing. Not, “You’re spending too much time watching television.  Let’s go for a walk” is less effective than “I’d love to do something with you.  Let’s go for a walk”.
  4. It is most effective when you appeal to a person’s values above all. How does accepting your proposal agree with or help them demonstrate their most important values?  We tend to stress logic and facts when we should focus on what is most important to the person.  You can give all the “facts” available to a believer in the flat earth movement, and you will not budge that person one bit.
  5. Focus on what a person presently needs or wants. Daniel Rock and the Neuroleadership Institute suggest that there are 5 basic needs that everyone has:  security, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness.  Remember that unmet needs are drivers. (
  6. Some research on persuasion indicates that people are more likely to do what you ask when you give them a reason for the request. “Will you sign this petition?” is less effective than “I’m trying to get a 1000 signatures.  Would you be willing to help me reach that goal?”

The full list of persuasive strategies can be found at:


But what about getting people to change their mind or their opinion and viewpoint about something?  This is inestimably more difficult than persuading people to purchase a product, or do a favor for you.


People often attempt to persuade others to change their minds, but do so in a way which is doomed to fail. The first error is to base your arguments on what appeals to you or upon your own view of the problem and not think first about the reasons why the other may hold the view s/he does.  So, this means that you will want to start with dialogue rather than an argument.  If people feel attacked, inferior, or stupid, they are scarcely likely to change their position.  Their position is one that is less about facts and more about protecting the ego.  This is why so many of the anti-Trump arguments are unlikely to change anybody’s mind if they voted for him.  “So you think I belong in the basket of deplorables, eh?   Well you know just what you can do with your basket!”


Of course, it should go without saying that the least effective way to persuade someone to change their mind about an issue is to barge in claiming that you are right and they are wrong (not to mention stupid, and ill informed).  In fact, the exact opposite is what you need to do.  Shut up and listen to begin with.  Find out what the person believes, what has led to this belief, what they hope that this belief will accomplish.


When you want someone to change their mind, it is critical to help them save face.  It is difficult enough to change a position without at the same time, feeling that you must admit to everyone that you were wrong in your previous belief or position.  Successful persuasion requires showing others how changing their position advances the common interest that all parties have in a strong integrative system. The best persuasive arguments are built around common values–things that almost everyone would agree on.


Focus on what you have in common, then, not on what divides you.  Start with a common statement that both can agree on such as “Regardless of whether we are Liberals or Conservatives, Republicans or Democrats, I believe that we ALL want to protect our country from terrorists.”


Changing someone’s belief, especially if it is accompanied by strong emotions, or if they hold a public position on the issue, is not something that will happen overnight.  And, as discouraging as it may seem, some people will NEVER change their belief.  The anticipated rewards of martyrdom are greater than those of conversion.