Fundamentals of effective persuasive communication

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By Goke Ilesanmi

Persuasion can be variedly defined. At one level of definition, it is conceived as the process by which a communicator tries to influence the attitudes, values, belief system, or action of his listener(s) or audience. In other words, persuasion involves motivating the audience through the power of communication to voluntarily change their beliefs, values or behaviour. Persuasion can also be defined as a form of influence employed by the communicator when his audience has the freedom of making a choice, whether commercial, social or political, among available options.

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.

The business of politics is very active at the moment in Nigeria and 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.

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. 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.

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.


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.


Wise choice

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 want you to increase production from ten thousand to twenty thousand pieces” not “I want you to improve production significantly”. 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.

PS: For those making inquiries about our Public Speaking, Business Presentation and Professional Writing Skills programme, please visit the website indicated on this page for details.

GOKE ILESANMI (FIIM, FIMC, CMC), CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Professional Public Speaker, Career Mgt Coach and Certified Mgt Consultant. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant.

Tel: 08055068773; 08187499425

Email: gokeiles2010@gmail.com

Website: www.gokeilesanmi.com.ng

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