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In both your business or personal lives, there will be times when you need to persuade people to do what you want, or to see your side of things.
But it’s easy to go about it the wrong way, and instead of winning people over, you may wind up alienating them.
As language psychology experts, we’ve found ways to be more convincing to other people without being manipulative or irritating. It’s just a matter of saying the right words in the right way at the right time.
1. Use “you” more than “I.”
This is the simplest and most effective strategy. Studies show that people react well to the word “you.”
When you address someone using “you,” you’re personalizing your message. You make it clear that you’re talking directly to them and considering their individual needs, thoughts and interests.
When you let the listener know you care about them, they’ll be more open to listening and agreeing with your persuasion efforts.
2. Use “you” when speaking to large groups.
It’s tempting to be more formal when you’re addressing a group, like giving a speech or writing an email to a list of recipients.
But research has shown that loosening up and using “you” in group settings works to your advantage because it comes across as more casual.
It’s called the “generic you,” and its results are definitely not generic! It makes what you’re saying seem more personal and relatable, which will help you win people over.
3. Include yourself in the picture with “we” and “us.”
“We,” “us” and “our” are inclusive words that show you consider yourself as part of the team. This creates a sense of unity and mutual collaboration.
When you position yourself as a partner to your listeners or readers, they’ll be more receptive to what you’re talking about, since you’re working with them, not preaching to them or ordering them to do something.
4. Refer to the person you’re talking to by name.
People like hearing their own names. It makes them feel like you really see them, and that they’re important to you.
Just don’t overdo it! If you keep using the person’s name over and over again, you wind up sounding insincere and will erase those goodwill feelings you had initially evoked.
5. Repeat yourself, but not in the same way.
Repeating the main thrust of your argument and certain key phrases can make what you’re saying more memorable and create a feeling of persuasive familiarity.
You don’t want to sound like a broken record, but you do want to reiterate the idea or concept you are pitching two or three times, in subtly different ways. The last part is key.
6. Don’t reel off statistics or abstract concepts. Make it personal.
Studies have found that people are more inclined to understand, remember and accept “sticky ideas.”
So when you’re trying to persuade someone to go along with your suggestion, don’t just state it flat out. Use someone specific as an example, even yourself, to explain why it works. Stories about people are more compelling than dry facts and figures.
7. User “power words” with intention.
Power words evoke a strong emotion in listeners and readers, sometimes without them even knowing it.
Of course, the specific words you’ll use depends upon what you’re trying to persuade someone to do, but some examples include: “proven,” “easy” and “new.”
It’s a common practice to use them in sales and advertising, but they work in personal or business situations, too.
8. Ask rhetorical questions.
Rhetorical questions — queries that don’t need an answer but can have one — get people thinking.
The result is people are usually more interested in what you’re talking about because you’ve engaged their imagination. And they’re subtly guided to the conclusion you want them to come up with, without having to hammer it home.
9. Explain your request or idea with a “because” clause.
After you’ve mentioned your main point, follow up with an explanation of why you’re bringing it up: “I need you to do this because…” or, “This new concept will work for us because…”
It’s human nature to react well to rational explanations. So when people hear “because,” they think you’re being reasonable and you’re sharing legitimate justification for your request. This makes them more inclined to go along with it.
Even if your “because” explanation isn’t that great, people will likely still be open to your proposition, because it sounds legitimate.
In that same vein, words and phrases that indicate “cause and effect reasoning,” such as “accordingly,” “consequently,” “due to,” “for this reason,” “since” and “therefore” can also help you craft a more persuasive and effective argument.
Kathy and Ross Petras are the brother-and-sister co-authors of “Awkword Moments: A Lively Guide to the 100 Terms Smart People Should Know,” “You’re Saying It Wrong” and “That Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means.” They co-host the award-winning NPR podcast ”You’re Saying It Wrong,” and have been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Harvard Business Review. Follow them on Twitter @kandrpetras.