The Art of Persuasion

modern art sculpture of two people sitting to talk

At the root of leadership is influence. Leaders want to influence others and they are good at it. Persuasion is one way that leaders exercise that influence.

Persuasion will always involve a combination of three factors: emotion, character, and logic. Emotion has to do with how the person feels about the proposal. Character has to do with the persuader’s credibility. Logic has to do with whether the structure and reasoning of the presentation is sound.

When trying to persuade others, we should focus on the benefits that our proposal will bring to the individual and to the organization.

You can group these benefits into three categories: what they need to know, what they need to feel about it, and what they need to be able to do. In other words: knowledge, motivation, and skills.

We limit our persuasive power when we focus only on the product or proposal, forgetting about these other underlying interests.

When dealing with the feeling level, you should show how your proposal is important to those you are trying to persuade. To do this, you should study the other party’s criteria for judging the value of your proposal. Once you discover this criteria, it becomes easier to move toward a concrete offer that meets that criteria.

Use power speech, rather than powerless speech. For example, avoid using words like “could,” “should,” “may,” “maybe” and “might.” Instead, use words that convey certainty and confidence.

Also, try to convey a sense of urgency and seriousness. This may mean doing something unusual like meeting somewhere out of the ordinary or using an uncommon means of presentation.

Remember that people are afraid of change. To help them see beyond the potential negative impact of the change, present it not as a radical transformation but as a modification, revision, addition or improvement.

Do not, however, sacrifice your integrity for the sake of persuading others. This is the character component mentioned above. If people sense a lack of integrity, they are unlikely to be persuaded regardless of the benefits your proposal might bring to their lives.

Beware of creating the perception that you are just being a salesman. To avoid this, be genuine. Be authentic. Demonstrate a sincere interest in the well-being of others. This will go a long way toward helping them to accept your proposal.

Countless great ideas never got off the ground because those who had them were unable to persuade others. Learn the skills of persuasion so that your ideas are not among them.

provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at] to discuss the needs of your organization.

Photo by Nasalune. Photo available at Pixabay under CC0 license. Image modified for size and space.

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