Whenever you need to persuade people, you are making a presentation. It can be a traditional one in front of a room, or it can be a discussion across a desk. But if you prepare for it as if you are preparing for a presentation, you'll do better.
You need a game plan that ensures your message is on target and your delivery garners trust.
To play your hand the right way-and to get what you want or what you think is right-apply these tips to be more persuasive:
- Don't convert. Forget about trying to convert your adversaries. Your job is to raise doubts about the wisdom of their view.
- Listen. Make sure you hear and understand your opponent's reasoning. Learn how to shift gears between listening well and thinking about how to respond.
- Clarify. If you are not sure about what your opponent has said, ask for clarification. In the heat of battle, we often counterattack reflexively without making sure we've heard the other party. It wastes time and makes you look bad.
- Stay calm and carry on. Be mindful of your emotions. When anger and fear overtake you, you weaken your cause. Anger makes you less appealing.
- Take control. Pay attention to the agenda of the debate and the issue that you're fighting over. Define the issues and establish priorities.
- Get believers on board. Preach to the converted in the room. It strengthens the commitment, confidence, and morale of your allies, making them more effective advocates for your idea.
- Play to the undecided. Do not forget the uncommitted. They are, inevitably, the majority. Your job is to pull them in your direction. Make plain the advantages of your idea and the downside of your opponent's.
- Hit your headlines. When you have a good point to make, make it often.
- Make a concession. Knowing what you can concede without damaging your stance is one of the great arts of winning an argument. As a debater, Abraham Lincoln conceded that states had rights, but not the right to enslave or export slavery to other states.
- Expose flaws and fallacies. Don't condemn opponents for their motives. Stick to poking holes in what they say.
- Be an iceberg. Learn more about your topic than you can conceivably use or show. Demonstrate a mastery of the facts, and you will increase your authority and intimidate your opponent.
- Know your enemy. Understand your adversary's thinking-not in a caricatured or superficial form, but at its strongest. Knowing your own position is only half the battle.
Be plain. Be simple. Be earnest. Don't try to impress. Check your emotional appeals at the door. Seek to persuade with a thorough, well-reasoned approach.