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Observe before you persuade

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Many people try to persuade by using highly logical arguments, looking others in the eye and numbering their points. You may think it’s impossible for others to resist if you follow those steps. But no matter how seamless your argument, listeners may reject you and your beliefs.

Francie Dalton knows how to harness persuasive power. As president of Dalton Alliances, a consulting firm in Columbia, Md., she coaches clients to sell their ideas by flexing their personality muscles to strengthen their appeal.

Managing People at Work spoke to Dalton:

MPAW: How can executives improve their persuasive communication skills?

Dalton: Begin by noticing patterns in the people you want to persuade. That enables you to predict their behavior. Once you predict their behavior, you can package your ideas in the way that they find most persuasive.

MPAW: What are some examples of patterns?

Dalton: There are seven styles of behavior. Each has its own distinctive patterns. If you detect that someone is a control freak—what I call the “commander” style—then three things resonate with this person: order, control and results. If you notice that someone is a “pleaser” who tries to get along with others, then you can influence this person by eliminating or reducing conflict and emphasizing how what you propose increases their ability to be liked and help others.

MPAW: What’s the best way to package your ideas?

Dalton: It varies based on the person you’re dealing with. Presenting the three best ideas that you think will appeal to a particular individual can work well. But the three ideas you pick may differ based on the type of person you seek to persuade.

MPAW: Can you give an example of how you helped sharpen a client’s persuasiveness?

Dalton: Two executives had opposing views on whether publicizing a topic would enhance their organization’s reputation. My client wanted to publicize it. So I advised him to meet with his peer and say, “I think you’ve thought this through well and I like your ideas. We agree on much of our PR strategy, so we’re mostly on the same page. Here are some areas where I need your help.”

MPAW: That sounds indirect.

Dalton: He got into her shoes and saw her point of view. He knew she liked affirmation and would respond well if he began by establishing a base of agreement and neutralized her objec-tions. He also praised her in front of her boss because he knew she liked that. His ability to validate her views and start from a position of agreement helped him change her mind.


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