What does it take to persuade you?

What does it take to persuade you?

Watching recent coverage of the Scottish Referendum debate has made me wonder what it takes to persuade a wavering voter to decide for or against independence. The strength and clarity of the argument is a key factor, of course. But what about the speaker and how much we like, trust or admire them?

Remember the inspiring story of Stephen Sutton, the teenage cancer sufferer whose courage and positivity persuaded thousands of people to donate money to Teenage Cancer Trust. So far more than £4 million has been raised through his efforts, though he sadly died in May 2014.


So what makes people willing to do what you want? In reality it’s a blend of the messenger and the message.

Here are my Top 10 factors for being persuasive.

  1. Build relationships

People do things for people they know, like and trust. Or people they admire. Meet face to face where possible, or at least pick up the phone. Build a reputation as a trustworthy professional.

  1. Know your audience

Adapt your approach. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Learn about their preferences, needs, priorities and concerns.


  1. Be generous in doing favours

Do something for another person and they are more likely to want to reciprocate.


  1. Prepare

What do you really want to achieve? What are your main points? Back them up and bring them to life with engaging evidence, examples, details, illustrations, stories, precedents.


  1. Identify the benefits for your audience

People typically make choices based on self-interest – so what’s in it for them?


  1. Make it easy for to agree

Getting a response from a busy person is far more likely if they just have to click or tick a box rather than answer an open question on a blank sheet. Nudge them towards the outcome you want. Of course, it means more preparatory work on your part.


  1. Communicate your message clearly and concisely

Don’t waffle or apologise for yourself! Practise aloud beforehand when it really matters.

  1. Really listen to views and objections

Show that you understand and respect their viewpoint. Be open to new information. Collaborating is likely to lead to the best solution.


  1. Remember that body language is critical

Use good eye contact and an upright open posture. Use your hands to reinforce what you say. Arrange seating for cooperation rather than confrontation (45-90°).


10. Use your voice for impact

A lower pitch makes you sound more persuasive. Speak slowly and use pauses for emphasis. Raising the volume will also make your voice more modulated and interesting to listen to. Use downward inflection at the end of key points for authority.




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