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Basic Persuasion Skills

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The importance of being persuasive

Being persuasive is a valuable asset. You may have heard the phrase "People buy people". You might think it sounds like a cliché, but it is also very accurate. After all, if people like and trust you, they will listen to you, follow your advice, and accept your explanations.

You can enhance your persuasive skills by understanding and harnessing your own personal power and skill set. Remember, for example, you have accumulated a great amount of knowledge of your role and sector. You hold opinions gained through your experience. Do not put yourself down by forgetting this!

Human behaviors

When trying to persuade people, remember that, basically, there are three human behaviors:

  • Aggressive
  • Passive
  • Assertive

Aggressive people aim to satisfy their own needs, never those of others. Passive people, on the other hand, meet other people's needs, but rarely their own. And finally, assertive people feel good about themselves and help others to feel good too.


We can dig into these a bit more by thinking about examples of these behaviors in action.

Passive people are usually afraid to speak up and, instead, agree with others, despite their own feelings. They often speak softly, slouch, and withdraw. They might even isolate themselves from groups.


Aggressive people tend to interrupt and 'talk over' others, speaking loudly. They usually stand rigidly, crossing their arms and invading others' personal space. They often try to control groups. Also, they consider their own feelings ahead of other people’s feelings.


Assertive people usually speak openly and use a conversational tone. They tend to relax and adopt an open posture and expressions. They like to participate in groups and keep to the point. They are good at seeing the other person’s point of view.

Generally, we prefer to deal with assertive people. The assertive personality is the best one for persuasion. By practicing assertiveness skills, you can learn how to discuss, argue, and negotiate. You will then find that your persuasion skills are vastly improved too!

Being persuasive

So, how can you actually be persuasive in your day-to-day interactions?

  • Be assertive from the outset. Clearly define and state your needs or expectations, by using ‘I’ statements instead of ‘you’ statements. When you have to, say ‘no’ respectfully and always give a reason for doing so.
  • Consider the actual language you use. For example, you could say “This might be a good way of proceeding, let me explain why” instead of “You should do this.”
  • Ensure your facial expressions and body language match your message. Otherwise, people will question your honesty!
  • Be honest about potential barriers to you persuading someone. Your recipients may have differences in perception or just poor listening skills. They may have a tendency to jump to conclusions or use stereotypes. Also consider their level of knowledge, possible lack of interest, lack of confidence, or difficulties with self-expression.
  • Make sure you take into account the whole situation. Are emotions running high? Are powerful personalities clashing? Perhaps there are time constraints, or language and cultural differences.
  • Keep all parties well-informed and be truthful. If you want to succeed at effective persuasion, even when the news is bad. A simple persuasion tool in getting faster buy-in is not to ask people what it is that they should be doing. Asking this can lead to varying answers at varying levels of understanding, and also possible confusion.
  • Pose your own specific questions, so as to gain your own specific answers. Ideally, propose a selection of ideas yourself and then have people or stakeholders choose from your selection.

Persuasion in action

Let’s consider some examples. Suppose you notice another person and compliment them on their clothing, ability, skill, or something else. You are making the effort and it is usually well received. That’s all good!

But have you considered how you should react when you receive a compliment? Actually, most people get this wrong. When complimented, most recipients tend to refute the compliment. For example, someone might say to you, “I love your coat! It is a lovely color and it really suits you.” And you might reply, “Oh, this old thing? I found it at the back of the wardrobe. And it’s not really that nice of a color.”

Now, what’s gone wrong here? When someone offers you a compliment, they are sharing a personal belief with you. They are telling you what they think. And if you brush off the compliment, you ruin the sentiment, by telling them that they are wrong. This response can cause a communications disconnect. It makes the exchange uncomfortable, and could even be seen as being rude. It is far better to say a simple ‘thank you’ and accept the compliment.

Consider Oscar recipients. They never say, “Thank you, but you shouldn’t have.” Instead they say, “Thank you for believing in me and my work with this award.” This assertive response persuades the 7,000 members of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to feel happy that they made the correct decision!

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Kevin J Reid and Bill Phillips

Kevin Reid is CEO of Personal Skills Training, Senior Coach at Kevin J Reid Coaching, Co-founder and Communications Director of The Counsel.ie, and Lead Collaborator of LeitrimMade.com.

  • A consummate and skillful international communications trainer, facilitator, and coach
  • Has over 15 years of learning development experience with individuals, teams, and entire organizations
  • Has facilitated communications workshops and training across numerous sectors in Ireland, the UK, Europe, America, and Africa

In this module, Kevin is the instructor for the ‘The Art of Persuasion’ and ‘Motivating Your Team’ lessons.


Bill Phillips is an International Facilitator, Trainer, and Team Coach.

  • Has successfully coached CEOs, board members, directors, executive teams, and team leaders in public and private companies, NGOs, and UN organizations in 15 countries across four continents
  • Is the creator of Future-basing®, a highly potent process for building strategy, vision, and cooperation
  • Inspires people to build excellent interpersonal relationships and achieve their goals

In this module, Bill is the instructor for the ‘Managing Upwards’ lesson.

The following pieces of content from the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library have been chosen to offer additional material that you might find interesting or insightful.

You can find more information and content like this on the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library

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Persuading and Influencing
Kevin J Reid and Bill Phillips
Skills Expert

The ability to persuade and influence others is an important skill that every leader should aim to cultivate. Being able to persuade and influence means that leaders can win people over to their way of thinking, get things done, and achieve results – without having to coerce employees or bribe them into action.

In this module, you will learn techniques you can use to successfully persuade an audience, such as listening actively to audience members when they speak to you, and being honest and trustworthy in all your communications. You will also discover how to handle any objections you may encounter to your proposals.

In addition, you will learn the importance of developing a self-motivating team, who don’t always rely on you for direction. You will learn techniques you can use to motivate employees, such as setting goals that they have an interest in and delegating important tasks. You will learn why it’s better to focus on intrinsic, rather than extrinsic, motivation. And you will learn how to recognize the signals that point to a motivated team.

And it’s not just your employees that you need to concentrate on. It can also be beneficial to manage upwards, and to be able to persuade and influence your boss. Managing upwards involves building the best possible relationship with your boss, with the intention of making both your work lives easier. This module provides tips and techniques to help you do that.