Persuading Difficult People

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The art of persuasion involves tact, discipline, a specialized skill set, timing, and luck. And that’s when the going is easy.

Trying to persuade someone who is vehemently opposed to you is a whole new ball game, one that requires a special tool kit. Here are 5 cool ideas for persuading “difficult people.”

  1. Avoid what salespeople refer to as the “two-step sale.” Anytime you have to work extra hard just to establish psychological footing with a person, you are probably into a very complex form of persuasion. Two-step sales involve a lot more energy, time, and other resources. Suffice it to say that you’ll have a much easier time convincing people who are already interested in what you offer.
  2. Present an undeniable value proposition. Try to arrange it so whatever you’re offering is in the other person’s best interest. Note: This technique won’t work 100 percent of the time because some people will inexplicably harm themselves in order to spite you.
  3. Convince using multiple channels. Persuasion can be much more effective when you’re using more than one modality to get your message across. McDonald’s — a company that knows a little about the art of persuasion — will try to get an Egg McMuffin into your belly using radio commercials, television ads, direct mail, and coupons in magazines, skywriting, and billboards.  Multiple channels can create a very convincing argument.
  4. Use third-party testimonials. If the person you’re trying to persuade doesn’t like you, arrange for the message to come from someone else. Third-party endorsements are extremely effective because they are perceived to be objective opinions. Heck, many of them really are.
  5. Confront your differences. Of course, it’s usually a good idea to do this anyway.  One of the simplest, most elegant ways to get things out into the open is to offer an unconditional apology. It’s good practice and eating crow once in a while will keep you humble, so go on, suck it up and say, “I’m sorry.”

Keep your eye on the prize, people. If you really want to persuade difficult people, you’re going to have to get a little more game. That and tact, discipline, a specialized skill set, timing, and luck.

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