5 Secrets of Persuasion


Successful people know that the being able to harness the talent and energy of others is a key to personal power. They have mastered the art of getting other people to work with them to achieve a goal. They know that this one skill will help them get more of the things they want faster than anything else.

As an eLearning professional, you will often find yourself in a position where the art of persuasion will be necessary to achieving outcomes. Whether the person you are trying to influence is a colleague, subject matter expert, instructional designer, developer, manager or an executive on a steering committee, the new science of persuasion offers proven techniques for influencing others in an ethical and mutually beneficial way.

Here are five of them.

1. Use social proof

People tend to follow the lead of others just like them.

That’s why canned laughter is used in television comedies.

It’s why we choose the busy restaurant over the empty one.

We assume that if a lot of other people are acting in a certain way, they must know something we don’t.

So any time you can point to other groups or organisations doing what you want the other person to do, mention it.

Examples include:

  • Case studies – other companies, just like ours, have done this successfully.
  • This influencer and their 40,000 strong community of practice can’t be wrong.
  • This report/recent research clearly shows {enter desired result/proof of ROI}.

2. Give a reason

Sometimes just a small change in the wording of a request can make can make a huge difference to the way people respond, whether it is verbal or written.

And one word has special persuasive power.

That word is…


When we hear because, we expect a rational argument to follow and we are primed to respond.

There are limits, however.

When the request is small, people will take mental shortcuts and accede to the request.

When the stakes are high, though, they will take the trouble to think it through.

So when asking colleagues to cooperate on a project, or requesting a meeting with someone, be sure to give a reason (even if you think it’s obvious).

3. Make it easy for people to choose

Proposing a solution to a client or presenting a business case to senior management?

Bookend your real choice with two other possibilities – one cheaper and one much more expensive.

Any time you offer a range of options, most people will opt for the ‘safer’ middle choice.

Also, giving people options allows them to feel like they do actually have a choice to make, as opposed to being railroaded into “your” solution.

4. Establish your credibility with this unusual tweak

Making a proposal to a client or putting forward a business case to senior management and expect some pushback?

Disarm your critics and boost your credibility by mentioning minor weaknesses in your proposal upfront – yes, right at the beginning of your presentation or proposal.

By showing that you are aware of the big picture, you’ll disarm the critics and push aside any doubts they may have – and turn a weakness into strength.

Avis took advantage of this principle for decades by using the motto: We try harder.

(Warning: these should only be minor weaknesses.)

5. Pay it forward

Any time you can help someone out, do so.

Offer to review documents or ideas.

Oblige with a needed networking contact or a reference.

Be the first to offer what is needed.

Return messages promptly.

So many people put other people’s priorities low on the list, but by answering quickly, you’ll stand out and guess what?

When you need help, others will be quick to respond.

Dale Carnegie was right all those years ago: you’ll win friends and influence people by treating others with courtesy, respect, and kindness.

They’ll be motivated to go out of their way to help you because you’ve responded to the deepest of all subconscious needs – the need to feel respected and important.

If you can consistently deploy these ethical secrets of persuasion, you are on your way to success through others.

About the Author

Pam Thorne is founder of Sydney-based Viva Training. Through a wide range of topics, she helps empower teams, energise employees, and improve workplace culture. Pam’s course on Influence and Negotiation can be conducted in-house for as few as 5 employees.

Find out more about Pam on LinkedIn.


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