The Power of Persuasion: The History and Methods of Persuasion

Persuasion is best defined as a process whereby a person’s attitudes or behaviors are influenced by another person. The power of persuasion enables you to argue for or against ideas, decisions, and actions that have a material impact on you, your associates, and customers. You are wise to try persuasion before negotiating…to see if it works. However, I am sure you have been on the other side of listening to a person offering a view or opinion that you simply don’t agree with. If the person persists, it is irritating. Right? Right. When a dead-end is reached, it is time to turn to negotiation.

Persuasion began with the Greeks, who emphasized rhetoric and elocution at the highest standard for a successful politician.  All trials were held in front of the Assembly, and both the prosecution and the defense rested, as they often do today, on the persuasiveness of the speaker.  Aristotle identified three basic elements to every persuasive argument:



The credibility, knowledge, expertise, stature, and authority of the person who is persuading.



The appeal of logic, reason, and cognitive thinking.



The appeal to emotions; the non-cognitive, non-thinking motivations that affect decisions and customs.

Credibility, logic, and emotions. When you evaluate your persuasive skill set, consider asking yourself three questions:

  1. Do I come across as credible?
  2. Is my position logical?
  3. Am I appealing to the other person’s emotions?

As an insurance agent or broker, you use credibility and logic each and every day to empower your clients and prospects to make prudent decisions about the risks and uncertainties that face their businesses and families. And it is your persuasiveness that drives emotion leading to action. Examples include your ability to influence a client to purchase cyber liability, employment practices insurance, or institute safety policies and procedures. It is the position you take with an underwriter to secure more favorable terms and conditions. Or it is the convincing stance about your career path. The process of persuasion has a huge impact on your future self as it inspires others to accept your position and act upon it.

The following six tips may enhance your ability to persuade:

  1. Argue your case with logic.  Do careful research on your ideas and make sure that any claims you make can be supported.
  2. Do NOT use hesitant language.  When you use hesitant language, such as “isn’t it”, “you know”, “um hmm”, and “I mean”, the less likely people are to believe your argument. 
  3. Use positive rather than negative language:  instead of saying “You’re wrong about this”, say “That’s true, however…” or “I agree with what you say but have you considered…”.
  4. Subtly compliment the other party.  For example: “I see that you’ve done some excellent research into this.”  Even though they may realize that you are stroking them, evidence shows that they will still warm to you and be more open to you. 
  5. Mirroring the other person’s mannerisms.  Research substantiates that 67% of people who use mirroring achieved a sale compared to 12% who did not.  People you mirror subconsciously feel more empathy with you. 
  6. Show gratitude.  Gratitude is an internally generated capability that allows you to strengthen relationships and increase productivity. 

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