If you want to lead and make great things happen at work—whether it’s bringing in new business, creating change in your organization, or something else—you need to communicate persuasively to get others to follow you. So what’s the best way to persuade? Well, that depends who you’re trying to persuade.
The biggest mistake I see people making while trying to communicate persuasively is that they think primarily about what they, themselves, find persuasive. It’s like that concept in real estate about making improvements to your property. You might invest in redoing your kitchen with gold-plated fixtures and appliances because you just love-love-love gold-plated stuff! That’s all well and good, but when it comes time to sell the place, the value you place on gold-plated stuff is irrelevant. What matters is what potential buyers will value. And if you didn’t give any thought to what might persuade those buyers to put in an offer, you may be stuck with a gold-plated money pit.
It’s the same thing in communicating persuasively. I often work with clients who think that logic and data should carry the day. And why not? They value logic. After all, an argument based on data and facts is clear. It’s black, or it’s white—it’s not a matter of opinion. (Or is it? Remember the 2015 viral phenomenon “The dress” that most people perceived as white rather than its actual blue color?)
But aside from the issue of how different people may perceive facts differently, there’s still the question of what drives people to act. If logic and data truly carried the day when it comes to getting people to act, we’d all be exercising regularly, eating well, and avoiding smoking and other harmful habits, wouldn’t we?
The reality is that logic often doesn’t carry the day. What often makes us decide to act involves all sorts of feelings and instincts: fear of failure, aspiration to be great, need to belong, jealousy, vanity, desire for balance, etc. Think about an important decision you’ve had to make in your life. Maybe it was about moving to a new city or taking a new job. Maybe it was about buying a house or getting married. I’d bet you relied on more than just logic and facts to make that important decision. It needed to ‘add up,’ certainly; but it also needed to feel right.
As you’re trying to become a more persuasive communicator at work to do the great things that you want to do, remember this: It’s about the audience, silly! There’s not a one-size-fits-all way to persuade. You have to think about what things—other than facts and logic—will persuade your particular audience to act. What’s important to them? What do they care about enough to overcome inertia and do something in the different way that you’re proposing? After all, aren’t you much more persuaded by a balanced appeal that addresses things you care about than by a broad, generic one? It’s only logical that you are.
Guillermo Villar is principal coach with Cambio Coaching. He helps high-achieving individuals and teams communicate with intention to get the business results they want.