Skip to main content

Powerful Secrets of Persuasion

How to get others to take action.

By James Hurford, DTM


Your ability to persuade and influence people—to get them to understand, accept and act upon your ideas—is crucial to success. People who speak persuasively have greater personal power. They get more things done and achieve goals faster. Learning how to persuade and influence will help you achieve success in every area of life. Consider these tips.


1 If people don’t trust you, they won’t listen to you. Trust underpins everything you say and do. Without it, you are lost.


2 We like people who are similar to us. People prefer to say yes to people they like. That’s why, before getting down to business, it is best to talk about who you are, what you do and, if possible, find common ground or pay a genuine compliment.


3 Put yourself in their shoes. You’ll never be persuasive if you focus on your own needs. Talk to people about their needs and you’ll have their attention.


4 Give a little something to get a little something in return. By giving something, doing a favor, making a concession, providing small gestures of consideration to others, you’ll find that others will feel compelled to return your kindness.


5 What we see is just as important as what we hear. Like it or not, people judge you at first glance. Your body language, behavior, character, gestures and dress all have a lasting impact on your ability to persuade.


6 Confidence and certainty are compelling. You have a better chance of persuading others if you believe in what you do.


7 Have authority. People listen to experts. By having authority you can get a yes quicker and more often.


8 Knowledge is power. Know your subject.


9 Build your reputation. Integrity, accomplishments and character are all important. When it comes to influence, your reputation is your biggest asset.


10 Physical attractiveness. While you don’t have to be a model, make the most of how you look.


11 Make it scarce. If you want somebody to act, make them feel they will lose out if they don’t.


12 Instill a sense of urgency. Persuade people in the present. If they don’t do what you want them to do right away, they’ll never do it in the future.


13 Establish rapport. When people are comfortable with you, they are more open to your suggestions. Listen, ask open-ended questions, pay compliments, use humor.


14 Be persistent. Don’t give up. Persistence is an essential element of persuasion—both in business and in life. Ultimately, the one who persists will be the most persuasive.


15 Be flexible with your response. The person with the greatest flexibility will have the most influence in any situation. Flexibility enables you to achieve your outcome.


16 Stay calm, keep your emotions in check. People turn to those in control of their emotions, especially in times of conflict, pressure or stress. Would you ever look up to a leader who panics under pressure?


17 Pick your battles. Persuasive people understand that most conversations don’t require getting someone to do or accept something. Aggressive pushers put people on the defense, while truly persuasive people understand their power and use it sparingly.


18 Listen more than you speak. You can’t persuade others if you don’t know the other side of the argument. Listen for objections, connections and moments of agreement—common ground you can capitalize on.


19 Engage. Smile, establish eye contact, and speak firmly, clearly, and slowly. People will relax and engage with you, and be receptive to your ideas.


20 Try to eliminate fear. Whether you’re speaking one-on-one, or to a group or a large audience, don’t think that you’re not good enough or don’t have what it takes. People pick up on nervousness. It creates a barrier to persuasion. We can all get better and no one is perfect.


This article is based on the author’s book, How to Write Well.