4 Essential Techniques to Writing with Persuasion
This post is inspired by Chapter 7 of Great Founders Write: Writing with Persuasion. If you learned anything, please hit the 🖤 and share with a friend. Thanks!
Why are some people more persuasive than others?
Are they simply born with charisma and intelligence? Or do they use a specific, learnable set of skills?
USC Professor Jay Conger had the same question, and he spent twelve years on research to find the answer.
Luckily, Professor Conger learned that persuasion is a learnable skill. Moreover, he identified four essential elements to crafting persuasive arguments.
Persuasion is a critical skill for founders. We are constantly trying to persuade, whether it’s a potential new customer, investor, or our own teams.
Here’s are four essential steps to be more persuasive:
1. Establish Credibility
One of the biggest misconceptions with persuasion is that strong arguments alone win the day.
In truth, Conger found that establishing credibility is just as important as your argument.
Founders earn credibility through experience and due diligence. In other words, do your research. Make sure your understand your position inside and out.
But what if you don’t have the expertise or experience to come off as credible?
Imagine if you’re a non-technical founder. You must persuade your development team to make an infrastructure change. In these cases, you can borrow credibility by bringing in a third-party expert to back up your position.
Founders have a certain level of positional credibility, but don’t rely on your title to persuade others. It may work once or twice, but soon you’ll be seen as a HIPPO (highest paid person) and your smartest employees will jump ship.
2. Find Common Ground
Leaders fail when they refuse to compromise.
The “my way or the highway” style of leadership is as dead at the dinosaurs. The most persuasive people find win-win solutions.
The key to finding common ground is empathy. You must be work to understand your audience’s wants, and more importantly, their needs. Talk to individuals to learn where they stand on the topic. Try to understand both sides of the argument.
By doing the hard work to find common ground, you’ll make it easy for opposing voices to come to your side.
3. Use Vivid Examples
In 2012, Spanx founder Sara Blakely became the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire. But in the beginning, she struggled to convince department stores to carry her products.
Her big break came after a failed sales pitch with a Macy’s senior buyer. Blakely was frustrated but determined to make a statement. She asked the buyer to follow her into the bathroom. There, Blakely changed out of her Spanx and literally showed the buyer the difference. The buyer was instantly sold.
This story illustrates a key tool of highly-persuasive people: Using vivid examples.
Many founders rely on facts and figures to make their case. While important, numbers rarely convince a person to change their point of view.
Use vivid examples to make your case. Then use numbers to help your audience rationalize their new position.
4. Connect Emotionally
Finally, the most persuasive leaders use emotion to win people over.
Emotion plays a role in two ways:
CONVICTION. Your audience wants to see — no, FEEL — your emotional commitment. This doesn’t mean scream or cry or go Tom Cruise wild, but show your emotion when making your case.
MATCH EMOTIONAL STATES. As a leader, you need to meet your audience where they are. Again, empathy is key. How is your audience feeling right now? Do they need a pep talk, show of gratitude, or kick in the ass? Match their emotional state and move them to your side.
When writing to persuade, each of these elements is crucial. Ask yourself:
Do I sound credible? If not, how do I gain or borrow credibility?
Is this a win-win solution? If not, how do I find common ground?
Are my examples vivid? If not, how to I illustrate my point?
Am I connecting emotionally? What does my audience need? Can they feel my conviction?
Still not convinced? Read Professor Conger’s original article in the Harvard Business Review.
(Bonus: Which persuasion technique did I just use?)
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