Effective communication and effective leadership is absolutely necessary for success in every sphere, but it’s especially important in the business world. All members of an organization – not just the leaders – have to be able to communicate needs and wants, ask for help, and win over people to their ways of thinking. The important foundation to every leadership style is the ability to communicate and affect change. To this end, there are very few expressions more true than “you get more with honey than vinegar.” In business, a honed skill of persuasiveness is your honey!
For business and management matters, Psychology professor Robert Cialdini’s theory of influence includes the most useful types of persuasive technique. His 6 key principles of persuasion are reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, authority, liking, and scarcity.
Within each of these principles is the potential to influence each and every person you work with, no matter their role or seniority in the company. The techniques are especially useful when dealing with someone who does not want to help you, someone over whom you have no authority, or someone you only have one shot to ask for help. Here is our guide to strengthening any and all leadership styles by employing these impactful principals in everyday situations.
Note: These principles should never be used to deceive or mislead people; instead, use them honestly to persuade people to do what’s right and what will be good for them and for the organization. (Remember that a reputation takes a long time build but can be shattered in an instant.) See everyone as an ally as you apply these strategies.
First identify what you want from the other person (e.g. consulting on a project you’re working on) and then figure out what you can give them in turn (e.g. help with something you know they’ve been trying to get done).
It’s a basic psychological principle that people feel obligated to help someone who has helped them first. Reciprocity isn’t about being sneaky or making people feel indebted. It’s about creating a win-win situation where everyone comes out ahead. The best leadership styles involve getting what you need from your coworkers without forcing or demanding, and reciprocity is a surefire way to achieve this.
When people are committed to an idea, they want to see it succeed. Use this principle by asking for constructive feedback. If you’re planning to pitch a new project but need to gain some momentum first, get support for your project by asking colleagues for their input. Once they see their ideas as a part of your project, they’ll be more likely to help make it succeed.
Especially useful when registering a complaint or problem with a superior, social proof can be as simple as mentioning another person who agrees with you. (Make sure that other person does agree with you first!)
For example, “I asked Eva to brainstorm with me, and we agreed that a great solution for [problem] would be [solution].” (Be careful that it doesn’t sound like you and Eva were complaining about the superior; instead, you were brainstorming about a solution.)
You are using this technique every time you start a request with, “[Boss’ name] asked me to find out ______.” In this instance, you’re using your boss’ authority to show the other person that this request is important.
Authority doesn’t have to come from organizational hierarchy, though. For example, you have authority if you have special knowledge about a project (e.g. I know this needs to get done today because I am familiar with all the moving pieces) or experience with this type of situation (e.g. the last time that happened, doing this was very successful). All successful leadership styles involve conveying authority- it’s a necessity!
People are more likely to buy if they like the person who’s selling to them – this is true of products or even ideas. Build a rapport with your colleagues and clients by taking an interest in them and using active listening skills.
This skill won’t work if you are only pretending to be interested; people can see through that type of facade. Invest the time to cultivate genuine relationships to win over allies.
Of course scarcity generates demand, but how can the “available for a limited time only” principle apply to daily professional interactions?
Time can be the resource that is scarce when trying to influence colleagues to act. Emphasize the urgent consequences of the problem you need help solving to get them on board and invested.
With these effective principles of persuasion, you’ll be a successful and impactful communicator, and most importantly, you’ll be able to get more done at work! Want to learn even more persuasion techniques? We love the book Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive by Dr. Robert Cialdini (who’s principals we discussed here)& Steve Martin.