We are unlikely to give people feedback
I’ve been teaching persuasion for over 2 decades. When I’m teaching my persuasive techniques, people often feel very comfortable telling me all about their experiences with people who were a ‘turn off’ during the persuasion process: managers, staff, clients, external consultants, even family and friends. The common element in most people’s stories is that they didn’t give any feedback to the actual person who behaved poorly, which means the person will never know the impact of their behaviour. In fact, it’s my experience that most of us think we are being nice to the persuader by not speaking up or giving feedback about the approach or behaviour that bothered them. In general, we don’t want to offend the person who turned us off or cause any unnecessary conflict. And if the person who offended us is more senior than we are at work, we don’t want to perform a ‘career limiting move’ by calling out the behaviour! Now I’m not saying you should be giving feedback to everyone you meet. I’m reflecting that most people won’t give feedback.
What does this mean when WE are the persuader?
It means that we may be moving through life turning people off, offending people, and missing out on opportunities because no one ever gave us feedback that our approach is offensive or ineffective.
The 15 most common persuasion mistakes
To avoid insulting, disappointing, or upsetting people let’s look at the list of things you shouldn’t do when persuading others. These are the 15 most common mistakes people make when attempting to persuade others. See if you can relate to any of them because it’s a fact that if you’re doing these things, it’s unlikely anyone will be frank enough to tell you – which means you’ll never improve your persuasiveness.
1. Pessimism or lack of enthusiasm or passion. People generally need your enthusiasm to feel enrolled in your idea. Get appropriately excited about it and you’ll be contagious.
2. Appearing judgemental or distrustful. None of us like to feel judged. I recall a powerful activity in a workshop where the facilitator got us to listen to a person in two ways. Firstly, we were asked to listen as though we thought the person was an idiot. Secondly, we listened as though they were a genius. This activity showed us that the frame of mind you take to your persuasive moment informs how you perceive the moment and more interestingly it also transforms the ‘performance’ of the person you are listening to. When we were listening as though they were fascinating, the person sensed this and brought their best self to the interaction. What does this mean? When you are persuading someone it’s important that they don’t feel judged by you. Rather, they need to feel accepted in order to listen to your point of view. If you are not sure about the person or their idea, try harder to remain more open-minded and find a functional way to investigate further without making it personal and turning the person off your ideas.
3. Too many questions. Who likes having so many questions thrown at them that it feels like an interrogation? Don’t over-question your prospect or stakeholder.
4. One-sided facts. To ensure people find your message credible make sure the facts are not one-sided, that they are logical, and that your argument is robust and well-prepared.
5. Denying, blaming, or justifying poor decisions. Denying, blaming, and justifying are known as victim behaviours. Each of these behaviours is a real turn off to people who would prefer that you take personal responsibility for your actions. Acknowledge the role you play in your own life whether it’s good or bad and importantly, own up to mistakes.
6. Pushy behaviour. No one likes a pushy salesperson! When it comes to persuading, be ‘others-focused’ so that you can best judge how strong to be without turning your prospect or stakeholder off. Commitment, rigour and passion are all fabulous qualities when used in the correct dose.
7. Too many stories to make your point. Some people just love the sound of their own voice, and they tell way too many personal stories to make their point. Stories are a wonderful way to make your point because if told brilliantly, they are interesting and more memorable. Just be careful not to hog the limelight too much.
8. Seeming desperate. Desperation has a stink about it that is very easily sensed by your prospects and it’s a real turn off. If you are desperate, it implies that you are unsuccessful. It infers that no one else is buying what you’re selling! Desperation opens you up to price negotiations that will leave you feeling used and unfulfilled. Do what you can to feel confident in yourself and your idea or offer but don’t beg or plead!
9. Forgetting someone’s name, or never knowing it in the first place! Oh, this is one of my pet hates! I was recently involved in a big project where there were only two women involved and lots of men. The senior executive called one of the women by the other woman’s name. There were only two of them. Please care enough about your prospect or stakeholder to know their name and get it right every time. And don’t get it nearly right. I’m often called Melissa when my name is Michelle. To you they might seem like similar names, to me, you just got my name wrong.
10. Allowing yourself to be distracted by something more ‘interesting’ in conversation. Has this ever happened to you? You’re talking to someone, and they look over your shoulder at something and you find yourself turning your head to see what they are looking at. Don’t do this. It makes it seem like you don’t care enough to stay connected to the person and what’s being said.
11. Indirect eye contact that makes you appear insincere or disinterested. Direct eye contact is essential for rapport. Look right at the person you’re talking to. Don’t over stare. Relax your face. Relax your eyes. If possible, even smile with your eyes.
12. Over stating the facts. Some people feel they should “never let the truth get in the way of a good story”! Some of us tend to exaggerate the criticality or significance of events that are important to us. If you do this, it’s generally not something you would do knowingly, rather it’s your way of making the person sit up and listen. Sometimes exaggeration can be funny, often it’s just annoying. There’s a big risk that comes with exaggeration. If you are perceived to be embellishing, over stating, or distorting the facts you may be seen as lacking in integrity. The point here: choose your moment.
13. Forget to ask for what you want. It’s a fact that people can’t read your mind. If you don’t state what you want clearly and specifically your stakeholder doesn’t know what to do next. Always ask for the thing you want. As Oprah Winfrey, the TV Personality, wisely said, “You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.”
14. Talking about yourself too much. Only talk about yourself to the extent that it builds rapport and establishes the necessary amount of credibility. Then stop.
15. Smooth communication. If you’re too smooth in your communication style when you’re attempting to persuade others it can seem contrived and may be perceived as insincerity. Aim to be as authentic as possible. Weirdly, you’ll be your most authentic and persuasive self when you plan your message thoroughly, rehearse until you can’t get it wrong, and then allow yourself to ad-lib and even add some humour on the day. Thorough rehearsal is the key to being perceived as authentic.
So, there you have it. We want people to trust and respect us instinctively. Once you make yourself aware of these mistakes the next step is to work out how to better manage your approach so that you don’t end up unintentionally turning people off. You want to attract, not repel people. If you recognise any of these mistakes are things you do, perhaps ask yourself what you can do differently to stop right now. Pretty much everything you want in life is found on the other side of persuasion. Let’s do what we can to ensure you are as effective as possible at persuading in every area of your life.
© Michelle Bowden 2021. Michelle Bowden is an authority on presentation & persuasion in business. Michelle is a CSP (the highest designation for speakers in the world), Creator of the Persuasion Smart Profile® (a world-first psychometric indicator that tests your persuasiveness at work), best-selling internationally published author (Wiley), and a regular commentator in print, radio and online media. www.michellebowden.com.au