It can be fun and stimulating to debate with people who have different perspectives. However, sometimes the situation is such that you have an urgent need to convince someone that you are in the right. For example, you might want to encourage a family member to reexamine their dogmatic beliefs about parenting, or your job interview performance may rest on whether you can convincingly defend a view that you outlined in a presentation. When such moments arrive, it is extremely helpful to know certain tricks that can help to persuade people to change their minds.
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Here are six particularly powerful tips that should get you started.
1. Make someone else think that your idea is theirs
While making someone believe that they came up with an idea that belongs to you might seem like an underhand persuasion tactic, it can be incredibly effective. This approach is especially helpful if you realize ahead of time that someone is likely to disagree with you or stand in the way of achieving your desired outcome. However, you should always tread carefully when you want to coax the other person into coming to the conclusion you have already reached, as some individuals can spot this tactic a mile off. The best method involves starting with a common, unobjectionable assumption and then gradually helping the person to ‘come up’ with your idea. You can make the process seem slightly more authentic by appearing slightly surprised by the idea and asking for some clarification before agreeing that the plan does indeed sound good.
2. Use open-ended questions to your advantage
If you are discussing a contentious topic and start to realize that the other person has a significantly different opinion, it can be tempting to jump right into a defense of your view. However, if you stay calm and ask clear, open-ended questions then you might find that the person’s opinion begins to align with yours. The best questions center on the beliefs and values being expressed and can help the person realize internal inconsistencies or troubling background assumptions. For example, you might ask your brother why he thinks it is helpful to terminate contact with someone else in the family. What is he hoping to achieve? What would have to change for him to consider mending fences instead of walking away? These types of questions are not combative but encourage honest critical reflection. People are also more likely to consider changing their minds if they feel like their conversation partner is truly listening to them.
3. Project confidence
When you think about magnetic leaders, charismatic politicians and successful salespeople, you will realize that they all share a certain confidence. If you appear to be gregarious, outgoing and steadfast in your beliefs, other people who disagree with you can begin to wonder what they are missing. After all, they might reason, you would not be so brazenly confident if you had reason to doubt your view. If you are not a naturally confident person, you will be surprised to discover just how quickly your self-esteem begins to build once you start faking confidence. You might start the process by practicing daily affirmations like ‘I am a confident person and I will achieve all of my goals’ and by visualizing yourself triumphing in both social and work settings. The law of attraction teaches that positive thinking ultimately leads to success, so every minute spent picturing heightened confidence will bring you closer to your goal.
4. Reframe the conversation
Reframing a debate involves helping your interlocutor to view the entire subject in a different light by changing the subject under discussion. This tactic tends not to work very well if you are already in a heated conversation, as defenses quickly come to the fore in such circumstances. However, you can avoid ending up in a nasty argument by quickly deciding to reframe the debate before the conversation becomes too negative. For example, the discussion might start with your spouse saying that they refuse to consider moving to a new town because they are happy in their current location and worry about your kids having to make new friends. You can then reframe the conversation by asking about what makes it difficult for your spouse to leave a comfortable situation, and by thinking about questions that will help you both discover what types of things motivated your partner to sacrifice comfort in the past.
5. Be flexible and respectful
As mentioned above, confidence is a key trait that helps to persuade people of the worth of your view. However, it is vital to find a balance between confidence and dogmatism. You can be enthusiastic about your perspective, but if you refuse to engage with criticisms or are unwilling to examine your position in any depth then you will drive others to maintain their opposing positions. It can be smart to highlight some perceived minor flaws in your plan or idea. You can then explain how they concerned you at first, but show why you are no longer worried. In addition to ensuring you look flexible and reasonable, this respectful approach actively encourages your interlocutor to criticize their perspective.
6. Highlight your opponent’s interests and encourage empathy
Although most people do have altruistic tendencies, it is typically much easier to persuade someone that you are right if you can show them exactly why things would be better for them if they adopted your view. For example, rather than aggressively trying to prove to someone that your business or project is objectively worthwhile, explain the specific benefits that they would enjoy if they did choose to invest. Further, it can be useful to consider ways to evoke empathy, encouraging the other person to imagine how they would feel if they were trying to get a new project off the ground. If you are speaking to someone who has been through similar experiences, lead them to remember how they did feel when they were in your shoes.