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How to Be Persuasive Without Coming Across as Threatening
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How to Be Persuasive Without Coming Across as Threatening

Patrick Allan, Gawker Media

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Photo by U.S. Department of Agriculture .

When you really want something done, you sometimes have to sway others. And after all, a little nudge (in the right direction) never hurt anyone. But there's a fine line between being persuasive and making threats.

Last week, Alaskan Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan expressed concern over receiving what they perceived to be a threatening phone call from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke . Murkowski, a Republican, had voted against the recent Republican health care proposal-then Zinke reached out to let them both know their state's relationship with the Trump administration was now in jeopardy. The move drew a lot of outrage, and some even accused the White House of extortion. Now, whether Zinke actually meant to be threatening or not, that's how it came across. And threats rarely work, especially for us common folk who aren't dealing with government powerhouses, super-villains, or mafia bosses.

Be a More Giving Person

Persuasion can sometimes feel a little weird or creepy, but it's not about manipulation. It's about presenting yourself as a person others are willing to go to bat for, or even just hear out. So how can you be a more persuasive person in your daily life? First, focus on reciprocity. In the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion , Dr. Robert Cialdini explains that when someone receives something from you, they're more likely to give something back. For example, if you invite someone to your birthday party, they're more likely to invite you to theirs.

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If you want someone on your side, be the first one to give, and make sure it feels personalized to them and maybe even unexpected. And it never hurts to make a deal. If you can offer something for them, they'll be much more willing to give you their attention. The worst way to approach someone is by threatening to take something away. It's about giving not taking.

Show Them You're on Their Side

Next, get yourself in their mindset. What's their perspective on the matter? Mirror their behavior so they don't feel uncomfortable, then align your projected attitude with theirs . Say, for example, you have lunch plans with your friend. You want to eat at Taco Bell for lunch, but you know you'll need to convince them. You see they're in a good mood, so you try to be in a good mood yourself. Then, when they cite their concerns about eating at Taco Bell, offer some vague agreement (but don't lie):

  • Them : It's not very healthy.
  • You : True, but it's not the worst option either.
  • Them : We just ate fast food yesterday.
  • You : Yeah, you're right. Not much else around here, though, you know?

When your friend finally mentions something positive about going to Taco Bell for lunch, become more confirmatory and drive it home:

  • Them : Well, it is cheap...
  • You : Very cheap, and easy.
  • Them : And I do like those Doritos tacos...
  • You : They're the best! Come on, let's treat ourselves.

Never say they're wrong or try to argue-they'll just get defensive and shut down. Instead, latch on to the things they say that play into your favor. Show them you're listening and willing to hear them out, while reaffirming the things you both agree on. You still might not get to eat tacos for lunch, but this approach is a lot better than saying something like "If we don't go to Taco Bell, I'm not going at all."

Be Likable

Lastly, be nice to people, smile back, dress well, and give a sincere compliment (not a fake one). Be present when you talk to someone, make eye contact, listen to every word they have to say, expressive yourself with your body language, and show a little confidence in yourself.

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And, most important of all , have a real conversation with people before you ask them for anything. People can sense when you're trying to be manipulative, so find common ground and connect with them before you try to get your way. If you can show how you're similar to them in some way, you're off to a great start. Being persuasive doesn't mean you have to be pushy, so keep things classy.

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