persuading-skillsPersuading, Influencing and Negotiating Skills


PERSUADING involves being able to convince others to take appropriate action. NEGOTIATING involves being able to discuss and reach a mutually satisfactory agreement.
INFLUENCING encompasses both of these.



These skills are important in many jobs, especially areas such as marketing, sales, advertising and buying, but are also valuable in everyday life. You will often find competency-based questions on these skills on application forms and at interview, where you will be required to give evidence that you have developed these skills.


One scenario where persuading skills can be important is the job interview, but the following tips are valuable in many other settings.
  • Focus on the needs of the other party. Take time to listen to them carefully and find out about their interests and expectations. This shows that you are really interested in them and they are then more likely to trust and respect you. It will also make it easier for you to outline the benefits of your proposal in terms they understand.
  • Argue your case with logic. Do careful research on your ideas and those of your competitors (if there are any) and make sure that any claims you make can be verified.
  • The more hesitant language you use such as "isn't it", "you know", "um mm" and "I mean" the less people are likely to believe your argument. (Journal of Applied Psychology)
  • Use positive rather than negative language: instead of saying "You're wrong about this", say "That's true, however ...", "That's an excellent idea, but if we look more deeply ....." or "I agree with what you say but have you considered ....".
  • Subtly compliment the other party. For example: "I see that you've done some really excellent research into this". Even though they may realise this is being done, evidence shows that they will still warm to you and be more open to your proposals.
  • Mirroring the other person's mannerisms (e.g. hand and body movements). A study at INSEAD Business School found that 67% of sellers who used mirroring achieved a sale compared to 12% who did not. People you mirror subconsciously feel more empathy with you. However, it can be very embarrassing if the other person detects conscious mirroring so it must be very subtle. You need to leave a delay of between two and four seconds before the mirroring action. See our body language quiz for more on this.
  • Try to remember the names of everyone you meet. It shows that you are treating them as an individual.

Negotiating to win

This involves pursuing your own interests to the exclusion of others: I win: you lose! Persuading someone to do what you want them to do and ignoring their interests: "keeping your cards hidden". Pressure selling techniques involve this.
Whilst you might get short term gain, you will build up long term resentment which can be very disruptive if you ever need to work with these people again.
Jennifer Chatman (University of California, Berkeley) developed experiments in which she tried to find a point at which flattery became ineffective. She found out that there wasn’t one!
Of course, flattery based on round the positive attributes and deeds of other people is much more likely to be helpful and effective, and you will feel better about it too!

Negotiating jointly

  • This involves coming to an agreement where everyone gets what they want,
    reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement: win-win
  • You need to establish mutual trust, so it requires honesty and integrity from both parties.
  • Both sides work together to come up with a compromise solution to suit everyone's best interests.
  • Each party tries to see things from the other's perspective.
  • Assertiveness is the best way here: being passive or aggressive doesn't help.

A strategy for successful negotiations

  • Listen carefully to the arguments of the other party and assess the logic of their reasoning
  • Clarify issues you are not clear about by asking how, why, where, when and what questions.
  • List all the issues which are important to both sides and identify the key issues. Identify any personal agendas. Question generalisations and challenge assumptions.
  • Identify any areas of common ground.
  • Understand any outside forces that may be affecting the problem.
  • Keep calm and use assertive rather than aggressive behaviour. Use tact and diplomacy to diffuse tensions.
  • Remember :NO is a little word with big power!

    How not to negotiate

    When deciding how many battleships were required by the UK, Winston Churchill wryly noted: "The Admiralty had demanded six ships; the economists offered four; and we finally compromised on eight." 
  • Use both verbal and non-verbal persuasion skills. Use open, encouraging body language such as mirroring, not defensive or closed.
  • Know when to compromise. Offer concessions where necessary, but minor ones at first.
    Distinguish between needs: important points on which you can't compromise
    and interests where you can concede ground.
    Allow the other party to save face if necessary via small concessions.
  • Make sure there is an agreed deadline for resolution
  • Decide on a course of action and come to an agreement.
  • The final agreement needs to be summarised and written down at the conclusion of the negotiations.
  • Plan for alternative outcomes if you can't reach agreement.
It is very easy to defeat someone, but it is very hard to win someone. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (former President of India)

Use ideas persuasively

  • Keep the attention of others.
  • Explain the benefits of your argument.
  • Develop a line of reasoned argument
  • Put your points across clearly and concisely
  • Understand the concerns and needs of the person you are dealing with.

Gain support

  • Emphasise how costs and problems can be minimised
  • Handle objections.
  • Challenge the points of view expressed by others.
  • Get other people to support your views.

Develop strategies.

  • Use a range of approaches and strategies to gain support for ideas.
  • Give an example of when your idea has been used successfully in some other context.
  • Make concessions when required to reach agreement: work for a win-win situation.
  • Form long term relationships.


  • Negotiating to win (see above)
  • Gain power by undermining the position of others.
  • Don't show respect for others views. Put down their ideas.
  • Impose your own views rather than reasoning with others.

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