Negotiation Persuasion

by Dr David Venter

Mastering the art of persuasion is key to managers effectively responding to the many taxing problems inherent to the rapidly transforming business environment. Effective persuasion, requires of managers to acquire negotiation skills that will equip them to lead their employees towards joint problem solving and joint opportunity finding.

Mastering the art of persuasion is key to managers effectively responding to the many taxing problems inherent to the rapidly transforming business environment. Effective persuasion, whereby managers arrive at shared and mutually beneficial solutions, requires of managers to acquire negotiation skills that will equip them to lead their employees towards joint problem solving and joint opportunity finding. Through careful preparation, innovative framing of problems and arguments, communicating evidence in the most vivid way and establishing the most correct emotional match with other parties, managers will create greater openness and a willingness to move to positions not previously held.

In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, Conger points out the following frequent errors made by managers when attempting to persuade employees or clients:

They try to make their case by relying on an up-front, hard sell approach involving persistence, rational thinking and a lively presentation. Despite their belief that this will drive the negotiation to a rapid conclusion, it more often than not merely provides the other party/parties a clear target to shoot at.

They resist compromise, seeing it as a form of surrender. Thereby they disregard research findings to the effect that it is not possible for managers to persuade employees/clients to sustainably change their attitudes, ideas and behaviours without themselves also changing their attitudes, ideas and behaviours.

They show no appreciation for the fact that persons are only willing to open themselves to persuasion when they are convinced that those wishing to persuade them accept and understand their needs and concerns. By simplistically regarding persuasion as a one-way street they neglect to listen to employees/ clients and fail to incorporate their perspectives in the negotiation.

They over-emphasise the importance of presenting great arguments. In the process they forget the importance of other variables such as their credibility, their ability to create a mutually beneficial frame for their position, connecting with the audience at the best emotional level and communicating in vivid language that brings ideas to life.

They assume that persuasion is an event thereby forgetting that it is a process. This leads to a lack of sensitivity for the fact that shared solutions very often require 'listening to people, testing positions, developing new positions that incorporate group inputs, more testing, incorporating compromises and then trying again.

Four crucial variables in the persuasion equation

Establish credibility

When confronted with a new or contrary position an audience's first response is to determine whether the perspectives and opinions of the persuader can be trusted. The risk in terms of possible resources and time that may need to be committed, creates a reluctance to open themselves to persuasion.

Most managers unfortunately over-estimate their credibility, not understanding that credibility primarily derives from their perceived expertise and the relationships they are able to establish.

Managers, who have a history of sound judgement or have proven that they are knowledgeable knowledgeable and well informed about their products and proposals, receive high expertise ratings. High credibility ratings are reserved for those who have over time demonstrated that they can be trusted to listen, to act in the best interests of others and to share credit for good ideas. Their behaviour is characterised by integrity, consistency and a resistance to extreme mood swings.

Where an expertise gap exists the following remedies can be highly beneficial:

  • Formal/informal education and conversations with knowledgeable individuals to learn more about the complexities of a position.
  • Hiring recognised outside expertise and/or tapping the knowledge of experts within the organisation to strengthen a position.
  • Using respected trade and business publications, books, independent reports and presentations by experts to support a position.
  • Launching pilot projects to demonstrate on a small scale that certain ideas have value and are underpinned by unique expertise.

Relationship gaps can be closed effectively by:

Meeting with the most important people in the audience you plan to persuade to develop a range of perspectives on the issues at hand and to help them with issues that concern them.

Involving co-workers who share similar views on the issues at hand and have well established relationships with the target audience.

Credibility is the foundation of effective persuasion. Without sufficient credibility, the steps that follow are futile. Fortunately, credibility is something that can be developed and nurtured.

Framing for common ground

Although credibility is a crucial variable, it is unfortunately not sufficient to persuade persons to accept new or contrary positions. Acceptance of such positions requires persuaders to describe these positions in terms that accentuate their shared benefits and advantages. Involving people and securing their commitment for ideas or plans is dependent on them understanding and accepting the benefits/advantages they offer.

An in-depth understanding of target audiences is an essential prerequisite for accurate framing. Various forms of dialogue to collect information, good listening, testing ideas with trusted coworkers and asking questions should precede the framing of a position. This compels persuaders to consider their perceptions, evidence and arguments carefully, often leading to compromise even before the commencement of the persuasion process.

Providing evidence

Once credibility is established and a common frame developed, the focus moves to providing the most vivid evidence to support the persuader's position. The most effective persuaders are adept at backing up numeric data with metaphors, analogies, stories and examples that bring their ideas and views to life. They are word artists capable of painting word pictures that are compelling and add an earthy quality to their views.

Effective persuaders understand and use the immense power of language to their best advantage. Connecting emotionally On the surface, reason seems to be the primary force that drives business activities and persuasion. However, when exploring just below the surface we find the emotion is a very prevalent and powerful determinant. Good persuaders are aware of the importance of emotion. They respond to this insight by showing an emotional commitment to the position they promote, and by being able to accurately sense how audiences interpreted past events, are therefore likely to get proposals accepted.

The power of persuasion

When approached correctly, persuasion is potentially one of the most important skills in the armoury of the business manager. Like power, persuasion can be a force of enormous good for our businesses and for all other aspects of society. It can generate paradigm shifts, break boundaries, entrench and strengthen change and stimulate innovative and constructive solutions. As a skill, persuasion is crucial to effective negotiation. Fortunately, it can be developed and nurtured through specialised training.

"Agreement is brought about by changing people's minds - other people's."
SI Hayakawa

Reader Comments

Average Rating:

Total Comments: 0

View or Write a comment

Back to Negotiation Articles

Please feel free to share this article by republishing the contents of this page in part or full. All that we ask is you include a regular link back to this site, preferably to our page.

Reader Comments

Average Reader Rating:       Comments: 0

share your comment

No comments

Negotiation Newsletter