Life would be much easier if more people realised that assaulting someone with your opinion is not the best way to win them over to your way of thinking.
Whether you’re looking to become a better team manager or just convince your cable company to lower your bill, you can learn something from the greatest marketers and leaders.
About a century ago, Dale Carnegie recognised the demand for communication and leadership training and developed a curriculum based on the lives of people like Thomas Edison and Theodore Roosevelt along with psychology research.
Carnegie’s most famous work, “How to Win Friends & Influence People,” was published in 1936, but its insights into human nature are as relevant today as they were then.
We’ve summarized his tips on how to persuade even the most stubborn people.
1. Don’t try “winning” an argument.
Even if you manage to tear apart someone else’s argument, you don’t actually achieve anything. Carnegie cites the old saying, “A man convinced against his will/Is of the same opinion still.”
If you’re looking to actually persuade somebody, avoid an argument in the first place.
2. Respect other people’s opinions.
Pride — both yours and the person you’re trying to convince of something — is the biggest impediment to reaching an agreement.
Be diplomatic about presenting your opinion, Carnegie explains, and never say “You’re wrong,” no matter how true it may be.
3. Admit when you’re wrong as soon as you realise it.
“When we are right, let’s try to win people gently and tactfully to our way of thinking, and when we are wrong — and that will be surprisingly often, if we are honest with ourselves — let’s admit our mistakes quickly and with enthusiasm,” Carnegie writes.
It will allow both you and whoever has pointed out your mistake to clear the air and move on.
4. Be friendly, no matter how angry the other person may be.
It’s human nature to meet aggression with aggression. But if you take the high road and try to persuade someone while maintaining a smile and showing appreciation for their situation, you’ll be surprised what you can achieve.
5. Reach common ground as soon as possible.
“Begin by emphasising — and keep on emphasising — the things on which you agree,” Carnegie writes. “Keep emphasising, if possible, that you are both striving for the same end and that your only difference is one of method and not of purpose.”
6. Let the other person do most of the talking.
The average person enjoys speaking about themself more than any other topic, and if you’re engaging someone who has a lot to say, they’re not going to listen to you until they have put it all out there.
Listen more than you speak.
7. Get the other person to think your conclusion is their own.
No one can be forced to truly believe something. That’s why the most persuasive people know the power of suggestions over demands.
Plant a seed and when that’s blossomed, avoid the urge to take credit for it.
8. Figure out why the other person thinks what they do.
The person you’re trying to convince can be objectively wrong about something, but they believe what they do for a reason, and that doesn’t necessarily make them a bad person.
“Ferret out that reason — and you have the key to his actions, perhaps to his personality,” Carnegie writes.
9. Determine how their beliefs work in their favour.
Behind every closely-held opinion is a lifetime that has led to that person’s conclusion. It’s in your interest to sympathize with the way the belief in question fits into the other person’s worldview, and how that worldview is a complex machine driving the other person through life.
10. Appeal to nobler motives.
Carnegie says that everyone but the most bitter or stubborn among us actually wants to do what they consider to be the right thing.
Frame your argument with morality.
11. Be dramatic.
Carnegie distinguishes showmanship from lying.
If you have truth on your side, make it as appealing to emotions as you can.
12. When nothing else works, “throw down a challenge.”
If you truly can’t convince another person to do or believe something, then appeal to their competitive side. Challenge them to either prove why they are correct, or if you’re a manager, challenge your employees to do something to prove their worth.
“That is what every successful person loves: the game,” Carnegie writes. “The chance for self-expression. The chance to prove his or her worth, to excel, to win.”
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