By Theresa DeMario
Juliet Erickson has coached people in the art of persuasion all over the world. She has worked with nonprofit organizations, CEO’s of large corporations, celebrities, and government entities. She even taught Communication and Negotiation at Stanford University. Erickson said she enjoys working with Savvy because she can work with people who may not otherwise be able to afford or even find her services, wherever they may be.
Persuasion is one of those topics that is often misunderstood. It is not the same thing as manipulation. Erickson describes persuasion as “being relevant enough to help people to change the way they think or act.”
In the art of persuasion, there are some fundamental elements that don’t ever change. It doesn’t matter if you are a CEO of a major corporation or a kid preparing for a college interview.
The 3 tips to preparing for a presentation or negotiation are universal and unchanging:
Know your audience
Know your objective
The ‘Generic-ization’ of Communication
Erickson described the ‘Generic-ization’ of Communication as an epidemic. “There is a lot of focus on ‘tell your story.” Erickson said. Her question was “Yeah, but to whom?” During our interview, Erickson said that a lot of communication today is missing insight and context. We announce things to each other without any idea as to why our audience might be interested.
Erickson’s answer to that problem is simple. “Do your homework” she said. “Find out what success would look like to them. Stop guessing about that.” Otherwise, Erickson said, you’re telling your story to NO ONE. “You’ll be a bit like a stopped watch...right twice a day” Maybe.
Erickson believes that knowing your audience is so important that if you find yourself in a situation where you don’t know who you are communicating with, you can always start the conversation by clarifying and asking a few questions. Some of the most compelling presentations and meetings feel more like conversations.
Basic Styles of Communication
In order to persuade someone, it’s important to know who you are talking to. This means also knowing their prefered style of communication. These styles and preferences, dictate how we like to give and receive information.
Expressive Communicators tend to gesture more and are very energetic.
Direct Communicators like to get to the point right away. They distrust expression.
Analytical Communicators prefer that the process be explained before the point is made. They want to see the sources of your claim and how you got to your conclusion.
Social Communicators are people pleasers. They make great in-house listeners and support people but you may not want to put them on a sales force because they dislike the pressure of closing.
The Tyranny of the Subject
People are often confused about the difference between subject and objective. There are a lot of subject matter experts out there. “People get so wrapped up in their subject matter that they forget to have a point.” Erickson said. This is what Erickson calls the “Tyranny of the Subject.”
Knowing your objective is a vital part of persuasion. What do I want people to do or think as a result of this conversation or meeting? It doesn’t matter how much information you prepare about your subject, if you don’t know your objective, then your effort may go to waste. Knowing your objective ahead of time shortens the time you need to prepare. To get to the heart of the matter quickly. Erickson advises that you be able to articulate your objective in one sentence and start from there.
Be Natural, Be Yourself
Being natural is the last step to successful persuasion. It may sound easy, but it takes work. This is where rehearsal becomes so vital. Some people dislike rehearsing their arguments so much that they decide to wing it without any preparation. Erickson said this is a big mistake. “You can only fake it for 15 minutes” she said. After that, your body starts to object.
Rehearsing alleviates the tension and allows you to relax and be yourself. With rehearsal, you can learn to direct the attention to what’s important instead of you, the presenter. Once you take the focus off yourself and put it on your audience and your objective, being natural is easier. Erickson said that rehearsal is a listening skill. It removes distraction and gives you the opportunity to focus on what’s going on. “If something is important to you, you’ll rehearse it,” Erickson said with conviction during the last part of our interview.
Whether you are preparing for a huge merger or for your college career, using learning these three tips to better persuasion will serve you the rest of your life in whatever you choose to do.