How to be Persuasive Without Being Pushy

Persuasive people rely heavily on their emotional intelligence (EQ) to communicate effectively with their colleagues. Effective persuasion is a negotiation process to get a colleague to do something which is within their best interest, and which also benefits you. When being persuasive with a colleague, it’s important not to become pushy - that’s when we cross the line into the territory of manipulation. The difference between persuasion and pushiness can be a tough balance to strike, so here are some tips on effective persuasion.

Be Purposeful in your Efforts

The best way to get others to agree with you is to only argue and advocate when it’s absolutely necessary. If you’re constantly trying to get people to do or accept something in conversations,

your colleagues will likely become defensive. Choose your battles, and engage your persuasion skills sparingly and purposefully. When you do engage with your colleagues, It’s just as important to know when to step back. If you try to force others to agree with you, they will be even more likely to stand by their original position. Sometimes it’s best to give your colleagues time to process and revisit the issue later.

Build a Positive Connection

Colleagues are much more likely to listen to what you have to say if you have a positive rapport with them. If you’re generally upbeat, helpful, and reliable in the workplace, you’ll likely have no problem connecting with your colleagues. This will get you off to a good start when it’s time to be persuasive. When that time arrives, be aware of your body language, use eye contact, and watch your tone of voice to keep that positive connection in tact.

Ask Permission to Persuade

Before presenting your idea to a colleague, try asking, “Would you like to hear what I’ve come up with?” To illustrate this point, Jeff Mowatt gives the example of a waiter describing a restaurant’s specials. When the waiter asks diners whether they would like to hear about the house specials, he’s likely to have a much more receptive audience. By allowing people to opt-in to hearing your idea, you’re no longer making them feel like you’re trying to “sell” something to them.

Paint a Vivid (But Precise) Picture

Research shows that people who support their argument with visual aids are 43% more effective at persuading their colleagues than those who don’t. While this may be easy to do during a presentation or at a meeting, you won’t always have charts and graphs at your immediate disposal. In those cases, tell a story to create an image in the mind of your colleagues that they can relate to. Just be sure to keep it concise - a good rule is that you should be able to explain your point to someone who has no background in the subject matter.

Don’t Make it About You

Persuasion is about showing the other person what’s in it for them. You should be able to explain why your idea is in their best interest (without promising anything unrealistic or exaggerating the value of your proposition). And, no matter how important the matter at hand is, don’t appear desperate - others will be able to sense your desperation and will be put off.  

Don’t Argue

While you want to present your idea in an assertive manner, you shouldn’t find yourself arguing for your position. This will put the other person on the defensive, and they won’t be receptive to what you have to say. Instead, listen intently to what they have to say and acknowledge and validate their opinions by saying things like, “I can see why you would say that” or “That makes sense.” Then, show them why you’re still right.

Avoid Weak Language and Qualifiers

Phrases such as “I think…” and “it’s possible that…” will make your argument sound weak and should be avoided. Focus on the facts, and you won’t need to employ these phrases. This can be a tough habit to break for those who are shy, but you don’t want to undermine your own ideas.

The key to all of the tips we’ve shared is to remember that you’re part of a two-way conversation. Think of persuasion as trying to reach a mutual understanding rather than “winning” the other person over.