How to convince people in the workplace: 8 persuasive tips

a person has fruits and veggies in around them in their thoughts and a woman next to them is holding a blender because health is a way to motivate and convince this person

From hiring freezes to stagnating wages,¹ many organizations are at a standstill as they attempt to make sense of these challenging times. It goes without saying that this state of inertia is preferable to periods of chaos marked by layoffs and company shutdowns. However, in a time when many leaders are stuck in survival mode, asking for what you want feels like a tall order.

Yet, change needs to occur, so that companies don't get stuck preserving the status quo. This might mean requesting more resources to get important projects done, or asking for a pay rise (either for yourself or your team members).

The good news is, with the right approach you can make these challenging conversations feel like a win-win for everyone involved.

In this article, we'll share the art (and science!) of how to convince people to listen to your viewpoint and consider your ideas. You'll also learn powerful persuasion techniques that will skyrocket your chances of achieving your desired outcome.

Table of contents
Charm only goes so far: The evidence behind how to convince someone
Know your audience and what motivates them
Persuasion tips: The best ways to convince someone in 8 steps
How to be more convincing: 3 workplace examples

Charm only goes so far: The evidence behind how to convince someone

When you think of a persuasive person, you might imagine the disingenuous salesperson manipulating others to get what they want. Or, perhaps your mind goes straight to an authoritarian leader, who achieves company goals by barking orders at others.

Neither of these cliches reflects what it truly means to be an impactful and convincing communicator. In fact, you'll often find that the most persuasive people come across as gentle, caring, and fair.

There's a good reason behind this: extensive research shows that empathy is the key to building a persuasive argument.² This is the ability to understand what another person is thinking, feeling, and experiencing. By understanding what drives others, you can show that you've considered their needs, which is essential for building trust.

two hands embrace as a sign of empathy

Know your audience and what motivates them

The golden rule of marketing is to have a clear vision of who you're speaking to, and to tailor your message accordingly. The same rule of thumb applies to convincing others to get on board with your ideas and requests!

However, you may not always have oversight over what motivates the person you are trying to convince. After all, what people say can be different from what's going on under the surface. Fingerprint for Success facilitates this empathy by giving you unparalleled insight into these hidden drives.

At F4S, we've been studying motivation for more than 20 years, and have identified 48 core traits that influence what energizes and drives people at work. Through taking the Work Style Assessment with your team, you gain a snapshot of your co-workers' core values, and what fires them up.

These evidence-based insights help organizations build a high-performance team culture, through improving collaboration, communication, and harmony. They also enable you to craft more persuasive arguments in the workplace, whether you're trying to encourage your boss to hire more staff members or get a project idea over the line.

Empathy skills are not only valuable for the workplace, but also in your personal life. Perhaps you're wondering how to convince your partner to get a dog, or encourage your parents to do something about their leaking roof. On a more serious note, you may find yourself in situations where you must convince someone with a mental illness to seek professional help.

It's important to note the difference between supporting someone to do something that will be beneficial for them, and forcing someone to do something against their will. In any case, by tying your arguments to the person's personal motivations, you can more effectively get through to them.

F4S dashboard shows workplace motivations, goals and coaching programs
F4S dashboard

Persuasion tips: The best ways to convince someone in 8 steps

It's important to note that while empathy is crucial, it's not the sole factor involved in convincing people. To get others to hear you, it's important to combine emotional reasoning with strong interpersonal communication skills. This may involve strong storytelling, social proof, body language, eye contact, and more, to get your message across. Read on for a step-by-step guide to set yourself up for success.

1. Understand how they make decisions:

Research shows that 90% of our decision making is subconscious³ meaning it's often an emotionally-charged, knee-jerk reaction. But, just because your audience may not be aware of how they make decisions, doesn't mean you can't be! For example, the F4S report may reveal that your co-worker is big on evidence-based decision making, in which case, you'd likely want to include some persuasive stats in your pitch.

On the other hand, if they're someone who needs a longer period of time to think things over, it can be a good idea to encourage them to sleep on the decision.

2. Choose the right medium for your pitch:

Similarly, in order to communicate in a powerful and persuasive way, it's crucial to understand how your audience processes information. Perhaps, like 65% of the population,⁴ your boss is a visual learner, and will best absorb your message through a slide deck or with visual stimuli. Or, if they have a hearing learning style, your pitch may be better delivered on the phone, or even through a voice message that they can replay as many times as necessary. These 'decision inputs' play a pivotal role in how your audience responds to your request.

3. Speak their language:

Another consideration is the communication style of your audience. Perhaps your boss has an affective communication style, and puts a strong emphasis on nonverbal communication and body language. In this scenario, you'd likely be better off having important conversations in person or on a video call, so they can better read these cues. It's always easier to convey warmth and empathy in person!

Using the right vernacular for your audience is also key. If your audience is a big picture thinker, you may want to use storytelling to communicate your vision. But, if they're in the business of numbers, data will likely give you an advantage.

4. Structure your argument:

Even if you're brilliant on the spot, it's a wise idea to have an idea of what you want to say before you enter these discussions. Otherwise, it's far too easy to lose your train of thought, go off on unrelated tangents, or over-explain (which is a surefire way to erode credibility).

Adapted from psychotherapy, the D-E-A-R-M-A-N strategy is a great way to deliver a strong argument and stay on track.⁵ It involves Describing the topic, issue, or request, Expressing your feelings about the situation, Asserting your request (ie. explicitly asking for what you want), and Reinforcing the positive benefits of what you're asking for. To strengthen your approach, stay Mindful of your goals (ie. don't get distracted), Appear confident, and be willing to Negotiate (more on that later!)

5. Ask, don't tell:

Let's be honest, nobody likes to be told what to do. As humans, we're so averse to having our personal freedoms taken away, there's a name for this phenomenon: psychological reactance. This is the negative emotional reaction evoked when someone threatens our sense of agency and autonomy. Often, this can have a demotivating effect, where the person is more likely to be defiant or uncooperative in response.⁶

Think about when you were a teen and your parents asked you to clean your room, so you didn't (even though you were initially going to do it anyway!) While it's important to ask clearly for what you want, this should feel like a collaborative effort where you're working to find a solution together. Not only is this an effective way to achieve your goals, it can help build a stronger bond with that person in the long term.

6. Be a good listener:

Persuasive communication is as much about what you don't say, as what you do. Once you've said your piece, it's important to give that person the floor, so they can share any thoughts, concerns, or ideas. While they're speaking, practice active listening, giving them your full attention, and actively concentrating on what they say. This is also a great opportunity to practice the art of reflection, or repeating back.

For example, try saying, ‘I'm hearing that you're happy to move our team meeting to Tuesday, as long as it's before 10 am, is that correct?' Not only does this help the person feel seen, heard, and understood, but it also convinces them they came up with the idea!

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7. Be prepared to negotiate:

Another benefit of active listening is that it makes it much easier to identify any objections your audience may have. For example, perhaps your boss is nearly sold on the idea of hiring another team member, but is concerned that the company lacks the stability to bring on a permanent hire.

If this isn't a dealbreaker for you, it's important to stay flexible about the specifics of the situation, as long as it leads towards the desired outcome. In this scenario, you might suggest bringing on a contractor on a trial basis with the potential to extend to a full-time contract.

8. Ask AI Coach Marlee for advice:

How incredible would it be to have your own personal communication coach in your pocket, to guide your approach during challenging conversations? Well now you can with Ask Marlee!

Once you've answered questions on what motivates you, along with the person you're trying to convince, you canAsk Marlee for advice on how to tailor your message to their personal motivations. Using F4S data, Marlee will propose an action plan that sets you up for success.

Ask Marlee

How to be more convincing: 3 workplace examples

Now, you have the tools and strategies you need to sell ice to an Eskimo (or, just make a completely reasonable request at work!) But, will they really work? Here are 3 more examples of what it looks like to be a convincing communicator in some common, sticky, workplace scenarios.

1. Asking your boss for a pay rise:

You've been on the same salary since you started 2 years ago, and the time has come to request an increase. Fingerprint for Success reveals that your boss has a skeptical approach to decision making and a visual learning style. For this discussion, you’ll need plenty of graphs demonstrating the value and results you've brought to the company so far.

2. Negotiating a remote work situation:

Your organization has a hybrid work model, requiring employees to come into the office 3 days per week. However, you'd like to move to another city, or travel while you work. You've identified through the F4S dashboard that your manager has a strong need for structure, and prefers incremental change to drastic transitions. Consider how you can incorporate more systems into your workflow and suggest a trial period, so your boss feels secure about the arrangement.

3. Requesting a deadline extension for a project:

Your team is working on an important initiative, but you're concerned that, due to competing priorities, you won't complete it on time. It's important to take ownership of the situation, as making excuses won't get you very far. What's more compelling is to focus on the benefits of the extension. If the leader is analytical and has strong attention to detail, you could emphasize how you really want to get this project right and prioritize quality over speed.

Fingerprint for Success puts the power of persuasion in your hands

It can feel confronting to put an idea or request out there, especially when the stakeholder is busy, stressed, or overworked. But, as the expression goes, if you don't ask, you don't get! If you're taking all the right steps to build trust and rapport, you'd be surprised how amenable they may be to your proposal. And, there's no need to go in blind, either. With Fingerprint for Success' powerful data, you can understand how their mind works and what message will resonate. To start, simply take the Work Style assessment, then share it with the person you are trying to convince.

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Show References
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1. Carey A, 2023, Why you’re not getting a pay rise this year, News, https://www.news.com.au/finance/work/at-work/grim-research-reveals-aussie-bosses-are-cutting-back-on-salary-increases-for-2023/news-story/0b7f691df8c5ed3c803d11316c8bbe0

2. Bariso J, 2022, Emotionally Intelligent People Know How to Persuade and Influence. Here’s How They Do It, Inc. Australia, https://www.inc-aus.com/justin-bariso/emotional-intelligence-how-to-get-your-way-influence-persuade.html

3. Zuko D, 2021, The unconscious, emotions, and our decision-making process, Medium, https://uxdesign.cc/the-unconscious-emotions-and-our-decision-making-process-183002021a29

4. Jawed S, Amin H, Malik A and Faye I, 2019, Classification of visual and non-visual learners using electroencephalographic alpha and gamma activities, Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 13, https://doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2019.00086

5. Mindful Teen, 2023, DEAR MAN - How to get what you want. https://www.mindfulteen.org/dbt/interpersonal-effectiveness/dear-man/

6. The Decision Lab, 2022, Reactance Theory, https://thedecisionlab.com/reference-guide/psychology/reactance-theory

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