by Lisa B. Marshall
If you’ve ever eaten a Butter Braid, it wouldn’t be hard to persuade you to buy another one. What’s not to love about a moist doughy treat covered in cream cheese icing and your favorite fruit?
And while it may be easy to convince a family member to buy one to help raise funds for your child’s school, in general, it’s not always so easy to influence and persuade others in your community to do what you want.
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Think about how often you need to persuade someone in your community to get involved or to see your point of view? Are you planning an event for your church? Do you volunteer for charity events or support a political candidate? Have you ever raised a concern at a town hall meeting? Or maybe it’s as simple as asking other parents to chip in on a gift for the coach or teacher? Or getting other parents to help with school activities?
How good are your persuasive tactics? When asking for a time commitment or a financial donation you need to be prepared if you’re going to get the answer you’re looking for.
Last week, I talked about general tips on how to be persuasive, and today, I cover 4 tips for getting what you want in your community: And by the way, I cover both persuasion and negotiation in more depth in my book, Smart Talk.
Tip #1: Do Your Research
Before you even begin to make a persuasive argument, it’s good to talk about the topic in general, just to get an idea of where your conversation partner stands on the issue. Let's say you're looking for donations to your local library. You should ask some questions ahead of time to get the person thinking about it.
"Have you enjoyed any recent events at the library?" If they say, yes, and tell you about the event, you already know of a benefit that will be important to them. If they say "No, I rarely go to the library." You can probe to find out why. Then use that information to know how this person might object to your request. Collect information and think about specific benefits or objections well before you attempt to be persuasive.
Tip #2: Set Your Goals
Next, think about your goal and the benefits for your audience of acting on your argument. Create questions that naturally lead the person to your goal. For example, let's say your goal is to get someone to join a PTA committee. Ask questions like: Do you want to help your children achieve more in science? Do you want to provide opportunities for your children to explore the local arts community? Which PTA activity has your child benefitted from the most? Continue asking questions to get them thinking toward your solution. Then ask one final question that naturally leads them to the conclusion you'd like for them to reach. How would you like to support the PTA this year? If you've done your job, they will volunteer to help with a PTA activity.
Tip #3: Prepare for Objections
In addition to the specific objections you heard to your original question, you’ll need to think about other possible objections ahead of time so that you are ready with a compelling response. You may even want to incorporate a common objection into the discussion.
For example, many people think joining a PTA committee takes too much time. So you might add in something like, “Did you know there are many PTA jobs that only require a few hours during the entire year?” Better yet, tell a story that is a response to the objection. “Did you know that Suzie never wanted to join the PTA because she was working full-time and thought she didn't have time. She eventually agreed to design the flyers for the auction. It didn’t take her long and it was a huge help. They turned out great and she got a little advertising for her business.”
Listen to this episode on How to Tell Better Stories
Preparing for objections ahead of time is especially important when you’re talking about a controversial topic. Let’s say you’re volunteering in support of a ballot measure that will support your town’s police department, but it will also raise property taxes. You might convince some people with the broad message of “building a safer community,” but others are going to want to know exactly how the money is being used and why it’s needed. Others will say they can’t afford the tax increase. Prepare for these types of objections by making sure you know all the facts and have good answers for those who are skeptical.
Tip #4: Keep Calm
By now you’ve probably seen the slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On” and the many copycat slogans. A search on Pinterest for “Keep Calm” brings up everything from “Keep Calm and Go Shopping” to “Keep Calm and Call Batman.” My favorite is “Keep Calm and Keep Calm Again.” Have that in the back of your mind when making your argument. You won’t get your point across by getting flustered or angry. People will trust you more if you stay calm and keep a natural smile and serene facial expressions. Being prepared for your discussion will help with this.
So here’s the bottom line: If you do your research, set you goals, prepare for objections, and stay calm you’re likely to get what you want from your community.
This is Lisa B. Marshall, The Public Speaker. Passionate about communication; your success is my business. If you found this podcast helpful, I talk more about influence and persuasion in my new book, Smart Talk, available online, at your favorite retailer, and wherever books are sold January 22, 2013.
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