The principles of PERSUADE: how learning the art of persuasion can help you progress your career

The principles of PERSUADE: how learning the art of persuasion can help you progress your career.jpeg

You have all the elements needed for success: a great education, hands-on experience, the brilliant business or product ideas and some great technical skills. All you need now is… A wealthy investor – A Bank that understands you – That first Customer to give you a break – A Job that allows you to develop your great idea – That promotion.

The missing ingredient in so many new struggling start-up situations and in many stalled careers is persuasion. 

Employers and investors especially value persuasive skills because they impact so many aspects of the workplace resulting in increased employee engagement, alignment and productivity. Persuasive skills can be used to influence many different stakeholders, including customers; co-workers; bosses; business partners; subordinates; donors; funding sources, and prospective employees.

Persuasion is a skill – part psychology – part human relationships – part communication. To fulfil our ambitions, to build a business or career, to win or complete projects successfully and even to bring up a family well – all these things either happen or don’t because of our ability to bring others with us, to cause them to buy into our ideas and journey with us on your preferred path. 

Why do people rise in the ranks? For two simple reasons. 

1. They can get things done well 

2. Because they can bring others with them. The one thing that separates an authentic leader from others is that the authentic leader has willing followers. 

Persuasion can be the source of enormous good in any organisation. Persuasion has become an essential managerial tool because businesses are typically run by groups of talented individuals, often very unenthusiastic about command and control tactics. Teams outstrip the performance of individuals in groups every time. How do you turn individuals into teams? Persuasion. 

Persuasion does get a bad press at times. In the land of the unsavoury person, the high pressure, low ethical,  me-me-me culture you are likely to find manipulative techniques and shameless ploys getting plenty of use. 

Does that mean that persuasion is bad? No – it means that if someone’s intentions are less than honourable, then whatever tactic they use or outcome they achieve will be tainted by their negative or selfish intention. The ‘badness’ is in the intention and not in the tool itself.

Persuasion happens in the open, it engages all parties reasonably and consciously; their thinking, their emotions, and their behaviour. Persuasion is the process of guiding people toward the adoption of a new or different idea, attitude, or action by dialogue or interaction – willingly and without duress or pressure.

With persuasion, there is no trade. In negotiation and selling there is a trade under discussion. With persuasion I see something this way – you see it that way, and somehow, I must get you to accept the way I see it. There is no trade. We are not swapping ideas or goods, and I am not giving up my position to take up yours, we are not meeting in the middle; I must persuade you to join me on my side of the fence.

Persuasion is not about making a one-time sale or winning a one-time argument. You don’t want to convince a manager to hire you and then have that same manager regret it a week after you joined them. Persuasion is about making a professional case for yourself, which your later actions back up daily thereafter. Persuasion creates friends, allies, and collaborators who are with you for the long haul. And the good news is you can learn to persuade be you extrovert or introvert.

How to learn to persuade more effectively? 

Persuasion is a skill – part psychology – part human relationships – part communication so you start by studying some key aspects of each.


One key principle is self-awareness, recognising that the way we each see the world is different. Even when two people are standing side by side looking at the same thing, the minor differences between them mean that they see even the same things differently. Simply understanding that, accepting that differences are normal means that you will approach persuasion more effectively. 

Behavioural Flexibility:

An old rule of human relationships was to treat people the way you wish you to be treated yourself. That strategy doesn’t work too well. What is required is to treat people the way they wish to be treated. This requires us to be more flexible in the way we behave and communicate with others. That flexibility, treating people more in line with their preferences makes you more persuasive.

Creating a shared pool of mutual understanding:

Often communication is seen as a broadcast, even with one to one conversation, verbal or written. Sadly, many people consider that the whole point of the conversation is to tell you their story, their opinion or their view of the world. By shifting the purpose of communication to one of creating a shared pool of mutual understanding, genuine common ground, you have a much greater chance of persuading someone. 

Ethos, Pathos, Logos

A lot of what we know and do today is arguably based on the philosophies and teachings of some of the great Greek philosophers from over 3000-years ago. The most commonly accepted and used principles of persuasion today are based on Ethos, Pathos & Logos, and on the teachings of such great Greek philosophers such as Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle.

  •  Ethos – Personal credibility

  •  Pathos – Empathy

  •  Logo – Logical argument

These three are sequential, so it is essential that each one is established in turn within the relationship that persuasion is occurring. Establishing credibility first is critical as without it the other person is unlikely to listen, pay attention and believe what the other person is saying.

Having established personal credibility, then the persuader will attempt to understand the other person and see things from their point of view. If this appeals to the other person, common ground might be established, then the person being persuaded is more likely to listen to the persuader when it comes to putting across their point of view.

Finally, you will need to make a logical argument that makes sense to the person you’d like to persuade. The only way to reach this stage is for the persuader to understand the points that are important to the person being influenced, by positioning your ‘proposal’ or ‘point of view’ in such a way that it makes sense to them. They, of course, are more likely to listen to the proposal because they feel that the persuader is credible (Ethos), clearly understands their point of view and their challenges (Empathy) and are therefore inclined to see the value (Logos) in what is being suggested (your idea).

About The Author, Bob Hayward:

Bob has started six businesses from scratch and built five of them to £1M turnover or more, he has a raft of practical knowledge and experience that makes him a natural and informative speaker with a complete understanding of the needs of employees and problems facing business owners and managers. He is an expert is business and personal branding and co-authored ‘Persuade’ with the late Nick Baldock - an international speaker and sales improvement consultant.