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How to Be Persuasive

Four Parts:Setting Up for SuccessReading Your AudienceEngineering Your EnvironmentSealing the Deal

Whether you're arguing for a new Xbox or you're trying to persuade your boss to let you take an extra day's sick leave, a few common persuasion techniques apply. For a quick tutorial on sweet-talking your way to success, let wikiHow show you the way. Get started with Step 1 below.

Part 1
Setting Up for Success

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    Appear confident. Looking confident is one of the most important parts of being persuasive. If you're not sure, then why should they trust you? Stand up straight, look people in the eye, smile, and keep your voice even and enthusiastic. Also dress nicely and not like a sweat pants and t-shirt.
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    Know what you're talking about. Do research on the computer or in the library. Know everything that you can possibly know about what you're trying to talk them into. You're not going to be very convincing if you tell them something that they know isn't true.
    • Where you get your information will depend on what you're arguing for, but try to only get your information from reliable, legitimate sources. It's a good idea to research all sides of the issue as well. Play devil's advocate with yourself!
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    Prepare for their arguments against you. They'll probably have some arguments against what you're trying to get them to do. Know some of the most common arguments and be ready with a good way to win them over.
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    Stay calm. Keep calm and turn on the charm. Seriously though, if you start shouting or get all whiny, no one is going to listen to you anymore. It becomes like tuning out a small child. Keep calm and friendly in your demeanor and you'll be fine.
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    Develop an emotional bond. If you can, it's best to get to know your audience before you try to persuade them of anything. Develop a bond with them, because if they trust you, they'll be much more likely to listen to you. Even if it's just a half hour of trust building, anything helps.
    • Depending on the situation, how you bond with them may change. A good basic place to start would be to say, "Can I take you out for a cup of coffee?" While you're having coffee, talk to them about what's been going on in their life and the exciting or challenging things they have coming up. Offer them some solid advice and help them if you see an opening. Try not to persuade them during this meeting unless your matter is urgent. Take them out another time at least a week later, catch up on what you talked about previously, then get to work persuading.
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Part 2
Reading Your Audience

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    Look at where they're from. Look at where your audience is coming from. Are they poor, rich, middle class? Do they live in the city, suburbs or the country? Do they come from this country or are they from somewhere else? Where do they work? Our background heavily influences how we perceive arguments and what arguments work best on us.
    • For example, if you're trying to persuade someone who's rich to buy something that looks low-class, sell it as "kitsch" or "Americana". To a lower class person, sell it realistically as a useful item.
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    Evaluate how they think of themselves. Do they think of themselves as educated, logical people? Do they view themselves in a more emotional manner, like the hero of their own life story? How they see themselves will heavily influence what type of evidence you show them when you try to persuade them.
    • Talk with them for awhile and do your best to get them to talk about themselves. Listen to how they describe themselves or what they do. Do they emphasize what degree they have? Do they mention their church involvement? Do they talk about their kids?
    • Another trick to seeing how they process information is to work them into a discussion of politics. See how they talk about the issues. This can reveal a lot about how they think.
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    Introduce the topic subtly. Try slipping your idea into a conversation with the other person, to find out what they think about it. This can help you figure out how you're going to approach the idea with them and how they might react. The more prepared you are, the better.
    • Try to keep this as subtle as possible. For example, if you're planning on persuading your wife to let you buy a new car, tell her you need advice on something. Your buddy Max wants to remodel his living room (mention the cost as being the same as a new car and detail his family expenses as being the same as yours), but he doesn't know how to bring it up with his wife or what she'll think. Max asked you for advice but you thought your wife would know better. How she thinks the other woman should react can help you understand how she might react and what some of her arguments may be against it.
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    Watch for their reactions. When you tell your audience anything, watch for their reactions. Watch their face, their body language, and even things as subtle as when they breathe. All of these things can tell you what someone is thinking.
    • Held breathes indicate anticipation, listening with bated breath, while a sharp exhale usually indicated surprise. Squinted eyes indicate doubt or displeasure, as do crossed arms. Relaxed body posture indicates mild interest or expected information, while upright posture with a forward lean indicates interest, sitting up up and taking notice. Fidgety movements indicate nervousness.
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    Change your methods as necessary. If you really want to be persuasive, you have to be able to change your tactics at a moment's notice. This means practice and it means being flexible and it means thinking things through before you go into them. Being able to react the right way to your audience's feelings can make all the difference.

Part 3
Engineering Your Environment

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    Pick the right time. Choose when to persuade them very carefully. Let's say you're a salesman: you want to sell someone a couch when they're looking at a couch, right? Not when they're looking at a fridge. And you want to pay attention to if they're spending a lot of time looking at different couches and not harass them as they're walking past trying to get to the exit. Timing is everything.
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    Keep them engaged. A bored audience is not a swayed audience. Make sure that you're keeping them engaged in the conversation that you're having. Give them lots of opportunities to talk and look for signs of that they're not feeling it (checking their watch, shifting their weight, etc).
    • You can pull the old teacher trick of randomly engaging them in conversation. Ask them questions every now and again, even if it's just something like, "What do you think of that?" or "What would you have done in this situation?"
    • You can also refocus their attention by making them move, physically. Ask them to get up, look around, or say something. Make sure this makes sense in context, though, and use this trick sparingly.
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    Create the need. Before really sinking into your argument, make them see the need for what you're arguing for. Even if there really isn't one, create the illusion of one. For example, if you're trying to persuade your wife to let you get a PS4, tell her about how you've been feeling really restless and bored lately and you're worried about the effect that that's having on your desire to be at home.
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    Demonize the other argument. Take the most common argument against what you're trying to argue for and make it seem terrible and stupid. Make it seem like the worst possible option, or something that needs to be actively avoided. For example, if you're trying to persuade your teacher to increase your in-class reading time, show her some statistics about how few kids actually have conducive reading environments at home.
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    Make the decision rushed. Make it seem like the decision they need to make about what you're persuading them to do can only be made for a short period of time. If they only have a few seconds or a few minutes to think about it, they'll have less time to realize they don't really like the idea.

Part 4
Sealing the Deal

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    Cultivate your language. When you persuade them, use language very carefully. Use words like "we", "together", and "us" instead of words like "you" and "I" or "me". This forces your audience to view you as a single unit with similar interests, rather than two separate people.
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    Use evidence. Use evidence when you're trying to persuade someone into doing something. If you have facts right in front of them that show how great your idea is, it becomes a lot harder to argue with you.
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    Appeal to their logic. If they're someone who values education, intelligence and facts, appeal to their logic when you try to persuade them. Argue things like, "If you don't do (A) then (B) will happen because of (C) reasons."
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    Appeal to their emotions. If they're someone that is obviously emotionally prone or strongly values emotions, use arguments like, "You should do (A) because if you don't then (B) will suffer and the consequences will affect (C,D, and E)."
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    Appeal to their vanity. If they place a high value on themselves, use a similar argument to that for emotions but show the negative consequences for them instead of other people.
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    Help the other party see the reward. Help them see the reward in doing whatever you want them to do. Show them all of the upsides until what you're arguing really does sound like the best decision. Sometimes, you may have to get a little creative and find something that might not be that obvious. Another technique is to ask them what rewards they would want out of doing that thing or what rewards they think they'll get. Good luck!


  • As a general rule: show, don't tell. Show the audience why you believe what you believe and why they should believe it. Don't tell them what you think and why they should believe it. In other words, insinuate, speak indirectly, glaze over facts and speak in vague terms.
  • Here is an example of good persuasive speaking:
    • You: I haven't seen you guys in a long time. I'm glad we get to hang out like this.
    • Friend 1: Yeah.
    • Friend 2: Definitely.
    • You: I've been working so hard this week, I haven't had time to have any fun at all. As a matter of fact, I haven't seen a movie in ages.
    • Friend 1: Which movie are we going to see?
    • You: I don't really care. I heard the Departed got really good reviews though. What did you guys want to see?
    • Friend 2: I don't care either. That sounds good.
    • Friend 1: Yeah, that sounds good to me too.
    • Notice how you established a bond with your friends, subtly made them feel pity for you and then expressed a universal truth. This is the best way to convince people of your position. The key is that you never explicitly said that you wanted to see the Departed. It's implied. Your opinion was not forced on them with the expectation that they should cater to your desires.
  • Here is an example of bad persuasive speaking:
    • You: Alright guys so which movie do you guys want to see?
    • Friend 1: I think The Grudge 2 looks good.
    • Friend 2: Yeah, that sounds good.
    • You: Oh, yeah, I guess that's alright. I think the Departed will be better though.
    • This person did everything wrong. The first mistake was to ask people for their opinions. Not only do you give them a chance to make up their mind and express it verbally, you put yourself in a position to directly contradict them, which people hate.
  • It's ironic, but people are more likely to agree with you if you say "Biden is an idiot" than if you say "I think Biden is an idiot" or "it is obvious that Biden is a moron."
  • Don't let people know that you are expressing an opinion. Convince them that you are uncovering a universal truth. Who can disagree with that?
  • It's hard to believe, but people will respond better if you say, "Can I cut in front of you because I need to be somewhere?" than if you say, "Can I cut in front of you because I'm late for a meeting and I am in a huge hurry?" If you air out your personal problems or opinions on them, they will take it as "my life is more important than yours and my opinions are worth more than yours."
  • Empathy is the key to all types of persuasion. Say something and assess how the audience reacts. If it is a negative reaction, you said something wrong. If it is a positive reaction, you said something right. Pay close attention to your audience but do not worry. It's that simple.
  • Keep your language poetic. It's not what you say, it's how you say it.
  • As a general rule, when you are attacked verbally, acknowledge the attack and show by your calm tone that you are comfortable with it. Do not respond to an attack because it will make people think that there is some truth to it. The best response is to say something humorous. You will position yourself as light-hearted and easy to get along with and make your attacker seem angry, serious and self-righteous.
  • If you're doing a speech, be confident.
  • Don't elaborate too much. You will insult the audience's intelligence and they will resent you for it.
  • Stay away from statistics. The more facts and figures you use, the more you will bore people and the more likely it is that they will disagree with you.
  • Once someone has made up their mind, you will not be able to persuade them. Fortunately, most people make up their mind at the last minute. Your best bet with a person who has made up his/her mind is to persuade that person's friends so that even though that person disagrees with you, he/she will be afraid to express that view strongly.
  • If you're having a hard time getting through with the other methods, try getting the audience's attention by saying that "If you tell me (A) then I will tell you (B)."
  • Try your body language. Look them straight in the eyes and stand up straight.


  • It may be better yet, to adapt your speech to the type of people you want to convince, it is natural that different people will have different preferences, so if you want to convince a group of science fans you might want to throw in a difficult word, but be sure that you understand it properly, whilst when trying to convince a group of farmers the opposite will be true. As a general rule, try to speak in the same terms and express the same kind of thoughts that the audience would, or could come up with, so that you are sure they will understand and believe you.
  • When you speak in front of most people, especially judges, they will be evaluating your vocabulary. So it may actually be wise to throw in a difficult word here and there, but not too much as they may think you used a thesaurus.
  • Try not to be pushy, if you appear pushy, they might want to disagree because they feel you are suffocating them. It's best to try to convince someone you are friendly with.

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