Is persuasion a dirty word? - The Pickering Group

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Is Persuasion a Dirty Word?

A few weeks back I was having an interesting discussion with a long-standing client. She was getting some push back from a member of her team around her wanting to put them through our Secrets of Influence and Persuasion programme. His concern was the perceived ‘ick factor’ of persuasive speaking skills. He was worried they would turn from careful, considered experts into Donald Trump! To be fair, he’s right to be a little cautious. After all, the line between persuasion and manipulation can be blurry. However, my response to him would be this: if you believe whole-heartedly that what you’re communicating is of real value to your organisation, or business, or customer, whoever – then why wouldn’t you want to be more persuasive? Don’t you have a duty to communicate those ideas well? We need the ideas of the quiet, the considered, the ethical, the kind, to be heard above the noise – now, more than ever.
 Here are two undeniable facts:

  1. People communicating and executing great ideas are what propel our businesses and organisations forward.
  2. People will pay more attention and give more credence to those who project confidence – regardless of how good their ideas actually are.

Let that last point sink in for a moment. Far too many promising careers stall and great ideas fail to connect because of unconfident speaking. Yet, the antithesis is even worse. Far too many bad ideas get adopted (and far too many narcissistic leaders get promoted) purely because of our bias toward charisma. The science is very clear: too often we mistake confidence for competence. Furthermore, there is scant evidence to show high charisma correlates to great leadership. If fact, the opposite is true. If you believe your ideas are worthy – then it is your responsibility to speak up! You have a duty to those ideas – to your business – and indeed the world – to ensure those ideas are heard.
And yes, you can learn.
The good news is persuasive speaking can be learned and developed. As it happens, we have a few awesome programmes that help you do just that. But here’s the thing, people mistakenly think persuasive speakers are successful purely because of their powerful delivery skills and inherent charisma - and yes, delivery skills are very important. However, we are not entertainers on stage, we are communicators in organisations. As such, the most important element should always be the idea. You do not need to be a performer or even an extrovert to be persuasive. Rather, shift your view to a connection orientation – where the purpose of speaking is to be of value to your audience rather than to be evaluated by them. In organisations, the most effective and persuasive speakers are those who share powerful ideas in ways that feel like conversations rather than performances. These ideas linger in our collective conscious long after the encounter. So, here’s a tip – start with something worth saying.
And remember this: persuasive speaking is not about you or your ego and it need not be ‘icky’. At its best it can be selfless and an act of service. It is about giving respect – respect to an idea and respect to an audience. You are merely the intermediary that connects these two together.

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