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The Power to Persuade

February 26, 2016
Dr. George Watts, Laurie Blazek

Power to Persuade

“How can a president not be an actor?” Ronald Reagan

From the above quote, we believe that Reagan intuitively understood that leadership is about influencing and persuading. Getting others to understand and buy into you and your point of view is, at least in part, acting or improvisation. Whether you are the President of the United States, a salesperson, lawyer, teacher or a parent, you are routinely attempting to persuade or influence others.

Listening, adapting to change, responding with agility and nimbleness, and managing both planned and unplanned events, are all improvisation techniques. But, being fully present and in the moment is also key. Presence means that you are authentically in the moment and invite people into your openness. It is the foundation of executive “presence” too, a quality that Reagan most certainly possessed.

We know that people who carry a great deal of influence are not only masters of improvisation techniques but they often possess “presence”. They own the room. Physical appearance including body language, dress, accessories, grooming are all part of the package. Speaking patterns, vocal quality, word choices, organizing ideas, stories, analogies, metaphors make the person’s message clear and memorable. Presence is also happening on an unconscious level. Brains are synching up and a neurotransmitter feedback loop between the speaker and listener is created. The audience is buying what’s being sold.

But human behavior is a highly complex system. Consider there are 206 bones in the body, 53 muscles in the face, 1,019,729 words in the English language. Doing all the mathematical permutations quickly reaches immense numbers. Clearly improving presence isn’t a one-size fits all matter. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on one’s perspective) each of us must travel a personal, separate road to achieve interpersonal presence that persuades.

Whether you are communicating with one person or one thousand people, here are six useful guidelines in achieving “presence’ that will influence and persuade others.

  • Be totally present and in the moment. Be completely engaged in what is happening in the here and now. Free your mind to embrace the energy of the moment.
  • Show a little humility. It’s OK to admit to a foible or poke fun at yourself. You are human. Enjoy your humanness with your audience.
  • Be genuine. People respond to authenticity with trust and respect.
  • Be positive. Your message should express joy, pride, tranquility, hope, compassion, love, awe, and curiosity. What is your central emotional theme? When you authentically feel these emotions your audience will socially model and feel them too.
  • Inspire your audience because your message inspires you. See the higher, divine purpose in what you are conveying. Tie your message to something big.
  • Understand your natural strength and communicate from there. When you are around someone who presents passionately and from the heart, doesn’t that inspire you too?

When you speak from your strength, your natural enthusiasm is a powerful motivator.

Ronald Reagan understood that being an actor isn’t being inauthentic. He understood that in order to be persuasive, certain dynamics need to occur. As it did for Ronald Reagan, being aware of these dynamics and using them in an ethical and genuine way will increase your power to influence and persuade.

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