FBI counterintelligence agents, such as myself, recruit foreign spies to work for the U.S. government. It’s not that we are selling anything; instead, we are using persuasion to make our point. Very often, we are successful.
You may never find yourself in a situation where you’ll be confronted with a Russian spy trying to steal classified information, and chances are even slimmer that you’ll be asked to recruit him to work for our side, but there will be times that you will absolutely need to make your point.
Persuasion is not just for spies, salespeople, and teenagers.
You may need to persuade your boss to take a closer look at your proposal or persuade employees to perform better.
Here are 6 tips from FBI charm school on how to persuade people effectively with grace—and even a little dignity:
1. LISTEN TO SOMEONE BESIDES YOURSELF
This is difficult because it means you need to take the focus away from yourself and concentrate on the person in front of you—and this is true whether you’re knee-to-knee with a person or in front of a computer screen answering emails.
It means being present with both sides of the conversation—not just your side. Do not lapse into planning tomorrow or checking items off your to-do list.
2. ADAPT TO THE PERSONALITY OF THE OTHER PERSON
An essential element of mental toughness is the ability to accurately read the emotions of others and then adapt your behavior accordingly.
Match your personality to your boss, employee, or client. Assess whether they are introverts or extraverts, analytical or a visionary, purpose-driven or security-driven, goal-oriented or people-oriented.
If you’ve been a good listener, you will be able to make these distinctions.
3. SINCERITY IS THE KEY TO BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS
Only by taking the time to develop relationships, can you fully understand people’s needs, desires, and fears. Until this happens, it’s very difficult to engage them in any meaningful way.
4. SHOW A LITTLE RESPECT
In a culture that at times seems to be losing its ability to have respect for the opposing point of view, it’s important to give others the respect that is due to them without trying to belittle them in the process.
When making our point with others, we have two options: we can either manipulate people into adopting our view, or we can use different measures of persuasion.
Manipulation is a favorite of bullies like Adolph Hitler—and the tactics used by slick advertising.
Persuasion, on the other hand, is the ability to charm and influence others using subtle methods without denigrating the other person.
5. TACT REQUIRES THAT YOU THINK BEFORE YOU OPEN YOUR MOUTH
A person with tact knows what to say or do to avoid giving offense. Tact is essential when dealing with difficult or delicate situations. Do not ask embarrassing questions that put people on the defensive.
Perhaps the biggest tip for developing tact is this: think before you say something.
Try role-playing with a friend and ask for their input. Are you coming across the way you want?
6. BE POISED TO ADD VALUE TO THE CONVERSATION
My years in the FBI were a grueling course in learning good manners because people were not going to talk to me, let alone follow me, unless I could engage them in a way that was meaningful and productive.
It’s impossible to change people’s minds unless you take the time to develop more than shallow, fleeting relationships with them. It comes down to this: in a world of mass media you must learn how to charm people if you want to persuade them to take your point of view seriously.
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