Persuasion is a Skill Not a Mystery

Whether you’re trying to persuade another party to settle a lawsuit or a family member wants to vacation in a place you’d hate to go, with some practice and effort you may be persuasive enough to achieve that settlement or avoid that vacation from Hell.

There are many ways to be persuasive. Below are just a few examples that you may find helpful:

  • Be prepared. Take the time to know all the relevant facts and how the law may be applied. Learn what you can about the other party. That preparation will make you more relaxed and more confident, which should make a resolution easier to achieve.
  • Make the other person happy. Use their name, so they feel you’re being sincere and paying attention. After laying out the facts and explaining why things should go your way, leave the decision up to them and make them feel empowered.
  • Use reciprocity to get off to a good start. Make a reasonable offer that meets the other side’s needs from the outset. Even if there’s not an immediate agreement, the other party may feel indebted to you for the offer and make a counter-offer that may bring progress to resolving the dispute.
  • Be persistent without being a pain. The one willing to keep asking for what he or she wants while demonstrating value for the other side may ultimately be the most persuasive.
  • Manage the other side’s expectations because they will be more likely to trust your judgment. Under promise and over deliver. Demonstrate you can get things done.
  • Don’t assume important facts or what the other side seeks. Ask questions. Make it a conversation. Learn what the other side really wants and needs and accommodate them as best you can.
  • Create scarcity and urgency. Your client has a limited ability to pay a settlement, and you have only so much patience to put up with a vacation that’s a bug filled camping trip to a place known for frequent rain. If resources like time, money, energy and patience are limited, it creates an urgency to get an agreement done before those resources run out.
  • Speak with imagery. Tell the other party how he or she would benefit from your proposed settlement, what the person would be able to do and the problems that can be avoided. Describe the positive future that awaits the other side.
  • Tell the truth. During negotiations, if your client made a mistake which caused the problem at issue, admit it. Tell the other party if your client could go back in time they would correct the mistake and prevent the harm from happening. Say what’s been done to prevent others from being harmed. Expose your client’s humanity, and perhaps the other party will lessen their anger and see your client as less of a villain and more as imperfect people who are trying to make a bad situation better.

You can be persuasive, but like other skills, it takes some learning, practice, and experience. After every negotiation try to take away at least one thing you can improve on and work on it next time.


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