To be persuasive, you need to be viewed as credible, and one way people judge credibility is by whether they like you.
Credibility is an audience’s evaluation of how believable you are, and the most common ways people gauge credibility are expertise and trustworthiness. But psychologist Anthony Pratkanis says there are hard and soft criteria for determining whether someone is credible, and likability is an important factor in the soft category. People also are persuaded by those they like, so if you want to induce an audience to accept your point of view or comply with your request, strengthen your likability quotient.
Let’s say you work with someone you don’t like. The chemistry just isn’t there, but you need to work together to be productive, which means you might have to persuade the person to accept your ideas or do something for you at some point. Here are three ways you can make yourself more likable, thereby improving your chances of influencing that person:
- Find similarities that you share. Researchers have found that people are persuaded by, and tend to follow the lead of, people who have things in common with them. Perhaps you went to the same college, you like the same food, you enjoy the same social activities, or your kids are in the same social activities. By finding similarities, you establish a connection, and the person views you as more of a teammate, making it more difficult for her to harbor animosity toward you.
- Compliment the person. You don’t need to like her to compliment her for a job well done. People thrive on praise; it’s human nature, and they have a more favorable view of you.
- Do favors for people. You also don’t need to get along with someone to do a favor for the person. If he needs help, extend a hand, and it’s likely to change his perception of you. Because of our cultural tendency to reciprocate favors, he might feel an obligation to repay you when you need to persuade him to do something.
Even if it’s not enough to persuade your immediate audience, you leave a good impression, and that person is likely to share that with others.
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Ken O’Quinn is a professional writing coach and former Associated Press writer who conducts corporate workshops on business writing, persuasive writing, and corporate communications writing. He is the author of Perfect Phrases for Business Letters (McGraw-Hill), which is available at here at Amazon.com.