An important way to be more persuasive is to develop a sense of connectedness with your audience.
Creating a connection with the other person (or people) based on what you have in common creates a powerful sense of “we,” says Robert Cialdini, the Arizona State psychologist who is considered the world’s most prominent name in the field of persuasion.
“If others consider you part of their network, their unit. If you hear someone change from ‘you’ and ‘us’ to saying ‘we,’ it means the relation has changed,” Cialdini told a private lunch in Phoenix that I attended recently. When people feel that “he’s one of us, he shares an identity with us” you get the most traction.
Cialdini discusses the importance of this shared connection in his new book, Pre-suasion, a Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade.
The key is to point out the existing relationship that you have with the person (or people) so that it’s in the forefront of their mind before you present your persuasive message. “We’ve been friends for a long time,” is an example of how you can plant the seed, and this type of reminder can be mentioned at the start of your message or days in advance.
Here are two ways you can activate this sense of “we”:
• Point to similarities, such as commonalities of place (live in same town, attended same college).
• Undertake activities that deepen the relationship. If you reveal something about yourself, for example, they will return the gesture. Reciprocity works in your favor, and people tend to feel closer as a result.
• Ask for advice. Let’s say you need to write a proposal or a plan of some type. Tell your boss that you want her advice. That puts her in a collaborative, supportive mood even before she reads it. The two of you are part of a “we” relationship.
Cialdini said that one benefit of establishing the connectedness is that people perceive you as more likeable, so they are more apt to help, compromise, collaborate, and cooperate with you.
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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 here at Amazon.com.