Art of Persuasion
In any good project there is going to be a difference of opinion. Two sides don’t quite see eye to eye and often it is the project manager that needs to be the diplomat and bring both sides together. The PM needs to use the “Art of Persuasion” to provide an environment for constructive discussion. These are some thoughts on how to persuade people to see things differently and get everyone working collaboratively.
Choose the right moment
Firstly, find a gap in the discussion: It’s hard sometimes to get a word in edgeways in the conversation especially when people are talking passionately about a subject. It’s easy to be sarcastic or start to issue orders which will have the effect of annoying people. So look for the gap in the discussion and when you see it, its time for the second stage.
Get their attention
Secondly, Get their attention: You need to politely get the other person’s attention. This might be changing your facial expression or a strategic “Uhm” or “Yes” to get their attention.
Or you could use good time keeping as an excuse to interrupt and use it as an opportunity to move to the next stage.
Thirdly, now you need to communicate that you understand their point of view: this is where you persuade the other person that you understand where they are coming from.
Confirming you have understood them is the crucial part of any persuasive conversation and empathy and paraphrasing are your tools here.
Empathy – See the issue through someone else’s eyes, put yourselves in their shoes and try and adopt their perspective. Otherwise you risk just talking to the other person rather than understanding their point of view.
Paraphrasing – Requires an interuption. Let me restate in my own words what I think you have said. Keep it neutral and communicate empathy, “I want to make sure I’ve understood you correctly.”
Finally, now you need to get your message across, the idea that you want them to think about. For this stage you need to practice humility and a neutral tone of voice
Humility: Here it is important to be humble and recognise that you may have some blind spots that you haven’t seen. So, try to be aware of your own flaws – recognise your own weakness. Get to grips with any misunderstanding – Translating your thoughts into the other Person world view and try and avoid abstract terms.
Use of tone – Different for everyone and will vary with who you are talking with i.e. a more senior or a junior colleague and also the natures of the subject under discussion
Hopefully this approach has at least got you closer to both sides understanding each others point of view.
Persuading the passionate
Any good solution to a problem is always going to involve differences of opinion. The project manager needs to be the diplomat making sure both sides get a fair hearing. Then hopefully the strongest argument is won on the basis of merit. However, this does not mean that everyone will get along but it does mean that relationship and respect is maintained and there is good collaborative problem solving.
What are your thoughts on the art of persuasion how do you solve conflict in your work/project context?
Further reading, here are some other great articles on the subject: