The Los Angeles Times wrote, “She may not be an expert in healthful eating or relationships or novels, but millions of people follow her advice anyway. She’s positioned herself as a friend and advisor. But she can also say, ‘I’m one of you.’ That’s important.”[i] In 1986, Oprah Winfrey entered the talk show arena by busting the doors wide open. As Discovery News observed, “She changed the nature of journalism.She became part of the audience and part of the people she was interviewing. She blurred everything together.” [ii] In essence, through her 25 year reign and continuing influence through her OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network), she has changed America as we know it, still frequently appearing on Times and Forbes’ lists of the most influential people in America.
But this question still remains, how did she do it? In short, the answer is persuasion.
Persuasion is the ability to convince others to change the way they think, believe or behave. Regardless of one’s professional circumstance, the ability to persuade others to adopt an idea or alternative way of thinking is key. Oprah does this almost flawlessly and serves as an ideal model of effective persuasion.
Unlike many skills that can be simply understood and grasped, persuasion takes practice and an advanced understanding of interpersonal communication in order to build the confidence and trust needed with one’s audience to result in compliance or belief in one’s vision.
In order to develop a deeper understanding of persuasion and how to approach situations that call for influence, here are Blueprint Leadership’s keys to effective persuasion:
Credibility. First and foremost, establish your authority and expertise with your audience. Explain why you are a credible source.
Conviction. If you don’t believe in what you’re saying, why should anyone else? Engage your audience with sincerity and authenticity about something that matters to them. Allow your passion to be tangible in your words, emotions and actions.
Intention. Identify a clear purpose for your message. What is your goal? Are you trying to educate, motivate, inspire, entertain, or call your audience to action? Once you have an intention with your message, it will guide the structure and content of your delivery.
Strategy. Now that you have an intention, what techniques can you utilize to achieve your goal?
1. Visual diagrams and charts that are simple to read with powerful imagery often times speak louder than words.
2. Sharing a brief story that evokes emotion and touches their hearts will oftentimes influence others to see the issue from a new perspective or personalize it to their own environment.
3. The proof is in the numbers. Citing current statistics with credible sources serve as proof and evidence for your idea especially for those who feel skeptical or reluctant to be persuaded.
4. Implement cause and effect logic that shows a clear problem paired with your solution resulting in a win-win scenario for every party involved.
Outward focused. Prioritize what your audience values above all else. Without their belief and support, you cannot obtain your goal, so their values and concerns should remain your number one focus. While communicating with them, speak directly to them using the words “you” and “your.” Remain on the same level as your audience by being conversational and personable, always relating back to their needs and desires.
Set the tone. Be confident, speak clearly and maintain eye contact. In order to persuade others, you must develop a connection by inviting them to feel comfortable in the conversation, which begins the moment you come into contact with one another.
Effective persuasion births change and innovation, both of which stem from an idea that what an individual believes has the potential to change the world. The adoption of an idea relies heavily on one’s ability to persuade others to not only accept, but to champion their idea. Much like Oprah Winfrey, whose simple yes can influence presidential elections and bring unknown authors to the best-sellers list, one must cultivate a relationship built on trust in order to persuade others to believe in and adopt their ideas as their own.
Great leaders believe in the value of their customers and they are constantly promoting others to carry out their mission and purpose to impact the marketplace. Amazingly, when leaders do this the result goes far beyond the marketplace, impacting the world.