Written by: Natasha Bazilevych, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Throughout the whole history of humanity, people have been trying to learn the secrets of persuasion. What about you? Would you like to be more convincing when you speak and write?
This question is almost rhetorical. We see continuous attempts to master the art of persuasion since the times of Aristotle and his ethos, pathos, logos. Then neuro-linguistic programming came into our world and brought new theories and ideas. Of course, you want to be convincing when you express your opinion. No doubt, you’ll strive to persuade when educating, motivating and inspiring for action.
When I first started my career, almost two decades ago, there were numerous opportunities for me to practice persuasion. And I was not good at it in those years. Most of the time, I would speak too much, get too emotional, lack clarity and consistency in my speech. Once, a conversation with a student upset me so much that I was barely holding back tears, only to burst out balling a moment everybody left the room.
That’s when I realized I needed to change something. I started reading and applying everything possible on the topic of persuasion and rhetoric. After years of practicing public speaking, participating in debates, training 500+ students and clients, I’d love to share a few ideas with you.
Believe in what you’re saying.
If you don’t believe your words wholeheartedly, how do you expect your listeners to trust you? You’ve got to respect their intelligence and remember that they can feel your bluff. Your body language will give you away without asking for your permission. Before saying something, make sure you are confident in it yourself. Otherwise, don’t say it at all.
If you’re using quotes, numbers, statistics, check your data. You can’t have any doubt in the correctness and credibility of your information. The moment you hesitate, your audience will feel it.
Remember the power of words.
This is something we often forget not only in speaking and writing, but in our daily life. People repeat negative words that rewire their brains and determine their future. When it comes to persuasion, ask marketers and copywriters. They’ll tell you how much one word can save or kill sales and conversions. There are lists of so-called “power words” which marketers use in their copy. And you should use them in your speeches and messages, too.
At the same time, there’re words and phrases that make your speech less persuasive.
Stop using the word ‘right’ after each sentence. It’s as if you’re asking for approval and not sure in what you’re saying.
Eliminate crutch words (ah, um, so, and, like, you know). They diminish the power of your message.
Some people insert the phrase “I don’t know” in absolutely inappropriate places. Lose that one.
If you want to make your statement stronger, don’t start it with “I think”. Just say what you think.
Don’t use such phrases as: it seems to me, probably, in my opinion, so to speak, I suppose, perhaps.
Focus on simplicity.
Don’t try to overcomplicate your ideas. Remember what Albert Einstein said? “The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.”
Always keep in mind 5 C’s of communication - clear, consistent, complete, concise and correct. Yes, your message needs to be complete and consistent, but not lengthy and overly sophisticated. More than a decade ago Chip and Dan Heath wrote a book Made To Stick on how to write a memorable message and share powerful ideas. The first principle they describe in the book is SIMPLICITY.
Develop a strong voice.
Now, let’s focus mostly on speaking.
When you’re giving a speech or delivering a message, your voice is your most powerful tool. A lot of people underestimate it and, therefore, don’t know how to use it right. Vocal variety is your key to success. Play with different volume, pitch and pace. Low pitch voice is usually stronger, more powerful. High pitch voice will show sensitivity and care.
Use emphasis and pauses in case you want the audience to pay attention. Enunciate certain words and phrases if they are especially important for your message. Practice to project your voice, pitch it forward rather than back to your throat. There're drills and exercises for that. One of the easiest ones is to hum "Happy Birthday" and check if your lips get ticklish a bit. The sounds needs to go towards your lips, and not stay in the mouth.
Use falling inflection.
In the English language, we use rising inflection in general (yes/no) questions and in the middle of a sentence when making a pause. You can also use it when enumerating items. For example: we bought bread, milk, meat and vegetables. Your intonation goes up after each item, but then it falls at the end of the sentence.
So, to make your statement strong, persuasive and powerful, use falling inflection.
There’re so many people who finish their statements with a rising inflection and expect to convince listeners and inspire them to take action. Bring your voice down at the end. And do it with power. Now, let’s get practical and make an action plan. Look through all the strategies above and choose ONE that you’d like to start implementing in your speaking and writing. Then write three steps that will help you apply this strategy.
And share it with us in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.
Natasha Bazilevych, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Natasha Bazilevych is an international speaker and business trainer. She teaches business owners, top manager and entrepreneurs to give powerful presentations and reach audacious goals. Natasha has been teaching business skills for 13 years, has two bachelor degrees and an MBA. Her signature program “Speak With Power” is a unique experience after which each participant knows how to overcome fear, craft powerful messages and deliver them with confidence.