YOU can’t be successful unless you can persuade people to do what is in your interests, but often before you can persuade them, you have to defuse their prickly egos. Chris St. Hilaire has dealt with some of the trickiest around – he worked as a communications strategist on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s campaign to become governor of California. In his new book 27 Powers of Persuasion, he outlines some tactics to “soothe or sidestep” egos and get one step closer to getting your way. Here are five of his tips.
1. Use the phrase “from my perspective”. What you mean when you say this is that we can all take a point of view, and everybody here is equal. Big egos are often insecure, but this squashes that insecurity. “Perspective is an incredibly useful word that implies you’re going to take the emotion out of the conversation, and that makes everybody relax a little bit,” St. Hilaire writes.
2. Make sure everybody knows that you all want the same outcome, even if you’ve been brought in from outside. “After we have introduced ourselves and before we get down to the nitty-gritty of the case,” says St. Hilaire, he tells people: “I know you have the toughest job in the room.” Then he reassures them that “my credibility is on the line too…” This makes sure people know you are not a threat.
3. Remember, even big egos still need massaging. “Most people assume CEOs and other power players already know how brilliant they are and don’t need their egos boosted. Not true. I know from experience that folks in power are often more insecure than anyone else.” Pick a part of their argument that you genuinely agree with and use it to transition to your idea by saying: “That was a great strategy you just came up with. Here’s what I liked about it… and here’s another way to look at it.”
4. Look at things from their perspective. “Everyone has a need, and with a little research you can usually discover what that need is and come prepared with a suggestion that will meet it. At the very least you’ll impress the person with the extra effort you’ve put in.”
5. If you come up against somebody who is extremely insecure and intent on establishing dominance, sidestep it. Instead of confronting them, be the unifier in the group. If somebody insists he is the one who should make a decision, perhaps because he has most experience, suggest that new opinions are also important, and a combination of experience and new thinking are best. Don’t fight. “In the end, the big ego will respect you more for it.”
27 Powers of Persuasion by Chris St. Hilaire is out now. Vermilion books, £9.99