STEP FOUR: Increase your credibility. Never be caught in a lie
or, better yet, never lie.
A respected, apparently knowledgeable, hard-working,
trustworthy, attractive, successful, and fluent person will be more
persuasive than a person with less of these traits. So, let people know
how much you have studied this topic. How much have you read?
What experts have you consulted? Have others tried your solution and
liked it? Have you done or found research that supports your position?
People doubt your credibility when you argue for a viewpoint or
action that is self-serving. Should people believe every salesperson?
No. So, if you have no vested interest, let that be known. If you do
have a vested interest, admit it but explain (if true) that you are
making the argument for other reasons than for personal profit. You
can further strengthen your argument if you will reject any possibility
of receiving personal gain from the changes you are advocating.
Example: If you are arguing for more money for your department or
organization, you can promise to not take a salary increase if more
money is allocated.
A speaker who is emotional, has "an axe to grind," or is putting
down something unavailable to him/her ("sour grapes") is usually
discounted by his/her listeners. Examples: a person who has just been
fired bad-mouthing his/her boss, a student who has just failed an
exam criticizing an instructor, and an unattractive, single 35-year-old
man or woman condemning marriage. Sometimes you can increase
your credibility, even in these situations, by first acknowledging that
there are some points in favor of the boss or the instructor or marriage
before giving your criticism. You seem to be a little more rational and
not entirely vindictive.
Don't sell yourself short if you are not considered an expert. The
fact is that non-experts presenting good arguments can have great
impact (almost as much as an expert) if the listeners are interested
and involved. Get them involved.
STEP FIVE: Emphasize your similarity to the listeners.
People trust you more if you seem similar to them. If you share
backgrounds, life experiences, values, or especially future goals,
people accept what you say with fewer reservations. Suppose Jesse
Jackson and George Bush advocated the same policy. People would
respond to it very differently, depending on how closely they identified
with the speaker. So, be sure you indicate to your listeners that you
are like them and agree with them in many ways (if you do).
If you already have high credibility with your audience, you can
have maximum impact if you present a view that is quite different
from the listener's opinion. On the other hand, if you have less
credibility, then you will be most effective if your views differ only