How persuasive do your employees need to be? In the workplace, people tend to fall along a spectrum. Some people have a really hard time convincing others to act, while others seem like they could sell water to the proverbial well. Of course, most of us fall somewhere in between these two extremes.
Understanding the persuasive personality trait can help you improve your working relationships, manage more effectively, and make smarter hires.
What does it mean to be persuasive?
Someone with persuasive personality traits is able to convince others to do, believe, or buy things. How they do it varies widely and often depends on their overall personality type (A, B, C, and D in our tests).
Some persuasive people have confident, strong personalities that others tend to go along with. Others may be charming and charismatic, while still others may be highly intellectual reasoners who lay out all the facts to their advantage, and so on.
No matter how they do it, the end result is the same: Persuasive people have a higher-than-average success rate at convincing others to go with their agenda.
What are the qualities of a persuasive person?
Here are a few signs that someone tends to be persuasive:
- They have magnetic personalities and inspire enthusiasm in others.
- They present ideas and opinions with confidence.
- They do what they need to do to get their point across and generally aren’t afraid to push a subject that others might hesitate to raise.
- They often thrive in environments like sales, public relations, law, and other client-facing or promotional positions, but can be found in all types of careers.
How to work with a persuasive person
Tapping into the strengths of your persuasive employees helps them put their convincing nature to work for the whole team.
How to train a persuasive person
How to motivate someone who is persuasive
- Give context. You can be sure that your persuasive employees will be suggesting new ideas and ways of doing things down the road, so give as much background information as you can to give them a better grasp of the whole picture.
- Persuasive personalities are often natural leaders, even if they aren’t in leadership roles. Focus on training your persuasive people to do things the right way and you may find that the rest of the team follows.
How to give feedback to a persuasive person
- Recognize their achievements. Sometimes, managers lean heavily on the skills of their persuasive employees without stopping to notice the ways in which their skills benefit the team. That’s especially true for “soft skills” and interpersonal connections, which can have huge, tangible benefits.
- Don’t impose unnecessary rules and guidelines for interpersonal communication on your persuasive employees. Allow them to work naturally and tap into their gift. A classic example is the cashier stubbornly reciting the entire corporate-mandated series of upsells, cross-sells, and rewards program information (under threat of termination), all while the customer visibly grows more frustrated. When your employees show they can be trusted to make the right judgment call, give them freedom to manage their own approach.
- Extremely persuasive people can sometimes take control of a meeting, consciously or unconsciously. When you need to give feedback, make sure you’re setting the agenda and hitting all the points you need to communicate.
- If they want to respond to feedback, hear them out. However, be sure to reiterate the main point. Send a follow-up email briefly reviewing the key takeaways.
What is the opposite of being persuasive?
Just as some people are born persuaders, some are missing that knack for getting others to agree with them.
What does it mean to be unpersuasive?
People who aren’t persuasive have a harder time getting others to go along with their ideas and viewpoints. Just as with a persuasive person, there are many reasons why someone might come off as unpersuasive. In the end, however, the unpersuasive employee has a harder than usual time convincing others.
Additionally, some people are persuasive in certain contexts (such as a small group meeting with people they know well) but struggle in others (such as presenting in front of larger groups).
What are the qualities of an unpersuasive person?
A few signs that someone doesn’t tend to be persuasive:
- They aren’t comfortable when they need to convince someone else to act, buy, or believe something.
- They may be nervous when things ride on their ability to convince.
- They would prefer others do the work of persuasion.
How to work with an unpersuasive person
Unpersuasive people don’t advocate for themselves or their ideas as naturally as persuasive people do. Learning to pay a bit of extra attention can go a long way towards retaining top talent.
How to train an unpersuasive employee
How to motivate someone who isn’t persuasive
- Be clear about when the employee needs to speak up. For example, if they aren’t getting the reports they need from other departments on time, let them know to loop you in sooner rather than later.
- Depending on the role, you may want to offer ongoing training about becoming more persuasive and assertive. Most people need practice and training to become confident presenters and public speakers.
How to give feedback to an unpersuasive employee
- Be sure you’re paying attention to their needs at work. Are they having a hard time navigating blockers? Is there something they could use from another department? Ask how you can advocate for them. Don’t wait for them to speak up about their goals, ambitions, and workplace preferences.
- Some people have a hard time asking for what they want. Leave time in your one-on-one sessions to ask these questions, but also make sure you’re giving them time to think it over. Be approachable in various mediums (in person, via email, over company chat) so that the employee can use the style that works best for them.
- If unpersuasiveness is affecting the employee’s work performance, give feedback about how they can improve. Persuasiveness is a personality trait, but persuasion is a skill that can be learned.
- Work with your employees to find what works for them. Do they need to write down notes before a meeting to ensure they speak their piece? Do they do better with follow-up calls or emails? Not everyone needs to use the same methods.
- If your employee is working on speaking up in group settings, give feedback after the fact. Positive reinforcement when they assert themselves appropriately can go a long way towards helping more reserved personalities speak up.
Which is a better worker: unpersuasive or persuasive personalities?
Some roles demand persuasion at every level, especially those with a large interpersonal component. Others don’t require high levels of persuasion, and unpersuasive people can perform happily at a high level.
Another thing to remember: persuasion is a teachable skill. Anyone can learn to advocate for themselves and their ideas more successfully. While someone who is uncomfortable with persuasion will likely not be happy in a role that demands a high level of it, most people can learn to adapt to the level of advocacy they need to do for their role.
Looking at the personality profiles of your most successful employees can help you determine whether persuasiveness is a key component of a role or not.
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