In any industry, at some point you will encounter undecided stakeholders who need to be converted from lukewarm skeptics to red-hot advocates.
Whether you’re a business maven pitching a new idea for your company, an admin seeking final sign-off for an event or a proactive school principal securing funding and support of parents and the wider school community, persuading others of your vision and getting them on board is a crucial skill to help you in the workplace.
Here, we explore five tips for speaking confidently and persuasively with undecided stakeholders to help you realize your vision.
1. Reaffirm your shared goals and purpose.
One of the most effective ways to positively influence others is to understand how your objectives play into their objectives—and to find common ground between the two.
Before the meeting takes place, spend some time understanding the aims of both parties and how your vision complements both goals. For example, onboarding a digital communications platform for your school community reduces tasks and saves time for administration and teachers so they can focus on students, while parents have full transparency and access to school communications.
At the beginning of the meeting or presentation, start by addressing the collective goal and purpose, and share how all stakeholders will benefit from your proposed vision. At the end of the meeting, reiterate this so it stays in their minds.
In other words, make your stakeholders believe you are helping them to reach their goals, and they’ll be more open to your vision.
2. Practice active listening and empathy.
When it comes to influencing others, it’s easy to confuse actions for progress, and assume that speaking more leads to persuasion. The reality, however, is that a big part of influence is listening to your stakeholders and understanding their points of view.
Rather than simply presenting your vision, take the time first to listen to the concerns, opinions and beliefs of all your stakeholders. When you address them, acknowledge their points of view—this way, you show that you respect and value their opinion, and build a mutual level of understanding and trust with your stakeholders.
Ultimately, the more they feel understood and the more they trust you, the more influence you will have in the long run.
We have two ears and one mouth and we should use them proportionately.”
– John Berghoff, Quiet by Susan Cain
3. Use psychological theories to your advantage.
Science has come a long way in recent years, and this means there is no shortage of psychological theories which can help you influence others positively in the workplace. Familiarize yourself with a few that can help you gain that extra level of credibility and influence, so you have a toolkit to draw upon to help enhance your level of persuasiveness.
For example, social proof, which includes using testimonials from other key opinion leaders to validate your point, can help you gain credibility amongst your stakeholders. If you’re trying to persuade parents to be more involved in the school community, using quotes or having a speech from a parent gives your vision more credibility.
4. It’s not just what you say, it’s also how you say it…
…and this includes body language. In communication, the way you present yourself can either enhance the impact of your words or detract from it.
Practice persuasive body language when you’re communicating to stakeholders, and this will help you gain influence and project authority—which, in turn, builds your rapport and gives credibility to what you say.
In a nutshell:
- Stand tall but relaxed, with your shoulders back.
- Keep your posture open: don’t cross your arms and legs, lean against objects, or put your hands in your pocket.
- Maintain eye contact with your stakeholders to acknowledge them, whether they are parents who are new to the school community or teachers you have worked with for years.
- Use your hands: Gestures can help drive a point home, or signal the desire for participation. Just be sure to use them sparingly, however—too many gestures can make you appear nervous or detract from your words.
5. Address and embrace positive conflict.
When looking at how to influence others in the workplace, one of the common mistakes people make is avoiding conflict altogether. Stakeholders will disagree with you—it’s all part and parcel of the communication process. However, rather than avoiding or ignoring the conflict, embrace it as an opportunity to have a dialogue and potentially influence their viewpoint.
If a stakeholder disagrees or challenges your vision, use it as an opportunity to practice active listening: Ask open-ended questions to really understand their goals and empathize with their concerns, and reflect on any shared goals you have to show that you are working together.
More on influence and persuasion
Bringing stakeholders onboard can be a challenge, yet these tips will help you approach every meeting better prepared.
What tips do you find useful for convincing undecided stakeholders?
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- The Art of War by Sun Tzu
- Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions by Guy Kawasaki
- Start With Why by Simon Sinek