Partners in Performance Blog

Presentations: Is Persuasion a Dirty Word?


In the work I do coaching people in sales and presentation effectiveness, I see people being tentative about the word “persuasion”. They don’t want to come across as pushy or manipulative. With this mindset, they beat around the bush. Is that true for you?

In many ways, becoming persuasive is like making money or losing weight: everyone wants it, but few do what they need to do. They want it, but at the same time, they’re afraid of it. In fact, people sabotage their own efforts.

Every day we’re trying to move people to take action, to adopt our point or to agree to our requests. The ability to be persuasive can make the difference between success and failure in life so that we achieve our heart’s desires.

Just about everyone could be more effective by being more direct and upfront. If you’re vague in your communications, you send the wrong message. People think you have a hidden agenda, and that’s worse – it destroys credibility and trust in you.

Here’s the bottom line: People expect and want you to be clear and direct. They appreciate that clarity. Clarity eliminates guess work and confusion. And this allows them to receive your presentation for what it is and see you as a genuinely trustworthy person.

Surprisingly, someone recently told me he didn’t need to be persuasive in his presentation because his job was simply to present information. He just wanted to know how to present the information more effectively.

I asked him a few questions:

  • For what purpose are you presenting the information?
  • What’s important about this information?
  • What are the outcomes you want as a result of your presentation?
  • If they don’t gain new insights from your information, what’s the impact?

After digging deeper, he quickly agreed that his job was much more than simply presenting information. Of course he needed to be persuasive!

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. I can cite countless examples. Often people are not even conscious about the limiting assumptions they have about being persuasive. I have coached many people at all levels who reveal their concerns through their words and body language.

When I ask them what their assumption is about persuasion, I get a fairly consistent response… “I don’t want to seen as being pushy or manipulative.”

But are they being manipulative? If your intention is to influence someone to do something that you believe is good for them, that’s a win-win outcome. And, by the way, it’s okay when it’s good for you too!

On the other hand, if your agenda is to use persuasion to get something that’s good for you but not for them, that’s a win-lose situation and that is manipulation.

But let’s put this into perspective. In all the years that I have been coaching and training people, I can count on one hand the numbers of times I have observed manipulative behaviour. It is rare, in my experience.

The more common dilemma by far is just the opposite. Many, many people have win-win intentions but struggle with their ability to influence the outcome. And that‘s unfortunate.

What’s been your experience? Do you hold off on directness and clarity so that you don’t appear pushy and manipulative? I’d love to hear from you, leave a comment.


This entry was posted by TanjaParsley on October 21, 2011 in Persuasion, Presentation Skills. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback.

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