Learning how to convince someone to say “yes” can come in handy for any situation — from paying at the pump to asking for help on a task. The best part is, it only requires keeping a few simple tricks in mind. Here, our experts share the “magic words” proven to ensure personal and professional success!
Say ‘what if?’
The next time you’re at the flea market, let vendors know what you have to offer. “Instead of saying: ‘I can’t pay that,’ which is limiting, say, ‘What if I pay X?’ which focuses on the possibilities,” says communication expert Patti Wood. Simply using the words “what if” makes others more willing to make a deal, even if it’s for less than the asking price. In fact, one survey found that 89 percent of those who used this language received a discount.
Also smart: Offer a compliment on an item you want to buy, says Nick Kolenda, author of Methods of Persuasion (Buy from Amazon, $13.95). “Since sentimental items are more valued by the sellers, saying something nice about them creates a connection that can help seal the deal.”
Speak this way.
When requesting a pay bump, think about the keywords your manager tends to use. “These could be anything from ‘team player’ to ‘customers,’” says Wood. Using their language instantly makes you more persuasive. Simply sprinkle their words into your pitch using specific, concrete examples, such as: “Being a team player helped increase sales by X amount,” or “I helped X number of customers.”
Also smart: Don’t be afraid to go big. Women tend to underestimate how much they should ask for, so consider doubling the figure you have in mind. Says Wood, “Higher-ups can talk you down to half and feel like they won, while you’ll still have gotten what you want.”
Ask for two of them.
Need a helping hand? Ask for assistance on more than one task. People don’t want to let others down more than once, studies show, so ask a favor you think they’ll turn down before asking for what you really want. If you’d like your teen to do the dishes, for example, ask him to do something bigger instead, like wash the kitchen floor. If he says no, come back with the smaller request. He’ll often agree, thinking, I should do it because I didn’t do the harder task.
Also smart: Use “we,” says Kolenda. “If you want your husband to take out the trash, you might say, ‘We need to put the trash out Thursday.’ ‘We’ lets others see you as partners, making it likely they’ll agree.”
Give ’em a head tilt.
When making a request, just nod in the affirmative, encourages Wood. “The other person will subconsciously mirror you, and nodding makes them feel more aligned with you and whatever it is you’re asking for.”
Match and mirror.
One study found that folks who mimicked the tone of voice of the person they were trying to persuade were more likely to get them to agree with them. If the other person is talking fast, for instance, try to mirror their enthusiasm, and you’ll get on the same page.
Make the right eye contact.
Too much eye contact can turn the other person off, yet no eye contact is often perceived as too passive. The best way to show you’re engaged: Look the person in the eye for five to six seconds, then look away for a bit and repeat throughout your conversation.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.
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