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The power of persuasion in a job search

Meridith Levinson | Feb. 5, 2009
When you're hunting for a new job, you may not realize that your main objective is persuasion

James Borg: One of the worst crimes is the lack of true or active listening. People only half-listen to other people who are speaking, and they don't observe people that well. We have the capacity to think at four- or five times the rate of someone who's speaking to us. Consequently, we listen badly because we're formulating our responses while the other person is speaking, or we're thinking about something else, like shopping. Because we don't listen, we fail to pick up clues that indicate what the other person is thinking.

Observing body language is the closest we can come to mind-reading. If you make a statement, and that statement produces a grimace on the face of the other person, their body is telling you that something you said doesn't gel with them. It's a clue for you to change your tact or to inquire what it is that's bothering that person.

Some individuals lack the very people skills that you say are crucial to persuading others, yet they're able to sway their co-workers because they always have a response to a point or counterpoint. They seem to exhaust others into submission. Is there anything wrong with this method of persuasion? After all, it accomplishes the persuader's goals.

Beating someone into submission is not good. That's not what true persuasion is about. The model persuasive person doesn't leave you in that [exhausted] state.

The point of effective persuasion is that the relationship between two people hasn't suffered after someone has changed another person's belief or behavior. In the type of persuasion you're describing, what usually suffers is the relationship.

Are there certain personality types that are better at persuasion than others?

Extroverted people tend to be more persuasive than people who are prone to introversion. Extroverts are often in jobs, such as sales or advertising, where they have to persuade people to buy a product or take some kind of action. People who are prone to introspection will take jobs that are less people-focused and more facts and figures focused, so they have less experience with people than extroverts. Consequently, they don't develop the people skills that extroverts develop.

This isn't to say that introverts aren't good persuaders. They're good persuaders when they're dealing with their own type. Because introverts tend to conduct their interactions in a much slower way than extroverts, who tend to speak louder and faster, they would find it difficult to persuade extroverts. The same goes for extroverts trying to persuade introverts. When you look at workplace disputes, they're typically personality clashes between introverts and extroverts.

Some people don't like the idea of having to persuade or influence others. It strikes them as unseemly or manipulative. What's the difference between persuasion and manipulation?


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