Do you know how to persuade people? We talk a lot about nonverbal techniques at Science of People, but there are some amazing verbal strategies you can use to master your people skills.

Whether we realize it or not we are constantly pitching. We are pitching our ideas to colleagues, projects to clients or elevator pitches to others at networking events.

We want our pitches to be heard. We want to be persuasive. We want to be effective.

How do you speak so people listen?click to tweet

How do you speak so people will listen? I want to share a few easy tips and tricks to master the art of conversation and non-manipulative persuasion. When you know what to say to get your way, you can genuinely increase your influence and pave the way for smooth interactions.

1. Start with Intention

If you want to get your way you have to know exactly what you want. Far too often we go into a meeting or give an elevator pitch without thinking of our ideal outcome. Get in the habit of being intentional about your communication.

  • Action Step: At the beginning of every week, open up your calendar and set intentions for each of your meetings, networking events or pitches. You can either write your intention in the notes section of your event or set your intention mentally. Think about what your ideal outcome for that event would be. Do you want to land a new client, build rapport or simply make a good first impression? Knowing what you want before you start communicating will help you get exactly what you want.
  • Do it right now and tell me your intention on Twitter:

click to tweetMy #intention today is…

2. Be Bold

It’s hard to ask for what we want. Asking for what we want requires us to be vulnerable and direct and opens up the possibility of rejection. These fears creep into our asks and make us less bold with our requests. We beat around the bush, stall, add qualifiers and sometimes even ask in an apologetic tone. The problem is that when we are unclear about what we want, others can’t get clear either.

  • Action Step: Next time you need to ask for something, use clear, concise language. Remove any disqualifiers like maybe, possibly or probably. Simplify your statements so that you are super clear with yourself and the other person on what needs to happen next.

3. Use Feelings

In addition to being clear and direct about your intentions, you have to be able to get someone else to buy in. A central part of authentic persuasion is tapping into feelings. If you need more help on a project, share your feelings of being overwhelmed. If you are giving a pitch on a new business idea, share your passion. This brings both transparency and openness. I share some additional examples in the video above.

  • Action Step: Think about something that you need to ask for in the coming days. How can you add in your true feelings? Does the other person know why you are asking? Get in the habit of explaining your “why” in addition to your “what” to get your way.

4. Benefits

Once you have explained what and why you need something, you need to share why they need it. People rarely do something if they cannot see the benefit to them. Whenever you are communicating with someone, be sure to keep their needs top of mind. You want to address their feelings and desires and address them before they have to ask.

  • Action Step: Think through some of the recent communications you have had. Make a list of what your needs and feelings were and then make a list of what the other person’s needs and feelings were. Are they similar? Then ask yourself if both of those lists were addressed and how you could have done better. This process can help get you in the habit of addressing benefits in the moment.

5. The When-Feel-Need Technique

This last step puts everything together into an easy-to-remember communication formula called the When-Feel-Need Technique. This is a strategy you can use in any situation from business to social to romantic communications. First you address the context by starting with “when.” For example, I might say, “When you don’t clean the microwave in the break room…” Then you want to go into your needs and feelings so they understand where you are coming from by saying “I feel.” Continuing with our example, this would be “I feel frustrated that I am the only one who cares about office cleanliness and am being treated like a hired maid.” Then you end by addressing the benefit to them and the next step — hopefully the intention you thought of in the first step. For example, “We need to make the kitchen clean for all of us and make a cleaning schedule so we don’t have to be bothered with this again.”

  • Action Step: Try using this when/I feel/we need formula in your next conversation to see how powerfully it works to get everyone on the same page.

Being clear and concise about your needs so that they are met not only makes all of your communication smoother, but it also makes you a pleasure to work with. The more you can appropriately address your own and other’s needs, the better your relationships will be.


  • Fun Fact: I am always surprised how similar people’s answers are! I tend to hear parents and in-laws the most!
About Vanessa Van Edwards

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Lead Investigator, Science of People

I'm the author of the national bestselling book Captivate, creator of People School, and behavioral investigator.

I’ve always wanted to know how people work, and that’s what Science of People is about. What drives our behavior? Why do people act the way they do? And most importantly, can you predict and change behavior to be more successful? I think the answer is yes. More about Vanessa.

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