Exactly What to Say: The Magic Words for Influence and Impact

Exactly What to Say: The Magic Words for Influence and Impact

by Phil M. Jones

Your words have the power to change minds.

Exactly What to Say guides you on how to up your persuasion game. It consists of meticulously chosen phrases and strategies to help you become more convincing in your personal and professional lives. It explores the psychology of language, revealing how certain patterns of speech can significantly sway decisions and results. This is perfect for anyone aiming to refine their communication skills—be it to close a sale, negotiate better deals, or simply enhance relationships. By changing the way you communicate, you also change your results.

Summary Notes

Introducing an Offer With Less Resistance

Introducing a product, service, or concept to potential clients is a common challenge that salespeople encounter. Too often, they are faced with countless rejections that can demotivate them. So, how can we share what we have to offer without getting turned down as much?

One simple trick is to use certain "magic words" that make people less likely to say no. A great example of this is saying, "I'm not sure if it's for you, but…" This sentence is powerful because it gently tells the person you're talking to that it's okay if they're not interested. It makes them curious and lets them decide for themselves, which makes the conversation feel more open and relaxed.

The word "but" is especially important in this context. Although "but" usually seems negative, in this case, it does something positive. First, it effectively cancels out any hint of disinterest that might have been suggested earlier in the sentence. It then makes the listener pay more attention to what you're going to say next. This small change can make the listener think more about what you're offering, which in turn, minimizes the risk of rejection.

Actions to take

Motivating Through Emotions

Have you ever felt so motivated that you were ready to take on any challenge? When motivation is high, difficult tasks seem much easier to handle. Interestingly, motivation is not only important for personal productivity, but also for persuading or negotiating with others.

Motivation comes from the Latin words, "motivus" (meaning reason) and "action" (meaning to move). This means that to motivate someone effectively, you need to find a reason strong enough for them to take a certain action. One way to do this is by tapping into their emotions.

When it comes to making choices, how we feel often guides us more than logical thinking. Even when a choice seems smart, it needs to feel right too. This is why asking, "How would you feel if...?" is so powerful. It makes people think about how they would feel in a different situation, whether they would be happy or regretful. By creating these scenarios, you can push people to take action by tapping into their hopes or fears, using the influence of emotions to motivate.

Actions to take

Talking at the Right Timing

When persuading someone, picking the right time to talk is as important as the message itself. Think about it. When was the last time you felt excited to share an idea only to be met with, "I don't have time for this"? It's a common setback that can stop even compelling arguments in their tracks!

But there's a smart way to turn this around. That is, by simply asking, "When would be a good time to...?" This question cleverly sidesteps an outright rejection by suggesting there is, indeed, a better time for the conversation. Instead of wondering if they have time, you're inviting them to consider when they could make time.

This method leverages the psychological principles of commitment and consistency. It suggests that people are more inclined to follow through on something if they've verbally agreed to it. By getting them to suggest a specific time, you're essentially making a verbal promise, which increases the likelihood that they'll be receptive later. This strategy can transform a quick dismissal into a real opportunity to talk, allowing you to share your ideas when they're more willing to listen.

Actions to take

Following Up Without Pressure

In negotiations and sales, it's a common task to check-in with people if they haven't finished something you're waiting for. This usually happens after you've shared some important details with them or they've mentioned needing to talk with someone else before making a decision. Starting these kinds of conversations can feel a bit awkward. But there's a smart and friendly way to go about it.

The key is to begin your conversation in a way that doesn't make the other person feel bad or defensive. You can do this by gently suggesting that you understand they might not have had the chance to do what was discussed. For example, if they needed to talk with their partner before making a decision, you could say something like, "I'm guessing you might not have had a chance to talk with your partner about this yet?" This approach is helpful because it doesn't give them room to use that as an excuse. Instead, it leads to one of two things: they either feel good about telling you they've completed the task, or they realize they need to do it and make a new commitment to get it done. It's a respectful way to remind someone of their commitments without making them feel cornered.

Actions to take

Reframing a Question

The way we frame our questions can significantly influence the outcome of a conversation. Do we help facilitate a decision, or do we do the opposite?

Take, for example, a common scenario following a presentation, where the speaker typically asks the audience, "Do you have any questions?" While there's inherently nothing incorrect with this question, it's not the most effective way to get meaningful engagement. That's because it can unintentionally pressure the audience into believing they are expected to have questions, which might make them uncomfortable. Then, they might just say they need to "think it over" instead of asking anything.

So, what's a better way to approach this?

A better alternative would be to ask, "What questions do you have for me?" This small change makes it feel like it's normal to have questions, making it more comfortable for them to either ask something or express their readiness to proceed without feeling pressured about not having a question ready.

Of course, this principle is not just for presentations. You can use this in everyday situations, too. For example, if you want to get someone's phone number, instead of saying, "Can I have your phone number?" which might make them feel a bit on the spot, you could say, "What's the best number to contact you at?" This sounds less pushy and more like you're expecting them to share their number, which makes them more likely to do so.

Actions to take

Building a connection with someone is a key first step if you want to persuade them. A simple way to do this is by saying, "I bet you're like me." This phrase is like a bridge that helps you and the other person feel more connected. It makes them more open to what you're about to say, especially if they can relate to it.

When you start with, "I bet you're a bit like me," you're doing a couple of things. First, you're showing that you two might share something in common. This makes the other person more likely to agree with what you're going to say next, as long as it makes sense to them. This is especially helpful when you want to support your ideas with what they say or think later on. It's useful because sometimes people don't always say what they really think. But if you get them to agree on something that helps your point from the start, it's harder for them to disagree with you later.

Let's say you're worried someone will say they're too busy for what you're suggesting. You could use this phrase early in the conversation. You might say, "I bet you're a bit like me: you think putting in work now will pay off later," or "I bet you're a bit like me: you'd rather do something useful in the evening instead of just watching TV." If you say these things confidently and with eye contact, they're likely to nod along. This means they agree with you on these ideas. So, later on, it's tough for them to say they don't have time for your suggestion because they've already agreed with the idea behind it.

Actions to take

Leveraging Social Proof to Persuade People

Humans often look to the actions of others for guidance, which is why the phrase "most people" is so powerful in persuading or reaching an agreement. This strategy works well because it taps into our social nature—we tend to seek the comfort of the group's approval when we're unsure. At the same time, most of us prefer to be guided rather than outright told what to do.

Using "most people" sounds more like we're being given a friendly suggestion rather than a direct order. This way of putting things helps us feel connected to a larger group and makes us more likely to consider the action being suggested. It's a subtle but powerful way to nudge people towards a decision or action without pushing them too hard. This approach makes use of our instinctive desire to fit in with others, making it easier to build consensus and motivate action in a gentle and effective manner.

Actions to take

Dealing With Objections

Handling objections is a part of life, whether in personal conversations or professional dealings. When faced with resistance or hesitation from others, things can quickly become tense. In these situations, it's tempting to just give up and avoid the disagreement altogether. But if we truly want to transform an objection into a positive outcome, we need to learn how to manage it effectively. This involves grasping why the person raised an objection in the first place. Then, figuring out the best way to respond to them.

One simple way to achieve this is by asking the question: "What makes you say that?"

This question is powerful for several reasons. First, it prompts the other person to explain their reasoning, which could give you valuable insight into their perspective. Second, it places the responsibility of clarification on them, avoiding premature judgments and potential arguments. Finally, it provides you with the information needed to address their concerns more effectively or to understand their position better.

By incorporating this question into your conversations, you create an opportunity for more meaningful dialogue. Instead of shutting down or dismissing objections, you open the door to deeper understanding and collaboration.

Actions to take

Turning a "No" Into a "Maybe"

Salespeople are familiar with the challenge of turning a firm "no" into a "yes." True enough, achieving this transformation outright can be tough. In such moments, incorporating a more manageable strategy could be a better approach. That is, to guide someone towards a "maybe" first. When you come across someone who seems resistant or hesitant about your idea, slowing down their decision-making process a bit can work wonders. This is where a carefully chosen phrase, "Before you make your mind up…," becomes a key tool.

The reason why this works is that it plays on a common desire: the need to make sure we're making the right decision. Most of us don't want to rush into a choice without considering all the details. So by suggesting there might be more to think about, you're effectively hitting the pause button on their decision. This opens up the opportunity for them to reconsider their stance, and consider all the perspectives they haven't considered yet, which could eventually change their mind.

Actions to take

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