5 Ways To Speak Persuasively Not Abrasively

“They had lived lived together for so many years that they mistook their arguments for conversation.” – Marjorie Kellog

“Hi John How’s yourself today?”

“Good thanks, Pete. You? Going down the match tonight?”

“No ‘fraid not. Been out twice this week already – staying at home with Rachel. We’ll watch it over a bottle of wine.”

Most of the time we drift into conversation easily and, more often than not, on auto pilot.

How many times have I declared, “I’m fine” when I’m suffering from a heavy cold or feeling emotionally tender for some reason? We slip into a comfortable social ritual that for the mojority of the time serves us perfectly well.

Sometimes conversations become more difficult.

How many times have you failed to bring poor service to somebody’s attention because you are uncomfortable with confrontation? We just don’t bother to go back to that restaurant again, do we?

Sometimes we feel so uncomfortable and nervous about some experience that we gag on our words, or feel that emptiness in our stomachs and the blood rushing around our temples. We are tempted to stay quiet and still.

Often a manager may feel awkward about giving what they believe may be unpleasant feedback. So much so that its held back until they lose their temper and express harsh judgments which damage

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relationships. A minor indiscretion may quickly become a career nosedive.Alternatively, if we do try to speak up, we may come across as aggressive and clumsy, or appear to be rude… and we make the situation worse. Even in an interview situation I have witnessed conversations become tense, potentially confrontational, and certainly awkward.

Even sat here, writing this in the lounge at the local gym, a married couple walk past and I hear:

“I’m NOT angry!”

The husband claims this through clenched teeth and with steam about to burst from his ears. Their disconsolate daughter walks a few paces behind, eyes cast down to the floor. Looks like they may not be having the best of family times together.

How can you remain persuasive without becoming abrasive?

Being able to remain persuasive, without becoming abrasive, in sensitive situations is an important skill to have.

In an interview you may wish to express a different view to that of your interviewer. Agreeing simply to curry favour is wrong and, as we’ve mentioned before, may appear insincere and unconvincing. But how do you express a different view without the situation becoming awkward?

In the excellent book, ‘Crucial Conversations’, 5 tools are suggested that help to create the right conditions.

These 5 tools can be remembered with the acronym STATE:

Share your facts.

Facts are the least controversial and do not involve judgements or emotions. Facts are more likely to be persuasive than subjective conclusions. Share them.

Tell your story.

Facts alone say little. You need to explore the conclusions you have reached from the facts you have spoken about. If you have detailed the facts then it will be clear how you have reached your conclusions.

Ask for others paths.

Encourage others to share their facts and stories. Once you have your point of view, invite other parties to do the same. If your goal is to learn, rather than be right, or you wish to reach the best decision, rather than get your way, then you will be willing to listen to other views.

Talk tentatively.

State your story as a story – don’t disguise it as a fact. You need to have the confidence to share your conclusions… but show the humility to listen to the views of others.

Encourage Testing.

Make it safe for others to express differing or even opposing views. Encourage the exchanging of views that allows the expression of controversial ideas. People will be unable to talk freely if they do not feel safe or unthreatened doing so.

Sounds easy… but these can be difficult skills to learn. When are you going to start practising?


Who am I? A chap living in Nottingham, United Kingdom who perhaps has a much higher level of enthusiasm than ability leading to an interest in many things but mastery of none. A father of three no longer dependent children, or so they tell me, and husband to a one-time nurse who now works with me (or rather I work for). I attempt to take photographs and occasionally fluke half decent shots though thank goodness I no longer have to buy film. I endeavour to practice karate but with advancing years spend more time instructing them participating but actively participate in the more gentle tai chi. Professionally I have spent the last twenty years in recruitment – not always the most highly regarded ‘industry’. For my part I take great pleasure in helping companies to find the right people and a lot of satisfaction out of seeing them thrive and succeed. More recently I have spent a lot of time helping people who have, or fear they may, lose their jobs. For many putting a CV together is so difficult and then finding opportuniteis can be a major challenge. Interviews can be a different problem altogether but with a little help most people can perform a lot better than they otherwise would.

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