You can always get what you want — with persuasive language.
Through your years of experience and interacting with others, you've probably noticed that there are moments when you have an easier time receiving what you need, whereas other times it's like pulling teeth. If you take a closer look, it might be your approach to how you're making the request that matters.
We often don't think about how powerful words can be — once you say something, you can't take it back. Also, our words and how we use them says a lot about us. A 2015 Forbes article by Jeff Boss reports that a poll of 5,000 singles conducted by Match.com found that poor grammar was the second most unattractive quality about an individual's profile behind hygiene!
You might be wondering how an online dating poll has anything to do with workplace communication. The fact is, it doesn't matter where the communication and use of words are taking place; it has an impact that spills over from our personal and professional lives. As Boss shares in his article, "The words you choose and how you employ them determine how you're received — positively, negatively, influentially. This has powerful implications for not only leaders but all of us."
This article will explain how to use the right persuasive language when making requests at work to help you get the support you need and outcomes you desire. After all, we all have requests and would prefer eliminating as many roadblocks to getting them as possible (unless you enjoy unnecessary challenges, of course).
The way you make a request or statement has an impact
You want to think carefully about the words you choose when it comes to asking for something. Consider making a request that requires thought, uses positive words, is not a demand, and doesn't include the words "try" or "but." All of these tips are outlined in more detail below.
Making a request that requires thought
When you're asking for something, if you flat out ask for it, then it becomes a "yes" or "no" question for the responder. For example, "I would like to leave at 4:00 today. Is that OK?" requires a "yes" or "no" answer without much thought.
However, if you ask the question in such a way that it requires thought on the part of the responder, you're more likely to get what you ask for or at least a clear reason as to why you can't have it. For example, use "Is there any reason why I can't leave at 4:00 today?" This question utilizes persuasive language and requires the responder to stop and think about your question before providing a response.
Using "I will" vs. "I'll try"
“I will” is a much clearer statement of intention, whereas “I try” is a bit wishy-washy. For example, if you tell your manager "I will make that change," it's very clear and authoritative, whereas if you say "I'll try to make that change," it can represent a lack of drive and initiative. Also, consider using "I do" instead of "I try," because you're either doing something or you're not.
Using "and" vs. "but"
Have you heard that anytime you tell someone you love them, and then follow it with the word "but,” you're actually negating the "I love you" in the sentence? The same holds true when you're speaking about anything else. Neuro-Linguistic Programming Practitioners suggest using "and" instead of "but" to connect your sentences because if you connect them with the word "but,” listeners will only remember what you said in the second half of your sentence. By using the word "and" to connect your sentences, the receiver is more likely to remember what came both before and after the connector.
Making requests vs. making demands
Though showing authority can be a good thing in some situations, when you make demands instead of requests at work, it can be looked down upon and put an obstacle up between you and what you want. You can get what you desire in many cases by asking for it, not demanding it. This is especially true if you're new to the workforce or company and have yet to earn the trust and respect of your manager or co-workers.
Instead of saying "I want this to happen" or "I demand a pay raise within the next six months," use some diplomacy and have a conversation that allows for communication and evaluation of your request (while using some of the work communication tips provided within this article).
Related: How to Negotiate a Better Salary at Work
Focus on a good attitude
The more positive you are in general, the more likely you are to receive an ideal response to your request. This also goes along with using words like "I will" to support a positive outlook and response.
It's important to understand how your listener receives your requests
One of the biggest lessons in persuasive language communication is understanding the perspective of the receiver and how he or she receives or processes messages. When you're making requests at work, this can be gold in helping you receive what you need or desire.
Auditory vs. visual vs. kinesthetic thinkers and processors
When it comes to processing information, we are often categorized into one of three groups — auditory, visual, or kinesthetic thinkers. Auditory thinkers "hear" information, visual thinkers "see" information, and kinesthetic thinkers "feel" information.
What does this mean for you for workplace communication? Listen to how the person with whom you're communicating speaks. If they say "I hear you" or "That sounds great!" then they're auditory processors. If they say "I see" or "That looks like a great plan!" then they're visual. If they say things like "I feel you" or "I get a sense that it's a good plan," they're likely kinesthetic processors. Once you're clear on how the receiver processes information, you can make your request using language that they understand or can more easily process.
If interested, you can do an online search on auditory, visual, and kinesthetic processing to find a ton of information. One good resource to start with is VAK Learning Styles by MindTools.
Improving your workplace communication takes time and practice
We're all human, so don't beat yourself up if you find you're having difficulty shifting your vocabulary to use persuasive language. It can take time, but with persistence, you will progress. For more great information and tips on using language at work, you can read Jeff Boss' full article on Forbes.
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